AT THE CLINIC

Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts, including a doctor and a lawyer
Click to follow
The Independent Travel
Can't fly, won't fly

My mother would like to go to the US to visit family and have a holiday, but she doesn't want to fly. What are the alternatives?

Mrs Swansbury

Dorchester

Jill Crawshaw replies: The QE2 has the most regular Trans- atlantic sailings between Southampton and New York this year, with 10 westbound and nine eastbound crossings, starting in April. The ship now takes six days instead of five to allow more leisure at sea, and to give the ship the flexibility to take a more southern route should weather conditions demand it.

The one-way fare starts at pounds 1,025, but much better value is the round- trip fare on which passengers can combine any west- and eastbound sailings for pounds 1,155. (Cunard 01703 716500).

The SS Norway of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) (0800 181 560) also crosses the Atlantic this year, so your mother may prefer to experience two different ships - though it will cost her a lot more.On 18 August she sails from New York on an 11-day night voyage which includes calling at Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada, St John's in Newfoundland, Cork and then Southampton, with prices from pounds 1,995 one-way. The ship returns to New York in September on an eight-night voyage costing pounds 1,545.

It is also worth contacting specialist cruise agents such as Paul Mundy (0171-734 4404) and Strand Voyages (0171- 836 6363) or writing to the Passenger Shipping Association, Walmar House, 288-300 Regent Street, London W1, which will have details of round-the-world cruises, usually starting in January. The cruises usually have `'legs'', which your mother could join to or from Southampton to Miami, New Orleans, New York or even San Francisco. Strand Voyages (0171- 836 6363) also produces a brochure Passenger Cargo Voyages, some of which cross the Atlantic. Contrary to expectation, cargo ships, although they may only take a dozen or so passengers, are very comfortable, often with pools and libraries, and passengers may dine with the officers, though routes and dates vary to suit cargo requirements.

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.

Isn't sea air good for asthma?

I'm asthmatic and I have been surprised to find in the past that Mediterranean beach holidays have exacerbated my condition. Why is this? I thought that sea air was supposed to be good for asthma? Also, could you suggest holidays in Europe that would not leave me breathless?

Juliet Hall

Andover

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: People with asthma normally report an improvement when they are on holiday by the sea. This is probably a combination of cleaner air and a warm,

humid atmosphere, rather than any particular benefit from the sea itself.

An asthma attack is usually sparked off when the sufferer comes into contact with something he is allergic to such as pollen, house dust or certain foods. In your case, it is likely that the Mediterranean beaches harbour a particular allergic factor that causes an exacerbation of your condition. For instance there could be certain pollens around that you do not normally encounter. Another possibility is poor air-conditioning in your room. Asthmatics on cruises will sometimes report problems due to the air-conditioning and the claustrophobic atmosphere in tourist class cabins. The message to all asthmatics who plan to travel overseas is to be prepared for the eventuality of an attack, even if your asthma has not caused any problems for some time. Carry a sufficient number of inhalers and split them up among hand and main luggage in case they become lost in transit.

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.

Car insurance in France

In what circumstances is it necessary to obtain a Green Card so that I am covered by insurance when I take my car to France?

James Wooley

Manchester

Ian Skuse replies: The Green Card has become a familiar document obtained by drivers travelling to Europe. It provides proof that the minimum legal insurance for third party liability has been arranged through the driver's own motor insurance policy for the country concerned.

The long-accepted practice of obtaining a Green Card from the driver's insurers has altered foreign travel within the EC. The First Directive on Motor Insurance provides that every insurance policy issued in the UK must offer the minimum insurance cover required in any other EC country. Also every country in the EC has signed an International Agreement indicating that Green Cards are not necessary to enter those countries. Other countries affected are Austria, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Sweden.

Most insurance companies here will print on the policy that the insurance is valid in other EC countries which confirms these International Agreements. However, the insurance is only for a limited period, usually 30 days per year and you should remember that this is the minimum you require and you may want greater cover.

You should also remember that although some insurers explain that you are covered in Europe in a number of languages on the back of your policy, most national police forces are more likely to recognise the Green Card so you should still carry one with you. While some insurers will provide you with the same cover abroad as here for a limited period free of charge, others require an additional premium as you will be getting more than the minimum cover overseas if a Green Card is put in place.

Although Green Cards are not strictly necessary, there were problems one day in 1996 when French Police demanded to see the Green Cards of all drivers leaving Le Shuttle. This was, however, their mistake.

For general advice on the Green Card Scheme contact the UK Green Card Bureau (0908 240 000).

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).

London to Singapore by land

I was wondering whether it would be possible to get from London to Singapore by land without having to resort to the Trans-Siberian Express (a journey which I've already done).

C Ashdown

London

The Travel Editor replies: It is probably possible, though you will go through some of the least touristy parts of Asia. From Turkey you would cross into Iran and thence to China, either via Pakistan and the Karakoram Highway, or via Central Asia through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan (note that tourist visas for Uzbekistan are not easy to obtain if you are travelling independently).

After a lengthy trek across China you can cross into Vietnam, and then - once you have sorted out the bureaucratic logistics - into Thailand via either Laos or Cambodia. From Thailand to Singapore is then an easy journey through Malaysia.

Legal queries

Our legal expert can reply to queries regarding any holiday rip- off you may have suffered on condition that you have already complained to the airline or tour operator and received an unsatisfactory response. All correspondence and relevant documentation should be supplied. Unfortunately we can only reply to letters we print.

Comments