Travel: Information Desk

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR PANEL OF TRAVEL EXPERTS
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The Independent Travel
Get out of the heat and on to the slopes

My husband and I live and work in Pakistan. In January 1999 we would like to take a three to four-week ski holiday. (Both of us are intermediate level, I suppose), but Pakistan is not an ideal place from which to investigate what would be suitable for us. Is it possible for you to help us find a location? We are open minded about where to go, but the following factors are important to us: good snow cover with slopes on all faces (we are not powder-snow skiers); a good variety of runs; pretty runs (not as in the purpose-built French resorts; a chalet directly on the slopes with a log fire in the evenings. Realistically, we would prefer somewhere with a short walk to the lifts. We are open minded re catered or self catered but we would like good accommodation and not the French studio.

Some apres-ski would be appreciated.

Brenda and Eric Benoliel

Peshawar, Pakistan.

Stephen Roe replies: Taking into account your specific preferences, I would strongly recommend Courchevel 1850. It is much prettier than most French resorts and, as part of the Trois Vallees, the world's largest inter-linked skiing area, you will not get bored with the variety and choice of pistes, even in three or four weeks. There are runs to challenge skiers of all abilities and the resort has plenty of upscale shopping, restaurants, bars and night life.

Lotus Supertravel (0171-962 9933) has the luxury Chalet Founets, close to the Bellecote piste which has a log fire and some rooms with en suite bathrooms. Canapes, aperitifs, gourmet, four-course meals, breakfast, tea, flights from London and transfers cost from pounds 649 to pounds 669 per person, per week in January. There is a pounds 100 discount on certain departure dates for bookings made before October 31.

Flexiski (01490 440 445) has the ski-in, ski-out Chalet Anemone set in the pine trees on the Bellecote piste with pine panelled walls, log fires and goat skin rugs. January half-board rates (including wine, flights and transfers) are from pounds 715 to pounds 775 per week. This chalet operates a non-smoking policy throughout.

Stephen Roe is an accredited travel and ski writer with extensive knowledge and experience of winter resorts throughout the world.

Skiing guide, page 3

Insured to travel the world - but not the UK

Can travel companies insist that punters take out travel insurance? We came across this problem with English Country Cottages and now the staid old National Trust is climbing on the bandwagon. If you want to hire a cottage from the Trust, even for a few days, you have to take out cancellation insurance, and you must pay this surcharge even if you pay the whole rental at the time of booking, so the risk to the letting company is absolutely zero! They will, however, relent if you can show evidence of having insurance already. So, to avoid these payments, we took out, through my wife's employer, annual travel insurance which was shown in the schedule as "worldwide".

When the small print arrived, which we had not been able to see before it was subscribed to, we found there was one place in the world which was not included in "worldwide". You've guessed it, the UK! It seems that this really is nothing more than a scam operated by the rental companies. Will the new directive from the EU provide any relief and, if so, when?

W Alexander

Redhill, Surrey

Trevor Sears, a lawyer specialising in travel problems, replies: You have highlighted a hot issue in travel. Following a report from the Monopolies and Mergers Commission there will be a new order coming into force on 16 November called The Foreign Package Holidays (Tour Operators and Travel Agents) Order 1998. This prohibits travel agents and tour operators from discriminating in the price charged for a foreign package holiday or by requiring payment of an additional charge from someone who does not buy travel insurance for that holiday.

You have pointed out that companies offering holidays in the UK are also demanding travel insurance. My enquiries have shown that many companies are not insisting that you should take out cancellation insurance, particularly if you can show that you have insurance already. I was told by the National Trust that cancellation insurance was included in their prices but if you did not want it, then you did not have to have it, and a credit of pounds 15 would be given.

Of course, from an insurance point of view, there must be other differences between a holiday abroad and one in the UK. Most insurance covers the enormous medical expenses which can be run up abroad, loss of luggage, money and travellers' cheques, and repatriation expenses. You are hardly likely to need cover for money and travellers' cheques in the UK as there is ready access to money through cash machines, reducing the need to carry large amounts of cash. Luggage will probably be covered by your home contents insurance in any event, and medical expenses will probably not arise on a UK holiday where treatment can be given under the National Health Service.

So, certainly from 16 November, people booking foreign holidays should not have further problems about being asked to pay for "extra" travel insurance, and the UK holiday companies seem to be following the European example and agreeing to make an allowance in the price if you do not require it.

Trevor Sears is a partner of Kingsford Stacey Blackwell, 14 Old Square, Lincoln's Inn, London WC2A 3UB (tel: 0171-447 1200).

How to keep the bugs at bay

Is it true that the best mosquito repellent is the local stuff bought in the country you are visiting? I have also heard that brewers' yeast tablets can help to keep mosquitoes away.

James Barley

Ipswich

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: In some destinations, insect repellent may not be that easy to find, and they may well contain the same active ingredients as those that are purchased in the UK.

Many of the local preparations contain natural plant extracts which, although having some insect repellent properties, are quite often not nearly as effective as those based on the most widely used repellent chemical called diethytoluamide (Deet).

Deet has been used since the early 1950s and is a safe and effective repellent. However, it should be reapplied about every four hours to get the best effect. Particular attention should be taken at night in areas where there are malaria-carrying mosquitoes; it is important to wear long sleeves and trousers and to apply repellent to exposed skin. Non-Deet alternative include Mosigaurd and Autan.

It is said that vitamin B1 (thiamine) if taken regularly will ward off insects, although you have to take so much that you start to smell of Marmite. Even at this level of consumption, there is no good evidence that vitamin B really works.

The approach taken by jungle soldiers against mosquitoes is to apply a Deet-based preparation to the skin and treat clothing with an insecticide such as permethrin.

There is good evidence that such a combination gives a very high level of protection and I would recommend this strategy to anyone visiting malaria- endemic regions.

Until recently, a clothing preparation has not been available in the UK, but a new product called Duranon is planned to be marketed towards the end of the year.

Dr Larry Goodyer is the superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy, 3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8; tel: 0181-889 7014. Contact the travel medicine helpline on 0891 633414. (Calls cost 50p per minute.)

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