Tripologist: Innsbruck for New Year's Eve

Although we are non-skiers, my husband and I are keen to spend New Year's Eve in the snow in Austria. St Anton and Kitzbuhel appear to be at full capacity and only take longer bookings. Can you please suggest alternative venues to spend an unforgettable New Year's Eve?

R. Silber, Manly.

What about Innsbruck? The city is a fair bet for a white New Year's Eve and, if the magic white stuff fails to fall, you'll almost certainly find it at the nearby Patscherkofel ski area, the venue for the Olympic Winter Games in 1964 and 1976. According to the city's official website (, you can still find accommodation over New Year's.

Even better might be Igls ( It's five kilometres south of Innsbruck, situated at 900 metres and therefore an even safer chance for snow. Igls is a ski village and you can count on a lively night with a glass or two of schnapps to welcome in 2012. Igls also still has accommodation available but you need to move fast.

After the Taj, go for the romance of Rajasthan

I will visit India for three weeks. Apart from wanting to see the Taj Mahal, what do you recommend? Can you advise if trains and planes are safe and reliable and of places to stay overnight along the route? Any advice on the location to pick up a hire car would also be appreciated.

O. Heyes, Point Clare.

If you're already planning to visit the Taj Mahal,consider exploring the north-western Indian state of Rajasthan, the "Land of Kings" and one of the most romantic and colourful corners of India.

Gateway to the state is its capital, Jaipur, which is easily accessible from the Taj in Agra. Laid out by Maharaja Jai Singh II in 1728, Jaipur's centre is a grid of streets wide enough for parades of elephants six abreast, giving the city a spacious heart. Later rulers added the City Palace and, most spectacular of all, the Hawa Mahal, the Palace of the Winds, pictured, a five-storey screen of honeycombed windows, constructed so the cloistered women of the royal court could observe city life unseen.

Set on the fringe of the Thar Desert, Jodhpur is Rajasthan's second largest city, a cubist sprawl based around a tangled knot of narrow streets and bazaars where the blue wash on the buildings earns for it the subtitle "the Blue City". Rising above it all is the mighty Mehrangarh Fort, the largest in Rajasthan, now a museum. Ringed by battlements in north-west Rajasthan, Bikaner is a vibrant, dust-swirling desert town with a powerful fort sheathed in rose-red sandstone.


Bikaner is the gateway to the Karni Mata Temple, where rats are worshipped as an incarnation of the goddess Durga. In the far west of the state, Jaisalmer erupts from the desert in a fairytale riot of turrets and towers.

Plane travel is safe and reliable. I've travelled recently with Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines and both are excellent. Train travel is reasonably safe but Indian stations are typically crowded. The Eyewitness Guide to India will help you plan your journey.

A farmhouse stay in spring

My husband and I would like to spend two months, April and May, in Italy, staying in two or three locations. We would like to visit the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany and near Padua or Venice. We would prefer to stay in smaller towns and use local transport where possible, or hire a car to travel in each area. We also seek information on house swapping and/or renting apartments. Could you provide us with advice and reliable websites?

M. Camilleri, Lilli Pilli.

A good website to look for rustic lodgings in Italy is Agriturismo (, which lists independently owned and operated farmhouse accommodation, villas, bed and breakfasts, and apartments in country inns. Most of these are in rural settings but there are some in towns and villages, especially in the popular areas you'll visit.

If you stay in major towns or small cities - such as Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast or Padua - you can certainly get by without a vehicle but if you choose a more remote location such as a small Tuscan hill town, a vehicle will be essential.

Home Exchange (homeexchange .com) claims to have more house swaps than any other online service and with almost 2000 listings in Italy, it shouldn't be hard to find something suitable. Home for Exchange (homeforexchange .com) is another possibility.

Try Toronto via Japan

I have to get to Toronto in mid-December. All direct flights are over the Pacific and cost $3300 or more. However, if I fly Sydney-Narita return, it would cost $1100. A separate flight, Narita-Toronto-Narita, would be $1200. Can I do such a thing? And does this mean I will have to collect my luggage and line up again in Japan? I am using the site

A.S Gupta, Sydney.

It certainly is possible to fly via Narita and is a thrifty choice.

Whether you would have to collect your checked-in luggage at Narita and re-check it before your next flight depends on whether the airline operating your original flight from Australia has an interline agreement with the airline operating the next sector. If it does, you would be able to check your bags all the way through to your final destination.

If you are travelling aboard full-service carriers, it is likely such an agreement exists. If one or more is a budget carrier, you might be out of luck. Check with your intended carrier(s) for clarification. The worst-case scenario is that you will have to pass through Japan's immigration and customs in Narita, collect your checked-in luggage and check in for your next flight but, if it were me, I'd be thinking of the $1000 saving rather than the minor inconvenience at airports.

If that's what you decide to do, make sure you have enough time between flights. Three hours would be a safe minimum.