Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Sorry mum – I’m horrified at how I treated you while travelling

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I agree with your correspondent (Traveller Letters, March 4) in that, yes, there was a sense of freedom when travelling all those years ago with less convenient communication. I used to write a long newsy letter to my mother every week and probably said more than I would in a tense phone conversation (aware it was costing me over £1 a minute). However, now that I’m a mother, looking back I realise I only spoke on the phone to her twice in three-and-a-half years. I can empathise with how she must have felt and I’m horrified.

Judith Rostron, Killarney Heights, NSW


Further to Michele Thomas’s letter (Traveller Letters, March 4), I too recall when travelling through Europe with my then new wife in 1965, a copy of Europe on $5 a Day being a “must have”. So much so that we consulted it daily as we headed off for another day of travel and adventure in our well worn 1957 Kombi van. Younger readers may not be aware of the quaint “Post Restante” system of the day, whereby you advised your family of your anticipated arrival in a town some two to three weeks hence and on arrival make a bee line for the local post office to collect your mail and/or Kodak slides after their round trip to New York for processing.

Brian Payne, Taree, NSW



Ben Groundwater’s piece on the authentic Irish Pub (Traveller, March 4) brought back memories of travels in our campervan around Ireland with our children. One night we pulled up in front of a pub much like the one that your illustrator Jamie Brown drew for this article. Behind us the moon reflected over Galway Bay where there was hardly a ripple. We entered the pub with our children to be greeted by warmth and friendly banter. Later that night, as our children slept in our van, we spent a memorable night with a mixture of locals and travellers. Three young Americans on their way to a folk festival gifted us with a short performance of their music. My eyes still mist over when I think of the young woman and her rendition of Ain’t Misbehavin. Great craic.

Jeanette O’Brien St Leonards, Vic


In your writer’s Kristie Kellahan’s review of her Amtrak train trip from Boston to New York (Traveller, March 4) she describes it as an enjoyable slice of slow travel. The trip takes a little over four hours. When you factor in time spent getting to and from the airports and to and from the CBD areas, flying could easily total four hours at considerably higher cost. I enjoyed seeing a review of a train trip but describing it as slow? Not for this traveller.

Max Oliver, Belrose, NSW


During a recent trip to Canada, a snowboard bag did not accompany us on our Westjet flight from Cranbrook to Calgary. It also did not arrive the next day as promised. Instead, it was taken or stolen from the carousel where it did laps on its own, unclaimed with the airline responsible not ensuring it was safely in their possession for transport to us in Banff. We had an Apple Air Tag in it so we could see it travelling in the opposite direction hundreds of kilometres away. The airline contacted police over the theft but, without search warrants, they were powerless to reclaim the bag. It will be interesting to see the consequences if you are the type of person to take matters into your own hands and retrieve what’s rightfully yours and you have tracking technology to show exactly where your possessions are.

Thi-Anh Smith, Lennox Head, NSW


Michael Gebicki’s column on speeding fines in Europe (Traveller, January 9) brought to mind a traffic fine I received in Florence, Italy. It seems we drove during peak hour in a bus only lane but the road signs were only in Italian. The infringement notice arrived via the hire car company months later. I asked an Italian friend to translate, who advised we could either pay or object but risk being fined at least double if still found guilty. So it was paid because, like Michael, we didn’t want any issues when entering the EU next time.

Keith Fagg, Belmont, Vic


Mark Barrow, who was advised by his car rental company that he’d been caught speeding in Germany (Traveller Letters, March 4) is worried that he’d not heard from the relevant authorities about the fine he anticipates he’s up for. Don’t worry Mark, they’ll get you in the end as I learned to my chagrin from similar incidents. They have up to 12 months to notify you, and that advice usually arrives here after the cut off date when escalating penalty charges kick in. Many years ago I ignored such letters but nowadays, I always pay up as I imagine being rebuffed at any EU border, no matter where the offence occurred.

P.G. Price, Southbank, Vic


On our recent cruise on the Grand Princess out of Melbourne we quickly discovered that the much loved coffee card, which provided 15 barista coffees for around $3 per coffee, instead of $6.50 each has now been discontinued. Even though these coffees are not particularly great in quality and my wife and I only had one each per day, passengers must now fork out for a Princess Plus package including alcoholic drinks at $65 per person per day, or a soft drink package at $45 per person per day, in order to access inclusive coffees. It beggars belief that Princess Cruises can think this is reasonable. It is a further imposition, as everyone sharing a stateroom must purchase the packages. The only beneficiaries from this innovation were the excellent cafes in the New Zealand ports who instead received our business.

Mark Berg, Caringbah South, NSW


Cyclone Gabriel upended our recent trip to New Zealand, with the Napier Art Deco Festival as the focus. In over 20 overseas holidays over decades, seldom have we had to change travel arrangements. For New Zealand, we had booked eight stays. Post-cyclone, we changed or cancelled six, shortened a hire-car booking and rescheduled a full-day Northern Explorer train trip – all at no cost. We brought our return flight forward several days at a fee of 10,000 frequent flyer points each. Our disappointment at missing some anticipated highlights was nothing compared to the experiences of many Kiwis. The flexibility of the travel industry was impressive, helping all to respond to the increasing extremes of climate change.

Keith & Ro Gove, Hawthorn, Vic



During a recent return visit to Thailand I enjoyed a wonderful day excursion rail trip from Bangkok down to the coastal resort city of Hua Hin. This round trip cost only the equivalent of $5 in third class with fans and open windows to enhance viewing. My choice of travel followed the detailed, reliable and frequently updated advice from British expat Richard Barrow responsible for the independent website thaitrainguide.com He’s also active on Twitter posting from many of his own trips including regular services, overnight sleepers and even steam train excursions. Thai rail is highly recommended for affordable and authentic cultural tourism experiences.

Pablo Bateson, Katoomba, NSW


In your story, “Plane frustrating” (Traveller, Jauary 16) there was no mention of the problem of lost luggage. Virgin Australia lost our check-in luggage on a domestic flight last November and were refusing to compensate because we couldn’t produce receipts for the items in the case. They then offered a “once only offer” as a “measure of goodwill” of $250. When I refused and threatened to take it further, they then doubled the offer. That amount still didn’t cover the cost of our items and suitcase but I accepted it as the process had already taken two months. The case has never been found and no apology offered. My tip is to keep receipts or take hand-luggage only.

Justin Kranz, Eltham, Vic


To minimise my air miles, I am planning to travel in Europe by carbon-friendly surface transport. Independently booking trains and ferries is challenging but it may help others to be aware of the time zone glitch. When you search for a train service, you expect local time, but your computer or app may display it as AEST (or wherever you are booking from). For long or overnight journeys, the wrong date of departure or arrival may even show. Even after adjusting my computer to CET (Central European Time), as advised by Eurail, I repeatedly found the same journey listed in two places on the same screen with a two-hour discrepancy. Some reservation services do not suffer this problem but beware.

Angela Michaelis, Balmain, NSW


I’m wondering what experience other readers have had when flying long haul flights and using a CPAP device [a machine using air pressure to keep breathing airways open while you sleep]. I have a flight booked to the UK in June and on the long legs plan to use CPAP. I will be flying with KLM, Malaysian and United Airlines, and as far as I can see, they insist that I bring acceptable batteries to last 150 per cent of the trip. However, my battery will last five hours and cost $450. If I were to follow their instructions I would be carrying another two batteries which are weight and cost prohibitive. Qantas, on the other hand, has a simple “CPAP Travel Clearance Form” and will try to seat you next in-seat power. Why can’t other airlines do the same?

Kimmy Brooks. Woodbridge, Tas


I have it on two good authorities – someone who was hacked and another who occupies a senior role at an airport – that using USB charge points at some airports around the world can render travellers liable to credit card and password theft. The solution? Carry a range of mains adapters and a charger so that you can still recharge but your network remains under your control. Presumably, some free WiFi services present the same risk.

Ronald Watts, Newcastle, NSW

Editor’s note: You can find out more about this scam, known as “juice jacking” in this article.


Earlier this year Malaysia enacted a 10 Ringgit per night bed tax for foreign, visiting, passport holders. This is cash collected at the accommodation property. Despite a 90 day free visa for Australians entering Malaysia, this seems like an (expensive) visa by stealth. Being cash payment, and in a place that has a reputation for marginal practices at times, one has to wonder where the money will end up.

Peter Surgenor, Lakes Entrance, Vic


We give preference to letters of 100 words or less and they may be edited for space, legal or other reasons. Please use full sentences, don’t use textspeak and don’t include attachments. Email us at travellerletters@traveller.com.au and, importantly, include your name, address and phone number.

The Letter of the Week writer wins three Hardie Grant travel books. See hardiegrant.com

The Tip of the Week writer wins a set of three Lonely Planet travel books. See shop.lonelyplanet.com

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