I want to get married abroad

SINCE I was a child I've always thought it would be very romantic to get married in a foreign country. My partner and I are now engaged and we would like to go abroad for our wedding but we have no idea about how to set about doing this. Can you help?

O S Donald

Edinburgh

The Travel Editor replies: One of the easiest ways to get married abroad is to do it through a tour operator. Clubs International (Tel: 01372 466944) hosted no fewer than 2,000 weddings last year in its resorts in the Caribbean and Kenya. For a pounds 300 supplement on top of the basic holiday package, you get the services of a registrar, a ceremony in the hotel wedding chapel, a reception, cake and flowers. Expert wedding co-ordinators assist with hairdressing appointments, dress hire and pre-wedding nerves. Thomson Holidays (Tel: 0990 502399) are also very big on weddings, with possibilities to marry in the Caribbean, Kenya, Mexico and Sri Lanka, as well as Disneyland in Florida, where Cinderella's Coach is available if your sense of irony permits. For all such "package" weddings, customers need to bring their birth certificates, plus (in the case of divorcees) a decree absolute, stamped by a court; in the case of Mexico, these all need to be countersigned by the British Foreign Office. Apart from this, the legal side will be sorted out for you.

If you are going off to get married independently the situation varies slightly from country to country. In some places, you will need a signed certificate from your local solicitor in the UK, stating that you are legally entitled to marry. In the country where you wish to marry you may then need to get an official translation of this certificate made up by the British Embassy or Consulate. There are also residence requirements which vary from place to place; in St Lucia for example (a popular venue for weddings) it is just four days. Some American states require blood tests. On the other hand, the easiest place in the world to marry is Las Vegas where you can tie the knot within hours of arrival.

DOES TTA GIVE AS MUCH PROTECTION AS ABTA?

We want to book a holiday through a tour operator which is not a member of ABTA but instead a member of something called TTA (an anacronym for what?) The operator tells us that TTA gives just as much protection to our money as that offered by ABTA, and indeed, perhaps more. What is the situation on this.

A Gillingwater

London

Ian Skuse replies: The Package Travel Regulations 1992 insist that holiday companies provide financial protection to consumers for the money they pay in advance for their holidays. This is to enable you to obtain a refund of the price you have paid if your holiday company goes bust before you travel, or to arrange for you to be repatriated from your destination if the operator goes bust whilst you are overseas.

Holiday companies can choose to provide this protection by bonding, passenger insurance or by setting up trust accounts. A trust account is where your money is held in a separate account by a trustee until the contract has been fully performed, in other words until you have returned from your holiday. There has been concern expressed by many in the travel business that there is no code of conduct governing the operation of trust accounts and the system could be open to misuse by an unscrupulous or dishonest operator.

However, the Travel Trust Association has been set up to properly administer trust accounts for its members and to provide consumers with protection which is at least as good as can be found elsewhere with bodies such as ABTA. This is achieved by the TTA operating the accounts by a code of conduct, insisting that trustees are solicitors, chartered accountants/auditors or bankers and insisting that all funds are deposited in the account including insurance premiums and other monies. All monies must be held until the holiday is completed. Further protection is provided by way of a travel protection plan to cover the situation if a TTA member has improperly withdrawn monies from the trust account. This covers the customer for up to pounds 5,000 and is covered by insurance purchased from the TTA member. If the customer does not purchase this insurance then the financial cover is still provided by the TTA.

The TTA carefully checks on the trustees operating the accounts and because of all the safeguards they have put in place, this would seem to provide very good protection for consumers.

Both the TTA and ABTA, however, remain sceptical on the operation of general trust accounts where the safeguards are not in place.

Ian Skuse is the senior litigation partner with Piper Smith & Basham, which has specialised in advising the travel industry for over 20 years (tel: 0171-8288685).

pregnant and seasick

I suffer from seasickness. Now I am pregnant. Is it a good idea to go on a ferry? And during which weeks of pregnancy?

Christina Czech

Dublin

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: I assume that your main worry is going to be that any morning sickness in the first three months of pregnancy could be made worse by seasickness during the ferry crossing. This is certainly a possibility and it is worth considering what can be done to prevent seasickness.

Generally most medicines are to be avoided if possible during the first three months of pregnancy. However, women are prescribed certain medication for bad morning sickness that are considered "safe" and fortunately these are of the same kind that can be used for seasickness. As with any medication taken in pregnancy, you should first consult your own pharmacist or doctor. There are also things you can do to lessen the symptoms of motion sickness; find a position to sit in the middle of the ferry, or try lying down with your eyes closed. Other methods, which do not involve conventional drugs, include the wearing of special wristbands or homeopathic remedies.

It would not be wise to travel after the 36th week of pregnancy. Also if you have a history of miscarriages it may be advisable to avoid travel - not because sea travel itself would necessarily cause a miscarriage, but because any complications from it could be difficult to manage. Otherwise there is no particular restriction on sea travel in a normal pregnancy.

On the general subject of medicines to prevent seasickness, it is important to take them before you sail rather than waiting to get any symptoms. My own personal favourites are those that contain cinnarizine, as they have the least side effects and can be sucked or chewed to obtain quite a fast action. I believe they are particularly favoured by yachtsmen.

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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