Is it safe to follow in the wake of Mitch and Georges?

INFORMATION DESK: YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR PANEL OF TRAVEL EXPERTS

I would really like to go to the Caribbean for some winter sun, but every paper I pick up seems to be reporting details of stabbings, rapes and, most recently, hurricanes. Is it safe and can you tell me what damage has been done?

Patricia Dunstan

Tunbridge Wells

Jill Crawshaw replies: First, let us deal with the hurricanes, the most unpredictable events in the world - even the timing seems out of phase. I remember once in Jamaica being told: "June too soon, July standby, August come it must, September remember, October all over." Yet hurricane Mitch has been causing the most appalling devastation, and Georges cut a swathe through the eastern Caribbean, creating terrible carnage in half a dozen islands, while totally bypassing others.

The most popular island these days among British holidaymakers is the Dominican Republic, which was badly hit in the south and east of the island; hundreds were killed and many injured, with Juan Dolio the worst hit resort.

Tour operators have now transferred their bookings to resorts such as Puerto Plata, Sosua and Playa Dorada in the north of the island, which did not suffer any hurricane damage.

Apart from the horror of hurricanes, though, what sort of an island is the Dominican Republic? There have been some complaints about hygiene standards but it is in no way a dangerous island, with little violence, very few drug problems and a fascinating capital - Santo Domingo - and interior for those visitors who take the trouble to explore beyond the beach. You can get further information from the tourist board (tel: 0891 600 305; calls cost 50p per minute).

Cuba is another place you might like to look at; the hurricane did some damage to the middle of the island - tourists were moved from Holguin and Camaguey - but the main resort of Varadero and the fascinating capital, Havana, were untouched. Tourism in Cuba is back to normal and, although there have been occasional muggings in the back streets of Havana, I was there on my own earlier this year and I had no problems or even uneasy feelings whatsoever.

A tourism explosion is forecast for Cuba, so it might be as well to get there soon. Contact the Cuba tourist office (tel: 0171-240 6655).

Antigua - which seems to be in the path of every hurricane that blows, and was only just recovering from the hurricane that hit it in 1995 - was badly affected by hurricane Georges in the south and west of the island, but hotels are making supreme efforts to rebuild and restore for the peak Christmas season. Contact the Antigua tourist office (tel: 0171-486 7073).

Puerto Rico also suffered from the hurricane, but it is not a popular holiday destination among British visitors. There was more damage in St Kitts than Nevis, the latter, in my opinion, one of the most interesting tiny islands (Nelson was married there), with a mix of super-smart hotels and charming plantation houses converted into small hotels. It is a very safe, laid-back island. St Kitts and Nevis tourist board (tel: 0171-376 0881).

Among the untouched islands, Barbados is considered one of the friendliest and most politically stable, though a tourist was killed there recently. You should definitely take care if you find yourself in some areas of Bridgetown after dark.

Similar advice applies to Jamaica's capital, Kingston. Holiday reps warn against going off the beaten track, which was echoed by my resident friends. Montego Bay is the worst place I've experienced, not for violence, but for hassling. But Jamaica is definitely one of the most beautiful and interesting islands, with a lot more going for it than just sun and sand. Jamaica tourist board (tel: 0171-224 0505).

St Lucia, a very popular island among British holidaymakers, was unaffected by the hurricane. I've been made vaguely uneasy by rather hostile or sullen glances from time to time, but not experienced any danger. Visitors tend to stick to their all-inclusive complexes, though it is well worth hiring a car or bicycle in order to visit its rainforest and volcano. St Lucia Tourist Board (tel: 0171-431 3675).

If you are looking for a really hassle-free spot, consider some of the smaller islands. The Caymans are very safe, very British (there's even an M&S), very flat and without as much character as some, but superb for snorkelling and diving, and with some great beaches.

Grenada is totally delightful, with one of the prettiest capitals in the Caribbean, St George, also with excellent diving. Tobago is even sleepier. And I am particularly fond of eccentric little Bequia in the Grenadines, and Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands (but do not confuse the latter with St Thomas and St Croix, which are in the occasionally edgy American Virgin Islands).

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.

Keep taking the tablets

I've heard quite a lot about typhoid and cholera epidemics in Central America following Hurricane Mitch. I thought these diseases were no longer a serious threat to public health. Can you explain what they are, and how effective the vaccinations are?

David O'Brien

Dunstable

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: Cholera and typhoid are still endemic in a number of developing countries, but become a particular problem when sanitation systems break down or are inadequate. A common scenario is overcrowded refugee camps, when outbreaks are often reported with quite high fatality rates. Another situation is after a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or flooding.

It is often children who suffer the most from these diseases, but poorly nourished and frail people would also be at risk. The fear of cholera in travellers is often greater than the seriousness of the condition in otherwise healthy individuals. It is quite unlikely to be caught, and often would be difficult to distinguish from a bout of traveller's diarrhoea.

Simple oral rehydration using electrolyte salt is the best treatment. The injectable vaccine is not now used, although work is progressing on developing a vaccine that can be taken by mouth. The best means of avoidance is sensible food and water hygiene measures.

Typhoid is quite a serious condition, damaging not only the gut but also other organs in the body if not treated with the right antibiotics. The typhoid vaccine is effective, available as both an oral and injectable form. Vaccination would routinely be offered for many destinations, and the modern injections cause far fewer unpleasant reactions than the old ones.

Occasionally there are reports of typhoid outbreaks in Mediterranean resort hotels, but this is rare enough not to warrant routine vaccination.

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).

Go hiking in the Dolomites or stroll through Tuscany

My family and I would like to take a walking holiday in Italy in October 1999. Do you know of organisations which operate such things?

K A King

Northants

The travel editor replies: There are a number of operators dealing in walking holidays in Italy.

Inntravel (tel: 01653 628811) organises walks of any length and specification. A one-week autumn holiday in Tuscany, including three days walking, staying overnight in Volterra, San Gimingnano, Colle Val D'Elsa and Siena, costs between pounds 698 and pounds 786 per person (some reductions for children under 12 years). The price includes return flights to Pisa, transfers, half- board accommodation staying in upmarket hotels, detailed maps and walking notes.

Waymark Holidays (tel: 01753 516477) has a variety of walking holidays in Italy, including some challenging routes in the Dolomites. However, if you are travelling with children, an equally picturesque area with easier walks is Lake Garda. One week costs pounds 390 per person (some reductions for children under 12 years), and includes return flights, half-board accommodation in two-star hotels and the expertise of a tour leader.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
Arts and Entertainment
books The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?