Bag cut open
I recently returned from skiing in Park City Utah. It was a great destination on our Perisher Epic pass, and American hospitality at its best. What a let-down to find the zip on my ski bag cut open for inspection, despite carrying a TSA lock. The leaflet insert from TSA said that the bag was opened for inspection, failing which the lock may have been cut off. To bypass these steps and cut the zip open is just culpable destruction of property. I emailed TSA and received what I suspect were text-sensitive auto replies, stating that the bag may have been opened at several steps by airline or ground staff or robotic handlers. Finally, a human suggested leaving all bags unlocked and carrying valuables in hand luggage. This begs the question of theft or contraband in unlocked baggage, which is the opposite message for safety-aware travellers. Having two TSA locks cut off on my last trip to Hawaii, and a bag now cut open, should I follow the TSA advice and travel unlocked?
Howard Pelquest-Hunt, Bowral, NSW
LETTER OF THE WEEK
Wanting a very Italian experience, Villa Lenzi in Vicopisano is it. It is 15 kilometres from Pisa in the heart of Tuscany and its hosts Massimo and Jon excel at making you feel at home. Experienced guides, they introduced us to the locals ... people, wine and food. We were searching for la dolce vita and we found it. Fantastico
Robbie Wensley, Point Arkwright, Queensland
As a Sydneysider, I'm proud of our beautiful city and very conscious of its popularity as a tourist magnet for overseas and interstate visitors. So I looked forward to showcasing the city for my friend who was visiting from Brisbane. Imagine my surprise when I found that it was not possible to obtain, at short notice, a Seniors Opal card for her short stay. Undeterred, I next contacted Destination NSW to inquire about obtaining a City Discovery Card, which in overseas tourist hubs, provides discounted public transport, plus access to museums, art galleries and historical site tours, all at discounted prices. I was gobsmacked to find that no such tourist-friendly card existed for Sydney. I have used these cards regularly when travelling overseas, as they are a convenient and economical way to access the pleasures of a new city, its sights, culture and people.
Susan Lenne, Clovelly, NSW
SIM card the way to go
We were very impressed by the Europe SIM card we recently bought from ukprepaidsimcard.com.au. The SIM card arrived in the mail a day after we ordered and worked seamlessly in the UK, France, Italy and Spain. Being able to use data on our iPhones without worrying about roaming costs added to the amazing experience of our honeymoon. It also meant a happy husband who could wander off while I went clothes shopping in wonderful Milan, with me knowing that our credit card was only a phone call away.
Christie Robinson, Sydney.
Watch the notes
Regarding the recent letter (Traveller Letters, February 20) about being given counterfeit bank notes from an ATM, the more common scenario is that it was a scam by the taxi driver. When she handed the cash to the taxi driver while examining them he would have switched bank notes to counterfeit and handed the fakes back and demanded a second payment. It's always wise to use small denominations in South America and closely observe your driver.
Frank Hofmann, Wheelers Hill, Victoria
Regarding road tolls in Europe and charges on return to Australia, there are multiple forums where you can ask questions regarding where you need a Vignette (toll card) in Europe. On the excellent tourism forum, Virtualtourist, you can ask any query about your trip and you will have local residents reply very promptly. We are travelling from Brussels to northern Italy via Germany/Austria in late August and I queried which was the most scenic route. In addition to replies about the route, I also had three replies all advising us to buy a Vignette in a service station in Germany just before we crossed the border to Austria to avoid tolls by the Austrian police who patrol the area.
Sonia Borean, Stafford Heights, Queensland
A warning about obtaining credits or changing flight details when buying tickets through third parties. In my case, we used Webjet and had to change a domestic flight at the airport. The only option was to buy a fare from the airline direct and seek credit at a later stage from Webjet. Twelve months later, the credit amount has still not been used. It's hard to think how Webjet could make the process any more difficult. My advice, buy tickets direct from the airline where practical – it's not worth saving a few pennies.
Gary Thomas, Griffith, ACT
Meals hard to recognise
I have been travelling regularly on the Qantas, Sydney-LA- New York route over the past five years and must strongly disagree with Ute Junker when she states that "the good news for those of us flying economy is that meals are slowly improving" (Traveller, February 27-28). On my most recent trip, each of the main meals consisted of a hot dish of homogenous consistency and a dessert that should have had a warning because of its high sugar content. In the past, we had also a salad, bread roll, crackers and cheese. Not this time. The hot breakfast was apparently scrambled eggs but it was difficult to recognise. The service on Qantas has remained excellent, but I would hope that with a turnaround in its profits, passengers in economy could expect better meals.
Manuela Epstein, Pyrmont, NSW
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