Tuscany: Beaches, wineries, and unmissable cities

The natural beauty of Tuscany, a region in central Italy, is every bit as mesmerising and varied as the picture postcards suggest, from the cypress-lined olive groves, to the wineries, to the long, untainted golden sands and beaches along the coast. This is a land where a gentle drive or peaceful saunter through the undulating countryside is an absolute joy, as you look down on an isolated farmhouse sitting amid swathes of lush green fields or over a sea of golden sunflowers beneath the rich blue sky. Yet a visit to Tuscany is far from complete without exploring some of the region’s magnificent cities, where you can witness the birth of Renaissance art or the splendour of Italian architecture – and every city is as individual and unique as the last.

Volterra

Sitting dramatically on a hilltop, the ancient city of Volterra is arguably one of the most impressive day trip destinations in the world. Hidden behind a cinnamon-brown wall of sienna stone, Volterra is – in literature at least – a city of vampires, a reputation you’ll appreciate as you wander with your partner through the eerily silent streets, bathed in the dark shadows of traditional Italian houses. From the grand Piazza dei Priori, encircled by medieval buildings, to the breath-taking Roman amphitheatre, Volterra reflects two thousand years of history yet is so small that it can be easily navigated on foot in a day. In truth, though, no guidebook can do this city justice or enable the tourist to soak up the remarkable atmosphere; a personal visit is absolutely essential.

Pisa

Famous for Torre pendente di Pisa, Pisa is an eternally popular university city. Arrive early and you can appreciate Earth’s most famous leaning tower without the hordes and take a more leisurely climb to the top for a view over the Piazza dei Miracoli and the surrounding buildings. Beyond the Square of Miracles, you’ll adore exploring the narrow streets with their smattering of traditional craft shops or the Piazza dei Cavaleiri, once the headquarters of the Knights of St Stephen. The city museums – the Opera del Duomo and Museo delle Sinopie – are also well worth a visit.

Florence

It was here that the Renaissance was born, but Florence is not a city only for die-hard art enthusiasts. With a fine collection of museums, churches and palaces housing some of the world’s most prized artistic works, art and architecture blend seamlessly. Among the must-see sites are the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, whose white-edged terracotta dome dominates the skyline, the library of San Lorenzo, with its exhibition of Michelangelo’s works, and the Ponte Vecchio which spans the River Arno. An afternoon appreciating the Giardini di Boboli is a great outdoor activity, with its statue of Andromeda and other fine sculptures.

So… when do you want to go?
These are only three of Tuscany’s finest cities and with others – Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca and Arezzo – to explore, you’ll be spoilt for choice on your visit to Italy’s most beautiful region.

The average high temperature in June is a pleasant 27C (81F), rising to 30C (86F) in July and August. However, July and August are peak times, so visit either in June if you can, or September, when the temperature high is still 27C (81F) and the queues are a little shorter.

Vienna: The city of music, cake, and so much more!

A couple of members of our team have just come back from a wonderful few days in Vienna. Here, they tell us all about it, and share the best places to go.

Without doubt, Vienna, the capital of Austria, is one of the most charming cities in Europe, if not the world.

Often described as the “City of Music”, it unsurprisingly has a wealth of entertainment for music lovers, and has been synonymous with classical music for centuries. MozartBeethoven and Strauss all lived here and in fact, the former homes of both Mozart and Beethoven are open to the public – both are highly recommend places to visit whilst in the city (although maybe not so much if you have trouble with stairs, because Beethoven’s apartment is a somewhat challenging climb up four flights of a spiral stone staircase!). However, your reward is to see one of Beethoven’s own pianos, complete with five pedals!

There are also several venues where you can watch a live classical music concert. If you are familiar with the world famous New Year’s Day concert from Vienna, it takes place at the Musikverein in central Vienna. The “Golden Hall” of the Musikverein is absolutely spectacular, with its ornate chandeliers and architecture, and many don’t consider a visit to Vienna complete without watching a concert performed here. The “Mozart in Historical Costumes” concert is especially good and even includes some light-hearted opera! Vienna also has a beautiful opera house where tickets to performances are readily available on most days, and in the evenings you can watch a live video feed from the opera house, free of charge, on a big screen outside.

Of course, Vienna has much more to offer than just music.

Lovers of paintings will appreciate the Museum of Art History, where you can see the works of famous artists such as Raphael and Rubens, or you can head on over the road to the Albertina to see original paintings by Monet and Picasso.

Architecturally, Vienna is stunning, reflecting its imperial past, and almost every road in the city centre has beautiful buildings for you to admire. The Ringstrasse, which is the main road encircling the city centre, is lined with numerous awe-inspiring palaces, and many of the city’s biggest hotels are also converted palaces! There are lots of beautiful parks too, and the old town doesn’t get too crowded, making this a relaxed city break. The temperature is pleasant to walk around, without being too hot: the average high through the summer is around 27C (81F).

At the centre of the city is Stephansdom, the beautiful St. Stephen’s Cathedral, from which you can grab a stunning view of the city from its steeple. This is a particularly good landmark to use as a reference point when searching for potential places to stay: because it is at the heart of Vienna, any hotel within the vicinity is in an ideal location – particularly if you wish to discover Vienna by foot (which is widely considered to be the best way, despite there being an excellent transportation system, including an easily accessible tram).

Foodies will be in their element in Vienna because the cuisine is exceptional. First, there’s the famous Weiner Schnitzel (head to Figlmüller if you want to experience the real deal – a massive schnitzel that overhangs the plate – but you’ll have to book ahead, because it understandably gets very busy). Then there’s the delicious and world-famous Sachertorte, a chocolate cake with apricot jam created in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich; if you want to experience the truly authentic version, then the Hotel Sacher is the only place to go!

If cake is something you like – and let’s face it who doesn’t! – then you will be in heaven once you see the selection of freshly prepared cakes on offer in the cafes all over the city.  There are so many to choose from, but if you like history then you can visit Café Centralwhere Sigmund Freud, Trotsky, Lenin used to visit, or Café Mozart which serves not only the most delicious cakes, but also a wonderful breakfast. The hot chocolate there is probably the best in the world, and the delicious brioche croissant will set you up nicely for the day.

The cafes in Vienna are coffee houses above all else though, so make sure you know what you want to drink before you enter one, as these specialist coffee connoisseurs will stare at you blankly if you simply order a coffee! The true traditional way to drink coffee in Vienna, and still the most popular way today, is the “Melange” (oddly pronounced in a French way). It is milky, and similar to a cappuccino. At the best coffee houses it is served in a quaint cup and saucer, usually with a small chocolate or nougat on the side and always with a glass of water as well, so you definitely won’t leave the café thirsty…unless you eat too much cake that is!

Inspiration: Take a holiday in the sun in Zante

You may never have been to Zante, also known as Zakynthos, but if you’ve ever flicked through a European holiday brochure you have almost certainly seen a photograph of this island, the most southerly of the Greek Ionian islands.

Smugglers Cove is what the island of Zante is most famous for, and it’s perhaps not difficult to understand why. Its beautiful azure blue water against its pale sand makes this beautiful cove picturesque enough, but it has an added and very unique feature in the form of a shipwreck!

Back in 1980, a ship smuggling cigarettes was being pursued by the Greek Navy when it hit rocks in bad weather, and the remains of the resulting shipwreck are still on the beach it washed up on several decades later.

Only accessible by boat, Smugglers Cove is a must-see sight when visiting Zante and so organised trips are widely available. There are no shops or facilities in this small cove though, so visitors must remember to bring (and take back with them!) anything which they may need while there, such as drinks and parasols for shelter from the strong Greek sunshine.

Temperatures can be quite warm and sunny, reaching 27-30C (80–86F) between June and September, so you’ll definitely need your sunscreen!

Something else which Zante is famous for is its Loggerhead turtles, of the species “Caretta Caretta”. These endangered turtles choose the beaches of Zante as their nesting ground year after year and so some beaches around the bay of Lagana are often guarded between the months of June until October and access may be either totally prohibited or subject to restrictions such as where you can sunbathe.

There is still plenty of accessible beach for sun-worshippers though, so these localised restrictions are a small price to pay for the on-going preservation of these amazing animals and the possibility of seeing one if you are lucky, when out on a “Turtle Spotting” boat trip, or even when relatively close to the shore on your own pedalo!

These two unique and fascinating attractions aside, the glorious beaches of Zante, its clear waters, fabulous Greek cuisine and varied nightlife (which ranges from quiet tavernas to bustling nightclubs for the younger generation) make it an ideal summer holiday destination.

The only downside is the airport! Extremely small and under-developed it does not make for the most relaxing start or end to a holiday, but if you can tolerate that then you really will be rewarded with a fantastic holiday!

Malta: Still warm! A good time to visit!

If you are looking for somewhere to take a last-minute Mediterranean beach holiday before the winter sets in, it can often be tricky to find somewhere warm enough in Europe this late in the season. Why not consider Malta?

Climate
Malta is located far enough south (at the base of Sicily) that it is parallel with north Africa, and fortunately enjoys pleasant weather well into the autumn, with average temperatures in October still exceeding 20 degrees Celsius. This is a actually an excellent time of year to explore the country’s numerous in-land sights without the oppressive heat of the high-season sun.

Architecture
Once part of the British Empire, Malta’s history can be traced back to the fourth century BC. In fact, there are an abundance of ancient grand churches and stunning temples to explore, with the oldest, the megalithic temple of Hagar Qim, thought to have been built as early as 3600BC!

The capital, Valetta (the smallest capital in the European Union) was actually granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1980, which considering its wealth of preserved 16th century architecture is no surprise. A main focal point, magnificent both inside and out, is the St John’s Co-Cathedral built in the 1570s. Be sure to also visit the National Museum of Archaeology for a fascinating insight into Malta’s abundant history.

Shops
Valetta is also home to a labyrinth of limestone walled streets, which host a vast array of quaint little shops where you can purchase unique gifts and even watch some being made, for example, the art of glass-blowing can often be observed here and the finished articles purchased.

Restaurants
Just north of Valetta, Sliema and St Julian’s are the main tourist resorts and are where the majority of the hotels and restaurants and located. Malta is not considered a party island – which is what often makes it an attractive choice for more mature travellers – but St Julian’s does have a reasonable amount of entertainment in the evenings for those seeking it.

Beaches
For sun-worshippers the Grand Harbour is not to be missed, and the glorious crystal clear waters – some of the bluest and cleanest in the Mediterranean, are very inviting. It should be noted though that Malta has predominantly rocky beaches as opposed to sandy ones. However, Golden Bay has a nice sandy beach and was in fact a film location for the film “Troy”.

Summary
Wherever you stay, the island is small enough (just over 122 sq metres) that you are never far away from something of interest. So, whether it is culture and history you are seeking, or sun and sea, Malta will definitely tick all your boxes and the Maltese people, being especially friendly towards the Brits, are sure to make you feel most welcome.

Munich: Surf in the City

Yes, you read the headline right, and no, it has nothing to do with Carrie Bradshaw! In Munich, you really can watch people surfing in the city and it is strangely captivating, as the crowds of tourists who visit the “Englicher Garten” (“English Garden”) in order to watch the surfers strutting their stuff every day demonstrates. The water flowing under a bridge hits a stone step around two feet high and creates “waves” from the rapids – there’s no shortage of locals with wetsuits jumping onto a surfboard and pulling tricks for the amused onlookers.

This is not only the largest park in Munich, but it is one of the largest city parks in Europe. It has excellent restaurants too – we had a first class meal at “Seehaus im Englischen Garten”, presented by the noted high-quality German restaurant group Kuffler.

Of course, there is much more to Munich than the surfers, or indeed the tranquil beauty of its public parks and well-tended open spaces and gardens – of which there are certainly plenty for you to explore!

Architecture
Munich has lots to offer as a city-break destination, regardless of how long you are visiting for. It’s a city brimming with beautiful historical architecture and landmarks, with the spectacular neo-gothic “Neues Rathaus” (New Town Hall) in the Marienplatz central square being a particular highlight of ours, with its coal-blackened façade and well-sculptured gargoyles. Munich escaped utter destruction during World War 2, and many attractive old buildings still remain to be admired.

Food and Drink
There is also no shortage of superb cafes and restaurants, not to mention the famous beer halls! The Hofbrauhaus is the most famous of them, but in any that you visit you can be confident of a traditional Bavarian experience! Imagine the iconic image of a lady dressed in traditional clothing (called a Dirndl), with a large tankard of beer in each hand, and the picture you conjure up is exactly what you’ll get! Of course, you can also get Bratwurst, the classic German sausage, and a good Schnitzel (flattened pork or veal, coated in breadcrumbs). Germany also has many regional sausages: Munich is in the Bavaria region, where the speciality isWeisswurst (“white sausage”, made from veal and pork). A tip from our German friends: you don’t eat the skin of a Weisswurst sausage, you suck the meat out of it! Large Pretzels are traditional in bavaria too.

BMW World and Olympic Park
Slightly to the north of the city (but actually very easily accessible thanks to Munich’s excellent tram and train links) you will find attractions such BMW Welt (BMW World), which is a great day out for car enthusiasts. Housed within a futuristic glass and steel building, there is not only a gigantic showroom of powerful cars and bikes for you to enjoy, but there is also a BMW museum adjacent to it where you can quite literally spend almost a whole day exploring the history of BMW. There is currently a Rolls Royce exhibition on the top floor (BMW own Rolls Royce), with lots of these wonderful historic and modern cars, so don’t miss that! If you are really lucky, you may even catch a live motorcycle stunt performancetoo – if you want to see a motorcycle ridden up and down two giant staircases inside a building, this is your chance!

The Olympiapark is next to BMW World and also hosts a multitude of attractions, depending on which day you visit. Built for the 1972 Olympic Summer Games, it also houses a public swimming pool and ice rink for those feeling a little energetic! A particular highlight is the views you can enjoy from here: on a clear day you get a magnificent view of the city of Munich, set against a backdrop of the Alps.

Experience
If you fancy giving Munich a try – and you really should do – visiting in autumn you can expect temperatures in the mid teens, with lows of around 10 degrees Celsius and moderate rainfall. You have just missed the Oktoberfest beer festival, for which Munich is famous. However, that’s no bad thing – German people have told us that you can have the same authentic Bavarian experience in the centre of Munich without the crowds or the inflated prices of the festival. So go and explore: it’s well worth a trip.

City break: Beautiful Bruges in Belgium

The ever-popular city of Bruges is one of the top attractions in the West Flanders region of Belgium. Its prime location, its ease of access, and not to mention its long and rich history, have all helped to establish Bruges as one of the most visited destinations in the whole of Northern Europe.

Heritage
It is often said, but Bruges really is a city like no other: its picture postcard scenery and architecture will instantly transport visitors back to a bygone age of cobblestone streets, imposing monasteries, and horse-drawn coaches. Indeed: the city centre is a UNESCO world heritage site, with many of its most iconic buildings dating back to the early middle ages. For this reason, many people who holiday in Bruges for a short break will find enough to occupy themselves simply by taking in these fairytale surroundings: from the imposing Belfry of Bruges tower above the Markt market square, to the ring of labyrinthine canals, which thread between the historic buildings.

History
Much of Bruges’ appeal is its affinity with the past. For centuries it was a centre for commerce and trade and today, many of its historic industries are preserved, allowing tourists a chance to experience first-hand the master-crafted produce that built the city’s wealth: from hand-sewn lace, to the numerous chocolatiers and breweries. Since the 1960s, the city has repositioned itself as a tourist destination, and the number of restaurants and beer halls exemplify this. With all of these factors combined, a trip to Bruges is not always easy on the waistline!

Things to do
With all of this, it may seem as though Bruges is a living museum more than a contemporary city break destination. In many ways, this is true: an off-season visit can provide a very quiet holiday indeed. But any stay in Bruges will soon reveal a second city too: one that embraces, music, the arts, and modernity from within its centuries-old stone walls. Bruges is renowned for being a cultural hub, attracting performances and exhibits in great number throughout the year. The Blues in Bruges festival arrives in April, bringing live performances from the 10th – 14th, whilst the Budapest Festival Orchestra will be performing works by Dvorák from the 22nd – 24th of May.

For those who like their cultural experiences to include something a little different, the MOOOV Film Festival arrives on April 23rd, and will be exhibiting the weird and wonderful world of cinema until May 4th.

Now is a good time to visit
Spring is a great time to take in Bruges: the clement weather provides the optimum conditions for exploring the city by foot or by boat at a leisurely pace, and it is only just beginning to bustle with the excitement of visitors, before the hectic summer months.

The Canary Islands: which one will you choose?

If you’re planning a trip to the Canary Islands this spring, you’ll find plenty to see and do. Most people know about Tenerife, and we’ve written about it in a previous issue of the newsletter, so in this short guide we’ll be focusing on the other islands: Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro.

The average highest temperatures are 22C (71F) in April and May, so it’s a good place for some early sun without the long flight needed to go beyond Europe.

Gran Canaria

Best known for its beaches, especially on the southern side of the island, Gran Canaria has more to offer than sand and surf. Wild animal shows at Palmitos Park include exotic birds of prey as well as dolphins. The island is also the perfect destination for mountain bikers, with trails for every level of ability.

Fuerteventura

Strong winds and warm water make Fuerteventura a popular destination for windsurfers and surfers; thousands arrive on the island each year, and there is a large, dedicated community of enthusiasts who live on the island year-round.

Lanzarote

Lanzarote’s striking volcanic landscape is well worth a look. A huge eruption in the 18th century covered around a quarter of the island with lava. Today, this lava field is Timanfaya National Park, which contains a free visitors’ centre as well as other attractions including a restaurant which uses the volcanic heat to roast meat.

La Gomera

La Gomera is the second smallest island, larger only than El Hierro. The historic capital of San Sebastian de la Gomera is the port Christopher Columbus sailed from in 1492; its historic buildings are close to fine black sand beaches. The forests of Garajonay National Park are stunning, although they sustained heavy damage from wildfires in 2012.

La Palma

La Palma’s main attraction is its scenic countryside, with numerous walking and hiking trails. The Ruta de los Volcanos features spectacular views from the volcanic craters, but is recommended for experienced hikers. The centre of the island is home to the Caldera de Taburiente, one of the world’s largest erosion craters. The capital, Santa Cruz, features beautiful old buildings and narrow cobblestone streets.

El Hierro

Smallest of the Canaries, El Hierro was considered the westernmost spot in the known world until the discovery of the Americas. Today, the island is primarily a nature reserve, with both land and sea species protected. This makes El Hierro the perfect spot for nature walking, horse riding or scuba diving.

Off the beaten track: Delft, Netherlands

A historic city from the Dutch Golden Age
The picturesque city of Delft lies in South Holland, in the Netherlands, approximately midway between the bustling port of Rotterdam and the regal city of The Hague. Step into parts of the city and you enter an historic town unchanged in many ways from its time during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century. During this time Delft was one of the richest cities in the Netherlands, largely due to its trading connections with the Dutch East India Company, and an important centre for both art and science.

Cultural visits
This well-preserved city has miles of bicycle paths, walkways and canals. It is an ideal town for exploring by bicycle or foot, and its small scale makes it easy to navigate. Sights not to miss include the Royal Delftware Factory, where visitors can take guided tours, buy gifts and even participate in pottery workshops. Shops in the Market Square also sell pottery, but these vary in quality. Other sights include the gothic Old Church, with its leaning tower, the New Church, containing the mausoleum of William of Orange, and the Prisenhof Municipal Museum, with its superb collection of Dutch artwork. The Vermeer trail takes visitors on a tour of the celebrated Dutch painter’s life, from his baptism to his View of Delft cityscape and the Voldersgracht canal, one of the oldest in the city and the presumed site of his painting The Little Street.

Events in May and June
Delft hosts a number of exciting events throughout the year, and the late spring to summer period is one of the best times to visit the city. From 20th to 26th May 2013 there is a week long celebration of culinary delights, where visitors can enjoy a four course meal over four superb restaurants, with a leisurely sightseeing stroll between courses. Other events include the Delft Fringe, with pop-up theatre performances throughout the city from 16th to 19th May, and the street festival of Mooi Weer Spelen from 1st to 2nd June. City tours, canal tours and guided walks take place on a regular basis throughout spring and summer.

Weather
Weather wise, this time of year is ideal. From May onwards, milder springtime temperatures evolve into comfortable summery days. Average highs in May reach 20 degrees C (68F), while June and July reach average highs of around 22 degrees C (72F).

Food and accommodation
Delft has a fantastic array of food shops and cafes, offering treats such as molasses bread, homemade jams, Dutch cheeses and sweet and savoury pancakes. Accommodation in the town ranges from canal-side bed and breakfasts and friendly family run establishments to stylish boutique and luxury hotels. Bed and breakfasts start at around £45 per night, while luxury hotels in the centre can be booked from around £100 per night.

Classic holiday: Nice, South of France

Pleasantly Warm
With the summer on the horizon, everyone’s looking for another new and exciting hotspot to visit. The South of France never fails to attract a lot of attention, and during May, June and July, holidaymakers can expect temperatures to reach between 20 and 27 degrees C (69 – 81 F). With France’s famed cuisine, a beautiful pebbled shore, and the chance to enjoy both beach and city life, Nice is the ideal place to visit.

Located in the French Riviera (also known as the Côte d’Azur), Nice may be France’s fifth largest city but it still manages to retain a quaint charm about itself. Built on a steep incline, the city rises from the shoreline towards the mountains, offering stunning views and plenty of photo opportunities. Taking a scenic bus tour is a good idea if you don’t want to hike up some of the steeper parts of the city, whilst visiting Mont Boron will give you a beautiful view across the region.
See where Matisse lived
Whilst there is plenty of sun in Nice that will attract many people to long lazy days on the pebbled coast, there are a lot of sights to see. The ancient Roman ruins of Cemenelum are a great place to visit for archaeologists, whilst the city also has many museums including Musee Chagall and Mussee Matisse. If you’re a Matisse fan, then there’s an extra special treat too, as you can try to find the old house that the artist lived in during the 1920s: “1 place Charles Félix” is not distinguished with a plaque, but is a tall and old townhouse painted in yellow that’s easily spotted.
Things to do
One of the joys of Nice is the ability to explore the city’s flower and produce markets, stopping off at traditional French cafés now and then for a well deserved cup of coffee. Restaurants in this city vary from Michelin-starred extravaganzas to small family-run eateries offering the finest in French cuisine.
Another popular pastime in Nice is swimming, and though you might not be keen to sunbathe upon the pebbles, the warm water is extremely alluring. The beach drops away quickly, allowing a swimming depth to be found only metres offshore. If you’ve ever been frustrated with Mediterranean beaches where you have to wander quite a long way out before you can swim, Nice’s shore is ideal.

It won’t have escaped the attention of motor-racing fans that Nice is just half an hour from Monaco, where this year’s Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix will be held on 26th May 2013.

Nice is a popular spot in Southern France for many reasons, including the wonderful cuisine, the warm temperatures, the variety of attractions on offer and the opportunity to enjoy a beach and city holiday at the same time. Meanwhile, with Cannes, Villefranche-sur-Mer and Antibes all within easy distances, having a day trip and a brief respite from the bustling city life is simple to do.

 

Australia Travel Tips

Note that EHICPlus does NOT offer insurance cover for trips to Australia, but our sister policy ANZPlus can give you a great travel insurance quote for Australia.

Ride in style

  • On your departure day call the airport or check on the internet to make sure your flight is on time.
  • Try to drink plenty of water, whether you’re driving or flying, so you don’t become dehydrated from the air-conditioning.
  • Reduce the pain of popping ears on the plane by sucking a lolly, chewing gum or gently blowing your nose.
  • Make regular stops when driving, and walk around on the plane to kick-start your circulation.
  • When travelling wear comfortable, loose shoes that you can slip on and off easily and that will allow for your feet to swell.

Customs: What You Can Bring Into Australia
The duty-free allowance in Australia is A$900 (US$720) or, for those under 18, A$450 (US$360). Anyone over 18 can bring in up to 250 cigarettes or 250 grams of cigars or other tobacco products, 2.25 litres (41 fluid oz.) of alcohol, and “dutiable goods” to the value of A$900 (US$720), or A$450 (US$360) if you are under 18.
You need not declare cash in any currency, and other currency instruments, such as traveller’s checks, under a value of A$10,000.

Because Australia is an island, it is free of many agricultural and livestock diseases. To keep it that way, strict quarantine applies to importing plants, animals, and their products, including food. “Sniffer” dogs at Australian airports detect these products (as well as drugs). Some items may be held for treatment and returned to you; others may be confiscated; and others may be held over for you to take with you when you leave the country. Amnesty trash bins are available before you reach the immigration counters in airport arrivals halls for items such as fruit.

Know the Aussie climate

  • Regularly apply repellents and only sleep with the window open if you have flyscreens to avoid insect bites.
  • Apply sunscreen regularly. If you are snorkelling or swimming, make sure your back and all other exposed areas are well covered. Four days lying on your tummy in agony does not spell fun!
  • Only swim in the safe area at the beach, between the red and yellow flags.
  • If walking for long periods of time, make sure you take a bottle of water or better yet, a sports drink, to replenish fluids quickly.

Stay safe and sound

  • Keep your shoes on when outside and wash your hands before eating.
  • Jetlag isn’t pretty, but fight the temptation to dive into the hotel bed at 2pm and go for a walk instead. Sticking to regular sleeping patterns will help you bounce back quicker. Also try essential oils such as eucalyptus, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemongrass or peppermint dabbed on your forehead or on the balls of your feet for an extra boost.
  • Going on a boat or a long car trip? Combat travel sickness by taking ginger tablets one hour before leaving. Peppermint, spearmint and lavender will also help.
  • If you’re trekking at high altitudes make sure you give your body time to adjust to the thinning air and carry adequate supplies.

Get around town

  • If you’re new to a city, the best way to get your bearings is to take a tour so you don’t spend hours with your nose in a guidebook.
  • If hiring a car carefully check it for dents and scratches and insist the rental company makes a written note to confirm them, so you’re not landed with a repair bill.
  • Collect local bus, train tram and monorail timetables so you can catch as much public transport as possible — it’s cheaper and often quicker than taking taxis.

Quick, super smart tips

  • To safeguard your holiday pics, whether on film or a digital memory card, take a photograph of your address on the first frame, then if they go missing you’ll have the best chance of getting them back.
  • Avoid making long distance calls from your hotel room, it’s expensive! Use reduced rate phone cards.
  • Divide your money into cash, traveller’s cheques and credit cards and keep each in different spots in case you lose your wallet.
  • Don’t use laundry services at hotels; instead go to a local Laundromat or take some clothes soap and wash underwear in the bathroom basin. It’s much cheaper.
  • Keep a travel journal, blog or Twitter account, so you have something to look back on when you get home.
  • Always check under the bed and in the cupboards before checking out of a room. You’d be amazed what people leave behind!
  • Late night shopping is different in most states in Australia – ask locals for the insider info.

Telephone and Communications
In an emergency dial 000 (not 999). This will link you to the ambulance, fire and police services.
Need an interpreter? The telecommunications provider Telstra offers a 24 hour translation and interpreter service. Dial 13 14 50. The local white pages telephone book will provide more information.

Healthcare for visitors to Australia
The Australian Government has signed Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Malta and Italy. These agreements entitle you to some subsidised health services for essential medical treatment while visiting Australia.

Access to medical cover
Reciprocal Health Care Agreements cover treatment that is medically essential: this means any ill health or injury which occurs while you are in Australia and
requires treatment before you return home.

Your entitlements
As a resident of one of these countries, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Malta and Italy, you are entitled to the following health or injury treatments while you are in Australia:

  • free treatment as a public in-patient or out-patient in a public hospital
  • subsidised medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
  • Medicare benefits for out-of-hospital treatment provided by a doctor.

Further information on Australian travel healthcare is here.