Q&A: Travel unravelled

Q. I am going to Sri Lanka next February, and have just been told that I need an "Electronic Travel Authorisation" [ETA] for my visit. The official website quotes $50 (£31). Is there a cheaper way of getting one? John Hatto

A. No. The Sri Lankan government is abolishing its free "visa on arrival" facility from 1 January 2012. Travellers will need to apply in advance, at eta.gov.lk, for an ETA. The site is already inviting applications. You have to fill in all the usual personal details, and also say whether or not you are a drug addict and/or involved in espionage or sabotage. You must also pay $50 (£31).

That, at least, is the theory, but on several laborious attempts made by the travel desk of The Independent, the system crashed before the payment page was reached. Presumably the authorities are trying to fix the bugs, but meanwhile you and thousands of other prospective visitors are in bureaucratic limbo.

Some leading figures in the travel industry do not expect the system to be ready to be implemented by the New Year's Day deadline. You could safely postpone any action until December, when either the plan will have been postponed, or the system will be working. As soon as we are confident that the system is working, we aim to announce it in the News & Advice section of independent.co.uk/travel


Q We are travelling to Mexico next month. Would be better to get our currency over there or change it here before we go? Also, our first stop is Mexico City. We have heard there can be problems with taxis there. Do you have any advice for picking up a taxi from the airport to our hotel? Yvonne Mugford

A Don't even think of getting Mexican pesos here - you'll get a lousy rate. Ideally, take US dollars (if you can buy them at a good rate here), but sterling is usually accepted in big cities and resorts.

At Mexico City's chaotic airport, change some money before you leave the baggage hall. Then find the pre-paid taxi desk. Do not allow yourself to be waylaid by touts, and watch your possessions like a hawk. The capital is a great city, but at the end of a long flight to a high-altitude location, you are particularly vulnerable.