Traveller Letters: Service is better in Uganda and Ethiopia than rural Australia

MUST DO BETTER

I've had the privilege of travelling to more than 80 countries over several decades but only in recent years (and more so since the advent of COVID-19) have I seriously explored my homeland. My discovery to date: hospitality in rural AustralIa varies from world-class to sad, very sad. I've had better basic tourist experiences (accommodation and service) in places like Ethiopia and Uganda than I've experienced in parts of rural NSW and Queensland.

Then again, away from our holiday hotspots finding the gems in rural areas can be a challenge but well worth the search. The landscape, beautifully preserved towns, wine areas and other attractions are world-class and sometimes the service is too. I had a meal in a small country town recently that would rival any two hat restaurant in Sydney or Melbourne - except for the price.

On the other hand (and much more common), I've experienced restaurants with untrained staff - a young waiter who had to be shown by me how to use a corkscrew, a fascinating museum that only opens two hours a day twice a week, a shopkeeper who at 2.45pm told me they couldn't serve me because they shut at 3pm. This period during the pandemic is regional Australia's big opportunity. I hope its citizens learn (quickly), so we don't abandon them as soon as our international borders open.

Rod Cunich, Vaucluse, NSW

LIVING LINK

No soaring minarets, exotic tiled exterior or magnificently carved mihrab, the Afghan Mosque in Broken Hill (Traveller, October 17) is a living link with it's pioneering past. Spend an hour or so and visit this small corrugated iron building and be charmed by the tales of the cameleers who contributed so much to the history of the outback.

Built in 1887, it is the only remaining mosque of many that were built for the benefit of the camel drivers. Bob Sharooze, the curator and caretaker is a descendant of cameleers and has a wonderful collection of photos and tales that he is willing to share. We took our nine year-old granddaughters there and they were fascinated by the video display and small museum. The next day we did the camel ride with Peta and Duncan at Silverton Outback Camels, a fitting adjunct to the experience. Broken Hill is a great place for children.

Beryle Bevan, Scotts Head, NSW

ESCAPE CLAUSES

I recently assisted a relative to try and navigate the journey of the complexities of, firstly applying for an exemption to leave Australia during the pandemic, and, secondly, then gaining entry to the UK and hopefully being able to return home. Suffice to say, the related detail on the respective government agency websites was complex and when an applicant has the concern of a loved one at the centre of their thinking, it can be quite overwhelming.

There were other issues we had to consider: which airline flies to the UK, how frequent are the flights out, and importantly, how to get back. It was only through Flight Centre's Kelly, found via a LinkedIn connection, that I was put in personal contact with a general manager in Sydney. A conversation with Dominic was invaluable and helped clarify the important options, including the overall cost, and the prospect of having to wait months to be able to return. Although there was no business at this stage for Flight Centre, the service and assistance provided was exceptional.

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Alan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW

BARKING MAD I

I would like to thank Andrew Verlei (Traveller Letters, October 17) for telling us that, all over North America, Motel 6 and Red Roof Inn allow dogs to stay free. Now I know which accommodation to avoid when I visit that continent. I have no wish to stay in a room where the bed, crockery and cutlery may well have been used by a dog.

Richard Trembath, Mt Eliza, VIC

BARKING MAD II

Andrew Verlei, not everyone wants to have to travel with dogs on buses, trams and trains as in Toronto, Canada. Not everyone wants to stay in "dog friendly" Motel 6 or Red Roof Inn accommodation as in North America and neither does everyone want to be in shops where shop-keepers hand out treats to dogs, as in Savannah, Georgia. Are Melbourne and Victoria hopelessly backward when it comes to accommodating dogs? No way.

Ross Langford-Brown, Randwick, NSW

PUPPY LOVE

Regarding dogs on public transport in Sydney (Traveller Letters, October 17), I do believe the rules changed a few months ago and they are now allowed on buses. Leashes a must, not sure about muzzles. If your dog is small enough for a shopping bag, they can just sit on your lap in the bag. Easy.

Rae Masman, Church Point, NSW

KENYA BELIEVE IT?

After six months of emails and phone calls, unreasonable offers of flight credits, this week we received a full refund of our business class fares to Kenya. A big thank you to BYOJET and Etihad. Now we turn our attention to our Sydney-based African travel specialist who refuses to return our substantial deposit.

Russ Hall, Essendon, VIC

GET OUT THERE

A big thanks to the NAB's credit card travel insurer, Allianz, for its prompt and courteous treatment of our recent claim and for paying out our potential losses. All our bookings were direct with the providers and all were happy to provide relevant documentation to support our claim. If we all now spend only half as much in Australia as we were going to spend overseas, we will help keep the locals afloat – go and do it.

Tim Trnovsky, Belair, SA

PLAYING YOUR CARDS RIGHT

Dale Borthwick praised Allianz credit card travel insurance (Traveller Letters, September 26). Be warned that Allianz has different policies with various banks and cards. My St George Visa Platinum card insurance - with Allianz - did not cover the excess costs when I had to change flights and return to Australia from Canada in mid-March. I challenged them, got a polite phone call explaining that while there was no pandemic exclusion, they only cover the "unexpected circumstances" listed in the particular policy. Some years ago that card was covered by QBE and I had a very similar claim when a border was closed; QBE paid it.

Peg Nightingale, Castlecrag, NSW

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