AT EASE IN THE ANDES
My wife and I are joining an adventure cruise from Ushuaia, to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica in December and would like to take a guided or self-guided tour through Patagonia in the two weeks beforehand. Do you have any suggestions? We are quite used to adventure travel in four-wheel drive vehicles and are happy to use the services of a driver/guide.
Patagonia, the huge region covering the Southern Andes in Chile and Argentina, is full of volcanoes, lakes, glaciers and fjords, together with Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world.
December is one of the best times to go and Forward Travel (forwardtravel.com.au) is one company which provides a 12-day guided, adventure-style tour. During the trip, you would spend four days in and around one of the main highlights, the Torres del Paine National Park, the eighth wonder of the world. Here you will see the three mighty granite peaks of the Paine mountain range, valleys, rivers, lakes and glaciers.
Contours (contourstravel.com.au) also specialise in this region and provide many itineraries.
There are several four- and fiveday options you could join together. For example, you could hop aboard the Skorpios III ship and cruise the channels and fjords. This small ship with a maximum of 110 passengers traces the same routes as did Darwin and Fitzroy.
Their eight-day expedition departing Argentina, retraces the route of Charles Darwin to Cape Horn. You could then stay at the Explora hotel, situated beside Lake Pehoe in the middle of the Torres del Paine National Park. From here you can choose from excursions by vehicle, trek or horseback.
Alternatively, you could look at one of their independent tours and make your way along the renowned Carretera Austral route. During the 1000km trail you can linger to enjoy the locals, their foods and handicrafts at your leisure.
Eclipse Travel (eclipsetravel.com.au) also has a good selection of tour ideas. You may like to camp in the national park in Eco Camp domes, then cross the Lake District between Chile and Argentina and finish up with a fiveday trek.
WHEELCHAIR IN SINGAPORE
My daughter and I are going to Singapore in October. She has a physical disability and will be in a wheelchair. We have a list of things we hope to do and see but cannot find any information on which ones are wheelchair accessible. Can you help?
Singapore is a city well-equipped for all travellers, including those in a wheelchair.
All MRT (mass rapid transport) stations have barrier-free facilities including ramps, lifts and wheelchair-accessible toilets. Each train also features two wheelchairaccessible carriages, defined by an indicator sticker on the door.
More than half of Singapore’s public buses are wheelchair-friendly and most bus stops are designed for barrier-free access.
To identify wheelchair-accessible buses, keep a lookout for a blue passenger-in-wheelchair sign on the front of the bus. The driver will also provide assistance if needed.
Taxis are another efficient way to get around. Request one equipped for a wheelchair or, if it’s foldable, it can be stored in the boot (there is no extra surcharge).
You will definitely have attractions such as Gardens By the Bay on your to-do list. Here you will find special ramps, lifts and barrierfree routes, plus wheelchairs for hire.
The National Gallery Singapore, which has the largest collection of southeast Asian art, is in the former Old Supreme Court Building. It is wheelchair-friendly with accessible restrooms on every level except two.
More than 90 per cent of Singapore Zoo is accessible by wheelchair. It also has mobility scooters for hire and allocated viewing areas at exhibits, shows and amphitheatres. Consider the Night Safari too. It has dedicated wheelchair areas for the show, plus safari buggies have ramp access.
You can also take your daughter to Peranakan Museum, the National Museum of Singapore, on the Singapore Flyer and to the aquarium on Sentosa Island.
BORDER CHECKS WAIVED We are planning a driving tour of Europe in September on completion of our cruise, starting in Barcelona, then France, Switzerland, Austria and finishing in Germany. Are there any restrictions on border crossings, visas or fees? I already have my international licence. DOC ®
The Schengen territory comprises 26 European countries with more than 7721km of internal land borders, all of which share a common external border. This means on your initial entry to the area (one of these countries), your passport will be stamped. You are then allowed to travel within the territory for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
In order to receive this stamp, you may be required to show the purpose of your journey (an itinerary or hotel reservation), that you have the means to support yourselves (credit card) and that you have or can buy a ticket to leave.
The countries of Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany are part of the Schengen agreement so you will not undergo border checks or require particular visas as you move through these countries.
HEALTH INSURANCE ADVICE
Do any travel insurance companies cover medical expenses back home after an accident happens while on holidays? I slipped on the pool deck of a cruise ship and have spent quite a few hundred dollars with the prospect of several thousand dollars to be spent since returning home.
Your travel insurance policy expires when you land back in Australia (technically as you walk through immigration). That is when Medicare or your private health fund kicks in. You should seek advice from one or the other and have the relevant paperwork from the cruise company.
A herd of llama graze on a hillside in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, named the eighth wonder of the world.