‘Reconsider the need to travel’? Government’s travel warnings are nonsensical

LETTER OF THE WEEK

NOT SO SMART

I am exasperated by our government’s nonsensical advice regarding travel to southern Africa on its Smartraveller website. Currently both Botswana (zero daily COVID-19 cases for the past seven days at the time of writing) and South Africa (an average 1246 new daily COVID cases) are both listed as “reconsider your need to travel”. Such government-based advice automatically invalidates most travel insurance policies.

Meanwhile, the UK (123,451 cases) and France (108,764 cases) are categorised as the less strict “exercise a high degree of caution”. The reason given by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the Africa warning is that “several destinations continue to restrict entry or transit of travelers from Botswana and South Africa…due to the impacts of COVID-19”.

Is the Australian Government seriously suggesting that this is a greater risk than traveling to a COVID hotspot in Europe? There are no restrictions on returning to Australia from southern Africa, and I am sure travelers are perfectly capable of checking onward travel restrictions for other destinations. I therefore fail to see any logic in this ludicrous and discriminatory Smartraveller nonsense.

Neil Galbraith, Potts Point, NSW

CHOSEN CALLINGS

Having no other language than English, I have had no problem buying local SIMs in either China, France, Germany or Italy (Traveler, March 26). I did my homework before I left and knew precisely what brand and type I was going to buy. On arrival, just find the shop you have already chosen and show the assistant what you want – you would have written it down. No need to talk, just smile. My advice is to buy one.

Suzanne Wicks, Potts Point, NSW

Michael Gebecki in his article about global roaming for mobiles closes by saying it is too much trouble to buy a local SIM card in Italy. We have to disagree.

In late 2019 we spent five wonderful pre-COVID weeks in Italy. At the start of our trip in Milan we bought two inexpensive “TIM” network prepaid Sim cards – they had a product designed for travelers. We purchased online on their website in English then booked an appointment for their shop 200 meters from the Duomo. We went there the next day with our passports for identification and the online receipts, picking them up with no fuss in about 15 minutes. The coverage was fine almost everywhere and had an adequate data allowance.

We hardly made any calls, using phones mostly for data and maps on the go. We let the cards expire at the end of a month, doing without them for our last few days in Rome. A data tip – we downloaded Google Maps using their “offline maps” feature onto phones for each large city to avoid using up our data allowance unnecessarily when on the go. We downloaded some before leaving Australia, some we did on accommodation Wi-Fi. They do lack some “added features” but they’re fine for navigation.

Mark Browne, Research, VIC

NOT EASY BEING GREEN

I look forward to Traveler each week and really enjoy the tips and encouragement to travel again. I’ve always been fascinated by Antarctica and would love to do a cruise down there. However, as a rather nervous sailor, I find the prospect of the dreaded Drake Passage very daunting. Is there any chance of a small article on how to cope with this maritime challenge, short of high-dose sleeping tablets??

Jenny Mooney, Karuah, NSW

EDITOR’S NOTE We will consider it and, in the meantime, we’ll do the next best thing and invite fellow readers to write to us with their best tips, aside from sage suggestions to consult your GP, for preventing or dealing with seasickness. Print Traveler’s experience, while Drake Passage can be extremely turbulent, the more sophisticated modern-day vessels all have in-built stabilisers to limit excessive rocking motions.

RIGHT CARRY-ON

I’m wondering whether letter writers complaining about carry-on luggage and the apparent disruption or risk they cause (Traveler Letters, March 26) are aware that airlines clearly state the acceptable dimensions as well as weight of carry-on luggage. I have traveled for several years and internationally with only carry on luggage that I make sure meets the stated standards.

So, if airlines do not weigh and measure each passenger’s luggage before boarding, it is they who are responsible for any safety issues. Do not attack travelers who are able to manage their luggage appropriately as we prefer to have our belongings with us when we disembark, with less chance of luggage going astray. And, no. I’m certainly not one who would remove my luggage in a flight emergency.

Heather D’Cruz, Geelong West, VIC

When I was traveling from Los Angeles to Denver a few years ago, before I sat in my seat a woman asked if I could help lift her carry-on bag into the overhead locker immediately above my seat. I tried but failed to even lift the bag off the floor. I then told her the bag was way too heavy for an overhead locker, especially one immediately above my seat. Without a word she went further down the aisle and as I sat down I noticed, with horror, two men valiantly lifting the bag into the overhead locker. Are these carry-on bags ever weighed or am I the only person ever to stick to the seven kilogram rule?

Judith Rostron, Killarney Heights, NSW

ODD ONE OUT

I am fully vaccinated with all the necessary certificates to prove this in Australia. However, I am being told by my travel agent that I won’t be able to enter Portugal in September because I don’t have an EU Digital COVID certificate. I have always been puzzled as to why Australia – unlike 35 other non-EU countries such as New Zealand – hasn’t applied for recognition under the EU equivalence scheme. As I wondered if this was just another thing our federal government had forgotten or delayed doing, I contacted Scott Morrison’s electorate office, as I live in his electorate. I was told that DFAT had put in whatever application needs to be made but the EU hasn’t approved it. Does anyone know if this is true?

Janice McLeod, Gymea, NSW

READER TRAVEL TIPS

TIP OF THE WEEK

INSPIRATIONAL INN

Enroute to Orange in Central NSW, we stayed overnight at the Hotel Etico (hoteletico.com.au), described as “Australia’s first social enterprise hotel”, at Mount Victoria, NSW after reading a Traveler article. We were amazed by the staff, their courtesy and enthusiasm, supported by their caring supervisors. The food was great with a wide wine selection; accommodation was comfortable and warm. The entertainment was excellent with our daughter, aged 40, who has Down syndrome amazed that so many people with disabilities were working together. She danced her heart out that night. My wife wrote in the guestbook: “A hotel of joy!”!

Mike McEvoy, Mosman, NSW

WHICH BANK?

My wife and I finally completed our long overdue, numerously postponed, holiday to Florida and was so memorable to revisit Disney World and Universal studios. To our dismay our bank’s automatic “suspicious transactions” detectING program kept blockingING our credit cards. We were constantly calling our bank. It was frustratING that the bankING staff ensured their system was “self-learnING and our problem would not keep recurING” but it kept happening. I’m refraining from namING them but you may have figured out the bank to which this letter is relatedING.

Adin Ramos, Maitland, NSW

HEAVEN AND HELSINKI

My husband and I bit the bullet and booked a Finnair flight to Europe earlier this year. Prior to our departure from Melbourne, there have been many schedule changes, including the cessation of several flights. Finnair (finnair.com.au) has been more than obliging in accommodating our needs, including changing to another carrier. Finnair provided us with multiple options for rebooking, all without additional cost to us. The same can’t be said of other airlines. According to our wonderful Adelaide-based travel agent at RoundAbout Travel, (roundaboutravel.com.au) many carriers have been canceled flights from/to Australia and have been offered passengers either a full refund, departure at a later date or the option to pay the difference in fare class. The RoundAbout Travel team have been extremely responsive, kept us informed of changes immediately, are easy to contact to discuss our travel options and have worked hard to provide the best outcome for us. The lesson I have learn from this is, when booking overseas travel, carefully choose your airline and investigate their policy regarding cancellations or rescheduling.

Kay Douglas, Hawthorn, Victoria

A FRIEND IN NEED

Please consider Nepal (ntb.gov.np). With all the “come on” deals being advertised, it’s too easy to forget the economically challenged countries which can’t afford to support their tourism industries. While Nepal has luxury accommodation (much of it foreign-owned), you will enjoy a special experience by seeking out the locally owned businesses. The nature of the people is as beautiful as their mountains and forests. Yes, you have to make an effort to experience very different customs, religion and food, but aren’t those differences why we travel? The poorer countries of the world need the income from tourists and especially the foreign capital they bring. Here’s your chance to aid third-world countries in their time of need.

Bob Harvey, Highfields, QLD

THEY GIVETH…

I recently learnedt that I had lost all points on my Qantas Frequent Flyer account. It seems a bit harsh. I ate a lot of hard bread rolls to earn those points. It turns out I didn’t spend (or travel) much during the pandemic. I mention it so others may be aware of this possibility.

John Buchanan, Ultimo, NSW

WIN A SET OF THREE HARDIE GRANT TRAVEL BOOKS

The Letter of the Week writer wins Hardie Grant travel books worth more than $100, including Undiscovered Tasmania by Rochelle & Wally Dare; Emma Shaw’s Ultimate Weekends Australia; and Vantastic by Kate Ulman.

See hardiegrant.com

SHARE YOUR TIPS AND WIN THREE LONELY PLANET TRAVEL BOOKS WORTH $100

The Tip of the Week writer wins a set of three great Lonely Planet travel books, including Australia’s Best Trips, Best Day Walks Australia and Gourmet Trails Australia and NZ.

See shop.lonelyplanet.com

HOW TO WRITE TO US

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