INFORMATION DESK

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR PANEL OF TRAVEL EXPERTS

Are holiday jabs safe for children?

Is it all right for a very young child to have lots of vaccinations? My husband and I want to take our two-year-old daughter to India and although we don't mind taking the jabs, we worry for our child. Also, what about malaria? I can't see my daughter swallowing tablets.

Del Prince

Lancashire

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: Obviously you will be discussing this matter with your GP or at a vaccination clinic, but there is not too much to worry about in terms of special vaccinations for travel for your child. Certainly you must make sure that she is up to date with her childhood vaccines. In general, the travel vaccines tend not to be quite as useful or effective in very young children . The final choice would depend very much or what you were doing and how long you were away, but none would be given unless they were specifically licensed for use in children. Malaria is more of a concern, and I would ask parents to be aware of the potential risks of taking very young children to malaria endemic areas. You will probably be recommended to take proguanil and chloroquine, and although chloroquine is available in syrup form it doesn't taste too good. Your best bet for proguanil is to crush the tablets and mix up with a little jam to give on a spoon. Be particularly vigilant in avoiding insect bites at night. Prepare for your trip with a few specific supplies, such as Calpol for fevers or pain, and plenty of oral rehydration sachets to treat diarrhoea. I think the new formula of Dioralyte Relief tastes a bit better than most. In any case, follow the usual advice regarding safe food and water and make sure the child maintains a reasonable level of hygiene - eg hand washing before meals. If your child is prone to infections which may need antibiotics, it is worth discussing with your GP a possible prescription for a bottle of antibiotic in dry powder form that you could make up if needed.

t Dr Larry Goodyer is the superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy, 3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8; tel 0101-889 7014. Contact the travel medicine helpline on 0891 633414. Calls cost 50p per minute.

France for the novice cyclist

I have just learned to ride a push bike, late into adulthood, and now am riding around the country lanes of North Yorkshire. Next summer I want to be more adventurous and explore France by bike. I thought about driving into rural France and hiring a bike for a week. Could you suggest a suitable area of France and tell me how easy it will be to organise the bike hire locally?

Alan Golob

Harrogate

The travel editor replies: Both biking and walking holidays have become very popular in France in recent years and there are provisions for bike hire and chambres d'hote throughout the country. Probably the easiest approach, especially for the cycling novice, is to organise the whole trip in advance from home. You can go alone, or travel with a group.

There are a number of tour operators that specialise in cycling and adventure holidays. Cycling For Softies (tel: 0161-248 8282) run a holiday package called the Gentle Tourer in 10 French regions which includes hired bikes, maps, recommended itineraries and half-board accommodation. Similar deals are available from Exodus (tel: 0181-675 5550) and Explore Worldwide (tel: 01252 319 448).

France is generally very cyclist-friendly. Bikes can be hired for about 45F (pounds 5) a day from many SNCF stations and then returned to any participating station at the end of the day. Alternatively there are a number of local hire companies that will organise accommodation when you arrive. These can be best contacted by calling the local Association des Relais et Itineraires.

Most tour operators understandably favour the Alps and Pyrenees for the more experienced and energetic while Brittany, the Dordogne, Languedoc and the Auvergne offer terrains for all abilities.

Conservation projects can be part of the holiday - but at a steep price

I've taken several long-haul holidays but I'm concerned that the places I go to will end up being spoilt by very people like me. Are there any tour companies that will use part of my money to fund conservation, so that this won't happen?

F Halifax

Guildford

The Travel Editor replies: In the UK, Discovery Initiatives (tel: 0171- 229 9881) is probably the only tour operator specifically aimed at supporting conservation through travel and active interaction with the locals. It produces a brochure with an exciting range of holidays to destinations from Mongolia to Bolivia, including tailor-made tours, with the aim of providing "inspirational travel to support conservation worldwide".

By booking Discovery Initiatives you contribute to conserving your area in various ways: either by taking part in a conservation project, with up to 40 per cent of your holiday bill going into the same project; or by simple donation, in exchange for local expertise; or by "fair trade" - where the smart lodge you are staying in, for example, has been set up because tourism can fund the wildlife park that contains it.

The prices range from around pounds 650 to pounds 2,800, which does not include flights. All of the tour groups are restricted to a maximum of eight guests, so you will never feel you are overwhelming the locals.

On a much bigger scale, Abercrombie & Kent (tel: 0171-730 9600) has offices worldwide, and for its wildlife programme it contributes a proportion of the cost of your holiday to a designated project listed in the brochure related to your trip.

A&K also has close links with a charity, Friends of Conservation (for African wildlife), and donates pounds 10 to them for every holiday-maker to Africa. Their group sizes can be up to 16. Other mainstream tour companies also donate small amounts to relevant charities.

If you are interested in taking part in a more scientific conservation study, Earthwatch (tel: 01865 311600) has a huge brochure of expeditions to remote areas where you will be helping western scientific projects gather data on natural and cultural aspects of countries all over the globe.

Coral Cay Conservation (tel: 0171-498 6248) is an example of a company which can train you to dive and then show you how to collect data on reefs. It has won several awards, including the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Global Award for 1993.

All the tours listed here don't come cheap, and you'll more than likely have to find your airfare on top - totals of pounds 2,000 or more for a fortnight are quite possible.

For a comprehensive list of organisations worldwide who need volunteers for conservation projects, refer to the book Green Volunteers (edited by Fabio Ausenda, and distributed in the UK by Vacation Work Publications, Oxford, pounds 9.99). This has a list of projects that are free to join or cost less than pounds 60, ranging up to more than pounds 1,000. Also The Green Travel Guide by Greg Neale (Earthscan, pounds 12.99) discusses the problems and solutions surrounding sustainable tourism, and lists all the winners of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards since the scheme was introduced in 1993. It also contains an excellent directory of contact organisations.

Tourism Concern (tel: 0171-753 3330) is a campaigning organisation for sustainable tourism and human rights, and can answer your queries about visiting a particular destination.

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