Tripologist: Taking time out to explore the great parks

My wife and I are going to Las Vegas in early April and would then like to go on an interesting tour for about two weeks. We don't want to rough it and prefer nature over cities. We can't seem to find much on the internet in the way of tours. Yellowstone has always interested me. I don't feel comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road so a self-drive tour is out of the question. Can you help?
- G. Grant, Hurlstone Park

Globus's Exploring America's Great Parks might be what you're after. This 15-day tour takes in most of the outstanding national parks of America's western states, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton. This tour begins and ends in Las Vegas.

Another option is Globus's 11-day Enchanting Canyonlands tour, which covers a smaller area and excludes Yellowstone.

Yellowstone is the world's oldest national park. Its abundant natural splendours were apparent even to pioneers and I agree, it would be a shame to miss it. Apart from those two, and the many short tours that take in only the Grand Canyon, there are not many coach tours that begin from Las Vegas.

If you were to begin your travels from Phoenix in Arizona, Grand Junction in Colorado, from San Francisco or Los Angeles, you have a much wider choice from some really excellent operators, including Trafalgar and Tauck.

Cautious approach to Egyptian adventure

My wife and I are planning a trip to Egypt at the end of December. How safe is it? Any tips on where to go or not go?
- N. Bhatnagar, Roseville

 According to travel advice posted on Australia's Smartraveller website (, travellers need to "exercise a high degree of caution".

This is not a recommendation to avoid visiting Egypt, and tourists have not been the focus of the civil unrest.

When I put this question to a lecturer on Middle Eastern culture, Richard Mole – a tour operator with extensive experience in the region – he replied: "Although visitors might be worried about the situation in Cairo and Egypt, there is no real cause for concern.

"I've been in and out of Egypt three times this year without any problems." He also cited an email from a client who visited this month. It said: "Very positive atmosphere, and no sign of the dramas we see on the news."

Feedback from other travellers suggests this is an ideal time to visit the Valley of the Kings, the pyramids at Giza and the Sphinx, and to sign up for a Nile cruise.

They also appreciated the lack of crowds at the country's headline attractions and the special treatment wherever they went.

In Cairo, you should steer clear of Tahrir Square, the focus of demonstrations.

North Sinai is off limits because of the significant increase in criminal activity in the region.

In South Sinai, the Red Sea resorts, including those in the region of Sharm al-Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab, are considered safe, but St Catherine's Monastery is not.

Three bases are better than two

We are two couples looking to travel to Ireland next September. We would hire a car and thought we might base ourselves somewhere in the north for five days and then somewhere in the south for five days. Could you suggest suitable places to base ourselves? Do you have any thoughts about where to hire a car and what you consider must-sees for Ireland?
- C. Hingston, Eastwood

I'm assuming you mean to visit only the Republic of Ireland and not Northern Ireland. If that's the case then, rather than north and south, the representative of Discover Ireland in Sydney suggests you plan your stays in the east and west of the country.

In the east, you could spend a few days in Dublin or, better still, Dun Laoghaire on the coast just south of Dublin. This would put you within easy reach of the capital and towns in the south-east, such as Kilkenny and Waterford. From there, you could drive to the west coast and base yourself in Killarney, which would give you a base for exploring the Ring of Kerry or the Dingle Peninsula. Then head north to Galway, from where you have easy access to Connemara, the Aran Isles, Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.

One of the virtues of travelling in Ireland is that even a short drive will take you into a completely different landscape. Basing yourself in three locations in 10 days would be an excellent choice. Frommer's Ireland is an excellent source that will help you sort out the must-sees from the don't-bothers.

Check the Via Michelin website for Ireland, which is especially strong on dining suggestions.

My most recent hire car in Europe was from Sixt and its rates are reasonable, but all leading car-hire operators have depots in the Republic of Ireland.

Off-peak Europe on a budget

We are a family of four planning a trip to Europe next month. We heard that you were able to get great flight deals on multiple stops throughout the US. We were wondering if this was available for Europe as well?
- Z. Xiao, Hurstville

 Star Alliance and One World offer air passes for travel throughout Europe. These are available for non-European residents only and they must be booked before departure from Australia and in conjunction with return travel to/via Europe on a member airline of the same group.

You need to look closely at the cost, however. Airfares in Europe are highly competitive, especially during an off-peak period such as November, and it is possible that you can travel for less with budget airlines rather than the full-service carriers that are offered with both of these air passes.

When you make the service comparison, you will need to factor in all the extra costs that a budget carrier might impose on top of the basic passenger fare, which could include checked baggage and meals.

Momondo is a handy flight search engine for finding the best deals in Europe.


Whether you're in Amsterdam, Buenos Aires or Zurich, Viator is a one-stop tour shop. The app gives you a choice of the city's top tours and attractions, which you can buy online if you have a data connection, at the normal retail price. Each attraction comes with lots of useful information. Reviews, sourced from paying customers, provide valuable feedback. Available for iPad and iPhone.

If you have travel questions, we'd love to hear from you. Include the name of your suburb or town  and send it to Personal correspondence cannot be entered into. Only questions appearing in print will be answered. One published letter each week will win a Lonely Planet guidebook.