TRAVEL: YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR PANEL OF EXPERTS
Sunday 23 May 1999
Can you please recommend any travel operators that arrange holidays to Cuba.
The Travel Editor replies: It depends what kind of holiday you are looking for. Two operators that specialise in Cuba and have been sending people there on a tailor-made basis for years are Regent Holidays (tel: 0117- 921 1711) and Interchange (tel: 0181-681 3612). They can book you a trip for as long or short as you want, in more or less any kind of hotel, with transfers to different parts of the island.
If, however, you just want a cheap package holiday you could do worse than contact somebody like Kuoni (tel: 01306 742888) which can offer a week or two in an all-inclusive resort for prices which vary according to the lateness of booking, but which can dip as low as pounds 400 a week. For further information and a general list of relevant tour operators, you can also ring the Cuban Tourist Board in London (tel: 0171-240 6655).
The undersea world of chronic ear infection
I am planning to visit the red sea very soon and I would like to know if scuba diving should be avoided since I suffer from tinnitus. My condition has been chronic since I was a teenager.
Dr Larry Goodyer replies: Tinnitus, or head noises, are any noise that is heard in the ears not originating from the outside world. The noise can vary; some people describe it as a ringing while others may experience a roaring or buzzing sound.
Tinnitus is actually a symptom that can have any number of causes. In most cases it is not caused by a serious disease and may temporarily occur if there is an ear infection or wax near the ear drum. More rarely is it due to a disorder of the nervous system.
As a beginner you will certainly need a basic aqualung course. Many dive schools overseas offer a basic Professional Association of Diving Instructors Course (Padi), which involves a fairly intensive four- or five-day course to gain a certificate in sports diving, enabling you to dive in relatively non-hazardous conditions. In order to be accepted on to such a course you will require a medical certificate of fitness before starting, which should be obtained from your GP before departure. A history of chronic ear disease is one of a fairly long list of medical conditions that may make you unfit for diving. Therefore the cause of your tinnitus should be investigated thoroughly before you consider this trip.
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).
Greece - ancient and modern perspectives
Please can you help me find my perfect holiday. I am very interested in Classical Greece, and want to visit ancient sites, and my 16-year-old daughter would like to stay on a Greek island, for the beach, swimming and relaxing. Can you suggest a two-week holiday, between 28 July and 7 September, which would delight us both.
Carisbrooke, Isle of Wight
Jill Crawshaw replies: With your own sightseeing preferences and your daughter's desire for beach-basking, it would seem like a good idea to choose an island which not only has its own sites but can be used as a springboard for other island-hopping visits.
The first island that is an obvious candidate is the one nearest to Athens itself, the splendid little island of Aegina - from which you could catch the hydrofoil in the morning and be on your starting blocks for the opening of the Acropolis itself, spend the morning on the hill, returning after lunch to join your daughter for a session on the beach. I'm sure you don't need me to mention all the other classical sites in Athens, to say nothing of the National Archaeological Museum.
Outside Athens there are also numerous sites you could take in on full- day trips, among them the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, accessible by coastal bus via Piraeus, and Delphi (for the Sanctuary of Apollo) which can be reached from Athens by a dozen trains a day in the summer. The journey takes 90-minutes. Sites in the Peloponnese such as Mycenae and Epidaurus are also within easy reach, though for these you might consider basing yourselves at the popular but still very Greek resort of Tolon on the mainland.
The island of Aegina itself of course has its own magnificent Temple of Aphaia (which apparently formed a perfect triangle with the Parthenon and Cape Sounion). The best known resort on the island is Agia Marina with a good beach, shops, tavernas, watersports and much else, but try to go towards the end of August - the Greeks themselves are still on holiday at the beginning of August, and being the first port of call from Athens, the island is packed.
Beyond Athens, and the Saronic Gulf, you might consider the island of Kos in the Dodecanese, though I'd avoid the pop resort of Kardamena in the high season and choose to stay either in the smaller but still lively Tingaki, or in Kos Town itself. The island of Hippocrates is most famous for the Asklepion - the medical sanctuary dedicated to the God of Healing - and the venerable tree under which, it is said, Hippocrates taught in the fifth century BC, and Saint Paul preached in the first AD.
At least 15 other Dodecanese islands - including Kalymnos, Leros, Patmos and Symi - are reached by regular ferry services. The largest, of course, is Rhodes. Lindos was its most important ancient city, overlooked by the haunting ruined Temple of Athena; it's still glorious, though overrun by daytrippers in August.
Two other ancient cities were Kamiros and Ialysos, both beauty spots even today. But do spare time for Rhodes Town's medieval City of Knights.
A final suggestion; the island of the sun itself, Delos, hub of the Cyclades, one of the most important islands in the Aegean which the King of the Gods Zeus chose himself for the birth of his son Apollo. You can't stay on the island - no one can except the custodians, but it's worth several day trips by caique or excursion boat, because there's too much to do and see in one visit.
The nearest of the islands for you and your daughter to stay are Mykonos (30 minutes by boat) where Shirley Valentine jumped ship. Also popular is little Paros, once supplier the finest marble for the temples of Delos and Athens, now a favourite backpackers' watering-hole. Naxos, where Theseus callously abandoned Ariadne, is beautiful and verdant, artistic Milos whose talented sculptors fashioned the Venus de Milo is another hit with the trendy young.
The following may be useful:
The annual island-hoppers bible is Greek Island Hopping 1999 (pounds 12.99, Thomas Cook Publishing), available in good bookshops. The Hellenic Tourism Organisation (0171-734 5997) also has a useful free pamphlet, Sea Domestic Routes and Fares.
Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.
How safe is it to take a holiday in Croatia?
It has long been my wish to visit Dubrovnik but the situation in the Balkans makes me pause. Do the Croatian authorities encourage tourism in that area? I would like to go in the early autumn, do you have any suggestions.
The Travel Editor replies: The latest advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is that Croatia is safe to travel to. All tourism facilities are available and functioning as usual in all areas of Croatia. The airports in Split and Zagreb are operating normally and Dubrovnik airport is open for tourist flights. Of course, it is a question of risk assessment and the Foreign and Commonwealth office do continue to advice "caution" in parts of Croatia that directly border Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but this is standard travel advice for many tourist destinations worldwide (including parts of the US and Spain). And, of course, Dubrovnik is in the very south of Croatia, over 200 miles from the Serbian border.
There are direct flights daily from London and Manchester (operating as normal) to Dubrovnik. Croatian Airlines (tel: 0181-563 0022) has return flights for about pounds 240 including taxes. An excellent example of a Dubrovnik break is offered by Transun (tel: 01865 798888): two people travelling together can stay a week in the Hotel Excelsior (by the sea and 650 yards from the old town centre) in July for pounds 235 per person, half-board. The price is slightly more in August and slightly less in September or October. For futher information, call the Croatian Tourist Office (tel: 0181-563 7979).
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