WE ARE TRAVELLING TO EUROPE IN JUNE AND AS THIS IS OUR FIRST OVERSEAS TRIP, WE ARE LOOKING FOR REASONABLY PRICED ACCOMMODATION CLOSE TO THE CENTRE OF ROME AS A BASE FOR FOUR DAYS' SIGHTSEEING. WE BELIEVE MOST OF THE ROOMS ARE ON THE SMALL SIDE AND AS NEITHER OF US IS COMFORTABLE IN CRAMPED SURROUNDINGS, WE WONDERED IF YOU COULD SUGGEST A PLACE WITH REASONABLY SIZED ROOMS.
- J. MCRAE, TAIRUA, NZ
Reasonably priced, spacious accommodation close to the centre is a tall order in Rome, as in every other major European city. One lodging option that comes close is an apartment. These can offer more space than a hotel room, and the price can be good value, although June is close to peak season and there are not too many bargains. An apartment also allows you to save by preparing at least some of your own meals but don't go overboard - eating out in Rome is a wonderful experience.
Some of the websites to search for apartments and small hotels include Sawdays (www.sawdays.co.uk), iescape (www.i-escape.com) and Romeloft (www.romeloft.com). Worldwide Accom (italy.worldwide-accom.com) is more expensive but it does have some fine properties. Don't delay.
MY WIFE AND I PLAN A TWO-WEEK ROAD TRIP THROUGH SCOTLAND IN AUGUST-SEPTEMBER EITHER THIS YEAR OR IN 2015. WE ANTICIPATE STAYING A FEW DAYS WITH FRIENDS NEAR LONDON, THEN TAKING A HIRE CAR UP NORTH AND RETURNING IT TO THE POINT OF HIRE. IS IT BETTER TO ORGANISE CAR HIRE FROM AUSTRALIA BEFORE ARRIVING IN LONDON OR ARE BETTER DEALS AVAILABLE AT SHORT NOTICE ONCE IN THE UK?
- T. KOBER, CANBERRA, ACT
Book your hire car before leaving Australia. August and early September are peak season for travel around Scotland. If you wait until you arrive, you will likely find yourself with a limited choice of vehicles, particularly at the budget end, and no discounts. I would suggest booking now. The Aussie dollar looks to be heading south, which means you can lock in your vehicle hire at the current value of the dollar, rather than what it might be when you're behind the wheel. Most car hire operators allow you to make a booking without charging a cent to your credit card until you appear at the hire desk. Also, book accommodation well in advance, especially if you plan to visit remote areas and islands. Two weeks is an ideal period to devote to Scotland. The official visitor website, Visit Scotland (www.visitscotland.com), has a comprehensive section devoted to driving in Scotland and plenty more, including an accommodation booking facility.
MY WIFE AND I ARE TRAVELLING TO ICELAND IN MARCH, STAYING IN REYKJAVIK FOR FIVE NIGHTS. CAN YOU RECOMMEND ANY TOURS WE CAN BOOK? WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS, AS WELL AS VOLCANOES AND ICEBERGS. S. GARNER, EMU PLAINS, NSW
Iceland Horizon (www.icelandhorizon.is) is a family-operated, small-group tour specialist and its trips get great reviews. The standout is the Golden Circle, an eight-hour tour which takes in waterfalls, geysers and Thingvellir National Park, home of the Viking parliament. Goecco (www.goecco.com) is a similar operation that receives universal applause from paying customers. It has a range of day tours that include most of the gushing, spurting and exploding wonders Iceland has to offer. During the winter, Goecco offers a nightly Jeep Aurora Hunt from Reykjavik. If you want to see the aurora borealis at its finest, you need to leave the city, since its artificial lighting dulls the brilliant display that a completely dark sky allows. Although your visit falls close to the spring equinox, March 20, and daylight hours are increasing, the aurora borealis is predicted to put on a spectacular show this season.
OVER TO YOU ...
The question was, "Any suggestions for an alternative to the 28 Degrees MasterCard, which will soon introduce fees that will bite into your foreign exchange transactions?"
"The CitiBank Plus account is a free account with no fees for overseas ATM withdrawals and overseas online/physical transactions," writes E. Waugh. "The Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. It also includes free travel insurance when you use the card to purchase return air tickets."
Says M. Rotenstein, "The change only relates to cash withdrawals. The 28 Degrees card is still the best way to make purchases overseas, with no currency exchange fees and very competitive exchange rates. For ATM withdrawals, I suggest the Australia Post Load&Go Travel Card. No load or reload fees and low ATM fees. My tip is to leave the prepaid funds in Aussie dollars rather than convert into foreign currency to avoid paying 3 per cent, and the same to convert any unused funds back to AUD. The new Qantas Cash and Velocity Global Wallet cards aren't bad either, and you earn points!"
Next question: As the national carrier, does Qantas inspire a sense of loyalty? Send a response, or your travel question, to firstname.lastname@example.org. The best response will win a Lonely Planet guidebook.
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