Information Desk: Your Questions Answered By Our Panel Of Travel Experts

Get back to basics on a holiday in Malta

I am looking for self-catering accommodation in Malta. Can you help?

E J Harrington

Kent

Jill Crawshaw replies: There is a wide range of self-catering accommodation in Malta (and Gozo), from seaside apartments to countryside farms. For example, Belleair Holidays (tel: 0181-785 3266) is offering the Corinthia Mistra Village overlooking St Paul's Bay, and the Mistra Valley with swimming pools, cascading pool complex, sports centre with gym, sauna and massage, squash and tennis, from pounds 308 per person, rising to pounds 438 in the peak season, including flights, transfers and accommodation.

Nearer the fascinating capital of Valetta, the company offers the Galaxy Apartments in busy Sliema, with pools, whirlpool, gym and squash as well as a pub and a la carte restaurant. Studios sleeping two cost from pounds 270- pounds 416 per person, including flights, transfers and accommodation.

A programme of holidays to Malta and Gozo is also on offer from Malta Direct Travel (tel: 0181-785 3233). In the village of Tal-Fanal in an excellent location, perfect for a relaxed holiday, a seven-night break starts at pounds 256, rising to pounds 353 per person (with four sharing), including flights from Gatwick, helicopter transfers and accommodation, and seven days' free car hire. The company also offers the Sunseeker Apartments in Bugibba, with access to the town centre and seafront, from pounds 219-pounds 279 person, also from Gatwick.

Thomson Holidays (tel: 0990 502 555) offers self-catering accommodation in Malta - in Quawra, St Julian's and Mellieha Bay, and attractive farmhouses on Gozo from pounds 415-pounds 555 for two weeks. Other companies offering a range of Malta holidays include Sunspot Holidays (tel: 01580 715 333), Prestige (tel: 01425 480400) and Panorama Holidays (tel: 01273 206 531).

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster

Stretch your legs, then raise a glass

I have some ideas for a holiday to celebrate my husband's 50th birthday celebration in January 2000 but need some assistance. He's a keen walker and wine taster - it would be nice to combine the two but equally he would be doing one or the other. I'm looking for a long weekend away, so anywhere on the Continent would perhaps be best. I hope I haven't enquired too early but I have a feeling that anything in the year 2000 will be booked fairly quickly.

M A Drake

Weymouth

The Travel Editor replies: There are a number of tour operators who organise walking and/or gourmet tours. There is still plenty of availability in January 2000 (after New Year's celebrations) but there is no such thing as enquiring too early.

Sherpa Expeditions (tel: 0181 577 2717) has "Le Weekend" offers for independent walkers. Three- or four-night hotel breaks are available in places such as France and Switzerland. The locations are chosen for their range of easily accessible walks, and wine buffs are particularly well catered for with the "Vineyard Trail" - short breaks in the Loire, Burgundy and Alsace. A four- night break to Burgundy, staying in a vineyard hotel with its wine museum and tasting room, then walking on, to stay in an old stone farmhouse and country auberge costs from pounds 367 per person. This price is based on two sharing and would include four night's accommodation (one with breakfast and the rest half-board), return Channel crossing for car and passengers, and walking maps. The flight inclusive price is from pounds 466.

Winetrails (tel: 01306 712 111) specialises in walking holidays through wine regions. It offers a variety of short breaks to France, but for something a little further afield (and a little longer), it offers a five-day break to Portugal's Douro valley.

This is a spectacular wine region with steep terraced hillsides and many rivers. Staying in top-rate farm and manor houses, this break is from pounds 399 per person, based on two sharing with half-board and some wine tastings.

For something a little more adventurous you could try the company's new Ski Gourmet breaks. These Alpine breaks cater for all classes of skier from complete novice and combine guided ski tours, gourmet meals and wine tastings. Prices start from pounds 795 for seven nights half board, flights, accommodation, skiing and wine tastings.

Does malaria ever go away for good?

Why does malaria recur? When I was in my twenties, I came down with it quite badly in West Africa. Since then, I have never officially had a relapse but I often worry that maybe it is still lurking in my blood. I don't always feel well.

James Handley

Aldershot

Dr Larry Goodyer replies:

There are a number of different forms of malaria, the most serious to travellers being falciparum malaria. The other types, such as vivax malaria, are sometimes referred to as benign malaria.

If a traveller should contract falciparum malaria, it would be unlikely that they would have any resistance to the disease and a potentially fatal situation may develop. From developing the initially flu-like symptoms to death from cerebral malaria can, in some cases, be as short as 24 hours. A further complication is that the malaria can take anything from a week to about three months to develop after being bitten by a mosquito. Therefore travellers sometimes do not develop symptoms until they have returned home and these may be mistaken for flu.

Vivax malaria, on the other hand, would not usually be fatal in a healthy traveller, and can take up to a year to appear after being bitten. But it can be difficult to eradicate from the body and symptoms can recur at odd intervals for many years.

You do not say how long ago it is now since you were in West Africa, nor exactly what symptoms you have. Describe them to your GP and, if appropriate, it is possible to have tests for malaria and other tropical diseases of long duration.

I am sometimes asked about the potential to develop resistance to malaria after you have had it, which does occur only in the case of falciparum malaria. But the resistance is lost on returning home, once no longer exposed to the mosquitoes carrying the disease. It is not unusual for people who were brought up in malaria-endemic areas, but now live in the UK, to return for a visit to their country of origin without taking malaria prophylaxis in the mistaken belief that they still possess resistance.

Dr Larry Goodyer is a lecturer in clinical pharmacy at King's College, London. Contact the Nomad Travel Health Helpline (tel: 0891 633414; calls cost 50p per minute).

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