TRAVEL CLINIC

Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts

HOW CAN I STAY IN TOUCH BY PHONE?

I am about to go away on a gap year and my Mum wants to stay in touch with me when I am in remote places. Is there some system that lets me charge my home phone even if I'm dialling from, say, some remote part of China? Also, what kind of mobile phones are usable in remote places?

Joanna Beane

Bristol

The travel editor replies: One of the most popular ways to make calls with ease whilst travelling is the international telephone charge card, available from both BT (Tel 150) and Mercury (Tel 0171-528 2000). If you are a customer of either company you would be charged under your name within the quarterly bill at your home address. If not you would receive a monthly bill at home.

The BT card serves 120 countries worldwide, and the Mercury card serves over 60. There are no premiums on the cost of calls, you are simply charged for the call that you make, and the card itself is free. These cards are not as Eurocentric as you might imagine, for example serving the likes of America, Australia, and Singapore, and both cards will work in China.

The other option of taking a mobile phone with you on your travels is slightly less viable. The range that mobile phones will cover is ever expanding, with the top of Mount Bromo in Java, Indonesia, being one of the more bizarre places I have ever seen anyone make a mobile call. There are so many types of mobile on offer it is difficult to make an informed choice. The company that seems to have the widest worldwide range is Cellnet Digital GSM, covering about 60 countries. It franchises a number of companies to make phones which cost from pounds 10-pounds 200. The best phone for you to go for in terms of connection quality would be one priced around pounds 70 or more. Although this perhaps seems a lot of money, it is unfortunately a case of getting what you pay for.

There is a connection fee of about pounds 35, and you would then be signed to a 12-month contract. The billing system is monthly with a standard charge of pounds 17.50, plus any calls on top. This would be paid via a direct debit system from your bank account. Cellnet has recently put out coverage to China, and also serves places such as Indonesia, Brunei, Azerbaijan, and Namibia. The calls themselves are, needless to say, expensive, with a peak rate call from China to the UK costing pounds 1.57 per minute. Along with this there is a deposit of pounds 200 to pay if you are planning to take the phone out of the country imminently, which would be returned after three months. If you are travelling after three months from the date of purchase then there is no charge.

The other option is of course buying a phone card in the country itself. Although this means you must pay for the calls as you make them, there are advantages, such as not having to face a huge bill (or your mother) when you return home. China's phone system has expanded rapidly over the last few years, and making international calls is a relatively fuss free experience, with phone cards widely available throughout the country. This a cheaper way to make long distance calls than paying in currency for services in hotels, or telecommunications offices. However, the telecommunications offices are efficient and easy to use, located in or near post offices, and open 24 hours.

I'M TERRIFIED OF FLYING

My sister has asked me to travel to the USA for her 70th birthday, however I am terrified of flying. I have flown several times and each time the experience made me ill with fear and I swore that I wouldn't fly again. I would like to conquer my problem - is there any remedy?

Mrs G McKay-Davidson

St Helens

Doctor Dawood replies: First of all, you are not alone. Somewhere between one in five and one in 15 of the UK population are believed to be afraid of flying. Among them are many people who are not novices in the air, and for whom the experience of flying becomes increasingly unpleasant as time goes on.

If you are looking for a definitive solution to this problem, a number of psychologists have devised programmes that have succeeded in helping people overcome their fears, through treatment sessions and seminars, as well as cassettes and learning materials.

If this trip is simply a one-off, however, another option might be to discuss with your doctor the possibility of taking a mild anxiolytic drug during the flight; and another option not to be dismissed would be to travel by sea, something I've always longed to have the time to do.

Among the psychologists who offer treatment programmes is Elaine Iljon- Foreman, at Hillingdon Hospital. She publishes a fact sheet on the internet at http://www.cavok.com/ fearofflying, and can be contacted by email at free2fly @dial.pipex.com.

Dr Richard Dawood is the Medical Director of the Fleet Street Travel Clinic, which provides immunisation and pre-travel health advice by appointment. (Tel: 0171 353 5678).

VETERAN'S RETURN TO THE BEACHES

My father-in-law served in the Second World War and wishes to visit the beaches of Normandy where he fought. Do you know of any companies that specialise in this sort of short break? He is 78 and we have a car, so transport is not a problem. He lives on a state pension so his funds are not huge.

Johanna Hargreaves

London

The travel editor replies: There are a number of agencies which run this type of short break, and although many organise their tours on a D-Day anniversary basis, arranging trips in June, there are others to choose from all year round. The French Tourist Board has a list of companies; call them on 0891 244123.

Be aware that there are agencies dealing in this sort of specialist package who are not approved by a regulatory body such as ABTA. This doesn't mean they aren't reputable, as a lot of these tours are independently organised by veterans themselves. The ABTA Information Bureau (0891 202520) has a list of approved companies which do packages to Normandy.

The short breaks vary from all-inclusives with a set itinerary and coach pick-ups to self-drive options where you just pay for the ferry crossing and hotel and the rest is up to you. Prices vary with the type of trip.

Holts Battlefield Tours is highly recommended by the Royal British Legion. It organises detailed historic tours to specific areas, and these group tours are listed in its brochure which can be obtained by calling 01304 612248.

The Legion itself offers a range of discounted tours; you don't have to be a member and relatives can travel too. The Pilgrimages department organises bi-annual group trips to Normandy; call 01622 716792. The British Legion travel club (01926 499366) also organises year-round group trips. If you want something more tailor-made, the Legion's travel department (01789 261112) will organise individual trips to your exact needs. These are a little more expensive, but can be organised more quickly.

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