Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts, including a doctor and a lawyer
Is it still possible to catch diseases like cholera and typhoid in the Mediterranean area? I remember 30 years ago my husband having jabs before a trip to Spain and I wonder if there is any need to do the same for a holiday we want to take to Turkey. Another question is, what are the symptoms of these diseases? How would we recognise them?

Mrs E Wilkins

Nuneaton

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: It is worth visiting your GP to discuss vaccinations if you are planning a holiday in Turkey, but cholera will not be a problem. In fact the vaccination against cholera is no longer given to people as it is not very effective. There are epidemics of cholera in parts of South America and Africa, although even here they rarely present problems to travellers. The massive diarrhoea and severe dehydration that most people associate with cholera is not usually seen, and it may be difficult for travellers to distinguish cholera from a bout of traveller's diarrhoea. The best treatment for this and any from of diarrhoea is to use oral rehydration solutions made up from sachets of salts readily available from pharmacies both in the UK and most parts of the world.

There is a small risk of typhoid in Turkey, and your GP will usually advise a vaccination. The modern vaccine is much better than that used a few years ago and most people do not experience any side effects. Typhoid itself, although serious, can be quite difficult to diagnose. There may be constipation before any bloody diarrhoea develops and other initial symptoms may be quite "non -specific" including fever, headache and general weakness. Antibiotics would be required for treatment.

Both cholera and typhoid can be caught by ingesting contaminated food and water, so obviously sensible eating and drinking habits will cut down any potential risk. Between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of travellers returning to the UK will have contracted a simple "travellers diarrhoea" of short duration through food or water borne infection, with a small percentage of these being a more serious dysentery. The message for cutting down the chances of the "Delhi Belly" is to try to eat food that is hot and recently prepared; avoid salads and unpeeled fruits; don't have ice in your drinks; and drink bottled or boiled/treated water.

Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8, Tel: 0181-889 7014) which specialises in catering for travellers' medical needs.

Are we covered if our tour operator goes bust?

If a tour company is an agent for a flight operator who has an ATOL number but has not itself an ABTA number, would it be able to guarantee reimbursement of money paid it, in the event of the company's failure. The tour company says "yes" because it is bound by EU law, whereby the client's money remains in the bank until the holiday is complete. ABTA, whom we have contacted, says "no". Whom should we believe?

K Leaning

London

Ian Skuse replies: Ian Skuse replies: The way that travel companies offer financial protection to consumers is now tightly regulated but rather complex.

For package holidays (which means holidays that you buy comprising elements of accommodation and transport or other tourist services) the law changed in 1992 to bring in a European Directive on package travel. The 1992 Package Travel Regulations now make it a criminal offence if the holiday fails to show that security has been provided for the refund of monies if his company fails. The regulations carefully set out how this security can be provided. The most common way is for a tour operator to enter into a bond, usually with a bank which can be called upon if the company goes bust. Most holiday companies arrange their bonds through trade associations such as the Association of British Travel Agents and consumers need look no further than the ABTA logo for peace of mind.

The regulations also give other ways to provide security for your money. These include passenger insurance, and more importantly for your question, trust accounts. These separate accounts must be managed by an independent trustee who should hold all of the monies you pay over until the holiday has finished and you have returned home. In this way, hopefully the money you pay does not get mixed up with the holiday company's own money and should leave your monies safe to be refunded to you if the company goes bust. The Travel Trust Association is one body which administers trust accounts for tour operators. Once again there are criminal offences committed if the trust account regulations are not complied with.

However, ABTA is sceptical about holiday companies operating trust accounts. It does not permit members to operate this system and feels that it is far too open to abuse. Their advice, understandably is to book with one of its fully bonded members.

With flights (other than fully priced scheduled flights) your money is protected by the Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL) scheme administered by the Civil Aviation Authority. These rules have been tightened up recently and if you do not get a ticket in exchange for your money then you must receive a receipt giving the licence number of the seat provider and this licence is your form of protection.

Checking that the rules are complied with is the job of your local Trading Standards Officer who is there to enforce the rules and prosecute companies who cannot show that they have made the correct arrangements.

Ian Skuse is the senior litigation partner with Piper Smith & Basham, which has specialised in advising the travel industry for over 20 years (tel: 0171-8288685).

When one can be fun

I've recently been divorced and would like to go away by myself for the first time in my life. It's only now that I've seen that virtually every holiday company assumes that people always travel as a family or with friends. What do I do?

TB

Hastings

The Travel Editor replies: Several firms offer holidays solely for people travelling alone; the largest is Solo (0181 951 2800), with a worldwide choice. They divide their age groups into 30-49s and 50 - 69s, and insist that they are not a "dating agency", and though they try to balance the sexes, probably have slightly more women than men. Their holidays are very varied from long weekends in the UK to city breaks abroad, skiing and golf weeks in the Costa del Sol, and Nile cruises to quote just a few.

A new 12 day scuba diving trip for the 30-plus age group based in Nassau in the Bahamas costs from pounds 1265 for flights and b&b, which includes a five-day "learn to dive" (PADI) course. A Somerset weekend with activities and a social programme costs pounds 225 for two nights half board.

Singles Choice (01634 868688) run houseparty holidays for those vacationing on their own on the Greek island of Symi throughout the summer. They say their age range is roughly 30 - 55, the sexes more or less balanced, with a clientele largely of professional and business people. The costs are from pounds 419-pounds 549 a week, pounds 589-pounds 759 for two weeks to include flights, accommodation, brunch and dinner with unlimited wine.

Saga Holidays (0800 300 500) exclusively for the over 50s have a "Specially for Singles" brochure with a range of UK and overseas holidays including Cuba, China, Nepal and Sri Lanka. A 14-night "Islands of the Aegean" tour by air, boat and coach costs pounds 649, mainly half board.

In the UK, Longstaff Leisure (01756 760 246) arrange houseparty weeks and week long summer holidays for the "30-50-ish" range at their country house near Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales. They describe their holidays as homely and relaxing, with walking, canal boating, pony trekking and abseiling, but everything is optional. "We're not a dating agency, but we have notched up over 60 weddings so far," says owner Sylvia Longstaff. A week's full board costs pounds 260; a long weekend pounds 190.

Lasting Impression Holidays (0161 499 3971) organise UK holidays and weekends for the 30's to mid 60's, and claim to provide single accommodation with private facilities at no extra cost. Some breaks are themed, with racing, bridge, food and wine tasting, and tennis among the most popular. A tennis weekend at Easter to include three nights b&b and dinner with wine, coaching if required and dancing, costs pounds 255.

Still in the UK, Acorn Activities (01432 830083) offer two, three and seven night breaks based on the Dragon Hotel at Crickhowell, Powys, which may include abseiling, kayaking, pony trekking or climbing (with expert instructors). A two night full-board weekend costs pounds 175. Sailing and windsurfing weekends for singles, based on farmhouse and cottage accommodation in Pembrokeshire cost pounds 160 full board.

Legal queries

Our legal expert can reply to queries regarding any holiday rip- off you may have suffered on condition that you have already complained to the airline or tour operator and received an unsatisfactory response. All correspondence and relevant documentation should be supplied. Unfortunately we can only reply to letters we print.

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