Everyone asks ...
What's the best way to take my money overseas?
There is no one answer that fits every traveller in every situation, but a few general rules will work most of the time. Having all your travel funds in cash is a high-risk strategy, but a small supply of US dollars or euros will enable you to hit the ground running. Travellers' cheques offer the ultimate security but exchanging them can waste time.
Automated teller machines are just about everywhere, and they provide a convenient way to access funds. You can use your normal ATM card to do this, provided you've contacted your bank and authorised its use offshore. Note that many foreign banking systems will not accept a six-digit PIN. Each time you withdraw via an ATM, you'll pay a cash advance fee and a foreign currency conversion fee.
You can also use a prepaid currency card, available from banks, post offices, online and airport Travelex counters.
Another option popular with frequent travellers is the 28 Degrees MasterCard (28degreescard.com.au), which has no annual fees, no reload fees and no international transaction fees.
The best strategy of all is a mix: a small amount of cash, at least two credit cards, and two cards that will enable you to withdraw funds via ATMs.
Caution in South America
My wife and I are travelling to South America for two months. We are planning to do most of the trip ourselves and are confident of travelling through most countries except for Bolivia. Is it safe to travel independently, or should we be escorted? We have travelled a fair bit. G. Greenhalgh, Thirroul.
The Australian government's website (smartraveller.gov.au) advises "exercise a high degree of caution" in Bolivia. Foreigners have been victims of violent crimes and even kidnappings, and you are particularly vulnerable when entering Bolivia at border points with Peru, Chile and Argentina. In La Paz, the Cementerio General and Sopocachi areas are risky. I'd say you're safe enough to travel independently but stick to popular tourist areas, use established transport companies and seek advice from your hotel. The Australian embassy in Peru (embassy.gov.au/peru) is your nearest source of consular advice.
In a world of dazzling choice, Belize is the place
My husband and I are meeting our 21-year-old son in Miami in June. We are going to be there for a week — any suggestions? We are open to the Caribbean or Mexico. S. McCarthy, Caringbah.
From Miami you are dazzled for choice; it really depends on your interests and your wallet. The Caribbean is all about sensual delights, and they come in a rainbow. If you want beaches, cigars, Detroit chrome-mobiles, weird Afro-Christian cults, fabulous music and all-night dancing, Cuba is for you.
If you want pink-sand beaches and golf courses the colour of a billiard table, Bermuda.
If you want to hang out with millionaires, stay in super-stylish accommodation, dine in fabulous restaurants and swim in silk blue waters, St Barts is a favourite sandpit for megastars and moguls. Or maybe Mustique, nicknamed "Billionaires' Island", and so exclusive it has only one hotel.
Mexico and Guatemala are perfect if you're interested in cultures and history, but my own choice would be Belize, a wildlife wonder. Tucked into the base of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Belize is luxuriantly endowed with tropical forests, mountains, rivers, more than 500 species of birds and the biggest reef system after our own. Since its human population has remained relatively small, Belize's wildlife continues to flourish.
Seville offers a complete feast for the senses
We are spending 10 nights in Spain flying in and out of Barcelona in late September after an 11-day Mediterranean cruise. We are a fit 60ish couple, not adverse to rail travel or sight-seeing on foot, wanting to linger longer, rather than spread ourselves thinly. Any suggestions regarding how best to maximise our "Spanish experience"? A. & J.Brennan, Seaforth.
Seville, definitely. Deep in Spain's south-west, halved by the Guadalquivir River, the fiery historic capital of Andalusia is a rich stew of tradition, atmosphere and extravagant architecture. As much as a visit to the cathedral and the Museum of Fine Arts, absorbing the character of Seville means midnight excursions to the city's bars, strolling the tangled alleys of the Barrio Santa Cruz and possibly even the spectacle of La Maestranza, one of the country's oldest bullrings.
A night in a flamenco club is one of Seville's seminal experiences and there is no better place to see flamenco than here, in the city of its origins. Seville is also the gateway to the whitewashed villages of Andalusia, and don't miss Ronda, clinging to the heights of its gorge high in the Serrania de Ronda Mountains.
Much to see, so little time
We are planning a trip to Britain in May and have an eight-day BritRail Pass to explore England. We are basing ourselves for three days in Leeds, two days in Bristol and three days in London. Can you advise on any day trips from these cities to places of interest? M. Mason, Malabar.
Without a car, making day trips outside these cities is going to be more difficult, but not impossible. From Leeds, a prime attraction is the Yorkshire Dales and, just outside the city, Harewood House (harewood.org) is one of England's finest stately homes. You can get there on the No. 36 bus. Ask the driver for a voucher and you can get in for half-price. The same bus will also take you to Harrogate, a lovely spa town. You might also visit Whitby, but wherever you go, be sure to try Yorkshire pubs and sample local cuisine, such as Wensleydale cheese, Nidderdale lamb and Yorkshire pudding.
From Bristol you could easily visit Bath and Glastonbury, some of the gorgeous Cotswold villages and Iford Manor, one of the loveliest gardens in all of England.
London has so much to keep you occupied I really don't imagine you'll find time or need to explore beyond the city itself in three days. Confine your exploration to just a couple of small areas - London really is a rich feast.
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