TRAVEL CLINIC

Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts
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The Independent Travel
WEDDINGS IN PARADISE

My partner and I are both divorced and want to remarry and we have been considering the range of "weddings in paradise" offered by a number of travel companies. Legally speaking, are there any matters we need to be particularly aware of?

Anita Powell

Brighton, Sussex

Ian Skuse replies: There has been an enormous growth in the weddings market for travel companies offering a marriage ceremony and reception in destinations such as Hawaii, the Caribbean and the Seychelles. The usual package is for the tour operators' local agent to arrange a civil ceremony with an official and witnesses, usually followed by a reception at the hotel with flowers etc in the room. The cost of a "wedding in paradise" is very competitive and the idea has been extremely successful.

However there are a number of areas where the happy event can go horribly wrong. Firstly while arrangements may go wrong on an ordinary holiday and be put down to experience, even small mistakes by the travel company can be a disaster on the day of your marriage. Even a flight delay or the fact that a bride and groom cannot sit together on the aircraft can cause immense irritation. When it comes to hotel rooms being overbooked, or the quality of the hotel not being up to scratch, this can be a particular problem when it is supposed to be your honeymoon. It is therefore worth spending a little more to get the right quality and to book with a reputable tour operator.

Secondly, some care should be taken to ensure that you actually are married in the overseas country concerned. Any country will have formalities that need to be complied with, which may include advertising your forthcoming marriage, and for the ceremony to be properly conducted by the right official and with the right number of witnesses. Any flaw in these arrangements could mean that you are not actually married at all, and this could have particular problems later on - especially if you go on to have children. I therefore think it is worthwhile knowing yourself what the requirements are, so that you can be completely comfortable that you have tied the knot.

Finally, some foreign marriages are not recognised in this country, and many couples in your situation choose to go through a simple ceremony at home either before or after the overseas marriage, just to make sure.

There are a number of tour operators who specialise in overseas weddings and honeymoons, and because of their experience in organising these things, I think it safest to consider their range of destinations and services to make sure that all proceeds smoothly.

8 Ian Skuse is the senior litigation partner with Piper Smith & Basham, which has specialised in the travel industry for more than 20 years (tel: 0171-828 8685).

I WANT TO BE ALONE - IN BHUTAN

I can only get away at Christmas and want to go to Bhutan. I appreciate that the Bhutan government does not permit independent travellers into the country, but I'm having real problems finding a tour company which goes there during the holiday period. Can you let me know of an operator which goes to Bhutan, and which offers itineraries that would give me some time on my own to paint?

Sally Goodsell

London

The travel editor replies: the main reason why tour companies tend not to go to Bhutan during this time is the heavy snow, which often blocks the passes leading into the central valleys. Travel in December is by no means impossible, however, and Cox & Kings Travel (tel: 0171 873 5000) should be able to help you. Its group tours run from late March to the end of October, but it can tailor special itineraries to suit individual travellers. The fact that you may be the only tourist there will also help give you the solitude you desire. Costs vary according to itinerary but as a rough guideline expect to pay around pounds 2,800 per person for 11 days. This price would include all flights, transport, guides, meals and high quality accommodation.

HOW DO I RENT A FRENCH PROPERTY FOR A LONG BREAK?

I and my husband (recently retired) would like to rent a small property for two months (June/July) in Provence, France next year. So far I am drawing a blank with agencies who seem to offer short package deals only, including travel.

I imagine that I should book as early as possible and I would be grateful if you could advise me how to go about it.

Jean Nicol

London

The travel editor replies: Your first port of call might be the French Tourist Board (Tel: 0891 244123). it's a premium line number but at least you'll speak to a person, not an answering machine. Ask them to send you a list of tour operators who offer self-catering: some of these will certainly do special deals on long leases of the type you are interested in.

Other good places to look for private advertisements are France-oriented magazines. Try to get a copy of the excellent Living France magazine which costs pounds 2.95 and comes out 10 times yearly (call 01234 711874 for a copy). If you have access to the Internet you can sample some of their pages on the following website: www.french-property.com/living-f (no full-stop).

Other relevant magazines include French Property News (Tel: 0181 9471834, a 24-hour answering machine service on which you can request a free sample issue) and France magazine (Tel: 01451 831398). The classified sections of the Sunday press, including the IoS, contains lists of private properties in many European countries.

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