US OF NAY
My wife and I are invited to a wedding in Seattle in September. I have travelled extensively on business over the last 10 years, including to Libya, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, all on the US list of undesirable nations. So I expected my ESTA application to be rejected and to have to apply for a visa and interview. However, the website advised the waiting time for a visa interview is between 216 and 300 days, and as the Sydney consulate is closed, I'd have to go to Melbourne for it. The wedding will be over in 261 days. Similar happened several years ago when I applied for a US visa, for travel as part of an Austrade delegation with the visa refused at the interview, then two months after the delegation had returned, it was granted. I accept that I'll never visit the US again.
Ben Adamson, Woolloomooloo, NSW
If you plan to take any cash when you travel overseas be aware that some banks in Australia are no longer selling overseas currency. When I recently tried to buy some pounds sterling, an NAB teller told me the bank no longer sells currency. Yet another disappearing customer service, however, a Google search did locate other sources for currency including Australia Post.
Mary Hoffmann, Richmond, Vic
LETTER OF THE WEEK
SOUK IT UP
While touring Cairo ourselves (Traveller, April 16) a few years ago we were fortunate to visit the grand market Khan el-Khalili and were awestruck by the amazing wares that were on show. However, after the tour we caught a tuk tuk and asked the driver to take us to where his mother and wife shopped. To be in a non-touristy area, experiencing the everyday life of Cairo inhabitants, was an experience beyond measure. It may have been dirty and dusty with quite intriguing smells but the friendliness of the locals and vendors was heartening. The taste of freshly fried potato crisps prepared right in front of us was out of this world and then an afternoon cuppa in the neighbourhood cafe topped off an absolutely incredible out of the way experience I'll never forget.
Carolyn Fraser, Geelong, Vic
I am an Aussie expat who owns a guesthouse and tour company here in Sri Lanka with my Sri Lankan partner. The country has had setbacks over many decades with the long-running civil war which ended in 2009, the 2004 tsunami, the 2019 Easter bombings and then COVID-19. Now the people are protesting over what they say is the worst economic crisis they've been through. However, tourists are largely unaffected by the current problems and Sri Lanka needs tourism - previously the third largest foreign exchange earner in the country. It is a cheap destination for Australians, the people are very friendly and welcoming, the diversity in this small island is amazing and the food is fabulous. I'd urge Australians to still consider a holiday to Sri Lanka and enjoy the beauty and wonders of this marvellous country.
Deb Riedel, Negombo, Sri Lanka
GIVE ME A SIGN
I wonder if it's ever occurred to the security authorities at all the main airports in Australia that they all have different rules at the screening point depending on the system installed. If they made everything a lot clearer, the process could be streamlined and the staff would not have to do so much shouting. Some don't require you to remove laptops from bags. Some insist that you remove belts. I suggest large clear signs (which everyone has plenty of time to read and prepare for while queuing): 1. You must remove the following items from your bags and put them in a tray (laptops, aerosols, etc) 2. You must remove the following (phone, belt, jacket, hat, shoes, watches, etc) from your pockets/person and put them in a tray or in your bag 3. The following items (shoes with metal sole inserts, large watches, chunky belt buckles, etc) sometimes cause an alert on the walk-through detector and we advise you to remove them and put them in a tray 4. Shoes do (or do not) need to be placed in a tray. 5. All bags must be placed in a tray. It would also help if there were longer counters for decanting from your bag to the trays (Canberra is great while Qantas at Sydney and Melbourne are inadequate).
Kevin Hunt, Kenthurst, NSW
EDITOR'S NOTE: Traveller can confirm, based on a recent trip, that such helpful signage, as suggested by our reader, is on prominent display at the security channels at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.
A dear friend in her 80s and a frequent traveller was recently flying by Virgin Australia from Brisbane to Adelaide. She was accompanied by her husband, also in his mid 80s, wheelchair bound with advanced Parkinsons. On leaving the aircraft she asked for crew assistance to manage the wheelchair. She was refused and told, "We don't do that." She struggled on her own vowing never to fly Virgin again. I don't blame her. Neither will I.
Jeffry Farman, Brighton, Vic
EDITOR'S NOTE: Traveller shares our reader's disappointment. We checked Virgin Australia's website which asks that passengers request specific assistance needs in advance of travel. "If booking mobility assistance online please ensure you complete the Specific Assistance section on the passenger page."
STAMP OF DISAPPROVAL
In regards to Lindsay Somervile's recent letter (Traveller Letters, April 16), a 10 year passport at $308 is $30.80 a year. Not being able to post date it by four months saves him a measly $10.25. Fancy writing to complain that the Australian government doesn't allow you to save $10.25 when you're using said passport to travel overseas on a holiday where you'd be throwing away many more dollars on much worse purchases. For $30.80 a year, a passport is the best investment you'll ever make.
Ashley Deppeler, Southbank, Vic
We have a credit with Webjet following cancellation of a trip last year and have been trying to use it to book a trip to Broome to join a tour there. This has proved impossible with no response from Webjet despite multiple emails, except for one reply indicating the price. You cannot get them on the phone unless your trip is happening the next day, as per their phone message. I am at a loss as to how to get Webjet to respond as I do not want to leave the Broome booking too late. Any suggestions ?
Sumathy Krishnaswamy, Kew, Vic
TIP OF THE WEEK
EASY DOES IT
If you're worried about the hassles of going to Europe, don't. I travelled to Europe a month ago and Sydney International airport, I showed Qantas my triple vaccination printout, checked in my bags, took my boarding pass and flew to London. At Heathrow, I only had to show my passport to enter the UK. To take my connecting flight to Paris I again simply showed my triple vax certificate to British Airways. At Charles de Gaulle Airport my passport was stamped and I was able to enter the country. I later returned to London by Eurostar with no documentation required other than my passport. Returning to Australia on April 18 from London, I again presented my vax certificate and my (superfluous and annoying) Digital Passenger Declaration and flew back to Sydney. It was all surprisingly easy.
Kim Buddee, Roseville, NSW
My family had rented a cottage in Germany, near Munich, and we did a lot of driving between Austria and Germany. One day, at dusk, I was pulled over by an Austrian highway patrolman (I named him "Otto"). He asked: "Why are your headlights not turned on?" I replied: "Because it's not dark yet." He then explained that in Austria it's the law that your headlights must be on whenever you drive on Austrian autobahns. Point taken. I was fined €28. Then he asked, "Where is your sticker?"....."What sticker?" The €8 sticker you need to travel on our autobahns so that will be another €120 fine. Thank goodness Otto took pity on us naive Australians and waived the €120 fine. We then proceeded to the next service station and bought the sticker, with Otto following us. So, people, if you're driving on Austria's autobahns, remember your sticker and remember to turn on your headlights at dusk.
James Trianta, South Hurstville, NSW
THE GREAT ESCAPE
My husband and I travelled to France earlier this year with a two night stopover in Singapore each way. We had to get a PCR to leave Australia, another one on arrival in Singapore and another one to get out of Singapore to Paris. When we arrived at CDG airport in Paris it was a ghost town (as was Changi airport both ways). The plane taxied to the closest gate and we were through customs and baggage collection in less than 20 minutes. We paid our euros to turn our triple vaccinated International Certificate into a French certificate and downloaded the app in a few minutes and off we went. We could go anywhere as long as we showed our app. The French were delighted to see us and everyone kept saying to us, "you escaped Australia – well done". Vive La France
Caroline Augherson, Melbourne, Vic
NORTH TO ADVENTURE
In March, my wife and I, accompanied by our labradoodle, drove out of Sydney on a 8,000 kilometres five week North Queensland beach and outback holiday. Driving along the bumpy Bruce Highway, we spent a few days at Airlie Beach and enjoyed some sailing, albeit rough seas and high winds. We arrived in Cairns for a few nights with friends, experiencing the great Skyrail and Scenic Railway on a perfect day. Onto Port Douglas, which has lost none of its charm with its lovely people and great food. The drive back to Sydney was a dream come true with the inland route to Charters Towers gave us a sense of what was to come as we made the transition from the tropics to the outback, following the Dinosaur Trail, Hughenden, Richmond and Winton, with visits to Kronosaurus Korner, Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum and the Dinosaur Stampede Monument at Lark Quarry. Alas the Flinders Discovery Centre was undergoing renovations.
John Verhelst, Huntleys Cove, NSW
WIN A SET OF THREE HARDIE GRANT TRAVEL BOOKS
The Letter of the Week writer wins Hardie Grant travel books worth more than $100, including Undiscovered Tasmania by Rochelle & Wally Dare; Emma Shaw's Ultimate Weekends Australia; and Vantastic by Kate Ulman.
SHARE YOUR TIPS AND WIN THREE LONELY PLANET TRAVEL BOOKS WORTH $100
The Tip of the Week writer wins a set of three great Lonely Planet travel books, including Australia's Best Trips, Best Day Walks Australia and Gourmet Trails Australia and NZ.
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