Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.



Will I find a Bolognese b&b?

I am planning to go to Bologna for a fortnight, but I have found hotels in Italy very expensive and wondered whether there was anything in Bologna comparable to the French chambre d'hote or a British b&b?

S M Hall


The Travel Editor writes: Bologna has a proliferation of expensive hotels catering for business people, and budget hotels are few and far between. Due to the city's busy trade-fair calendar, hotels are usually booked up well in advance. Single rooms are also in short supply and solo travellers can expect to pay a hefty supplement for the few that there are. Family- run hotels or pensioni are now generally known as "basic" hotels (between one and three stars). Room tariffs are less in hotels outside the city.

There are various accommodation-only agencies in the UK. The Italian Connection (tel: 07071 303030) has single rooms in the family-run Hotel Arcovegio for pounds 49 per person per night, on a room-only basis. Italberghi (tel: 0181-255 8026) has single rooms from pounds 55 per person per night, in a two-star hotel on a b&b basis. Accommodation Line Ltd (tel: 0171- 409 1343) has single rooms in a basic family-run hotel in Bologna, the Hotel Centrale, for pounds 59 per person per night, on a b&b basis.

Skiing down under on a student budget

We are students and would really like to go skiing in New Zealand this summer. We have heard that this can be done relatively cheaply - but where and how?

Jenny and Tim


Jill Crawshaw replies: Your best bet is to acquire working-holiday visas which are available for British citizens aged between 18 and 30, and which entitle the holder to spend 12 months in New Zealand and undertake short- term work. Just 4,000 such visas are available every year, costing pounds 45 each - they are allocated on a "first come, first served" basis, so you should apply as soon as possible. For more details contact the New Zealand Immigration Service, New Zealand House, 80 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4TE (tel: 0991 100 100).

As for skiing, there is really only one place to go and that is Queenstown on South Island. New Zealand is sometimes criticised as being "closed", or at least sedate, but the ski and summer-sports resorts could almost be called brash, funky and hustling, extremely scenic and a magnet for young people in both summer and winter.

Experts rate its skiing as moderate - with not as many challenges as you would find in, say, Val d'Isere or the Trois Vallees, but with many extra activities such as bungee jumping, tandem parachuting and parapenting. A lift pass costs around pounds 22 per day - but other costs are reasonable.

Because of its busy tourist industry, you are likely to get jobs in hotels and restaurants, but remember that the entire student population is also on the lookout. There are a number of hostels, backpackers' lodges, hotels, guest-houses and cabins in the motorhome parks for budget accommodation.

Try to get there for the 25th annual Queenstown Winter Festival to be held this year from 10-21July - a series of competitions, races and parties with pretty wild apres-ski. The huge opening-night celebrations, which include fireworks and live music, are followed by a week-long extravaganza with ski demos and races, ice-carving displays and competitions, a dog derby, snowman-building, mountain-biking in the snow, snowboarding and other wild and wacky snow activities.

Away from the slopes, the resort offers jet-boat sprints on the Dart River, street parades, jazz evenings, dragon-boat racing and fashion parades, while at night there is live music, food stalls and dancing in the streets. Most events are free, though river cruises and jazz evenings are ticket- only events.

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.

The truth about those friendly bacteria

I have heard about some miracle tablets containing "friendly bacteria" which supposedly reduce one's chances of catching travellers' diarrhoea. How do these pills work, where can I get them and are they really any good?

Sasha Green


Dr Larry Goodyer replies: The friendly bacteria you are referring to are called lactobacillus and are found living naturally in the human intestine, mouth and vagina. They are also used by the food industry and are found in yogurt, the uncultured variety being a particularly good source. It is believed that they can inhibit the growth of other harmful bacteria, such as those that can cause some forms of travellers' diarrhoea, and are sometimes referred to as "probiotic" remedies.

The official line, according to the British National Formulary, is that "lactobacillus are valueless". However, a few trials have shown success in treating children with diarrhoeal illness in some situations. The case for adults using them for travellers' diarrhoea appears unconvincing, with most trials giving negative results. For instance, a recent trial where lactobacillus was given to British soldiers stationed in Belize showed no benefit from the treatment.

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).