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The Independent Travel
Why do I get ill when I fly?

For the last 15 years I have felt extremely ill when travelling by plane. I always go breathless, clammy, shakey and my heart races. I thought it must be a panic attack, except that I am not in the slightest bit afraid of flying. In fact I enjoy it. But in the meanwhile, what can I do? I don't want to give up flying because I am only 68.

J A Tidmarsh

Leicestershire

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: My first impression would also have been some sort of panic attack, as this follows closely the symptoms you describe. When we are in situations that may make us nervous and that we feel we need to escape from, the body releases adrenaline which has the effect of speeding the heart and raising blood pressure - the so called "flight and fight" reaction. Are the attacks anything to do with altitude, in other words does it come on before take off or when you have reached maximum altitude? The high altitude flown does not these days cause problems as all cabins are pressurised. However, it is not generally appreciated that even in a pressurised cabin, one is in an environment equivalent to being at an altitude of 6,000 feet. This means that there is not quite the same concentration of oxygen around as at sea level and certain individuals may be sensitive to this lower level. In particular, anyone with chronic heart or lung diseases should see there GP before flying. Sitting in the confined conditions of an aircraft seat for long stretches can also make you feel a bit rough and can also be quite claustrophobic. For a healthier flight, avoid alcohol or a large meal at a time when you do not usually eat. Try to keep the feet moving to prevent swelling and take occasional strolls. For long flights when it may be good to sleep, a short acting sleeping tablet would do no harm.

Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8, tel: 0181 889 7014), a shop which travellers can visit for all their needs, including medical advice and vaccinations.

Cheap holiday in Senegal

Please could you provide me with information on the cheapest way to get to Senegal for a holiday there, around August or September? Once there, I would also like to find out more about the country and try and put together my own itinerary.

Suresh Jegananthan

Reading

The travel editor replies: From the UK there are no cheap charter flights to Senegal, and your best bet would almost certainly be to pick up a charter to neighbouring Gambia instead - and then make your way by land from there

Flight-only deals to The Gambia in mid-summer can already be booked for pounds 249 (through the Gambia Experience, tel: 01703 730888), though if you are prepared to wait until the last minute you can get a return flight for below pounds 200 - a serious bargain for a six-hour flight. Travelling from the Gambia to any part of Senegal is a matter of taxis and buses: time- consuming but cheap. From Banjul to Dakar for example will take you an entire day (and you'll need to watch your belongings carefully on that trip).

If you fancy a resort holiday in Senegal, Club Med (0171 581 1161) can offer all-inclusive one week stays at Les Almadies, including flights to Senegal from the UK, for pounds 964 in peak season.

Are Turkish gulet cruises worth considering?

We are interested in Turkish gulet cruising, but have heard that they can be little more than booze cruises? What do you think?

R Batty

London

Jill Crawshaw replies: For those who don't know, a gulet is a replica wooden sponge-fishermen's boat, and they sail off the coast of Turkey. They carry around 18 passengers, are sail powered (they also have engines), with none of the luxury of "real" cruises.

In choosing a gulet cruise there are several factors to consider: the make-up of the party, the itinerary, the time of the year and the degree of comfort or luxury you expect.

Gulets carry up to 16 or 18 passengers in small cabins, so you are likely to be in very close proximity with the rest of the party day and night (yes, the walls are thin).

Do ring up to try to find out the composition of the party - beer swilling rowdies could blight your holiday before it starts.

The most common itineraries sail from Marmaris and Bodrum, and follow pretty much the same routes past Gumbet, Bitez, the Gulf of Knidos, Datca and Dalyan. In peak season you may find so many boats in "undiscovered coves" that you'd find it quieter in Piccadilly Circus.

A new route for 1998 (from Thomson Holidays) sails even further to Kekova, Kale and as far as Kemer; I have seen very few boats heading as far east as this.

I would try to avoid the crowds and heat of peak season; May and June are delightful months, fares are lower and I find that the crew can get grumpy towards the end of the season.

Obviously costs are relevant; a regular seven-day cruise will cost in the region of pounds 375 - pounds 475 for a week, pounds 469-pounds 669 for 14 nights, including flights, transfers and all meals. A 14-night de luxe cruise costs in the region of pounds 549-pounds 749 each - I'm quoting Thomson Holidays prices (0990 502588).

Decide on the degree of comfort you need. On deluxe boats you can expect air conditioning (of sorts), your own tiny shower/WC cubicle and larger cabins, with more storage space.

On these luxury cruises wine is included with meals, though you have to "arrange" for tea, coffee and alcoholic drinks to be stocked. The crew, however, earn much of their wages selling alcoholic drinks to passengers, and they take a dim view if you bring out your duty-frees for your own refreshment.

As well as the major operators, some Turkish specialists offer gulet cruising including; Tapestry Holidays (0181 742 0055); Westminster Classic Tours (0171 404 3738); Club Savile (0171 625 3001) and Blue Cruises (0181 968 7770). I find the Turkish Tourist Office (0171 355 4207) to be helpful.

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.

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