I've just learnt a new lesson in matters of travel insurance. I recently had to cut an overseas trip short due to a medical emergency at home. My insurance paid, but they deducted my excess twice, once under the section for curtailment and a second time under the section for additional emergency expenses. It's all in the fine print, but who would think that two closely related incidences justify charging excess twice?
Also related to travel insurance, if you take out an annual insurance policy you should check that a country you are planning to visit is actually covered by your insurance.
Countries that currently do not qualify under many travel insurance policies are Afghanistan, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, North Korea, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
While some of these countries may be obvious targets for an exclusion, it might make you think twice about visiting, for example, the Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe side) or going in search of gorillas in Uganda.
Kirsten Walla, Vaucluse, NSW
LETTER OF THE WEEK
TREES OF LIFE
Thank you for Anthony Dennis's article on Hiroshima (Traveller, February 22). My husband and I visited Hiroshima last year and after visiting the Peace Memorial Park and the Peace Memorial Museum; both very moving experiences, we went to Hiroshima Castle where we were amazed to see a eucalypt just 740 metres from hypocentre (the explosion's point of origin).
Incredibly, the tree survived the atomic bombing, while the castle was destroyed. It's not just ginko trees that survived the atomic bombing, there are a range of trees which the Japanese refer to as hibakujumoku or survivor tree in English. A database of Hibaku Jumoku ― Atomic-Bombed Trees of Hiroshima ― can be found at unitar.org/hiroshima
Ann Roberts, Shepparton, Vic
Having just returned from three amazing weeks in Norway, I can't believe that the only comment one of your correspondents could muster was about the cost of using a public toilet (Traveller letters, February 22). I found Norway to be one of the friendliest and most hospitable countries I have visited. Most small cafes and restaurants have toilets which are for the use of patrons, and public buildings such as the excellent Oslo Museum - admission free - has numerous toilets, also free.
Most are also immaculately clean, which, if necessary, is worth paying for. From Kirkenes all the way down the west coast and across to Oslo I did not once have to "spend a krona".
Chris Tiley, Nana Glen, NSW
A WEE GIGGLE
Regarding payment for the use of public conveniences overseas - visiting the lovely old town of St Andrews in Scotland and needing to answer a call of nature, my husband and I visited the public loo where we found that we were required to pay 30p for the privilege. We still have a giggle at the thought of our 30p pee. After all, it is many a long year since the old euphemism "spending a penny" has had any meaning here in the lucky country, but "when in Rome" etc., pay up and have a laugh.
Jenny and David Ravell, St George's Basin NSW
TIMES HAVE CHANGED
LATAM Airlines brought forward the departure times of our flights between Santiago and Lima, while advising that we could reschedule at no cost. I accepted the change for the outbound leg but requested a later time for the return. I was stunned to be told that we must now pay an extra $US200 each because "our website shows that you accepted both flight changes."
Despite repeated phone calls and emails to LATAM, I receive that same inflexible and bureaucratic response. Sadly this will start our holiday on a negative note; LATAM customers be warned.
Alan Thompson, Skye, VIC
GOOD AS GOLD
We recently hired a car at the Gold Coast Airport through Avis. Being thunderstorm season, we took extra insurance cover and were told not to worry about taking pictures of the vehicle. On getting to our destination my heart sank when I had a close look at the vehicle and noticed many scratches and scuff marks and I wished I had taken those photos.
As part of their service, Avis emailed the next day with information and photos about the current condition of the vehicle showing all those scratches. Thank you, Avis for providing a trouble free car hire.
Greg Adelt, Dubbo, NSW
Mark Daffey (Traveller, February 10) brought back memories of our experiences in Western Mongolia. Did he also see deer stones? These Neolithic stones are found throughout western Mongolia; they are finely carved deer, seemingly dancing in the sky and they were erected in the late Bronze to early Iron age, approximately 3000 years ago.
We stayed with families in Gers who also had petroglyphs just out the back as our host casually indicated. I set out along a small valley with exposed ironstone accompanied by the gangly legged Ger dogs. I found figures of men and ibex, pale scratches onto the red rocks.
Michael Copping, Oatley NSW
RETURN TO THE WILDS
Following your cover story about wildlife (Traveller, Feb 22) can I add another enterprise that deserves support as they recover from bushfires. Mogo Wildlife Park in NSW near Bateman's Bay is privately run and specialises in the protection, care and preservation of exotic endangered species.
Only heroic efforts by the entire staff prevented the park being engulfed by fire. Keepers even took some of the animals into their own homes. The park owner had red pandas in his bedroom and meerkats in his bathroom.
A public fundraiser is helping rehabilitate park vegetation and they are building a new veterinary hospital on site to help rehabilitate native wildlife in the area, particularly animals affected by the fires. The park has been closed since late December, but is scheduled to re-open soon. Visitors would be particularly welcome in the next few months. See mogozoo.com.au
Jan Martin, Yarra Glen, VIC
We have just returned from a wonderful voyage to New Zealand on the Queen Elizabeth. During the journey the crew organised fundraising for bush fire relief. As we returned to Australia across the Tasman, exercise bikes were set up in the grand foyer and many crew members volunteered to take turns to pedal the bicycles, aiming to collectively cover the same distance as the ship had sailed; passengers were invited to donate to the Red Cross. Another event was a silent auction of on board experiences such as a visit to the bridge. I was impressed by the generosity of the crew, from many different nations, tosupporting the recovery from the bushfires.
Margaret Bradshaw, Point Lonsdale, VIC
Send us your travel-related opinions and experiences
Letters may be edited for space, legal or other reasons. Preference will be given to letters of 50-100 words or less. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and, importantly, include your name, address and phone number.
See more: Traveller Letters