Travel: information desk: Your questions answered by our panel of experts

Wanted: a bunk and some grits

I WOULD like some information about b&b accommodation in the USA, especially in California, Arizona and Mississippi. I would like to travel during July and August. Is there any way of pre-booking this type of accommodation before I go?

John G Randle

Norwich

The Travel Editor replies: The b&b culture is taking off across the Atlantic. The South seems to have the highest density of bed and breakfasts; Mississippi alone has 130. Country inns (or b&bs) have also taken off in New England and Northern California and can be found in abundance in the Wine Country, Gold Coast, North Coast and the Monterey Peninsula. Prices vary greatly (a standard double for a night costs $50 to $250 plus - about pounds 30 to pounds 150), and b&bs are generally more expensive than motels. Country b&bs do a roaring trade with urbanites at weekends and over the summer (when you are planning to travel), so book in advance.

There is no central organisation in the UK which pre-books b&b accommodation in the US, but you should contact the individual tourist board of each state. For Arizona, call the tourist brochure line (tel: 01426 946334), or more specific information or bookings can be requested by writing to The Arizona Association of B&B Inns, PO Box 7186, Phoenix, AZ, 85011.

The California Tourist Information line (tel: 0171-405 4746) holds detailed information on all types of accommodation but unfortunately not b&bs. You could try calling the California Association of B&B Inns in the US (tel: 001 408 462 9191), which can pre-book accommodation for you.

The Mississippi State Tourist office (tel: 01462 440787) has a brochure listing b&bs in Mississippi with contacts but no price guidelines. (You are looking at a ball-park figure of $100 per double, per night.)

For information and listings of b&bs in the US, write to B&B Central Information at PO Box 38279, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. Its website, at www.innaccess.com, is also an excellent source of information. It has complete listings of all b&bs in the US, divided into individual states, with descriptions and telephone numbers. Some of the b&bs listed also offer on-line reservation services.

The Annual Directory of American and Canadian B&Bs (Rutledge Hill Press, pounds 12) offers a very comprehensive list of North American b&b accommodation (some 6,200 b&bs in total), with descriptions and price guidelines.

Discover Berlin and beyond

THERE ARE many companies specialising in Spain, Italy and France, but Germany hardly seems to get a look-in. We would like to know of companies that specialise in the former East Germany, including Berlin, Dresden and Weimar, offering good cultural guides and hotels.

LF Robinson

London

The Travel Editor replies: The German tourist board (tel: 0171-317 0908) has a list of tour operators for Germany. DER Tours (tel: 0171-408 0111) offers tailor-made packages to former East Germany and features Berlin, Dresden and Weimar in its programme.

In May, DER is offering a cultural tour to Dresden, Leipzig and Weimar to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Goethe's birth. This four-night tour takes in the writer's former residences, and museums, and costs pounds 599 per person, including return flights, transfers, guided tours and half-board hotel accommodation, based on two sharing.

A three-night break in Berlin costs from pounds 328 per person, including return flights, b&b accommodation in a hotel, transfers and a "Berlin Card" which gives you access to free public transport and reductions on entrance fees.

Say 'no cheese please'

I HAVE recently been diagnosed as lactose-intolerant, which places severe restrictions on eating out and involves studying the ingredients lists on all the food I buy. Consequently, the thought of eating out abroad is fairly horrific and I wonder if you know any tour operators that can accommodate special diets? We like to take two holidays a year, one in the Alps, one in the Mediterranean.

Mrs C Arnold

Staffordshire

The Travel Editor replies: As far as I know, there is no tour operator that specifically caters for people with food allergies. This does not mean that you are without hope, however. If you are sufficiently well informed about what you can and cannot eat (and in the right language!), there is no reason why you cannot have a perfectly enjoyable holiday abroad.

An organisation known as the British Allergy Foundation (tel: 0181-303 8525) can provide you with lists of relevant sentences and questions (for example: "I can't eat anything which contains cheese") translated into the language of your choice, so that you can convey your exact requirements in restaurants.

To obtain the translations relevant to your particular condition, write to: The British Allergy Foundation, Deepdene House, 30 Bellegrove Road, Welling, Kent DA16 3PY. You should state the proposed date of travel and the language you need. The service costs pounds 15.

There is also a magazine called The Inside Story to which you can subscribe for an annual fee. Subscribers receive special diet recipes and details of self-help and support groups; multilingual ingredient guides are also available. Write to: The Inside Story, Berrydale House, 5 Lawn Road, London NW3 2XS (tel: 0171-722 2866).

Another useful contact is the American Food Allergy Network (FAN), which provides guides and books of tips and information for travellers who have got food allergies. Write to: FAN, 10400 Eaton Place, Suite 107, Fairfax, VA 22030-2208, USA (tel: 001 703 691 3179). Or visit its website at: www.foodallergy.org.

Have you got a question or problem? Whether you want to know the best place to go for a holiday or have a legal or medical concern, our panel of travel experts will be able to help.

Write to: the Travel Editor, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

Fax: 0171-293 2043. E-mail: sundaytravel@ independent.co.uk

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