Keeping brass in your pocket

Sat, Sep 22, 2012, 01:00

ASK JOAN:All your travel questions answered

Heads up on Down Under

Our son is living in Sydney, and my husband and I want to visit in February 2013. We are planning on going for four weeks and would like to know how to go about getting the best deal on flights and accommodation while exploring as much of the country as possible. We would also be interested in hiring a car. Our budget is limited.

– MT, Wicklow

February is a good time to go to Australia as the weather will be changing from high summer into autumn. From Ireland you can expect to pay around €1,100 return for flights to Sydney with Emirates or Etihad via the UAE.

The key to getting best value for your trip will be to book as much in advance as possible, and be flexible on dates. Get a map out and see where exactly you want to go. Use australia.com, the national tourism website to help you plan.

Book the internal flights at the same time. It is cheaper than waiting until you get there. You can book internal flights online with qantas.com, jetstar.comand virginaustralia.com.

Or, having decided where to go on your trip, you could get the advice of one of the travel agencies that are good on Australia such as trailfinders.ie, usit.ie, abbeytravel.ie, joewalshtours.comand justsplit.ie.

In Sydney you will have your son to take you about. You should do things like take a boat trip around the harbour, do a bridge climb, go to Bondi Beach or walk the Bronte to Bondi Beach coastal path, and visit the Northern beaches. Day trips to the Hunter Valley wine region and the Blue Mountains are also possible.

You could combine car hire and accommodation by doing the classic Australian thing of hiring a camper van and doing a road trip, see Mightycampers.com.aufor good quality vans. For the Red Centre of Australia and to see Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the Olgas it would be best to fly.

The yha.com.auhas good quality private rooms in some of their hostels and this could be a way of keeping your costs down. You could also consider renting an apartment in a nice location for a week or two and use it as a base, ie Port Douglas to explore the Barrier Reef and Daintree forest. See stayz.com.au. Ask your son to check local car hire companies. They may be cheaper than the international brands.

Petty crime in Barcelona

My husband and I, our two boys aged seven, plus my Dad have plans to visit Barcelona at the end of November for four nights.

However, since I started to look for an apartment (the Gracia and Eixample areas had been recommended) the many online stories of pickpocketing and robbery of tourists – on the street, on buses, the metro, in cafes, in hotel foyers, driving a car – seem a bit scary to be honest. One tourism website has 16 safety recommendations for visitors to the city. So we are thinking it is best to avoid Barcelona and perhaps look at one of the smaller towns nearby that might be more suitable for a family who want a nice relaxing holiday. Can you provide a couple of recommendations other than Sitges? – AMD, Dublin

Barcelona is a beautiful city and it is a pity you have been put off by what you read about the petty crime there. It is a problem in Barcelona and one that the Spanish police should tackle more firmly. Many thousands of people visit Barcelona every day without incident, but I can understand your worry with a family group. It is hard to keep an eye on everyone.

I can suggest a few places close to Barcelona to stay and perhaps you could brave it for a day, if just to see Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. A tour bus will give you a good trip around the famous landmarks.

In Barcelona province, on the coast is Vilanova ila Geltrú, a smallish town, with a medieval quarter and nice beaches, see vilanovaturisme.net.

The town of Badalona is very close to the city and has a lovely promenade and beach. My daughter was in the city of Girona a few weeks ago and is still raving about it. It is about an hour from Barcelona. Another lovely city is Tarragona, with great Roman architecture and beaches nearby. See tarragonaturisme.cat.

Stopover in the US

We are travelling to Prince Edward Island next July. Can you suggest the best way to go, as we would like to visit the States either going or coming back. We hope to stay for three weeks.– JP, Belfast

The best way to go depends on whether you travel from Belfast or Dublin. From Belfast, you can take United to Newark and spend some time in New York or travel onwards from there. The flight from Belfast will be around £650 (€805) return and the Prince Edward Island flight from an airport in the New York area (which may not be direct) will cost about $450-550.

If you travel through Dublin, you can take the Delta service to New York, stop there, or go somewhere else, and then fly Delta to Prince Edward Island. A ticket from Dublin to New York and Prince Edward Island (YYG airport code) return, with stopovers in both cities, will cost about €820.

The other advantage of travelling from Dublin is that you will clear US custom and passport control in Terminal 2 and arrive in the US as a domestic passenger.


Send your questions with your name and address to jscales@irishtimes.com