Travel Clinic

Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts

STAYING IN TUNE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Do you know anything about the villa rental market in Germany and Austria? Are there cheap, rustic old places of the sort you can find in France? How do we set about investigating this?

Mrs Gina Pugh

Northampton

Jill Crawshaw replies: Although Germany offers high standards of self- catering accommodation, much of it is in bungalows and apartments. However, specialist Moswin Tours (0116 271 9922) does have a variety on offer and can tailor such holidays to most regions of the country, including the former East Germany.

The firm also offers rustic apartments in Bavaria's Oberammergau, Garmisch- Partenkirchen and Bischofswiesen, as well as trad- itionally styled log cabins near Creelinglen on the Romantic Road, farmhouse apartments in the Black Forest and holiday homes in the vineyards and forests of Thuringia.

Packages including air fares and car hire - with ferry fares if you want to take your own car - are also available.

Austria can offer rather more rustic self-catering based on traditional chalets, farmhouses and apartments in its mountain villages, though even here bed and breakfast at a farm is the more common form of accommodation.

Get hold of the Switzerland, Austria and Germany brochure from Interhome (0181 891 1294) which is valid for the whole year and includes ski resorts, as well as summer destinations.

The brochure details 730 properties in Austria and 790 in Germany (many of then modern); in Austria, the Tyrol and Salzburg are the most popular regions, and prices (with the increased strength of the pound) start at around pounds 40 per person per week, though most are quoted per property.

Inntravel (01653 628811) offers traditional self-catering holidays on working farms where you are invited (but not obligated) to help out if you wish, in the traditional regions of Switzerland and Austria.

The Austrian firm Pego (telephone in Austria: 0043 5552 65666) should be able to help you with properties in Austria (but no travel arrangements).

I am afraid that there is nothing similar to the Gites de France organisation, either in Germany or Austria.

8 Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, broadcaster, and writer.

WARNING: SWIMMING CAN MAKE YOU ILL

I have heard of cases of people who get ill after swimming in the sea. What kind of problems can arise from just swimming (as opposed to drinking)? How can we tell whether water is safe to swim in or not?

Elizabeth Hindly Barnsley

Dr Goodyer replies: Apart from the dangers of encounters with jelly fish, sea urchins, sharks and other marine animals, swimming in the sea is generally more healthy than swimming in fresh water.

There are relatively few diseases which are contracted by bathing in the sea, although ear infection has been shown to be more common among visitors to the Maldives and Fiji, probably as a result of frequent contact with the warm water around these islands. Various types of rashes are reported among sea swimmers, the most common appearing underneath swimming costumes due to the entrapment of various microscopic organisms.

There is a significant danger of contracting schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) if bathing in fresh water, including the Nile and Lake Malawi, in many parts of Africa. This also applies to limited areas of South America and Asia. The disease is caused by a small worm or fluke, whose larvae mature in certain fresh water snails. These larvae can penetrate the skin of bathers, which can sometimes be felt as a mild swimmers itch. The worm matures inside the body laying its eggs in the bladder or gastrointestinal tract. This causes blood loss from these areas resulting eventually in anaemia. The condition is often not diagnosed until the traveller returns home but is quite easily treated. Avoid swimming in fresh water in Africa.

A potential danger when swimming in almost any fresh water is that posed by leptospirosis (Weil's disease), transmitted by infected animals urinating in the water. It's also worth remembering that one of the major causes of death amongst holiday-makers is that of drowning.

8Dr 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.

WHO ORGANISES HOUSE EXCHANGES?

When we retire next year we would like to spend some time doing house exchanges, both in this country and abroad. Can you tell us how to go about it?

M Garland

Oxford

The travel editor replies: You could organise house exchanges privately, via the classified ads sections in newspapers and magazines. However, an easier and cheaper way of going about it is to enlist the help of one of the various house exchange agencies.

You subscribe to an agency's directory of homes which contains details of thousands of other members throughout the world. Details of your home appear in the directory along with your preferred destinations and dates, allowing subscribers to make direct contact with each other via the agency. Don't bother to subscribe to more than one as you'll find many pool their members details together to produce almost identical directories.

In addition to a directory, Latitudes Home Exchange are able to offer a custom matching service whereby they try to match your specific requirements. Details of your house are held in confidence but photos and information on any potential swaps are sent to you.

Expect to pay somewhere in the region of pounds 50 for an annual directory service or pounds 15 for a one-time custom matching fee; plus an extra pounds 100 to pounds 200 "exchange fee", depending on whether the exchange is national or international. If you change your mind, for any reason, before the exchange goes ahead, you should have your exchange fee refunded.

The agencies act purely as an introductory service, leaving the two sets of swappers to sort out the finer points of the exchange. At least one month's correspondence is recommended, not only to exchange information, photographs and other details, but also to build trust between the two groups.

All agencies provide help and advisory literature for clients on all manner of issues including car insurance - yes, you can swap cars as well.

Tim Secrett, of Latitudes Home Exchange, told me: "Problems are very rare, especially when people take simple precautions such as locking away valuables or cherished items. Most of our customers are responsible professionals who take great care of other peoples homes. Indeed, most of our feedback is 'thank you' letters from satisfied customers."

A good place to start your enquiries is the friendly Latitudes Home Exchange (tel. 01273 581793). Other agencies worth trying are Green Theme (tel. 01208 873123), Home Base Holidays (tel. 01332 291102) and Worldwide Home Exchange Club (tel. 0171 823 9937).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
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
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker