Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts
Sunday 02 November 1997
I have booked a holiday in a remote part of the Lake District for Christmas and the New Year. Is there a travel insurance policy that would cover cancellation if severe weather were to prevent me from travelling?
The travel editor replies: There are now some travel insurance policies which cover travel within the UK. Direct Line (0181 680-2121) and World Cover Direct (0800 365121) are among those who can offer such policies. As long as your holiday is at least 25 miles from home, and as long as you have pre-booked at least two nights of accommodation, then you can take out a policy that will cover cancellation.
US internal flights
I am visiting New York this winter and hope to visit a few other North American cities at the same time. Ideally, I'd like to see Montreal, Chicago, and Louisville (in Kentucky).
The travel editor replies: US airpasses are quite complicated. Obviously you need to be careful that the carrier you choose flies to the places you want to go to. But note that only two carriers (Continental and United) issue passes that include Canada. Probably the Continental pass, at pounds 420 for six sectors, is best for you. You need six rather than four because two of your journeys will require a change of plane en route. Note that the price of pounds 420 is only available if you are flying to America on a British carrier, or Continental or Air Canada. Otherwise you'll pay more. To obtain this, call an agent such as Trailfinders (Tel: 0171 937 5400).
Motorhomes in the US
We would like to investigate the possibility of hiring a motorhome in the US and touring with our two young children. Can you give me more information?
T Normand, Portsmouth
Jill Crawshaw replies: In North America, motorhomes - or Recreational Vehicles, RVs, as they call them - tend to be larger and more luxurious than European versions. But despite their size, they are surprisingly easy to master with automatic transmission, power steering and braking, as well as cruise control. Their size varies from around 18 to 30 feet, and you can expect air conditioning, hot running water, showers, flush WCs, fridges, freezers, and even televisions and stereos.
Many British Tour Operators (Jetsave, British Airways Holidays, Premier Holidays and others) offer fly-drive holidays using motorhomes in the US, though you can book them independently in the US.
The best size for a family of two adults and two young children is the Compact C21 Motorhome which costs from around pounds 300 -pounds 600 a week to hire, depending on dates and locations. The cheapest areas are Florida and the East Coast, with the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas the most expensive.
To this you have to add air fares, possibly state taxes, and road tolls. Most firms allow 500 miles free mileage, and though the motor homes are gas guzzlers, petrol only costs a third of the UK price. You may also like to hire bicycles to ride around locally if you want to stay in one site for a while. You also have to pay campground fees, which can vary from about pounds 5 to pounds 30 a night, depending on the facilities. The campgrounds are generally far roomier than most in this country, usually with pristine facilities. KOA, (Kampground of America), the largest private organisation with 600 North American sites, offers a discount if you book ahead from the UK through certain operators. My own favourite sites, however, are the less organised public ones, usually situated in National Parks, though it is essential to book ahead for these in the peak season.
If all this sounds complicated, don't be put off - I have enjoyed some great motorhome holidays, particularly those exploring the Rocky Mountains and National Parks from Denver, Salt Lake City, and Phoenix.
Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.
Can I get vaccinations in developing countries?
I've been told that it is possible to buy drugs over the counter and get vaccinations once you arrive in Third World countries (rather than doing it at home before you leave). The advantage of doing it abroad is that everything will be much cheaper. Is there anything basically wrong with this idea?
Dr Larry Goodyer replies: It is generally not a good idea to purchase medication abroad if it can be helped, and vaccination should definitely be completed before leaving the UK. There are a number of reasons for buying any medicines you anticipate using before departures; not the least being that it may be difficult to read any instruction or warnings accompanying the medicine if printed in another language. Also it may be difficult to explain your requirements to a pharmacist or doctor due to language barriers.
Another potential worry is the quality of medicines available in some Third World countries. There are parts of Africa, for instance, where counterfeiting of medicines has been a problem. The packaging and drugs may look authentic but they contain no active ingredients. In some cases the manufacturing and quality control processes of locally produced medicines is inadequate. There was a case recently reported in South America where locally produced paludrine anti-malarial tablets were found to contain either too little of the drug or amounts far in excess of the required amount.
In the case of vaccinations it would make little sense to receive them when abroad, as the idea is to complete the required course so as to be adequately protected before travel.
It is therefore really a false economy to purchase medicines in the country of destination unless you are very familiar with local availability and reliable sources. If you do need medicines while overseas it is worth asking at an embassy for a recommended supplier.
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.
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