SEE THE RAIL ENGLAND
While my wife and I are in the UK for three weeks in October, we wish to travel by train. What are the advantages of the BritRail pass or should we pay as we go?
Pay-as-you-go train tickets throughout the UK are a good idea if you are only making a few trips or can commit to dates and times to take advantage of advance purchasing. They tend to be expensive compared to other parts of Europe. A rail pass allows for travel in one or more countries over a certain number of days, either a continuous period of days or a number of days spread over a wider window of time. They are available to non-UK residents and need to be bought before you travel. This is an advantage when budgeting.
For a three-week trip, a pass will save you money. Take some time to sit down and map out your itinerary, because there are a few to choose from depending on the countries you wish to visit. A straight-up BritRail Pass covers England, Wales and Scotland, while a BritRail England doesn’t include these other countries.
You should also consider how long you want to spend in each destination. If you like to linger and explore at leisure, then a Flexipass would suit. Here you choose the amount of travel days you need and the window in which to use them.
A continuous pass is great if you’re short on time and plan to cover a lot of ground. For example, if you have a 15day pass, you can ride the trains as much as you like over the 15 days. The continuous pass can also give you the freedom to change your mind on the day and keep travelling without worrying you have used another travel day, together with the freedom to take any train without wondering if a trip justifies the use of a travel day.
If you are including Ireland in your trip, it is better to use their bus system (buseireann.ie). The buses cover a wider network than the trains and they have passes or pay-as-you-go. Both are priced much the same.
If you are seniors there are discounted fares with both, and Rail Plus (railplus.com.au) or any travel agent can help with your purchase.
We are travelling next year to London via LA and then back from New York. Do you see any problems with using suitcase covers? We always lock our bags but worry about finding them with all the other luggage on the carousels. There will be at least six bags.
Identifying your bags quickly and easily after a long flight is a godsend. I say, do this using any tactic you can think of. Coloured ribbons, stickers and covers all help. Covers come in a multitude of patterns, usually in a stretchy fabric designed to fit many sized suitcases. One company, firebox.com, will print a large image of your best selfie on the cover, ensuring only you will want to claim your bag. With six bags, you could feature each family member or perhaps your grandkids. As you’re travelling through the US and you like to lock your bags, use TSA-approved locks. If your bags are searched, this is supposed to mean they will be opened by a master key instead of bolt cutters. However, I hear mixed reports about this and have also heard of covers not being put back on. BATTLEFIELDS TOUR We’re in our 60s, doing a Europe tour in September, ending in Paris. We wish to do a one-day tour of WWI battlefields and memorials. Can we be picked up in Paris? We don’t feel comfortable negotiating the trains.
French Travel Connection (frenchtravel.com.au) has some ideal itineraries. The D -Day Landing Beaches Tour is 14 hours long and takes you to the historic sites in Normandy. Travel is by coach and you will visit the Caen Memorial Museum to see film screenings, artefacts and recreations. Pointe du Hoc overlooking two of the beaches, the American Cemetery at Saint Laurent and the historic town of Arromanches-les-Bains are also visited. There’s time included to walk around the beaches and explore other landing sites.
This tour is $484 a person. There’s also the 12-hour small group tour to the Somme Battlefields. It includes mini-van pick up from your hotel and you will explore the Museum of the Great War, the villages of Villers-Bretonneux, Péronne and La Boisselle.
SANTIAGO STORAGE Can you tell us the opening times of the luggage storage office at the Santiago Airport? Between a land tour and a cruise we are going to Machu Picchu for two days and need to leave two suitcases in storage.
Santiago Airport provides a fully secure luggage storage facility. You will find it landside on the first floor, in the lobby. It is open 24 hours a day.
AIRLINES FOR GUAM
We want to visit Guam and Yap next year. A long while back we went to Guam, Palau and Saipan, flying with Continental or United out of Cairns, but unfortunately those airlines are no longer available. How do we get there? We have struggled to find out with travel agents.
It seems odd your travel agent is unable to assist. Guam, popular for scuba diving, is accessible from Australia with a few airlines. But despite the region’s proximity to Australia, the route is not as short and direct as you would assume. If you’re departing from Sydney, there are usually two stops in Asia so this route generally takes about 30 hours – not ideal. Melbourne departures will also usually include two stops and about 21 hours’ travel time, while flights from Brisbane via Seoul take about 16.
Servicing these routes are Japan Airlines, China Airlines, Korean Air, Philippine Airlines, Eva Air, United and Delta. Budget carrier Air Seoul also operates flights to Guam from Sydney. Yap is a cluster of islands about 800km southwest of Guam and is best reached from Guam. To fly to Yap from Australia is expensive.
Rail passes are a good option for seeing Britain; covers or tags help luggage stand out on a carousel; and several companies offer tours of French battlefields.