TRAVEL: YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Safari dangers

Is there anywhere I could go on safari in Africa with two small children where vaccinations would not be required for the children and the risk of malaria or disease is low enough to ignore?

Paul Jones

via e-mail

Dr Richard Dawood replies: Sorry to be negative, but I'm afraid there really isn't. Even a trip to South Africa, with a short (one or two-day) trip to a southern reserve, should require a minimum level of immunisation, and carries disease risks that cannot be "ignored".

My opinion - and one that you probably won't like very much - is that an African safari really is an adult experience, for people who are able to understand the dangers and discomforts as well as the pleasures for themselves, and to be responsible for taking appropriate precautions.

If you are careful, you could probably drag them along for the ride without coming to any harm. But there are so many delightful, genuinely child- centred things to enjoy that are closer to home, why not leave Africa until your children are old enough to fully appreciate it?

Richard Dawood is the editor of 'Travellers' Health: How to Stay Healthy Abroad' (OUP) and medical director of the Fleet Street Travel Clinic (tel: 0171-353 5678).

Costa DIY

We are interested in self-catering accommodation in and around Barcelona and on the Costa Brava. Any ideas?

Peter Ernest

Manchester

The Travel Editor replies: Self-catering is a good option for holidays on the Costa Brava as prices tend to be reasonable and you can buy cheap flights to Barcelona with easyJet and, from September, British Airways' subsidiary Go. The only disadvantage is that at the height of Spanish summer - which is now - apartments on the beach are in demand and many are fully booked.

Renting apartments on the coast is a good option out of season. Barcelona Tourist Information (tel: 00 34 93 304 3421) will provide you with a list of companies renting self-catering apartments in Barcelona itself, while the Centro de Informacion Touristica de Cataluna can put you in touch with the tourist offices in any of the surrounding towns and villages (tel: 00 34 93 238 40 00).

Sitges is a very good holiday destination for the lively and simultaneously laid-back. A mere half-hour away from Barcelona by train it is perfect for those who want to alternate between relaxing in a small resort and sampling the delights of the bustling city.

Apartamentos Terramar (tel: 00 34 93 894 6542) rents apartments with two to three double bedrooms for between pounds 830 and pounds 1,200 per month. All apartments are close to the beach and the centre of Sitges. Apartamentos Can Negret (tel: 00 34 93 894 1303) has 25 apartments which sleep three to four people. These can be rented weekly and cost on average pounds 45 per night.

Apartamentos Monserrat (tel: 00 34 93 894 0300) specialises in studio flats for two people sharing, with small kitchens equipped with the basics. These are situated in the centre of town, five minutes' walk from the beach and the railway station and are rented for about pounds 37-pounds 41 a night in high season (June to mid-September) and pounds 29-pounds 33 in low season. All prices in Spain are subject to an additional 7 per cent tax.

The Spanish Tourist Office (tel: 0900 1669920; premium rate line) also has a list of self-catering accommodation in the area.

Gap year options

I have completed my A-levels, and intend taking a gap year before university. I had wanted to take a 21-day adventure holiday with Trek America or Footloose but understand that, since I am not 18 until February, I am not considered old enough. I have my parents' full support and, naturally, am very disappointed. Is there any similar organisation that you are aware of which organises such holidays?

Jonathan Alexander

Via e-mail

The Travel Editor replies: The best numbers to call for gap-year advice are Gap Year Projects (tel: 0118-959 4914) and STA Travel (tel: 0171- 361 6146).

Kumuka Expeditions (tel: 0171-937 8855), the adventure travel specialist for Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, offers trips to under-18s, providing they have the written consent of a parent or guardian.

Contiki (tel: 0181-290 6422) offers a range of trips to America and Europe. You must be at least 17 and you would need to travel with someone over the age of 18 who would take responsibility for you.

Contiki offers an 18-day Western States tour of the US, which travels from Los Angeles (Anaheim), to Hollywood, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes, Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, Tucson, Phoenix, San Diego, Rosarito (Mexico) and back to Los Angeles. The price starts from pounds 799 per person, including accommodation, some meals, all domestic transport, guide and driver, but excluding international flights.

Or you could buy an Amtrak rail pass (tel: 0171-400 7077). There are no age restrictions on ticket holders. A 15-day pass starts from pounds 113 per person for the north-east states. Greyhound Buses (tel: 01342 317 317) are also a popular way for young backpackers to travel. A four- day America Pass costs from pounds 75 per person, while a nine-day pass for the US and Canada costs pounds 99 per person.

STA (tel: 0171-361 6262) offers a 10 per cent discount on passes for ISIC or Hostel International cards, and can pre-book student-friendly accommodation for you.

Real France

I want to take a short break just across the channel in some place that I can get to on Friday afternoon after work and where I really feel that I am in France - proper French food (and no hypermarkets).

Janet Williams

London

If you are looking for a package, Inntravel (tel: 01653 629001), which specialises in breaks built around characterful, rural accommodation on the continent, may be what you are looking for.

From its brochure, a very tempting example is a two-night stay at a hotel- restaurant called La Grenouillere, 43 miles from Calais. It would certainly be possible to get there late-ish on Friday evening after work given that you live in the south-east of England.

This sweet old converted Picardy farmhouse in the countryside has only four bedrooms; the excellent restaurant has got a Michelin star. A two- night break for October, including half-board accommodation and ferry crossings, costs pounds 160 per person, based on two sharing.

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