From the cradle to the Zimmer frame, the travel industry has ways of making you pay
OUR STORY about the adventure travel company Exodus banning over- 40s from overland trips through Africa triggered much discussion about ageism in travel. None of us is getting any younger, but the one-way journey to old age is strewn with all kinds of travel obstacles and opportunities. So here is a definitive guide to the 34 ages (and five heights) of the travelling man, or woman.

Aged up to 10

l Minus 11 weeks: if your mother plans to travel by air in the 28th week of pregnancy, she needs a certificate confirming her fitness to fly. Some airlines refuse to carry women who are 32 or more weeks pregnant.

l Nought: as soon as you are out of the womb, many scheduled airlines will charge 10 per cent of the adult fare for you to fly, even though you do not occupy a seat. And you'll need your own passport. Smile!

l Four months: mixed fortunes - Club Med will welcome you into its Baby- Club, but you will have to pay for the privilege.

l Six months: the First Choice ski creche is all yours.

l Two years: bad news. You must pay half the adult fare on scheduled flights, or an even higher percentage on some cheap fares. Worse still, you have to pay air passenger duty in full (pounds 10 in Europe, pounds 20 outside the EU). And if you're on a train in the US, Canada, Colombia or Namibia, the inspector will want to see your ticket for half the adult fare.

l Three: time to pay half fare in Taiwan

l 90cm: you need to pay half fare on trains in the Philippines.

l 100cm: ditto, in Thailand and China.

l 110cm: ditto, in Chile.

l 3 ft 8 inches (112cm): until this height, you travel free on New York's subway and buses, says the fine new Virgin Guide.

l Four: for day trips from Dover to Calais on P&O Stena Line, you now count as a grown-up. Four is also the age when free travel stops in Australia, New Zealand, and on Eurostar trains through the Channel Tunnel. In Tunisia, you start paying 75 per cent of the grown-up rate.

l 120cm: time, or rather height, to pay full whack on those Filipino trains.

l Five: most British and European rail and bus operators make you pay half fare.

l Six: anyone aged six with a wish to travel by Bullet Train will have to pay half the adult fare to do so.

l Seven: the most generous train operators - Zambian, South African and Botswanan Railways - insist that you must start paying half fares now. But across in Madagascar, adult fares now apply.

l Eight: ouch - you're an adult on Indonesian Railways. Luckily, the 100-mile run from Jakarta to Bandung clocks in at a reasonable pounds 2.

l Nine: want a ride on the Blue Train in South Africa? You'll need a grown-up ticket.

l 10: the first bit of good news - Kuoni (01306 743000) will allow you to take part in an African safari.

Aged 11-20

l 12: oh dear - you're not yet in your teens, but according to many of the world's airlines you're already a grown-up. This is also the age when train operators in most countries decide you should pay full fare. Another piece of bad news for boys in Pakistan: you are henceforth banned from ladies' carriages on trains. One piece of good news: you qualify for admission to some airport executive lounges.

l 14: some transport operators, including London Transport, require you to carry a special ID that confirms your eligibility for child fares.

l 15: Eurostar says you are now an adult on its Chunnel trains.

l 16: travellers who previously appear on a parent's passport will now need their own. On London Transport, trains in Britain and many other transport operators, you are an adult. But the young person's railcard (price pounds 18, valid one year), will get you one-third off fares for another decade.

l 17: at last you're an adult on Mozambique Railways.

l 18: You are old enough for that Exodus overland trip. And Club 18- 30 invites you in. Make the most of your youth.

l 20: Cosmos deems you no longer qualify for kids' prices in its Florida brochure.

Aged 21-30

l 21: many holiday companies will not accept a booking from anyone under 21. Budget Rent-a-Car will rent you a car but will charge you an extra pounds 15 a day for the privilege.

l 23: that Budget youth surcharge drops to pounds 5 a day. Avis will now rent you a car, but charges an extra pounds 20 per rental for a while yet.

l 25: car rental nirvana - Hertz and Europcar will at last rent you a car in the UK. And all the surcharges vanish.

l 26: the big, bad birthday - you no longer qualify for the young person's railcard (but you can buy one up until the eve of your 26th birthday, and it will be valid for a full year); and you also lose eligibility for youth fares on scheduled airlines.

l 27: say auf wiedersehen to Bavarian youth hostels; generally the "Y" part of YHA is a misnomer, with no upper age limit for hostellers, but in southern Germany oldies are verboten.

Aged 31-40

l 31: Club 18-30 closes its door.

l 32: students lose some rights to cheap student fares. "What are you doing still studying aged 32?" seems to be the airline's attitude.

l 40: too old, says Exodus, for seven overland trips through Africa. But at last women are able to visit Saudi Arabia without being accompanied by a husband or brother.

Aged 40 plus

l 50: you qualify for Saga holidays and for a discount coach card on National Express (0990 808080), saving one-third.

l 60: a senior citizen's railcard will put you back on a par with those under 26, saving you one-third off rail travel.

l 65: start watching for those insurance policies that reject or surcharge older travellers.

l 70: Europcar no longer wishes to rent you a car in the UK.

l 80: Hertz refuses to hire you a car in Spain. And the adventure company Explore asks that you are accompanied by a younger person on its holidays.

l 90: HM the Queen Mother, 99 this week, would have qualified for a recent Air New Zealand promotion: London-Auckland tickets for pounds 299 return, but only for the over-90s. These are known in the trade as "Merry Gerry" (as in geriatric) fares. And a happy birthday, ma'am.

Who Needs Boring Forties?

ALISON CULLIFORD, 31, commends Exodus Travels' ban on the over- 40s on African overland expeditions

This measure will strike a chord with a lot of young people who have experienced adventure travel in a mixed age group. Single friends of mine have remarked both on the lack of similar aged people on trekking holidays and - particularly with the burgeoning class of well-off retirees who are determined to see as much adventure as they can before they get too old - the gap in the market for this type of holiday for young, particularly single, people. Some of them are put off by the fear that they will be the youngest by 10 or 20 years.

While not wanting to join a Club 18-30 type holiday, where sex is clearly the first thing on the agenda, closely followed by drink, they also do not want to be made to feel awkward by their youth and their single status.

Personally I have had some bad experiences with older people on group holidays. On a walking holiday in France with my partner I found men, in particular in the fortysomething age group, unnecessarily competitive. While we simply wanted to enjoy the holiday, they clearly resented the presence of people who were younger and fitter.

However the real grind was their embarrassing put-downs to their wives in public and leering at younger women in the group - behaviour that seemed accepted by their age group but was totally unacceptable to us. This went with an arrogant and colonialist attitude that made us ashamed to be English in front of the French contingent in the group (none of whom exhibited the same appalling behaviour).

On another activity holiday, a sailing trip round the Hebrides, there was virtually a fight over the dinner table when an elderly Dutch woman expounded her right-wing views. While saying things that anyone under 40 would realise were totally unacceptable she still expected us to defer to her greater age and experience (she also had claimed to be an experienced sailor but was nothing but an encumbrance on deck).

Segregation is rarely an attractive concept; however, in the case of adventure travel it can have some advantages.

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