Traveller Letters: How to skip the hassles (and queues) at Bali's airport

SOFT LANDING

My wife and I travelled to Bali in mid-May and used the readily available online Fast Track (bali-airport.com) VIP airport entry services for a cost of about $US50 per traveller plus entry visa fees. We supplied copies of our passport page, PCR test results, vaccination proof and COVID travel insurance cover. We were met on disembarking by a uniformed young lady and after visa and passport formalities we were ushered into a waiting area and offered a cold drink while she collected our luggage. Fifteen minutes later our bags were delivered and we were escorted to our transport, passing substantial queues of passengers at immigration and visa stations and delivered to our Sanur-based hotel. We were probably sitting in the pool by the time our fellow travellers left the airport.

Rex White, Safety Beach, Vic

Airport hotels are often an exceptionally convenient way to break up long travels and can also be a wonderful haven either before or at the end of your travels. The Novotel Auckland Airport (all.accor.com) is one of the best I have experienced in this category. Literally less than 100 metres from the international terminal it is quiet, well-staffed, has amazing beds and a great restaurant.. When travelling long distances I prefer to break the flights and often pay slightly more to do so, it ensures I arrive at my destination fresh and ready to go.

Paul Soanes, Doncaster, Vic

LETTER OF THE WEEK

X-RAY DERISION

Without detracting from Lee Tulloch's important message in her column, "Why women dread airport scans" (Traveller, July 23), there are both women and men who dread these scanners for other reasons. As she notes, people with hip or knee-replacements also face issues, as do those with insulin pumps. Security staff, invariably in most airports I have been through, insist their scanning equipment is safe for such pumps, despite documentation from a doctor or the pump manufacturer to the contrary. Persons with paralysis of a limb also face difficulties, with my wife unable to raise one arm as required in the full body scanners, however much she is hectored by staff. While we all want a secure flight, there is a need for staff to be more sensitive to the needs of travellers who do not fit the "typical" passenger profile.

Harwood Lockton, Cooranbong, NSW

THAI TIME

Over the last 12 months I saved numerous Traveller articles on Thailand on my iPad and I am now using them to guide my travels. At the moment I am sitting in Bangkoks' wonderful Loy La Hong Hotel, as recommended by one of your readers, on the Chao Phraya River watching the many boats pass by. Anthony Dennis' recent article on Chiang Mai also guided me to some superb accommodation, interesting eateries and a real touch of Thai county life. But it is disturbing to note that all Thai people, on transport, in shops, businesses and other crowded areas, wear masks, whereas many tourists go unmasked. I guess many have had several vaccines and have extensive medical coverage while many of the Thais they come in contact with don't have these supports.

Ron Brown, Wallsend, NSW

TARGET PRACTICE

John Aarons' letter (Traveller Letters, July 23) about having his wallet stolen whilst catching a train from Lisbon to Porto, reminded me of our time in Portugal in 2014. Waiting at Porto station to catch a train, my husband alerted me to the man who was hanging around behind me, watching me and my suitcase. We both turned to eyeball him and he quickly disappeared. The lesson is to never accept assistance from strangers with your luggage, but also to only travel with luggage you can easily lift yourself. I restrict my luggage weight to around 15 kilograms and use a shoulder bag with a lockable zip. And be extra vigilant whenever you are transiting with your luggage, as that is when they target you.

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Sue Lyons, Carlton North, Vic

BAD POLICY

I was shocked to read the Portugal pickpocketing tale. Not because of the theft, as many travellers have fallen victim to similar crimes across the globe. The genuinely outrageous sting in that sorry tale is the refusal of the travel insurance company to pay out on the policy. Determining that he was "not sufficiently vigilant'" begs the question - what should he have done? Wear a full suit of armour? Refuse any and all engagement with any seemingly good natured human at all times, whilst on holiday? Isn't this scenario exactly what we pay our insurance premiums for? I wish he had named the insurance company so others, like me, can avoid that travel rort.

Vikki King, Clifton Hill, Vic

GROUND CONTROL

Having very recently returned to Sydney from Spain and Singapore as a blind person travelling for the first time unaccompanied I would like to thank the wonderful ground staff in those countries and, in particular, Sydney. They assisted me in my checking in, guiding me through all the security checks, collecting my luggage and taking me to my taxi. It was a great experience and I would like to encourage others in a similar situation to have the confidence to be guided by these caring considerate staff and travel.

Warren Eames, Macmasters Beach, NSW

RISK ASSESSMENT

Your story, "I never thought I'd ever…" (Traveller, July 23) reminded me of when I worked as a guide leading adventure cave expeditions and where safety protocols were paramount. Then in 2017 I spent a fortnight travelling solo through Mexico, wanting to experience some of the Yucatan Peninsula's famous caves, something I never thought I'd do. But when I arrived at a remote cave system my private tour involved no safety briefing or protective gear. I began having second thoughts, especially as my guide spoke only Mayan and I could barely manage any Spanish. Taking the chance, I clung to a worn old rope as I slid into a dark void barely touched by my headlamp, wearing no helmet, let alone abseiling harness. Fear was never far away, but the rewards were many. I saw the sacrificial offerings left by Mayans centuries before; I squeezed into the burial site of an ancient warrior and held his grave goods in my hands; I shared the sight of beautiful crystal formations with my proud Mayan guide. To my surprise communication was never an issue. My shirt was torn, my jeans filthy, my body battered. But we left the cave with a genuine bond built of respect, a shared love of the underground world and a reminder that sometimes it is worth taking a risk.

Sasa Kennedy, Faulconbridge, NSW

EDITOR'S NOTE Thanks for the interesting tale but, suffice to say, we highly recommend travellers always choose operators with certified and demonstrable safety standards.

NOTHING NEW

I have followed with interest, the current frustrations and anger with the behaviour of Qantas. I can say unequivocally that none of this is new. We gave up flying Qantas many years ago after three pertinent episodes of bad behaviour. The first was being ticketed to the wrong airport in Japan, the second was being put on a plane from Hong Kong to Sydney after cancelling the flight to Brisbane without telling us, leaving our daughter and four-year-old granddaughter waiting for hours in Brisbane for a plane which never arrived. We had to run for the flight and had no time to ring our daughter. Qantas couldn't have cared less. The final straw was trying to arrange for my husband to take necessary syringe-laden medication on board with an ice brick, along with a letter of explanation from his medical specialist. The Qantas representative screamed at me that I knew nothing about terrorism and that carrying a syringe was tantamount to committing such an act. Since then, and many overseas journeys later, we have flown Singapore Airlines which is gracious, sensible and helpful.

Jennifer Nichols, Casino, NSW

TIP OF THE WEEK

YOU LITTLE BOOTY

We have just returned from a European break including three weeks in Calabria (calabriastraordinaria.it) in Southern Italy. We chose not to car hire and used the efficient Italian rail network (italiarail.com) following the coast and stopping off for a few days at various towns, starting in Constanza and finishing in Taranto, just inside Puglia. Italian car hire has almost doubled in cost and with parking, if you can find it, costing two Euros an hour in some cities, train travel proved a great success,even the small regional networks are clean, air conditioned and run on time and in most destinations take you to the town centres. Uncrowded Calabria is Italy's hidden gem. Wonderful beaches, affordable food, wine and accommodation and best of all the friendly Calabrians.

Michael Acocks, Rochester, Vic

MANE EVENT

Having just returned from a winter break to Bali, I can highly recommend two great experiences in Ubud. Our group of adults and teens loved horse riding with Kuda P Stables (kudapstables.com) through villages, rainforests and along a deserted black volcanic beach. Our varied experience levels were accommodated, and the horses were clearly well looked after. Another highlight was canyon tubing down a pristine rainforest gorge with Bali Quad Discovery Tours (baliquad.com). The scenery was breathtaking, the mountain water sparkling clear and the laughs were priceless. And, as an aside, wear your old sneakers and leave them behind to preserve Australia's biosecurity.

Deborah Brown, Ashfield, NSW

SOUNDS FAMILIARE

In June, I was in Rome for work and I needed urgent medical care. I don't consider myself a tourist as I am Italian-speaking and often visit Italy (italia.it). In taking advice from local friends, I walked to the local hospital emergency service. It was a pretty nerve-wracking experience since the clinic was filled with maskless sick people and few staff. They have a strict triage system and after six hours, I got my script. My advice to other travellers, should they find themselves in a similar situation, is to seek out an English-speaking doctor during the day or attend one of the 24 hour Guardia Medica Turistica (tourist) clinics. In the north of the country, you will get better treatment in emergency but for Rome and southward, be prepared

Larry Stillman, Elwood, Vic

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THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL: YOUR VERDICT

Dear readers, we're planning a special 15-year anniversary edition of Traveller and we'd like to hear your thoughts about the future of travel. What are your hopes, dreams and, yes, fears and concerns? How can the world travel better and how will we be travelling in 15 years time (that is, 2037)? Where do you still want to go and what do you want to see and experience? We'll publish the best letters with the writers each receiving the prize of a Lonely Planet travel book. Write to us by no later than Friday, August 12 (see the details below).

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