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What you should bear in mind before travelling to Iran, Libya or Syria

"If you observe a medically controlled diet you will have to restrict your eating habits to a far greater degree than you would at home. Do not take chances; if you are offered something you are unsure about, refuse it."

"For our tours to Libya and Syria it is essential that your passport does not bear an Israeli stamp or other evidence of your having visited areas under Israeli control or occupation. If your passport does bear such stamp or evidence, you will be unable to travel with us unless you obtain a new passport."

"Women travellers to Iran are not obliged to don the chador, the ubiquitous black cloak worn by Iranian women, except for entry into certain shrines. A plain scarf and loose-fitting long coat will do just fine."

"It may seem obvious to say it, but you should not enter into any political discussions or make criticism of your host country's government."

"If you have an open mind and a joy of travel in all its diversity, then do please travel with us. On the other hand, if you are a person quickly irritated when services and facilities do not meet your exacting requirements, perhaps travel to the countries in our brochure is not for you."

Extracts from the Iran, Libya and Syria brochure of Caravanserai Tours (0181-691 2523).

low road

In Birmingham last week, I paid pounds 36.50 for a night at the Campanile Hotel (0121-622 4925) - a Crossroads-like motel on the edge of the city centre. Two more people could have joined me in the room for the same price, though logistically it is difficult to see how.

high road

If only my budget had stretched to the most opulent nearby option, Wood Norton Hall at Evesham in Worcestershire. This Victorian retreat is owned and operated by the BBC, and marketed by the Virgin Hotel Collection (0800 716919). A single room costs pounds 90, a double pounds 120 - but this includes a huge breakfast.

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