Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts

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Winter with my parents

We want to take my elderly parents somewhere warm this winter, but they don't want a long flight. We have heard that Tenerife is a no- go area; are all the islands like that?

Jenny Smith


Jill Crawshaw replies: There are areas south of Tenerife island and Playa de las Americas with wall-to-wall pubs, discos and gay bars that I would not advise. Los Christianos is more tranquil, but parts of it are very steep.

The capital, Santa Cruz, is more Spanish and has an excellent museum, but is not offered in tour brochures and has no beach.

Puerto de la Cruz, in the Oratava Valley, is a favourite for older people, with its Old Town, botanical gardens, shops and cafes, mini-golf and other sedate activities. There is only a black rocky beach (but an excellent lido) and the resort is hilly; choose a hotel near the centre. This side of the island is more cloudy in the afternoons.

While Grand Canary shares the attractive scenery of the mountains north of Tenerife, it also has similar urbanisation around Playa del Ingles. Puerto Rico has the sunniest winter but its hotels are on a steep-sided bay.

Fuerteventura island is becoming popular and is not yet overdeveloped, but I suspect it is too blustery. The most sheltered resort is Caleta da Fusta.

Although Lanzarote doesn't appeal to everybody, its resorts, hotels and villas have a local style and quality absent elsewhere. Its best natural asset is the Timanfaya National Park. Resorts? Playa Blanca is quiet, possibly too quiet in winter. Playa de los Pocillos and Matagorda are tranquil. Costa Teguise is modern and sophisticated (ie rather lacking character), but has a good beach. I think Tenerife's Puerto de la Cruz and Lanzarote's resorts would appeal to you all the most.

l Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.

Is it ethical to go swimming with dolphins?

I have read about tour companies who offer the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins. I would love to try, but I am concerned about the ethics of such holidays. Could you advise me as to whether they're `OK' or not?

Jean Gill, Taunton

The travel editor replies: As yet there is no general consensus as to the effect of this type of tourism on dolphins, or indeed on people.

For example, bodies such as the Marine Conservation Society (tel: 01989 566017) claim that dolphins are wild animals and that deliberate attempts to interact with them can interfere with their natural behaviour. In America, where feeding and swimming with wild dolphins has been outlawed, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration claims that some people have needed medical treatment for bites and body strikes by dolphins.

On the other hand, respected tour companies such as Dolphin Reef of Eilat (tel: 00972 7637 4747) which also offers educational and therapeutic programmes for children, says humans and dolphins benefit from contact, and that wild dolphins will often approach humans, of their own accord, to play. Injuries are rare and attacks unheard of.

An environmentally minded alternative might be to become a short-term volunteer on one of Earthwatch International's dolphin research programmes. Earthwatch currently has several projects worldwide, including one looking into the impact of tourism on dolphins. For more information contact Earthwatch (tel: 01865 311600 or email

My partner thinks foreign insects are `dirty'

My partner has a phobia about insects, which he describes as "dirty". He refuses to come on holiday to Cuba with me because he thinks he might catch something. Is this just a neurosis?

Jane Rillings, West Yorkshire

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: I don't think that fear of catching diseases from flies or cockroaches, or indeed any particular health risk, should rule out a visit to Cuba. It is known that if food is exposed to flies for any length of time, contamination will result in a gut infection if it is eaten. This can happen anywhere. The danger is not the insects but the way in which food is handled and prepared. Poor hygiene and food storage are the usual reasons for serious gut problems in travellers.

Following the usual advice on taking care with what you eat and drink will reduce the risks. If you do get diarrhoea, you must keep up a good fluid intake, whether or not you use anti-diarrhoeal tablets. Many travellers like to carry oral rehydration salts (eg Dioralyte) which help to rehydrate rapidly and replace lost electrolytes.

Diseases spread by biting insects such as mosquitoes are a concern. Malaria is not a problem in Cuba, but Dengue fever has reappeared; 800 cases were reported in Santiago de Cuba, in the south, in June, the first outbreak in Cuba since 1981. Dengue can make you quite ill, but I have heard of no deaths among travellers. If you visit this part of the island, use mosquito repellents throughout the day.

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