PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT FOR CUBA

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DOC HOLIDAY - LISA MAYOH

My part­ner and I wish to travel to Cuba from Mi­ami and are get­ting con­fus­ing mes­sages about an en­try visa to Cuba when trav­el­ling from Amer­ica.

DOC

Ac­cord­ing to Aus­tralia’s Cuban Con­sulate, those en­ter­ing Cuba di­rectly from the US must buy their visa (or tourist card, as it’s called) in US ter­ri­tory. Un­for­tu­nately, you can’t buy it here. Once you’re in the States you can ask im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties at the air­port how to get a tourist card, or you can also con­tact a travel agent (Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment rec­om­mended tourist agen­cies in Cuba in­clude cubanacan.cu/en or cuba.travel/en/).

Also check with the air­line you’re fly­ing, as some­times tourist cards are in­cluded in your ticket. Ev­ery­one needs their own, and it’s valid for a sin­gle en­try and ex­pires af­ter 30 days – but you can ap­ply to ex­tend that for an­other 30 days if needed. To get a tourist card di­rectly from the con­sulate, you’ll need your valid pass­port, a form, a plane ticket with ar­rival and re­turn date, and pay a fee, nor­mally about $US50 (about $69). Due to the US block­ade against Cuba, credit and debit cards aren’t ac­cepted if is­sued by US banks, or Aus­tralian banks af­fil­i­ated with US banks. This in­cludes all Amer­i­can Ex­press, Visa and MasterCard cards, depend­ing on the is­su­ing bank, and West­pac Bank cards. Smar­trav­eller.com.au rec­om­mends vis­i­tors take enough cash for their stay, in case your credit cards don’t work.

MO­ROC­CAN MAGIC

We are look­ing at vis­it­ing Che­fchaouen as a side trip from the UK but can’t seem to find any short tours from the near­est ma­jor city in Morocco. Is it safe for two fe­males to take a pri­vate tour?

DOC

Che­fchaouen is one of Morocco’s best-kept se­crets. Known for its blue­washed build­ings, com­plete with blue doors, it’s not as touristy as cities such as Mar­rakesh. Com­pa­nies in­clud­ing On the Go Tours go to the Blue City but most tours are 14 or 15 days (their 14-day Clas­si­cal Morocco tour is about $3400 a per­son). They also do pri­vate, tai­lored tours so per­haps you could con­tact them and de­sign your itin­er­ary. Or you can do a day tour of Che­fchaouen with Fez Tours for $75 (Fez is known as the cul­tural cap­i­tal of Morocco).

In terms of safety, avoid walk­ing around at night by your­selves, and wear dark glasses to avoid eye con­tact with men. It’s a place where women are ad­mired by men and openly “has­sled”, as Mo­roc­can men have lit­tle chance to meet women out­side their fam­i­lies be­fore they are mar­ried. They may call out on the street or will stare a lit­tle too long, and it may make you feel un­com­fort­able. Wear­ing a wed­ding ring is an­other way to stop un­wanted attention, ac­cord­ing to Lonely Planet, and dress mod­estly, covering your shoul­ders and knees.

Doc would feel safe do­ing a pri­vate tour with a fe­male friend – most attention is harm­less. But just like any­where, ex­er­cise cau­tion, stay con­tact with en­joy such a spe­cial hol­i­day.

THE FRENCH RIVERINA

We are in­ter­ested in a French river cruise and pre­fer to re­lax a lit­tle more on hol­i­days and spend as much time as pos­si­ble with

ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing the cruise. Could you please ad­vise if there are any other com­pa­nies of­fer­ing this ser­vice?

DOC

Most French river cruises will have a lot of shore ac­tiv­i­ties, so you’re off the ship more of­ten than usual. There are of

– APT and Scenic for ex­am­ple, or try Avalon Wa­ter­ways or Ever­green, says Caryn Thorsby, from Hel­loworld Travel St Ives, Syd­ney. Avalon has a 16-day Grand France tour that off­shore Paris, Lyon, Avi­gnon, Ar­les and the Côte d’Azur. Mag­nifique!

Caryn says Ever­green has some en­tic­ing spe­cials at the moment. APT has a 21-day Paris to Prague trip for early birds for 2019 will get free flights to France and a free stopover in Sin­ga­pore if you book a min­i­mum 11day cruise by Au­gust 31. Just think of but­tery crois­sants, soft cheeses and French cham­pagne wait­ing for you.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

I will be vis­it­ing New York for a week’s hol­i­day next month but have not been able to find rea­son­ably priced My pref­er­ence is for is clean and com­fort­able and, ideally, con­ve­nient to some of the key sight­see­ing at­trac­tions. What can you ad­vise?

DOC

You can find cheap de­pend on your style what you want from your ac­com­mo­da­tion – is it part of the ex­pe­ri­ence, or just some­where to rest your head and leave your bags? When the search be­comes over­whelm­ing and you’re not con­vinced of ben­e­fit for the cost, Doc finds the best thing to do is to ask your travel agent. They know the best places to stay and can get you the best rates and give you op­tions. The av­er­age daily rate of ho­tels in New York reached $US389 (about $535) in 2016, and it is the sec­ond most ex­pen­sive city in the US for ho­tels, so wher­ever you look, it will come at a cost. That be­ing said, Airbnb has made a change to the face of NY – rentals are in abun­dance, as are cen­trally lo­cated and con­ve­nient ho­tel rooms, which have to com­pete for busi­ness.

Depend­ing on your bud­get, you may have to com­pro­mise on lo­ca­tion, but most styles would be up­wards of $2500 for a seven-night stay that time of year. Apart­ment rental web­sites newyork­stay.com and home­togo.com have one- and two-bed­room apart­ments on the Up­per East Side or East Vil­lage for be­tween $2600 and $3700 for a week.

If look­ing for ho­tels, book­ing.com has spe­cials in­clud­ing ho­tels on Times Square (which is cen­tral, but noisy and busy) and Cen­tral Park for around $2500 for seven nights.

PIC­TURES: ISTOCK

When vis­it­ing Cuba, a tourist card or visa must be ob­tained for 30-day en­try; and Che­fchaouen, or the Blue City, in Morocco is safe for women trav­ellers but, like any­where, ex­er­cise cau­tion.

MOROCCO

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