Everyone asks ...
What should I look for in a travel insurance policy?
The most basic requirement is comprehensive medical insurance. Most travel insurance policies will cover you to the value of several million dollars but pay attention to the exclusions. Your insurer requires notice if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
If you plan to engage in extreme sports, make sure you're covered. Hit the sangria after the running of the bulls in Pamplona, slip on wet cobblestones and break your arm and it is likely your insurer will refuse coverage. If you claim for injuries suffered while piloting a motorbike, your claim will be disallowed if you do not hold a current Australian rider's licence. Your insurer will probably ask for receipts if you make a claim for lost baggage and discount lost items if you cannot establish proof of purchase.
Laptops are not automatically covered, even though you might have baggage cover to the value of $10,000. If you want cover for a laptop or cameras, most policies will charge an additional fee to insure these items.
Above all, read the travel insurer's policy document carefully. Buy direct from the insurer online and you'll save.
Choice (choice.com.au) has several useful articles devoted to travel insurance, available online.
Flexipass gets you on the rails
I would like to travel by train from London to Edinburgh, breaking my journey at York for one night. I then plan to make the return journey via the west coast, for one night in both Windermere and Oxford respectively. What's the cheapest way to book this before I leave?
- J. Rose, Newcastle.
I make this five days of travel, and your best option is a BritRail Flexipass (britrail.com).
The one that will probably suit you best is the Flexipass that covers four days of travel within a two-month period. This is priced at $365 for second-class travel or $535 in first.
Although this is one day short of your travelling time, the final leg of your journey, Oxford to London, is short and the fare isn't expensive.
You can buy your Flexipass online and the ticket will be sent to your home address. You can also buy it from Rail Europe (raileurope.com.au) at exactly the same price - phone the company's agent on (03) 9642 8644.
No car needed to meddle in the Mediterranean
We — two adults and two kids under 10 — are planning to travel through Europe in July, visiting the Netherlands, Croatia and Italy (in that order). We would like to spend about 10 days in each country. In Croatia and Italy, apart from sightseeing, relaxing at the coast will be our main goal. What's the best and most economical way to travel between countries — by hire car or rail? From Croatia we will travel to Italy by ferry, with Rome as our final destination.
- S. van der Poort, Kogarah.
If you're planning a coastal/beach holiday in Croatia, you probably won't have much use for a car. The big attraction in this part of the world is the Dalmatian Islands, and they are well served by ferries. You could spend a very pleasant 10 days hopping around these islands, and there isn't much reason to stray too far from the towns visited by the ferries.
After Croatia you'll probably take a boat from Split to Ancona. If you plan to spend most of your time in Italy by the beach, once again, a car will be more trouble than it's worth.
However, if you want to explore towns and villages in northern Italy, four wheels would give you the freedom to travel when and where you like.
Climb every mountain ...
At age 61, I'm hoping to climb Mera Peak or Mount Kenya, followed by Kilimanjaro in July or August this year. A search of the internet indicates a confusing array of companies in Australia, Europe, the US and Africa offering climbs up both mountains at vastly different prices. Any advice on tour operators? Should I go with a local African provider or with another provider who will most likely offload me to an African sub-contractor anyway?
- D. Seed, Bexley North.
These are tough adventures and I would be more inclined to book with an Australia-based operator. They should be more attuned to the expectations of Australian clients, and they are right on the spot so you can talk over any concerns.
Chances are that you will be in a group with other Australians, and quite possibly of a similar age. They will also be directly accountable if anything falls short of expectations.
World Expeditions (worldexpeditions.com) offers both Mera Peak and the African peaks, and it has vast expertise, in Nepal especially. I've travelled with the company both as an individual and with my children when they were young, and you can count on a high-quality experience.
However, you can find cheaper tours, especially given the relative strength of the Aussie dollar.
Join the D-list to explore France’s beauty
In August/September, as part of a six-week trip, my wife and I are hiring a car and driving from Lisbon to Nice. Can you suggest places to visit in the Pyrenees and along the south of France?
- M. Dolce, Kingston, ACT.
Start from San Sebastian, on the coast of Spain's Basque country, recently nominated one of the world's best food cities. The local version of tapas is pintxos (pin-chos) - try them in the city's bars.
Your route along the north side of the Pyrenees depends on how much time you have. The main road is the A64 (E80) Autoroute, which is fast but boring. If time allows, take the "D" roads, which run closer to the mountains, through areas of superb natural beauty and towns such as St-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
Carcassonne is well worth a look and from there you could head south through Limoux and along the D117 to the coast.
Montpellier is a lovely, pocket-size city and from there you could make a short detour north to visit Avignon and then through the glorious Luberon region, visiting L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Gordes at the very least. Turn south when you get close to Aix-en-Provence and put on your bathers for a swim at Cassis.
From there you have a number of delicious places to stop along the Cote d'Azur - Cap Ferrat, St Tropez and Cannes - all the way to Nice itself.
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