Ask Joan: Your travel queries answered

Canada, Santa Monica, cross border travel from Spain

We have booked to fly to Toronto in mid-May to visit family. We will be flying out of Toronto at the beginning of June. While there, we would love to take a train journey, to be away for not more than a week. We are on a budget. Any suggestions would be great.
- PD, Dublin

From Toronto you have a number of options for rail journeys. You could go across the country in a week to see the Rockies, however it is not cheap. The trip would cost around CAD$1,000 (€666) each, at the lowest Escape Fare. Heading east, the cities of Montreal and Ottawa are lovely and you could spend time exploring them. Montreal is very modern and Ottawa is more historic. Fares are a lot more reasonable, as low as CAD$80, as it is only a six-hour journey.

Travelling further east would take you into the Maritimes of Canada, and Nova Scotia, which in early summer should be really nice. Or from Toronto you could also take a trip to one of nature's great spectacles, Niagara Falls, which is less than two hours away and would cost under CAD$50 return. The national rail company has a series of rail packages that you can book online. To give you an indication of cost, a week-long trip across Canada with accommodation will cost around CAD$2,000 (€1,332). The shorter Gems of French Canada, which would include Montreal, Ottawa and Niagara Falls, over four days, costs from CAD$899 (€599).

John Steel Rail Journeys arranges rail packages all around Canada and it's worth looking at what they do too. See

I am holidaying in France in July but my flight lands in Girona, Spain. My family and I will be hiring a car at the airport. The car hire company has informed me that I will have to pay extra charges and insurance as I will be taking the car out of Spain. Is this true? I have never been told this before and can't find an answer anywhere.
- KR, Dublin


Yes, you may have to pay additional insurance for taking the car into France from Spain. The cost varies, for example Enterprise Atesa charge €50 for up to 10 days and €80 from 11 to 27 days; Goldcar charge €9 per day and there is no charge from Europcar.

The four rental companies at Girona Airport are Enterprise Atesa, Goldcar, Hertz and Europcar. You can find details here: to contact them directly by telephone or email. Check that there will be breakdown cover for France.

We're three students based in Dublin and Belfast and are hoping to organise a trip to Los Angeles to visit friends in June 2014, but finances are becoming an issue. We need flights and accommodation in the Santa Monica area on a student budget (as little money as possible). We're open to all possibilities and I was wondering what our options are. Can L A be done on the cheap?
- KB, Dublin

Travelling from Dublin is less expensive than going from Belfast or London. has an additional flight via Newark from June and I have seen fares of €501 return to Los Angeles. The cheapest accommodation, apart from bunking in with friends, is the Hostelling International Hostel, around €35 per night each. There are some budget hotels in Santa Monica, see

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