The obsessive traveller

The Independent travel desk's panel of experts answer your queries

Africa alone Having travelled independently throughout Asia, I am reluctant to sign up for an adventure holiday or group safari in Africa. But I am restricted to a backpacker's budget and am conscious that travelling as a lone female may not be as safe or easy over there. I would love to do a trip of Namibia and trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Where and how can I get a four to five-week taste of Africa within my limitations? I certainly don't mind roughing it. Vickie Moncrief via email

Africa alone Having travelled independently throughout Asia, I am reluctant to sign up for an adventure holiday or group safari in Africa. But I am restricted to a backpacker's budget and am conscious that travelling as a lone female may not be as safe or easy over there. I would love to do a trip of Namibia and trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Where and how can I get a four to five-week taste of Africa within my limitations? I certainly don't mind roughing it. Vickie Moncrief via email

Phil Haines replies: Independent travel in Africa tends to be more unreliable than in Asia. Between Tanzania, Kilimanjaro and southern Africa, the weak link in the route is the 1,850km railway from Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia. It is irregular and subject to long delays.From Kapiri Mposhi it is a short hop to Lusaka and onwards to Victoria Falls. Then continue to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and through Botswana to Namibia.

For a more relaxed itinerary, you could just visit Kilimanjaro, the nearby Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater game parks and Zanzibar, which can be reached by local flights from Arusha. KLM flies to Kilimanjaro enabling some interesting open-jaw combinations Until the end of March, flights arriving in Kilimanjaro and returning from Dar es Salaam, cost from £477, Johannesburg from £466, and Windhoek from £538, from Airline Network (tel: 01772 727222).

Or you could just spend a few weeks in Namibia. Return flights with Air Namibia from London are available to Windhoek from £434 through Flight Centre Direct (tel: 0870 899 9888). Crazy Kudu Safaris operates scheduled camping trips throughout Namibia (net: www.crazykudu. com). The 10-day Explorer visits Etosha National Park and Sossusvlei and costs under £300.

Renting a car offers greater independence. Enyandi Car Hire (tel: 00264 61 255103; net: www.enyandi@iafrica.com.na) is an efficient operation. During peak season in Namibia, hotel rooms are scarce and advance booking is essential. Care should be taken around Swakopmund's beach. There have been several evening attacks on tourists.

The main safety issues in Kenya and Tanzania, rare though they are, include robberies in the cities, sexual attacks on the coast - especially in Lamu in Kenya - and minibus hold-ups in the game parks.

Further advice is offered by the Foreign Office (net: www.fco.gov.uk).

Phil Haines, the youngest person to have visited every country in the world, runs a travel company, Live Limited (tel: 020-8737 3725; email: philhaines@live-travel.com) which specialises "in travel to special places".

New York cruise My daughter, who has ME, is thinking about travelling to New York. But her condition makes it painful to sit in an aircraft seat for any length of time. Is there an alternative way for her to travel? She has thought about going by cargo ship. Is this still possible? Or is it possible to book a number of seats on an aircraft? Richard Wright, via email

Dr Jules Eden replies: A cargo ship is a possible solution, and there are plenty of vessels that do this crossing frequently. However the trip could be a long one, possibly up to five or six days. I would recommend she opt for a cruise liner instead if she decides to go by sea, as it is more comfortable, faster and, more importantly, each vessel would have its own doctor. But it is more expensive.

Plane travel might well be more uncomfortable, but eight hours of relative discomfort could well outweigh the five to six days on a boat. If your daughter decides to fly, she could ask her doctor for a low-dose muscle relaxant that can be taken an hour into the flight. A 5mg dose of diazepam often helps, and one tablet on each flight is not enough to cause problems such as addiction. One last thing: if she doesn't want to book several seats she could ask the airline which is the least popular flight and hope that she can find three or four empty seats together.

Dr Jules Eden runs www.e-med.co.uk, the online GP consultation service, that can advise, diagnose and treat travellers at home or abroad. For further information, please call 020-7350 2079 or email doctor@e-med.co.uk

Send your questions to: Travel Desk, 'The Independent on Sunday', 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL; or via e-mail at sundaytravel@ independent.co.uk

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