Tripologist: No fear when going to Japan

Tokyo.
Tokyo. Photo: Getty Images

A previous Insider was talking about tourist numbers in Japan being down because of people's fear of radiation. I would like to go to Tokyo. How safe is it? Are some places in Japan safer than others?

- A. Shifreen, Marrickville.

According to Safecast (maps.safecast.org), which independently monitors radiation readings throughout Japan, it is only the area around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant that still experiences unsafe levels of radiation.

As long as you avoid Fukushima Prefecture, you won't have a problem. This site is about 180 kilometres from Tokyo.

The maximum current levels for crowd-sourced Geiger counter readings in Tokyo is 0.120 microsieverts an hour. This is not a level that should cause you any concern.

To put this into perspective, your flight from Sydney to Tokyo would probably give you a dose of about 50 microsieverts.

A single chest X-ray would expose you to far more radiation than that.

For more information, see the pollution blog on the Blacksmith Institute website (blacksmith institute.org/blog /?p=511).

Clearing hurdles for post-Olympics London stay

My wife and I are planning a two-month apartment stay in London after the Olympics. I assume that there will be an abundance of new accommodation readily available at lower cost than during the Olympics. There are several internet sites that provide serviced apartments. How do I know which are reputable and provide what they advertise? Can you recommend any particular agencies we might be safe dealing with? We are looking for an apartment that is fully equipped, including bed linen, towels etc but not serviced. Have you heard of SilverDoor, who appear to have some quality apartments?

- R. Hancock, Jindabyne.

According to Visit Britain (visitbritain.com), while it should be easier to find an apartment in London after the Olympics, accommodation prices will not necessarily tumble in the period when you plan to visit. A non-serviced apartment is problematic. All the London agencies that I can find offer serviced apartments only. Another possibility is Airbnb (airbnb.com).

This is a website that allows home owners to offer a room or an apartment for short-term rent to visitors. You are staying in a private home and therefore standards vary and Airbnb has copped criticism for offering accommodation that didn't live up to expectations.

However, as a guest, you have a couple of powerful advantages. Every entry comes with reviews from past guests and your payment is held by Airbnb for 24 hours after check-in, at which point it is transferred to your host. If the accommodation is not what was promised, you can contact Airbnb within a day of your arrival and work out a solution without losing your money. The really big advantage is that the cost of renting a room or apartment through Airbnb is significantly less than the price of similar accommodation from an agency and it won't be serviced.

If you decide to book your accommodation through an agency, then finding a reputable one should not be too difficult but be sure to check reviews on TripAdvisor (tripadvisor.com).

Since you are proposing a long stay, beware of handing over a substantial down payment.

Soak up the delights of Athenian sites

My family (which consists of two adults and one 12-year-old boy) will have three days to spend in Athens in early July before a nine-day Greek island cruise. We will be feeling pretty ordinary on the afternoon that we arrive after such a long haul. What are your suggestions for must-see-and-do for the next three days and nights, given that we are there in peak time and peak heat, and with a son who will be having electronic games withdrawal?

- M. Zielinski, Forresters Beach

The Acropolis should be at the top of your list and late afternoon would be my pick to avoid the worst of the heat. Make sure you take in the New Acropolis Museum.

The ancient Agora is another archaeological treasure. Syntagma Square is the heart of Athens, home to the parliament building and the focal point for rallies, which will probably still be a feature of the Greek capital when you visit. The Zapellon Gardens behind the parliament building offer relief from the heat. The Plaka, right below the Acropolis, is a tangle of streets lined with cafes, restaurants and shops, and a great place for a stroll. Piraeus, the port of Athens, is a lively spot, popular for its evening breezes.

For an evening excursion, catch the metro to Piraeus and head for Mikrolimano, "little harbour", where seafood restaurants line the quay. The Eyewitness Travel Guide (traveldk.com) to Athens and Greece, available from Amazon (amazon.com), is a great resource and the Eyewitness Travel website has lots of useful information.

Brazil or Peru: Take your pick

Can you suggest the best time of year and country to depart from to take a cruise along the Amazon River?

- M. Nichols, Marrickville.

The answers to both these questions depends on what you want to see. If you want to experience the life of the people on the river, the Brazil section of the Amazon is your best bet. The most popular times for travel in this region are July-September and December-January. These are relatively dry months with fewer mosquitoes, although you can expect rain at any time.

However, temperatures and humidity are both higher during these periods and some of the waterways will be clogged with vegetation, limiting access to wildlife zones. For that reason, some travellers prefer to visit Brazil's Amazon in the transitional months of October-November and May-June. If the main aim of your trip is to experience the primordial splendour of the forest, see wildlife and experience the amazing jungle flora, then the Peruvian section of the river is where you want to be.

The wet season in Peru falls between December and May. Since water levels are much higher then, it becomes easy to access areas with more plant life and wildlife, including the Amazon jungle canopy where monkeys and birds are abundant. This is also a relatively cooler period, although you can expect rain and mosquitoes.

Digiwatch

Got a complicated trip? Download the TripIt app, send all your flight bookings, hotel and car hire reservations to TripIt and back comes a masterful itinerary for your smart phone or tablet. Also links to your calendar but — problem, Houston — for my coming trip to Hong Kong, the flights on my calendar appeared at Sydney time, two hours later than the Hong Kong departure time. Free and available for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7. tripit.com.

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