COMPUTER SAYS NO
I can't agree more about the Australian Digital Passenger Declaration being a nightmare (Traveller Letters, June 11). Border Force's assertions that it works are laughable. I submitted my declaration at least five times, each time receiving an email to say I had successfully completed the declaration. However subsequent attempts to retrieve the declaration were met with incorrect password, password reset required, incomplete information alert, failure to scan the international vaccination certificate barcode and more. Travellers, avoid some unnecessary stress by taking screenshots of your declaration results, including your DPD registration number, before logging out.
Colleen Jackson, Ballarat, VIC
NO FUN IN REFUND
Regrettably, the Digital Passenger Declaration form isn't the only app from the Department of Home Affairs that doesn't work. Before departing Darwin on an international flight last week I carefully filled out the details of my purchases on the Tourist Refund Scheme app. When I presented my TRS claim, complete with QR code, to the Border Force staff they told me the app doesn't work with their computers at Darwin airport and they gave me a paper form to fill out. Maybe the app should let people know which airports the app works in and which ones it doesn't.
Karen Stanley, Essendon, VIC
ALL AT SEA
More fun and games (not!) from the Department of Home Affairs. With cruising returning to Australia, I found out that passengers arriving by sea are expected to complete a "Maritime Travel Declaration". The time window to do this could be problematic for passengers.
Gerhard Engleitner, Hurstville, NSW
LETTER OF THE WEEK
On a rare free Saturday my priority was a renewed passport for my god-daughter's wedding. The local post office was closed due to staff illness. Five minutes north, that one was also closed. Fifteen minutes south was the same. One sign said try up the hill or by the sea. The first was closed, and the latter didn't process passports. Monday afternoon, the local was open but the machine was down. Wednesday afternoon, the central PO couldn't see the margin indicators on the printed form. One hour later, re-print, photos and money ($300) taken, all done - pending ease of backlog.
Stephen Goldrick, Corrimal, NSW
IT'S ONLY NATURAL
Now that we are planning overseas travel again, and after two years of dressing in LTL (Lockdown Tragic Leisurewear), it's time to add style to the "Pack Mentality" (Traveller Letters, June 11). A capsule wardrobe of just a few garments made from natural fibres - suitable for layering in all seasons, easy for care and great for comfort – and a small pack of accessories, the walking shoes you wear onboard, an ankle boot for dress-ups and you have it packed.
Judith Salmon, Haberfield, NSW
After a long hiatus, I recently flew from Melbourne to Darwin this week and faced the new age of COVID air travel in Australia, which included long lines at Melbourne airport security. However, the main reason for the lines was not travellers being unprepared for security, as suggested by some, but rather the antiquated security scanners at the Qantas Melbourne domestic terminal. These old scanners still require passengers to take out their laptops and devices. Instead, the airport should use scanners which allow us to keep our computers in our bags. These scanners have been around for years and are used in Melbourne Airport's international terminal as well as in Darwin Airport. I worry that saving money is being considered more important than making life easier for travellers.
Simon Benedict, Docklands, VIC
Editor's note: Traveller covered the issue of the new scanners recently. Unfortunately some of Australia's major airports were unable to offer an adequate explanation as to why these more efficient scanners have not been rolled out over the past three years. Read more here.
After receiving a letter from Qantas, asking whether the issue had been resolved a month after the loss of our baggage, I feel compelled to list the inconveniences of this experience. On arrival in Hobart our checked bag was not on our delayed flight from Sydney. Queued with others on our flight in the same predicament to be given a reference number to call. Following days were spent on the phone with a recorded message to listen to, missed booked tours and time spent shopping for replacement items like phone chargers and undies
Milana Votrubec, Manly, NSW
Jacqueline Homer's experience (Traveller Letters, June 11) brought back memories flying Qantas from Sydney to Rome 19 years ago. About an hour after take off, my husband and I were congratulated and presented with a bottle of champagne on what was our honeymoon trip. After transit in Singapore for a couple of hours, we were stunned and overwhelmed when again, about an hour or so into the flight we were presented with another bottle of champagne and more congratulations. Thanks to Qantas we were able to celebrate well with our family members in Rome who had been unable to attend the wedding. It's nice to see that Qantas is still marking their passengers' special events.
Anthea Kenyon. Googong NSW
I read with pleasure the description of the Loy La Long boutique hotel in Bangkok (Traveller Letters, June 11) and I would love someone to compile a book of similar hotels around the world. It would be heartening to know of such places in Australia and New Zealand but I fear that nothing like them exist or if they do, the costs would be prohibitive. Perhaps your readers could write in with their suggestions.
Clare Purbrick, Nagambie, VIC
As a long time bicycle tourer I can empathise with the previous correspondent who remonstrated as to the need to box bicycles (Traveller Letters, June 11). My first bike travel experience was not dissimilar when bikes were simply wheeled on and off the plane with only the tyres deflated. I arrived in Hobart with two mates in 1989 on New Year's Eve. We realised we didn't have a pump for one mate's bike's different valves to re-inflate the bike tyres. As a result, we followed him in a taxi with his bike dangling out of the rear boot laughing all the way to Hobart.
John Anderson, MacMasters Beach, NSW
TIP OF THE WEEK
During the endless months of Melbourne's lockdown I never thought I would hear myself say that perhaps there is a silver lining to COVID after all. Because of the hiatus in our usual annual overseas travel, we have holidayed at home, including in Tasmania with its pristine wilderness, colonial history and spectacular coastline. More recently, a trip to the Red Centre showed us the exquisite colours of Australia, its ancient history and spirituality through Indigenous eyes, and the endless vistas and rock formations of the outback. Uluru (ayersrockresort.com.au), complete with rain pouring down the rock and shrouded in mist, was an unforgettable sight. And to think all this was out there in our own backyard, just waiting to be seen. So thank you, COVID, for at least affording us the opportunity to rediscover Australia.
Brenda Hateley, Mulgrave, VIC
Make sure to queue early to catch trains in Spain (renfe.com) as luggage has to go through a security machine and the queues can be long. Travelling from Madrid to Sarria by train earlier this month, we'd come from Switzerland where we'd innocently bought a boxed and sealed kitchen set containing a knife, scissors and peeler with the knife confiscated. So, resist the urge to buy sharp and pointy gadgets if travelling by train within Spain. That said, the fast train is amazing, travelling at nearly 300 kilometres. Book your seat way ahead of time, as seats go pretty quickly.
Grace Soriano, Ashburton, VIC
COAST WITH THE MOST
With all the challenges of flying out of Sydney, we decided to go local for the recent long weekend. Having driven past it a thousand times we chose to give the South Coast seaside town Kiama (visitnsw.com) - just over an hour and a half from the city, a go - and remembered to actually turn off when we got there. What a great decision. It was a wonderful stress-free drive through the national park on the way down with fantastic accommodation, a great coastal walk (with Bombo quarry being a highlight), a visit to rainforests and treetop sky walks and excellent restaurants to boot. We left refreshed and replenished and we will definitely return.
Nigel Leverett, Epping, NSW
THOMPSON, JAMES THOMPSON
A friend told us if we stayed overnight in Bangkok to be sure and visit the Jim Thompson gardens and house (jimthompsonhouse.com) if we could. We did and it was wonderful. The backstory of his life and disappearance was mysterious. He was an American agent of some sort and helped the Thai people rediscover their lost arts and the silk trade. To top it off we had a gourmet Thai lunch in the adjacent restaurant and drank a Jim Thompson Cocktail to celebrate. No one ever mentions this in any reviews and I can't recommend it highly enough.
Kris Mckeon, Cowra, NSW
I am an independent traveller attempting to return to normal post-COVID. I recently visited New Caledonia (newcaledonia.travel) the French territory in the South Pacific whose national airline declared it open for business. Beware and do your homework carefully. Normally a cruise destination, the capital of Noumea was dead, especially on evenings and weekends. I was the only tourist staying at the YHA and could find no group tours operating to the reef or other parts of the island. Bus services were limited and I ended up hitchhiking, at 67. Being a glass-half-full gal, I met the locals, practised my French, and de-rusted my travel skills as it was a rather challenging experience reminiscent of pre-internet times. Travel light with a sense of humour.
Gerdette Rooney, Glebe, NSW
EDITOR'S NOTE As our reader implies at the end of her letter, the pandemic has been devastating to most, if not all, South Pacific tourism-dependent destinations. By visiting them sooner rather than later you'll be speeding their path to recovery though be sure to do your research before you go.
TICKET TO RIDE
Germany has a €9 public transport ticket available during each June, July and August . You can buy it online (bahn.com) and download the Deutsche Bahn (DB) app. Any ticket is valid for only the month of purchase but you can buy now for all three months.
Angela Cook, Parkside, SA
WIN A SET OF TRAVEL BOOKS
The Letter of the Week writer wins Hardie Grant travel books worth more than $100. For June, that includes Ultimate Cycling Trips: Australia by Andrew Bain; On the Himalayan Trail by Romy Gill; and Rewilding Kids Australia by Melissa Mylchreest.
The Tip of the Week writer wins a set of three great Lonely Planet travel books, including Ultimate Australia Travel List, The Travel Book and Armchair Explorer.
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