The obsessive traveller: Your travel questions

Birthday bargain

I want to celebrate my 50th birthday in November with a late deal that doesn't cost the Earth. I don't want to get stuck with heavy single-person supplements. Can you help me to cut through the small print and find a holiday for two weeks, 13-28 November, somewhere warm, interesting and reasonably priced? I am not into non-stop shopping, sun- worshipping or partying.

Marian Anne Gillespie


Simon Calder replies:

A couple of suggestions. Wait for a last-minute flight-only deal, head for the Canary Islands and spend a week island-hopping on the excellent Trasmediterranea ferry network - a cruise for a fraction of the price, and much more fun. On longer sectors, you can get a berth in a cabin. In between, the main towns on the Canary Islands have some excellent hotels with much lower rates than at the resorts - and with decent single rooms, too.

Alternatively, take advantage of no-frills flights to put together an independent itinerary and explore elsewhere in Europe. There are frequent cheap flights from Edinburgh to Stansted on Go (tel: 0845 6054321), and to Luton on easyJet (tel: 0870 6000000). Either airline will take you onward to Barcelona - easyJet also flies to Athens, Malaga and Nice. From Stansted, Ryanair (tel: 0541 569569) serves Genoa, Treviso and Ancona. In all these places, good-value single rooms are easily available in November.

Simon Calder is the senior travel editor of the `Independent'.

Trading places

Are any of these stories about travellers buying stuff (for example, gems) cheap in one country and selling it expensive in another actually true? Can it be done safely anywhere?

Boris Bradshaw


Phil Haines replies:

Where there is travel there is trade - which helps to explain why there are so few legitimate and safe opportunities for the casual tourist. Much though you may like to think so, you are never the first visitor, even to places such as the incomparable Sunday carpet and camel market at Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (true home of the Bukhara rug).

My own experience of this kind of trading was limited to a relatively harmless method of seeing more of Asia and making a few extra dollars in the 1980s. It consisted of "milk runs" organised from Hong Kong, usually by Chinese Malaysians, using travellers as couriers.

Travellers would fly to Taipei, carrying Chinese medicines and jeans, then go to a hotel, where they would be collected. They would then enjoy a night out, before flying to Seoul with some electronic goods. The next day they would continue to Tokyo with a few bottles of cognac, tennis rackets etc, then back to Hong Kong via Seoul and Taipei again. The theory was that they were carrying items common for well-heeled tourists.

Some of the more unscrupulous organisers of these "runs" would then persuade people to wear, say, a gold chain to Seoul for an extra $100. Eventually, they would progress to diamonds in the soles of shoes for Sydney, and bulk-buying Louis Vuitton luggage for Seoul.

Inevitably, there were regular arrests, and the odd naive traveller would have their world tour ruined. I remember travelling with a young Irish girl when she learnt her boyfriend had been arrested. She was inconsolable for three days; he spent over a year in jail.

Whenever valuable goods are involved, you enter the shady world of crime and deception. A good example is gems from Burma, which some deluded travellers think are going to make them rich. Just remember the warlords who control that country. The fact is that buying gems from backstreet traders almost certainly means that you are about to be ripped off with worthless coloured glass, and if not, you are about to be mugged after stepping out of the shop.

That is not to say that there is not plenty of honest money to be made. Last year, I met a Frenchman in Bali who, having spotted some nice suede sandals, struck up a deal with the maker. He spent a couple of months in Bali each year, filling a container with the sandals and furniture - and made a reasonable living out of it.

If you have any great new ideas, please feel free to write to me, in confidence, at the e-mail address below.

Phil Haines, the youngest person to have visited every country in the world, runs a travel company, Live Limited (tel: 0181-737 3725; phil.haines@live- travel. com), "specialising in travel to special places".

Healthy trekking

I have decided to go to Nepal and Tibet for some off-the-beaten-track walking. Do you have any tips about the health precautions that I need to take in advance of my trip? Any special risks or hazards that I need to bear in mind?

Amanda Taylor


Dr Larry Goodyer replies:

Nepal tends to be notorious for traveller's diarrhoea, so take care with food and water. As you travel to higher altitudes, also be aware of the dangers of mountain sickness. The golden rule is: at the first sign of any symptoms, such as headaches, nausea or sleeplessness, descend to a lower altitude immediately.

Apart from the usual hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines, you should also consider rabies vaccination if travelling off the beaten track. Rabid dogs are a problem in Nepal and anti-rabies treatment is available in only 46 out of 75 districts in the country.

If you are making extended stays in rural parts of Nepal, especially the more low-lying regions, it may be advisable to have Japanese B encephalitis vaccine. The main danger times are between June and December. Likewise, malaria prophylaxis may be recommended in some areas of Nepal below 4,200ft (1,300m).

When you cross into Tibet, remember that some travellers have been experiencing problems when entering Chinese territory. Apparently, the Chinese authorities have been over-reacting to reports of cholera by quarantining people or forcing them to take antibiotics when crossing from Russia.

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 60p per minute).

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all