Travel: Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts

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The Independent Travel
There is no greater joy in life than picnicking in France. The only snag is that as soon as we sit down we start getting pestered by bees and wasps, which send my husband and daughter hysterical. Is there any way we can avoid this problem? And, in the worst case, if we get stung, what are we to do about it?

Robert Lincoln


Dr Larry Goodyer replies: Stinging insects such as bees and wasps are not repelled by the repellents applied to the skin to ward off biting insects such as mosquitoes. They are attracted by sweet foods, not easy to avoid when on a picnic. You could avoid wearing brightly coloured floral patterns, and perfume, both of which may attract them. If you are attacked by a swarm, try to back off slowly rather than panicking or waving your hands around. Bees, but not wasps, leave a sting imbedded in their victim. This should be removed by scraping it away with a fingernail or knife- blade. Some claim that the stinger should not be pulled off with tweezers as this could inject more venom, but in practice it is probably more important to remove it quickly, whatever method is used. The immediate first-aid measure is to apply ice if available and then elevate the part of the body that has been stung. Antihistamine tablets may reduce the reaction and aspirin relieve the pain. It may also be worth applying hydrocortisone cream which, while it may not give immediate relief, should reduce the local swelling and redness. Finally, it is important for anyone who has a tendency to develop serious reactions to bee stings to consult their doctor regarding the need to carry an emergency adrenaline injection.

Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8, Tel: 0181-889 7014) which specialises in catering for travellers' medical needs.

I want to take my trusty bicycle to Istanbul

In August, I intend to cycle across Asia, starting at Istanbul. How do I get my bicycle to Istanbul, preferably not by air?

Vincent Field


Sue Hall of the Cycle Touring Club (CTC) replies: Basically you have three options. Flying is the easiest and most convenient option. Train is complex, but possible - and would probably be an adventure in itself. Finally, if travelling by bus, part of the journey will be straightforward, the remainder is anyone's guess.

The problems of travelling by train are as follows. Eurostar (0990 186186) will officially only carry a cycle if it is booked on its 24-hour registered baggage service which costs pounds 20 per cycle, per single journey.

Nor are high-speed trains on the Continent (eg the French TGV) any more convenient. They will only carry a bicycle if it is dismantled and put into a bike bag (dimensions approximately: 120cm x 80cm x 50cm). Bagged bikes can then be stowed in the passenger luggage racks. Dismantling a bike is inconvenient for many travellers and far from the ideal solution.

The solution then is to take a ferry (eg Dover to Ostend) then catch a series of slow trains - Ostend to Brussels, Brussels to Basel, Basel to Vienna, Vienna to Budapest, and so on. For information about train times and passenger ticket prices telephone Rail Europe 0990 848848. But be warned - these telephone lines can be very busy.

CTC leaflets outline the practicalities of taking bikes on trains for all the European countries.

As for the bus solution, your best bet is to contact the European Bike Express, 31 Baker Street, Middlesbrough, Cleveland TS1 2LF (Tel 01642 251440), a specially designed service set up in co-operation with the CTC to take cyclists between Britain and 27 destinations on the Continent. It is a luxury coach and cycle trailer service. Destinations offered include Cavallino (near to Venice). From there, trains could be used to reach Istanbul.

CTC offers a complete package of cycling information and insurance services. Contact it at: 69 Meadrow, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 3HS. Tel 01483 417217. Fax: 01483 426994; e-mail:; web address:

Any cheap digs down south?

A group of students and myself plan to spend the summer fruit- picking in the south of England, but we are having problems finding cheap accommodation. How can we get relevant information?

Sarah Dooris


The travel editor replies: If you are planning a prolonged stay on the south coast, your best bet is to stay on a caravan park or camp site. For lists of locations, contact the Southern English Tourist Board, which will send you all the relevant brochures. Its address is 40 Chamberlayne Road, Eastleigh, Hampshire SO50 5JH, and the telephone number is 01703 620006.

No hotel details ... no exchange rate ... no weather reports. Has Syria got something to hide?

I noticed an advert in your paper from a tour operator for Syria. But the information it sent was vague about hotels. Does this mean Syria has basic facilities only? I have noticed that it does not appear on exchange rate lists or on temperature lists. Have you any inside knowledge?

Fred Shipney


The travel editor replies: As a matter of fact, Syria is now becoming quite a mainstream tourist destination and you have nothing to worry about.

It does not appear on exchange rate lists because it does not have a hard currency; but if you are with a tour operator you should not need to worry about the problems of changing money on the black market etc. Likewise you will be sheltered from that other bugbear, namely expensive visas.

If you are travelling independently, you would need to contact the Syrian Embassy at 8 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PH. Information line: 0891 600171.

With regard to temperatures, you will find that many parts of Syria are very hot in mid-summer, so spring or autumn are the best times to visit: winters can be cold, wet, or even snowy.

There are plenty of hotels in the main tourist centres such as Damascus, Aleppo, and Palmyra, which, while not quite reaching Western standards, are nevertheless perfectly adequate.