I want to be alone - well, not quite

I am 30-something and single and want to go on holiday somewhere that isn't full of couples and families. Can you help?

Mandy Frith


Jill Crawshaw replies: Several firms cater specifically for single travellers, others organise holidays which attract large numbers of them. One of the best known is Solo's (tel: 0181-951 2800) with a programme of 600 holidays from golfing in Spain, to tours of India and weekends in the UK. The company says it is not a dating agency and tries to balance sexes on its trips, though they usually attract more women than men. Age-groupings are 28- 55s and 45-69s.

Several firms organise "houseparty" style holidays, largely to the Mediterranean, for "thirties-somethings" who are mainly in professional occupations. Smallworld (tel: 0990 768373) reckons 80 per cent of its clientele are unattached - the firm runs villa parties in Menorca, Greece, the Caribbean and further afield, as well as city breaks within Europe. A typical price for a villa party in Minorca is pounds 763 in high season.

Single's Choice (tel: 01634 868688) runs houseparties on similar lines on the Greek island of Symi, as well as Menorca. A two-week full-board holiday in high-season August on the attractive little Dodecanese island costs pounds 689.

If you prefer the idea of a floating houseparty, join the schooner Cevri Hassan III and sail in and out of interesting ports and resorts along the Turkish coast; there's a maximum of 10 in each party, many of whom are likely to be on their own. Contact Daydream Travel (tel: 0171-637 8921). Prices for 10-day cruises start from about pounds 550, plus the air fare from pounds 285.

Something more adventurous? If you like the idea of trekking yaks in Outer Mongolia or watching orang-utans in Borneo, adventure specialists such as Explore Worldwide (tel: 01252 344161) and Encounter (tel: 0171- 370 6845) lead expeditions to more than 90 countries - Ghana, Mozambique and Georgia are the latest additions this year. These tours attract a large number of singles in the 20-50 age range, and the firm has a policy of trying to match up singles of the same sex to share accommodation and so avoid expensive single supplements.

Specialising in holistic holidays, Neal's Yard Agency for Personal Development (tel: 07000 783704), though not exclusively for single holidaymakers, attracts many of them - and guests are encouraged to share rooms. Among the holidays on offer is the Skyros Centre on the Greek island of Skyros where you can take part in yoga, dancing and creative writing, as well as beach activities; trips further afield include the Caribbean and India.

It is also worth contacting Stag, the Single Travellers Action Group, which provides information on tour operators, hotels, and organisations with special arrangements for singles, and also occasionally organises its own group holidays. Write to Single Travellers Action Group, Church Lane, Sharnbrook, Bedford MK44 1HR. Annual membership of the organisation costs pounds 8.

Things to do in Nanjing in March

My daughter is working in Nanjing, teaching English. We have managed to snap up two tickets to Shanghai for two weeks, leaving on 12 March. We have bought guidebooks but we find them uninspiring. Apart from Nanjing itself, what do you recommend?

June Macpherson


The Travel Editor replies: I happen to have researched this area of China in some detail for one of those uninspiring guide-books of yours and I suspect that you are in for an exciting time. March is a reasonable month, weather-wise.

Obviously you will want to spend a minimum of two or three days in Shanghai itself. Take a boat ride down the Huangpu River and back; walk the frenetic shopping streets; have fun failing to make yourself understood in the local restaurants. Try also to visit some of the old conserved houses of eminent Chinese politicians (Sun Yatsen's and Song Qingling's, for example) for a glimpse of 1920s Shanghai - walled gardens, verandas, rattan chaise-longues, etc.

Nanjing itself also holds plenty of attractions. Sun Yatsen's famous mausoleum out of town is well worth a visit for fantastic views and historical resonance.

You might also take advantage of the Yangtze river boats during your stay, to get some sense of the size and importance of China's greatest river. You can travel between Shanghai and Nanjing by boat, for example. Local travel agents will arrange this for you.

Other than Shanghai and Nanjing I would also spend a few days in nearby Hangzhou. This is one of the most charming cities in China with genuinely scenic parkland and fascinating temples around its famous West Lake.

For a glimpse of rural China, visit the little town of Shaoxing, about 60 kms (38 miles) from Hangzhou, which offers access to delightful spots in the nearby countryside - a land of canals, paddy fields and little bridges.

Alternatively, for an equally rural experience, you might try a visit to the Buddhist island of Putuoshan which is an overnight boat journey from Shanghai.

Bring in the harvest and make a lira or two

My daughter wants to travel for two or three months between finishing her A-levels and starting art school. We are looking for information on working holidays. She is particularly attracted to the idea of either grape harvesting in Italy or joining an archaeological dig.

Joanne Culme-Seymour


The Travel Editor writes: The Federation of Recruitment & Employment Services publishes lists of its overseas placement agencies, according to specialisation. Send a pounds 3 postal order with an SAE to 36-48 Mortimer St, London W1N 7RB.

Another useful source for placement agencies are the classified advertisements in the fortnightly newspaper Overseas Jobs Express, which is based at Premier House, Shoreham Airport, Sussex BN43 5FF (fax: 01273 440229).

Volunteers on archaeological digs are usually expected to make some contribution to their board and lodgings. Those who are not students of archaeology will greatly increase their chances of finding an overseas placement if they have gained some digging experience. Details of British excavations looking for volunteers are published in the British Council of Archaeology Briefings, which is based at Bowes Morrell House, 111 Walmgate, York Y01 2UE (tel: 01904 671417).

Archaeology Abroad, which is based at 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, also publishes regular bulletins of excavations needing volunteers. Israel is a particularly popular destination for archaeologists and conditions demand that volunteers should be in good physical condition, able to work long hours in hot weather. Many excavations are organised through universities and take place during the summer holidays. It is obligatory to obtain a B4 Volunteer Visa (approximately pounds 13, available from volunteer offices in Tel Aviv) within 15 days of joining a dig in Israel.

Foreign travellers may find they are competing with Albanian and east European migrants to get jobs gathering in the Italian harvests. Where there is work, the wages are reasonably good: the average hourly rate is approximately pounds 3 to pounds 4. Seasonal work with grape and olive harvests are scrupulously regulated among locals, but the apple harvest in Val di Non, north of Trento, is an exception, with a tradition of hiring migrant workers. However, as with the Vendemia (grape harvest), this is autumnal work, beginning at the end of September.

A contact for farm work in Italy is Willing Workers on Organic Farms (Gary Cymbalist, WWOOF, Giappichini, Migianella, 388, 06019 Umbertide PG, Italy). The police run checks for illegal immigrants so you must register with them immediately on arrival.

For more general information you might try reading Work Your Way Around The World, eighth edition (Vacation Work, published 24 February), by Susan Griffith or The Directory of Summer Jobs Abroad (Vacation Work, 9 Park End St, Oxford OX1 1HJ, price pounds 7.99 plus pounds 1.50 postage), which is published each November.