Traveller letters: Priority stickers on suitcases are meaningless

DOUBLE TROUBLE

Gripe number one: my experience of collecting my "priority tagged bags for first-off-the-carousel convenience" is way different to that of Julie Miller's (Traveller, March 14) in her Flight Test review.

Priority stickers are meaningless. Your bag will come out in no particular order, and if you're checking in with another person, you can absolutely guarantee your bags won't come off together.

Gripe number two: I was disgusted to read Paul Chai's account (Traveller, March 14) of "dangling a bare-bummed toddler over a farm gate for him/her to do number twos." Pity the property owner confronted with the evidence.

Liz Riordan, Newtown, Vic

TIP OF THE WEEK: AGENTS OF MERCY

I want to commend the use of travel agents in this rapidly changing world of travel. We are a family of three who were due to travel in Europe for three weeks in May. Of course, we knew by last week it would be cancelled and likely refunds/vouchers would be our due.

Acknowledging there would be other clients whose needs were more pressing than ours, my plan was to contact my agent mid-April in this respect. Bouquets to Gemma at Travel Associates Prahran who rang me to take instructions and arrange for all necessary follow-ups on my behalf. These people also need to be supported at this time and we have chosen to place funds in credit for tours in 2021 to help ensure the travel operators remain afloat.

Of course, to be able to travel is a privilege but in doing so we support many people. As Mark Twain [a statue of whom in Luneburg, Germany, is pictured] said , "travel is the only thing that costs you money but makes you richer". Share it.

Bernadette Trifiletti, Toorak, VIC

STRANGER DANGER

Your "closed door policy" letter of the week (Traveller letters, March 14) reminded me of the time, a number of years ago, when my wife and I were driving in a hire car, through the same area referred to in the letter (the city of Thiva).

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We stopped to ask a local by the side of the road for directions. It turned out he was a Pakistani migrant and he pointed us in the correct direction and with us giving him a lift to the city centre.

However, on a more recent visit to Greece we again stopped in an area in southern Greece, called Messini, hoping to ask for directions to the ruins of the local archaeological site, as the hire car's GPS refused to work properly.

A 10 or 12-year old boy quickly approached with a few more following, demanding, in broken Greek and English, "give me a euro!" A whole bunch of older fellows then appeared out of the street corner. I just as quickly wound up the door window and sped away. You never know who you are going to meet in some places.

We later learned that "foreigners" often banded together to "make a living" in "innovative" ways. I must acknowledge, however, that on many occasions, locals offered us cups of coffee and typical Greek sweets, whenever we stopped in various small towns and villages.

Dimitris Langadinos, Concord West, NSW

LETTER OF THE WEEK: THOSE WERE THE DAYS

Thank you, Anthony Dennis, for your positive editor's note (Traveller, March 14), with your aim of continuing to provide Traveller as "a bright spot" in our weekends. This will help those many of us in mourning for wonderful trips planned and now having to be postponed.

Ours was for my dream stay of three months in the UK, with fascinating side trips to remote places such as Maramures, Romania, planned with our family, and finally to be able to sample the glories of operas in Glyndebourne and other great old homes. Ah well, as one of the older Australians now being urged to self-isolate at home, I will instead be enjoying places vicariously through Traveller while taking a leaf out of that remarkable 1794 book A Journey Around my Room, by Xavier Maistre, he wrote it while under house-arrest, after deciding "to make the most of his sentence by recording an exploration of his room as a travel journal." As a lover of the clutter of memorabilia, that should occupy me until – hopefully having survived – we can once more travel further afield.

Anne Ring, Coogee, NSW

TIL WE MEET AGAIN

Thank you for your encouraging and positive words in your editor's note. Although I do not know when I shall see my grandson in London again, (flights were booked last year), I know this global problem will pass. And how lucky are we in this day and age to be able to call, Skype, text and WhatsApp (with) each other.

Andrea Pulati, Rushcutters Bay, NSW

CRUISE CONTROL

I am sending this email from the ship Azamara Pursuit, sailing currently from Valparaiso, Chile and heading for Miami. We have been reading reports about people being stressed on this ship. It is true that at the time of writing, a few people are stressed, but the majority of the passengers have taken the view that we are on a healthy ship and that at the moment it is the best place to be.

We are being looked after fantastically by Azamara, the ship's captain and the crew. They are running the ship as normal, with entertainment, restaurants and ship activities and also have assisted with complimentary internet packages and phone calls so that everyone can keep in touch with home.

We are in good spirits and have accepted that we are in good hands with Azamara who have guaranteed they will not leave us stranded.

Mark & Jane McCarthy, Peregian Springs, QLD

FOLLOW THE LEADERS

We travelled to the Kimberley in WA, last year, beginning with a 10-day cruise from Darwin to Broome with Aurora Expeditions. Our four expedition leaders conducted very informative talks about the history, flora and fauna of the region.

We saw wonderful Aboriginal art and observed crocodiles, dugongs and countless species of birds. After arriving in Broome we picked up our 4WD vehicle and spent the next two weeks exploring the Gibb River Road which we organised through Bluey Travel.

All our accommodation was pre-booked and they provided us with 145 pages of information on what to see and do along the way. Everything went like clockwork. We highly recommend both these Australian companies.

Sandra Davis, Avoca Beach, NSW

GOOD HOODS

Paula Wales is quite right (Traveller letters, March 14) that neighbourhood locations are best in tourist cities (I prefer Dorsoduro to Cannaregio in Venice, but that is a matter of personal taste), but it requires a longer stay than is managed by the average tourist to appreciate the quality of these locations. I find that it takes a minimum of two months to be accepted by the children in the campiello, to be recognised by the waiters in the corner trattoria and to find the best coffee shops and market stalls in the piazza. This is why AirBNB has been such a boon to travellers who previously had a hard time identifying rentable apartments outside the most frequented spots.

In tourist cities, public transport will always get you easily to the main attractions, so it's simple and rewarding to live with the locals.

Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy, NSW

PARIS MATCH

Our best experience in Paris last year was discovered by Googling around before we left for "things to do in Paris". We came across Paris Greeters, an organisation where you can book a tour with a volunteer tour guide.

We were matched with Perrine, who is a retired doctor and was very friendly and knowledgeable about the culture and history of Paris. We arranged our tour before we left to take place the day after we arrived in Paris. Although this service is free, donations are welcome, we gave a tip of €15 which was great value for the two of us.

Ro Bailey, Hawthorn, VIC

HOME SWEET HOME I

At the end of February, with sectarian riots in Delhi leaving more than 50 dead and worldwide COVID-19-related restrictions, cancellations, lockdowns and border closures looming, I decided that India was not the best place to be during a global crisis.

I knew that insurance wouldn't cover any costs and that I couldn't or shouldn't rely on the Australian government to get me out if things turned pear-shaped. I thought that I may have been overreacting at the time when I cancelled hotel bookings and arranged new flights to get me back here on March 2.

India has since closed its borders and my original flights home for the end of March have been cancelled by the airlines. Although disappointed to have cut four weeks from my trip, it is certainly good to be home.

Mark Baxter, Kingscliff, NSW

HOME SWEET HOME II

At present I am basking in the glorious relief engendered by being able to get home after a trip to Europe which was shortened from three months to two weeks. Efforts to gain some recompense from cancelled bookings in Spain and Italy which were labelled non-refundable are futile, despite the fact that we were unable to get to the accommodation due to travel restrictions.

It doesn't help when booking.com sends cheerful smiley faced emails saying "Good news, your request for special consideration has been accepted. There is no cancellation fee." I would think the fact that there is no refund forthcoming, partial or otherwise, would qualify as a fairly hefty cancellation fee.

Kathleen Starbuck, Kensington, VIC

FARE GO

In early January, lured in part by the offer of cheap fares, my wife and I decided to visit family in Europe. We booked return flights. By the departure date in late February we felt it was prudent to cancel the planned stopover in Singapore on the return flight. Qantas charged $628 for the change. Due to escalation of the COVID-19 situation, we returned earlier than originally booked to Australia.

For this Qantas charged a further $2078. This means we have been charged $2706 for the changes on top of the $2626 paid for the original booking. I feel sympathy for the predicament of Qantas employees but none for the company. No doubt Qantas will be offering many "cheap" fares in the coming months.

Scotty Maxwell, Diamond Creek, VIC

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