Where can I catch a train to Siberia?

It has always been my dream to take the Trans-Siberian railway from London to South-east Asia. However I have never seen this adventure advertised. Which companies organise such trips? How far can the journey take you?

Stephen Maher


The Travel Editor replies: There are companies that will book this trip for you. Regent Holidays (tel: 0117 921 1711), for example, can tailor- make pretty well any combination of stopovers between Moscow and the Far East for you. The most basic package, comprising flights into Moscow and back from Peking, one night's accommodation in Moscow plus the five day train journey between Moscow and Peking (via Mongolia) will cost a bit more than pounds 700.

Bear in mind that you need to plan ahead if you are thinking of doing this trip. If you want to travel over the summer, in particular, you should allow at least six weeks for your Russian, Mongolian and Chinese visas to be processed.

Regent Holidays does not actually book train travel from London to Moscow though of course you are free to arrange this yourself if you wish, as an alternative to flying. The journey, via Brussels, takes a couple of days and tickets can be purchased through Rail Europe (Tel: 08705 848848). A single ticket is about pounds 200.

As for train travel beyond Peking, you can book advance tickets to almost any part of China with Regent Holidays. Trains to Hong Kong along the recently inaugurated fast direct line take about 30 hours. The furthest you can possibly get on a direct train from Peking is Hanoi in northern Vietnam; from there you can continue by rail as far as Saigon. Beyond there, to reach Asia's ultimate point - Singapore - you'll have to take to the road.

Sorry, but the North Pole is a no-skiing zone

Can you offer advice for a 50-plus couple who have always wanted to visit the Arctic and get as close to the North Pole as reasonably possible. Other interests would be to experience dog-sleds, snowmobiles and igloos.

Iain A Macdonald


The Travel Editor replies: The Arctic tourist season runs from December to April. Excursions to the North Pole must be taken aboard an ice-breaker, which costs more than pounds 5,000 per person. Once there, outdoor activities like dog-sledding or driving snowmobiles are not possible. The best places for these are Greenland, northern Norway, Baffin Island and Spitsbergen.

Arctic Experience (tel: 01737 218800) has a variety of holidays to the North Pole. Four-day excursions to Lapland in April are from pounds 777 per person, including one-night in a floating hotel near Stockholm, dog-sled mushing lessons, a dog-sled tour from Kiruna to Lapland, a night in the Ice Hotel and snowmobile or cross-country skiing tours. The package includes guides, flights, transport, accommodation and some meals.

Arcturus Expeditions (tel: 01389 830204) have eight-night breaks to northern Norway from pounds 1,390 per person including all travel from the UK, guide, dog-sledding and full-board accommodation.

To stop itching, kill the bugs before they bite

I always react badly to mosquito bites. They develop into large blisters. Last summer, in Corfu, the bites became infected and I needed two antihistamine injections, antibiotics and dressings. Is there a way to avoid repeating this experience when I go to Crete this summer?

Dorothy Bracegirdle

West Yorkshire

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: The best treatment for the condition you describe is usually a steroid cream, which will not take away itching but should help to lessen the severity of the reaction You can purchase the milder ones with hydrocortisone from a pharmacy, but a stronger one may be needed on prescription.

To stop the itching when you go to bed, the sort of antihistamines that can cause drowsiness can be helpful. Applying mosquito repellents, particularly after sundown, is recommended as is covering the arms and legs. Probably the highest level of protection is obtained by treating your clothing with an insecticide in addition to using repellents on the skin. BugProof would be suitable.

Dr Larry Goodyer is a lecturer in clinical pharmacy at King's College, London. Contact the Nomad Travel Health Helpline (tel: 0891 633414; calls cost 50p per minute).


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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