Should I be afraid of radiation on planes?

Everyone asks ...

Should I be worried about the effects of radiation when I fly?

Ionising radiation has the potential to damage cells, tissues and enzymes.

When you fly aboard a commercial aircraft, you are exposed to a higher dosage of ionising radiation than at ground level because  Earth’s atmosphere provides less protection at higher altitudes. The higher you fly, the greater the exposure. 

Dosage also increases at higher latitudes because Earth’s atmosphere is thickest at the equator, and less so towards the poles. 

In Australia, the average background radiation dose (what the average Australian will receive at ground level) is about 2 millisieverts (mSv) a year. 

At the typical cruising altitude of a commercial jetliner at a latitude of 30degrees south, it would take about 240 hours of flying to receive an additional dose of 1mSv. 

At the equator, that figure increases to about 600hours. To put it another way, it would take about 19 return flights between Sydney and London to accumulate a dosage of 1mSv. 

Is this dosage a problem? Ionising radiation is a potential cancer risk. It can also affect the health of a  foetus. Pilots and aircrew are the group most at risk, yet large studies involving this group have generally shown no significant association with an increased risk of cancer, in particular the types that might be expected from radiation exposure.

Insurance may need tailoring

I've recently got my freedom from a long-term job and my husband and I plan to travel extensively and often. I've looked at annual travel insurance with multi-trip options, but these allow travel only up to 60 days. Do you know any insurers who cater to those who have longer multiple trips? We are adventure travellers — sometimes skiing or cycling or trekking.
- M. Lommerse, South Fremantle, WA.


Annual travel insurance policies are designed to cover frequent travellers who do not plan to remain offshore for extended periods, generally less than 30 days in the case of a holiday, or up to 90 days if it's a business trip.

If you plan to be away longer, you will need to buy a separate travel insurance policy for each trip.

You could also approach an insurance broker and see if they can come up with a policy tailored specifically to your needs.

No limits for visitors to European cities

I am travelling to Europe  next month, planning to spend five days in Amsterdam, four days each in Prague, Budapest and Berlin and one day in Frankfurt. How do I explore these cities to the fullest? I’m travelling with a cousin and we are both in our late 20s. 
- D. Banerjee, Glandore, SA.


Looking at the cities you’re visiting and the time allocated to each, you’re spot on. First priority when you get to each city is to get a multi-day train, bus or tram pass that will allow you to roam at will on the  public transport network.

You also need maps, and since you don’t want to go online and incur costly roaming fees, download the City Maps 2Go app ( and get maps for each city you’re visiting. These will also locate your  position and highlight points of interest. 

For what to see, I like the DK Eyewitness Travel Apps (, available for Berlin, Amsterdam and Prague. Except for Budapest and Frankfurt, each of your destination cities has a dedicated website on Time Out, with up-to-the-minute coverage of cafes and restaurants, shopping, events and sightseeing highlights. 

With all that weaponry at your disposal, you should have no trouble constructing a dynamite experience.

Splitting up the most economical way to go

My husband wants to visit Canada, probably the west coast. My preference would be east coast with Prince Edward Island and possibly NovaScotia, Niagara Falls, etc. How can we combine the two most economically, leaving fromMelbourne? 
- B. Mitchell, Bayswater, Melbourne, Vic.

Doing it economically is not a goer. The distance between Canada’s westcoast and Niagara Falls is 3400 kilometres, which is greater than Sydney to Perth, and domestic flights in Canada are expensive. 

The Maritime Provinces on your wish list are a lot further to the east of Niagara Falls, and another expensive flight sector. You have two options. The less expensive is to split up and head off in different directions when you reach Vancouver, each to pursue your own separate interests. 

Alternatively, you watch whales or bears, hike mossy forests and chomp into grilled salmon with your husband on the west coast, and then he waxes lyrical over Anne of Green Gables, which is the only conceivable reason for visiting Prince Edward Island.

Adventure not far from home

My family of five (ages 17 to 50s) are planning a short road trip during the school holidays. We have done most of the short-medium trips from Sydney already. Could you suggest other road trips from Sydney?  P. Garg, Sydney.

If the time frame is the coming July school holidays, it’s tough. Normally I’d suggest somewhere warm. An option might be down the south coast as far as Batemans Bay, inland to Canberra (which is celebrating its centenary this year, with a packed program of events) and back. 

You could also shorten this – down south as far as Berry, then inland through Kangaroo Valley and back to Sydney via the southern highlands. This could be anything from a single day to a  three-day trip.

When the weather warms up, you might take a look at the Greater Blue Mountains drive (, a series of linked drives and discovery trails that circle the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area. 

The drive encompasses an array of experiences, including some of Australia’s oldest towns and villages, mountains, bushwalks, museums,  wineries, wilderness and wildlife. 

The drive includes 18 discovery trails and  can easily be broken down into a series of shorter adventures.

Over to You

Beginning next week, The  Tripologist will introduce a new feature. Called ‘‘Over to You’’, this is a chance for you to share some treasured memories from your own travels, and to give other travellers the benefit of your experiences. Chosen answers will be published on this page in three weeks’ time. Next topic: What’s the scariest road trip you’ve ever done? Answers in 50 words or less to

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. All published questions win a Lonely Planet guidebook. 

Chat the Tripologist live online - next Thursday, June 27, Michael Gibicki will be answering your travel questions live here from midday.