YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR PANEL OF EXPERTS
Sunday 30 May 1999
I want to take my 18-year-old daughter on a good beach holiday. It may be the last one we'll have together as she's off to university this October. What can you suggest?
Jill Crawshaw replies: I was in a similar situation with one of my sons before he started university, and we chose Mexico. It was a good choice - we both agreed, we loved the people, the beach, the food, the sightseeing and the prices. We had two weeks and took a package that included flights, though we did a lot of moving around from our hotel, which was in Playa del Carmen. The resort has stupendous beaches, lots of watersports. Playa del Carmen has lots of tourists, but has kept its eccentrically Mexican atmosphere, has lots of backpackers and good places to eat.
The sightseeing was incredibly worthwhile. We went to Chichen Itza which is a top-division Mayan site, and I splashed out pounds 70 a head for the air fare and a full-day visit. My son's favourite was Tulum, the only ancient site by the sea, where the bathing was superb.
Thomson Holidays (tel: 0990 502399) offers inclusive holidays to both Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, as well as to Yucatan town. Prices are from pounds 1,000-pounds 1,300 for a fortnight. Other operators include Kuoni, Unijet and Mundi Color.
Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster
A yeast tablet a day keeps the mosquitoes at bay
It is my experience that a yeast tablet taken daily is the best possible means of keeping mosquitoes at bay. When I visited Australia I tried it and was not bitten once. Do you know why this is?
Dr Larry Goodyer replies: Brewers' yeast tablets contain a high concentration of vitamin B1 (thiamine) and it is this that is thought to have insect repellent properties if you take enough. You can get the same effect by taking about 50mg of thiamine every day. It is not known why vitamin B1 should make a person repellent to mosquitoes. One hypothesis is that it may alter the skin's pH balance in a way which deters mosquitoes from feeding. Unfortunately proper trials carried out using vitamin B tablets have shown them to give little or no protection from bites. For every person who tells me that they are effective I can think of another who has claimed they are useless. Part of the answer to this variation in reported effectiveness lies in the fact that there are a number of factors which will determine whether or not you get bitten. My advice is that if you are visiting a country where malaria and other tropical diseases are a danger, take full precautions against biting insects. Where this danger does not exist then feel free to use whatever works for you, provided that it is safe.
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).
Ghana: fantastic beaches, peaceful, and great markets
We are thinking of going to Ghana but have been unable to get any information about tourism there. Can you suggest any places to visit?
The Travel Editor replies: I have been to Ghana and can vouch for it as a highly attractive destination. It is peaceful, relatively prosperous, orderly and safe. At the same time it has fantastic beaches: at Elmina, on the western side of the country, I stayed in the Coconut Beach Hotel (tel: 00233 42 33648). The town was a picturesque fishing village and also contains the infamous Elmina fort, built by Portuguese seafarers in 1482, and later used as a slave-trading depot. The Gold Coast is even more interesting. Other highlights include the exotic market of Kumasi, which is the capital of the formerly independent Ashanti Kingdom. Shopping here is fantastic: great African woodcarvings from Kumasi can be had from as little as pounds 10. The other place of great interest is the award- winning Kakum National Park, a tropical rainforest which can be viewed from 60m-high canopy walkways.
To arrange an internal tour, you could try contacting a local tour operator. I visited the country last year and took a tour with an Accra-based company called Expert Travel (tel: 00233 21 775498; e-mail: expert@ africaonline.com.gh). A sample one- week trip including b&b accommodation, transport and guides would cost $500-$600 per person in a group of four. One of the few UK tour operators who can tailor-make tours of Ghana for individual travellers is Southern Africa Travel (tel: 01904 692469). Their packages are upmarket and cost around pounds 2,000 for 11 days. Ghana Airways (tel: 0171-499 0201) flies several days a week non-stop between London and Accra; the pleasantly short flying time is six to seven hours and the return fare is pounds 485, including taxes.
All tourists to Ghana holding UK passports need a visa to enter, though these are easily available from the Ghana High Commission, 104 Highgate Hill, London N6 5HE (tel: 0181- 342 8686, opening hours 9.30am-1pm, 2- 4pm). Write to them for an application form. The other thing you must have when you arrive in the country is a valid yellow fever certificate - if you forget this you may have to pay a fine/bribe, or you may not even be allowed in at all.
The Rough Guide to West Africa has an interesting chapter on Ghana, though the current issue is the 1995 edition. If you can wait until November, the next edition will be available for pounds 15.99.
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