Flotilla holidays

We are interested in sailing holidays in the Mediterranean and have heard about flotilla holidays. How do they work? Which are the best places, and do you need to be very experienced?

Paul Massey

Brighton, East Sussex

Jill Crawshaw replies: involve small armadas of 12 or so yachts sailing under the guidance of a lead boat crewed by professionals. The yachts are usually 28-35ft long, sleeping from four to eight.

Itineraries are usually around the Greek Islands and Turkey, and are fairly flexible, governed by the winds, the experience and wishes of the holidaymakers. There are daily stops to swim, snorkel and swap tall stories and drink ouzo in waterfront tavernas.

At least one member of the crew should have had some previous sailing experience, and holiday firms organise various courses for beginners. Sunsail, for example, uses a UK sailing school at Port Solent for those who want to brush up their skills in advance. But the most popular method of ensuring competence is to spend a week ashore first at a Club hotel in Greece or Turkey learning the ropes, with the second week in a flotilla. Sailing companies assess your expertise.

Snags? My experience has shown that it is never wise to cram too many in a boat. Four is a compatible number in a small six-berth boat, particularly in July and August. Two of the leading companies are Sunsail (01705 222 222) with Club and flotilla holidays in Greece, Turkey and the Caribbean, and Sunworld Sailing (01273 626 283) which offers Greece, Turkey and Spain. A week ashore followed by a week's flotilla holiday around Turkey for a yacht with four passengers costs about pounds 420-pounds 900 per person (including flights).

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer, and broadcaster.

I want to go cycling on the continent

I want to take a cycling road tour on the continent. How easy is it to take bikes on ferries and trains in Europe, and what are the insurance implications? Also, are there any guidebooks dedicated to cycle paths?

Helen Courtney, Kingston upon Hull

The travel editor replies: The cheapest way to get your bike to France is on Le Shuttle (pre-book on 01303 273300); it costs pounds 15 single for you and your bike (your bike is carried on a trailer). To send your bike as cargo on Eurostar (0345 303030) you'll pay pounds 20 each way just for the bike and need to pre-book. Stena Line (0990 707070) take you and your bike Dover-Calais for pounds 46 (open return).

Conditions in Europe vary, but you'll often need to make advance arrangements in the stations concerned. If not, you may find your bike following you 2/3 days after your own trip. Local trains often allow bikes to be carried free, but for long-distance trains the surcharges for bikes vary greatly over distance and country. In Germany it is very cheap but in France the long distance routes charge about pounds 20 for your bike to be sent as registered luggage in a protective box.

Most household insurance will not cover your bike outside the UK, and regular travel insurance usually won't cover a bike worth over pounds 2/300.

A good source of information is the UK based Cyclist's Touring Club (CTC) on 01483-417-217. This organisation supplies its members with information regarding European cycling conditions, detailed maps, itineraries and routes, and good deals for specialised insurance. They can also organise tickets for the excellent European Bike Express, a huge bus and bike trailer that drops you off and picks you up at various destinations in Europe. A good book to read on the subject is Europe by Bike, by Karen & Terry Whitehall (Mountaineer Books, pounds 10.95).

What precautions do I take for rabies?

What exactly is one to do about rabies? If I am scratched by a cat in France ,is there some way of telling whether I need to have anti- rabies injections?

Don Merchant

Basingstoke

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: Rabies can potentially be contracted from a bite or scratch from any mammal in most countries of the world. Progress seems to have been made in France towards eradicating rabies among foxes, which are a major source of the disease. However, rabies is still a potential threat and a hospital visit should be made following any bite or scratch from an animal. If rabies vaccination is necessary then it is certainly less painful and not so complicated with new vaccines. Older vaccines, which are still used in some developing nations, require repeated injection into the abdomen.

There is no need to consider vaccination when visiting France and most other European countries.

In countries where there is a high chance of rabies from an animal bite and medical facilities are poor, vaccination is sometimes recommended. Even if people receive pre-exposure vaccination, it is still important to attend a hospital clinic for further courses of treatment if bitten by a suspect animal. The main reason for the pre - exposure vaccine is that post-exposure treatment is then made simpler. These vaccines are not usually available on the NHS and a full course can be quite expensive. It is also important to wash thoroughly any bite and then ideally irrigate the wound with an iodine-based disinfectant.

Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8, Tel: 0181-889 7014) which specialises in catering for travellers' medical needs.

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