TRAVEL YOUR QUESTIONS: The obsessive traveller

Cutting costs

I have wished to visit Cape Verde off the west African coast for some time, although my funds are limited. A Heathrow flight with TAP, with an overnight stay in Lisbon, would apparently be some pounds 1,800. This seems a little steep when a similar fare would take me on a world tour with several stopovers.

Richard Bacon

via e-mail

Phil Haines replies:

Travel to obscure countries is rarely both straightforward and inexpensive. But it can usually be one of them.

Years ago, the easiest access was to stopover on the Cape Verdian island of Sal, travelling between Johannesburg and New York with South African Airways - which always had to refuel there during the apartheid era because other African countries denied it landing rights.

Anyway, these days the cheapest way to get to Cape Verde is as follows. Buy a cheap ticket from London to Dakar in Senegal - about pounds 400 return. On arrival in Dakar, buy the leg to Praia, on the Cape Verde island of Santiago. (Bear in mind that this flight has to be confirmed in person in Dakar). This is also a pleasant route, because Senegal is a fascinating country to visit. (If you have time on your hands, you could even consider hanging around there for the monthly boat to Praia.)

The outlying islands of Cape Verde can be reached by inter-island ferries or internal flights.

Phil Haines - the youngest person to have visited every country in the world - runs a travel company, Live Ltd (tel: 0181-737 3725; phil.haines@livetravel. com), "specialising in travel to special places".

Young fun

We have a gregarious, outgoing daughter and an eight-year-old son with autism. What would be a suitable holiday for our family? We have tried apartments with children's clubs, but my son does not enjoy the clubs because they involve face painting, sports etc, which are not suitable for him. We have also hired a villa with a pool, but my daughter misses company and entertainment.

My son's behaviour can be eccentric and noisy which puts other children off joining him and because of this a hotel would not be appropriate. He also tends to wake at 5.30am, disturbing neighbours.

Mrs M MacDonald

Glasgow

Kate Calvert replies:

It sounds like you need somewhere that offers both entertainment and separate accommodation.

One option is Crystal Premier France, which runs Pepi Penguin Clubs at six properties in France and some separate accommodation - so you wouldn't have to worry about your son making noise. The facilities usually include a pool and possibly golf, tennis and a club area. There is also the children's club, which operates six days a week, May to September, for children aged six months to 11 years. You can book by the half day. Prices in the Dordogne, for example, cost from pounds 365 per week for a cottage. Return travel is extra. Call the family hotline (tel: 0181-241 5199; travel@crystalholidays.co.uk).

Alternatively, you could try Gascony Secret , which recommends properties (tel: 01284 827253). Near Condom in Gascony, for example, there are three gites where families can stay, with nine acres of land, shared pool facilities and a lake. These cost between pounds 450 and pounds 510 per week in high season. Five minutes away, children can be booked on a daily basis (at extra cost) into Les Enfants du Paradis, a club based in a 17th-century farmhouse, set in 10 acres with a pool. This is run by an English couple with four children of their own.

A maximum of eight children can enjoy riding, tennis, golf, canoeing, walks, bike rides, fishing, painting and sculpting.

Kate Calvert edits 'Family Travel', the subscription-only publication for parents (tel: 0171-272 7441).

Play it safe

My wife and I plan to travel in Central America between El Salvador and Panama by local transport, taking about four weeks. Books tend to suggest that some of these countries are more hazardous to travel in than Kosovo. Do you have any information?

Geoff Beckett

via e-mail

Mark Stratton replies:

Prior to the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Mitch last October, travelling between El Salvador and Panama - which involves passing through Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica - was relatively straightforward.

Recent reports suggest the main roads of the two worst affected countries, Nicaragua and Honduras, have been patched up - although the Foreign Office (www.fco.gov.uk) still warns of problems away from the main routes.

Frequent, inexpensive buses will take you along La Carretera Interamericana, the main Central American highway. Many of the region's main attractions, such as the Mayan ruins of Copan (Honduras) and the colonial city of Granada (Nicaragua), have been largely unaffected.

Crime has always been a problem but most overland travellers have few problems. However, care should be taken particularly in San Salvador, the north coast of Honduras, Managua and Panama City. Foreign Office advice warns of "significant lawlessness" across El Salvador. The best advice here, especially in the capital San Salvador, is to stay in your hotel after dark and use taxis. Panama and Costa Rica are generally safe.

For peace of mind you might consider a specialist tour operator. Journey Latin America (tel: 0181-747 8315) uses public transport throughout its three-week trip between Honduras and Panama. Prices start from pounds 1,050, including flights.

Mark Stratton is a traveller and writer.

Home swaps

Please could you give details of companies that arrange house swaps. We are particularly interested in travelling to the US.

Emma Tennant

via e-mail

The Travel Editor replies:

The growth in popularity of home swaps has led to an increase in the number of companies offering this service, with houses available all over the world. The US, Australia and France tend to be top of the swaps, with the US the most popular location - .particularly Florida, California and New England.

For an annual fee, ranging from pounds 38 to pounds 89, the companies will place your details on their listings directories, which you will regularly receive. Intervac (tel: 01225 892208) offers access to more than 50 countries. The International Home Exchange Association (IHEA) - an umbrella group of several firms, including Homebase (tel: 0181-886 8752) - pools listings to provide nearly 12,000 potential swaps.

If you fear ending up in the home swap from hell, Latitudes (tel: 01273 581793) offers a custom-matching service. Also, the Special Families Trust (tel: 01752 347577) provides a small list of properties for anyone with a physical disability.

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