Morocco trek

I am planning to take my two children (14 and 16) on an October half- term holiday to Marrakesh. I am a single parent and want to stay somewhere in the old city which is both reasonable and comfortable. I would also like to go with a tour operator who can organise trips to Essaouira and the Atlas Mountains. I know vaccines aren't necessary but I still wonder if I should take precautions with hepatitis B.

Ellen Karren


The Travel Editor replies: Flights and many hotels are already booked up for the October half-term and this is not the most reasonable time to go, price-wise. On the whole hotels in the Medina (the old town) are not as cheap as those in the newer part of town. They are not as set up to cater for teenagers, and apart from the pricey Mamounia, they do not have pools.

Best of Morocco (tel: 01380 828533) offers a one-week holiday in the Kenzi Semiramis hotel in the new town for pounds 568 per person including flights, transfers and breakfast. As both of your children are classed as adults, one of you will have to stay in a single room, incurring a supplement of pounds 14 per person per night, making the total price for the third person pounds 666. The cheapest hotel they have in the Medina is the rather smart La Maison Arabe from pounds 686 per person. They can arrange local excursions on an individual basis but they are pricey, ie Essaouira would cost about pounds 40 each way in a taxi.

It would be cheaper to travel independently arranging flights through Royal Air Maroc (tel: 0171-439 4361) which has return fares from pounds 314 in October. The Rough Guide to Morocco or Lonely Planet's Morocco guidebook list budget accommodation in the Medina, and the Moroccan tourist office (tel: 0171-437 0073) can also provide you with hotel information. Tours can often be arranged though your hotels, but by far the cheapest way to get about is by public bus and there are several daily to Essaouira leaving from the Gare Routiere. For excursions to the High Atlas you could try local tour companies such as Menara Tours (tel: 446654) and Atlas Tours (tel: 433858) both of which have English-speaking staff.

Club Med (tel: 0171-581 1161) has a resort with a pool in the centre of town overlooking the Djemmaa-el-Fna square. They are closed for renovations until the end of October this year. One week in November is pounds 485 including return flights and transfers. They also offer tours by jeep to the High Atlas, Oukaimeden and "off the beaten track" from pounds 78 per person for three excursions.

Most tour operators recommend tetanus, polio and hepatitis A and B vaccinations.

Dutch van

We are interested in hiring a camper van and driving from Holland to Denmark and possibly Sweden. We want to pick it up in Holland so we can avoid costly ferry crossings. Ideally we would like the van to be kitted out with pots, pans and other necessary equipment. Could you suggest where to get the van and how much it would cost? Do you need a special driving licence?

Niall Watts


The Travel Editor replies: It is possible to hire camper vans in Holland, and you don't need a special licence to drive them. Achilles Autoverhuur of Rotterdam (0031 10 465 6400) is an example of a company that can provide you with a Fiat camper for a basic 875 guilders (pounds 269) per week. There is an additional charge of 40 cents (12p) for every kilometre travelled over 1,400 unless the rental is for over two weeks, in which case there is no extra charge. A larger model can be yours for 1,095 guilders per week.You can hire catering equipment for 40 guilders per week extra. The Dutch Tourist Board has details of Dutch vehicle hire companies (tel: 0171-828 7900).

As for getting to Holland in the first place, I suppose you will want to take a flight depending on available deals. If travelling by ferry from the UK, a return ticket from Harwich to the Hook of Holland for two adults and two children on Stena Sealink (tel: 0990 707070), booked before 31August, will cost pounds 200 if travelling on foot; after 1 September the cost drops to pounds 160 provided that you travel midweek.

Eye damage

How much do sunglasses reduce the damaging effects of sunlight on eyes? What is the recommended SPF and will cheap sunglasses offer the same protection as expensive ones?

Andrew Johnstone


Dr Larry Goodyer replies: There are two ways in which sunlight can damage the eyes. Firstly, overexposure to excessive sunlight in the short term can temporarily damage the cornea. This is more likely where the light has been reflected from a surface such as snow or water. In the longer term, overexposure to UV and light at the blue end of the spectrum can lead to cancer of the eyelid and a degeneration of the lens of the eye and retina. There is no recognised SPF standard for reducing exposure to UV radiation in glasses; it is best to rely on buying glasses from a reputable retailer or a known brand, and which are labelled as filtering UV. Much of the cost of the glasses may lie in the frame and sometimes a designer label, so you do not have to buy the most expensive. While on the subject, for those planning to watch the solar eclipse in August, remember that ordinary sunglasses do not provides adequate protection for directly viewing the sun.

Dr Larry Goodyer is a lecturer in clinical pharmacy at King's College, London. Contact the Nomad Travel Health Helpline (tel: 0891 633 414; calls cost 60 per minute).