The Tripologist

WE ARE PLANNING A SIX-WEEK TRIP TO EUROPE NEXT YEAR. THE PLAN IS TO TAKE ONE COACH TRIP AROUND THE CONTINENT AND ANOTHER AROUND ENGLAND AND IRELAND AND ALSO TRAVEL INDEPENDENTLY FOR ABOUT THREE WEEKS AROUND BRITAIN. WOULD A SIM CARD PURCHASED IN LONDON WORK IN ALL THESE AREAS, OR WHAT WOULD WORK BEST? AS TOTAL NON-TECHNO PEOPLE WE WANT SOMETHING EASY TO SET UP AND USE.

- M. BROWN, SALAMANDER BAY.

A SIM card purchased in London would only be a good option for communication throughout Europe if you sign up for a monthly postpaid account.

The other option is prepaid SIM cards, which are cheap and readily available throughout Europe but not so convenient since you'd need one for each of the countries you'll be visiting. I suggest you buy a prepaid SIM card for your travels around Britain and possibly also for Ireland since it seems you'll be spending quite a bit of time in those two countries.

In Europe, you'll probably be hopping from one country to the next so for that part of your travels, invest in a universal SIM card such as GO-SIM (gosim.com), One SimCard (onesimcard.com) or WorldSIM (worldsim.com).

Any of these will give you phone and data coverage in the countries you'll be visiting, at a reasonably cheap rate, without having to replace it when you cross a border.

I READ WITH INTEREST THE ARTICLE TITLED ''A ROAD LESS TRAVELLED'', PUBLISHED IN TRAVELLER ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 17, AND DISCUSSED IT WITH A TRAVEL AGENT FRIEND. HER RESPONSE WAS IF YOU TRAVEL TO PLACES SUBJECT TO TRAVEL WARNINGS YOU SHOULD NOT EXPECT ASSISTANCE FROM DFAT. IS THIS CORRECT, AND WHAT IS THE SITUATION WITH TRAVEL INSURANCE IF YOU PAY FOR A TRIP WHILE WARNINGS ARE IN PLACE AND LATER DECIDE TO CANCEL PERHAPS BECAUSE THE SITUATION HAS WORSENED? D. RICHARDSON, MONT ALBERT NORTH.

Your travel agent friend is right. While the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is required to provide all reasonable assistance to Australian citizens who find themselves in difficulty overseas, there are practical limitations to what it can do.

If you make a booking to travel to a country and subsequently DFAT upgrades its travel advisory and you cancel your booking, you may well be entitled to compensation from your travel insurer. However, this would only happen if DFAT issues its highest level advisory, "Do not travel". In that case, your tour operator would most likely cancel the tour, and offer you a refund or alternative arrangements. If you plan to travel to a place where a high-level advisory is possible, get a written undertaking from your tour operator saying what it would do in such circumstances.

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MY DAUGHTER AND I ARE DOING A TWO-WEEK SCHOOL ART TOUR TO FRANCE AND SPAIN WITH A STOPOVER IN DUBAI IN APRIL NEXT YEAR. WE HAVE TO OBTAIN OUR OWN TRAVEL INSURANCE. WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING TRAVEL INSURANCE? DO YOU GO FOR ONE THAT IS PROMOTED BY TRAVEL AGENTS OR ONE THAT IS LESS ADVERTISED, FOR EXAMPLE, THROUGH YOUR HEALTH FUND? B. GOODWIN, ASQUITH. 

You need insurance to cover medical expenses, loss of belongings, personal liability and unforeseen disruptions to your travel plans. If you travel with a laptop, tablet and expensive camera equipment, these might be excluded from a standard travel insurance policy, and may require supplementary cover.

The amount of cover you need might vary according to the places you are visiting and what activities you are undertaking, but an organised tour such as the one you describe does not require an exceptional level of cover.

Many health funds and motoring organisations offer travel insurance at a competitive rate. Travel agents make a commission on the insurance they sell, and you will save if you eliminate the middleman.

CONVERSATION

OVER TO YOU ...

The question tackled last week in this column, "Does it concern or even annoy you when fellow airline passengers cram the overhead bins with multiple heavy bags?", continues to receive a deluge of responses from fed-up passengers. Here are just a few more.

"I too get irate at the Hummers of hand luggage people heft aboard and try to cram into the overhead lockers," writes R. Stone. "I wish the airlines would be consistent about checking carry-ons."

K. McAvoy writes: "I notice the carry-on luggage seems to be getting bigger – a lot bigger than airport staff say is permissible. "

In the same vein, C. Cheney writes: "I watched a woman who boarded late with [big] luggage . . . holding up the aircraft until eventually it was stowed in the hold, delaying the plane even further."

V. McLeod tells of a Tiger Airways experience with backpackers: "They picked our compartment and squashed our bags. My companion was furious. The tiny hostie, in her orange miniskirt, wrenched one of the rucksacks out, and bellowed, 'Oi! Whose bag is this?' [no response] 'Roight, when youse want it, it'll be at the back with me.' I wish all hosties were like her."

Next question: Any hot tips for reasonably priced, quality accommodation in London? Respond to tripologist@fairfaxmedia.com.au. All published responses will win a Lonely Planet guidebook.

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