My wife and I have sponsored a child in Bangladesh for more than a year now and have decided to visit him, possibly in late March. Can you advise a suitable tour operator that would have 10- to 12-day tours for two people? Any suggestions on the best places to visit would help. Also, we have been told that visas can be obtained on arrival, though the consulate says that they can't.
- J. O'Regan, Nowra.
Visiting your sponsored child is a heart-warming prospect. Most charities that organise child sponsorships in the third world welcome such visits, and provide a set of procedures and guidelines to facilitate your trip.
Contact the charity and check their requirements.
According to the Bangladesh High Commission, you will need a visa before you arrive in Bangladesh. You need to apply to the Bangladesh High Commission in Canberra (bhcanberra.com) and the website sets out the requirements. The cost for a single-entry visa is $150. This is strange indeed because if you were an Australian citizen living in Britain and you applied to the Bangladesh High Commission there for a visa, the cost would be just £19 ($29.20).
There are several tour operators in Bangladesh that can arrange a customised itinerary. You could formulate an outline and send it to travel operators such as Journey Plus (journeyplus.com), Green Bangla Tours (greenbanglatours.com) or Travel Planners (travelplannersbd.com) and go with whoever best meets your criteria.
The highlights of Bangladesh for most visitors include Chittagong and Cox's Bazar.
The Sundarbans, which is a giant wetland formed by the rivers that discharge into the Bay of Bengal, has a large population of royal Bengal tigers, and tour operators should be able to arrange trips to this region.
Where few have stepped before
I want to join a tour of Morocco that takes in the desert and some of the cities with the focus on culture and history, yet all the tours I can find online seem to take you on a standard route along a well-trod path. I do not want to follow where thousands of tourists have gone before — can you put me in touch with a tour company that does a different Morocco, without costing a fortune?
- A. Bolstead, Newcastle.
The Moroccan Mosaic from Byroads (byroads.com.au) just might be the one to rock your kasbah. This 17-day tour travels from Tetouan in the north to Essaouira, home to the Gnaoua, the musical wizards of Morocco, descended from sub-Saharan slaves.
Along the way, the tour visits Sale, the former lair of the Barbary pirates, the imperial Roman ruins at Volubilis, the remote villages of Jebel Ougnat and Jebel Saghro in the Atlas Mountains, and the dramatically beautiful Draa valley. Other highlights include the Tafilalt region, the oasis on the edge of the Sahara and the Moroccan terminus for caravans that once traded along the Salt Road, and the wadi villages of olive, almond, pomegranate and date palms that flow like green ribbons from the notches in the Atlas Mountains.
You can also expect contact with semi-nomadic people for whom outsiders are a novelty.
All Byroads tours are created and escorted by Richard Mole, who has spent many years travelling in this region, and who also lectures on Islamic arts and culture. In 2013, the tour departs in mid-April and September. The price is $3250 a person, twin share.
Adventures big and small on river cruises
A friend and I wish to go river cruising in Europe sometime between June and August 2014. We will probably want to visit France, Spain, Morocco, England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland over six to eight weeks. What would you suggest to be the best way to travel and a good, reputable river cruising company that is more upmarket? Can you recommend a travel agent in the north-west Brisbane area?
- J. Murphy, Brisbane.
River cruising in Europe varies between one country and another.
Along the Danube and the Rhine, for example, river cruisers are mostly large vessels that carry 100 passengers. On the canals and rivers of France on the other hand, the vessels are smaller, carrying anything from four to about 20 passengers, although there are a few exceptions.
Cruises along the Rhine and the Danube tend to focus on castles, quaint villages and great cities, while the French canal system travels through quiet villages and rural countryside for the most part. These are very different experiences and you need to work out which will suit you best. Google "river cruising Europe" and you can find plenty of information to help you decide.
If you're looking for something upmarket, take a look at Uniworld Boutique River Cruises (uniworldcruises.com.au).
By the time you subtract the cruise from your six to eight weeks, the countries on your wish list add up to a full plate. It can be done, but you'll probably be limiting yourself to the big attractions in each country. For most travellers, it's the small discoveries that you make by chance - the ice-cream shop you discover while sauntering around the back streets of Paris's Ile Saint-Louis - rather than the trip up the Eiffel Tower that are the stuff of magic memories. Discoveries such as this demand time. Lovely as they are, you might consider saving either Wales and Scotland or else Morocco for another visit.
If you plan to travel in style, you might talk to a Virtuoso travel agent. Virtuoso (au.virtuoso.com) is a network of elite travel agents who are experts in their field. From the website you can find the Virtuoso travel agency closest to you.
London's short-term solution
I'm going to London from June to August and would like to rent a studio or one-bedroom apartment. I'm finding it difficult, as a three-month lease is too short for a normal rental and too long and expensive for a holiday rental. I really don't want to flat share. Any suggestions?
- B. Bennett, Berowra
Airbnb (airbnb.com.au) probably has what you're looking for. This website puts visitors in touch with home owners who have spare rooms or an apartment.
While most of these are short-term rentals, there is no reason you should not be able to find a good fit for your three-month stay.
London is one of the most expensive cities in the world for accommodation and your visit coincides with peak season.
On the plus side, yours is a relatively long rental and chances are that a lessor would be delighted to have an apartment fully booked for such a long period, and therefore you should be in a strong bargaining position.
If you are able to base yourself outside the capital, for example in Oxford, you can find apartments at about half the price of the equivalent in London.
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