Wednesday, 28 December 2011

E-Bay dealing with faulty goods problems when it turns out the UK company is in Hong Kong

Earlier this year I bought a mini SD card from a company calling themselves flashman852.  E-bay led me to believe the company was in Bristol.  The goods arrived but subsequently proved to be faulty (outside E-bays 45 day deadline)  *reason for delay explained below.

I called the company who agreed to a replacement providing I paid £2 p&p through Paypal which I did.  Time passed and goods did not arrive.  Numerous messages followed and they finally dispatched another replacement. This also has not been received and the company (now known to be Rambook) are stalling and blaming the Post Office.

Neither E-Bay nor Paypal will intervene as it is out of the 45 day deadline but E-Bay did give me access to the company details and it turns out to be Howard Cheng in Hong Kong.  Had I known this company was based in Hong Kong and not Bristol I would not have placed the original order.  Of course now any consumer follow up is useless.

Whilst this is all over a low value item the principal would be the same whatever price goods.

Can we now longer trust E-Bay to tell us where the vendor is based nor to help follow up on problems after 45 days?

* SD card and was put into my new smartphone.  The phone kept freezing so I explored the possibilities of the phone being faulty.  Eventually I eliminated this and then thought maybe it was the music downloads that were causing the problem. Finally a friend with the same phone established that the card was faulty.  I contacted the company who immediately agreed to a replacement.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Credit card problems abroad - when things go wrong on a joint account

We use Nationwide UK as our bank account and both have a visa card.  Steve is the primary account holder.  Last week the card was refused in a store in Spain and again this week on line shopping from UK.

I contacted Nationwide who completely refused to deal with me as Steve is the primary account holder.   Even being told he is seriously ill in hospital and speaking to a supervisor had no effect.  I asked could they simply investigate the problem and deal with it without telling me what the problem was and they said not.  I also asked to speak to someone in higher authority and was refused and told there was no one who could help as it was the data protection act that was the problem.

They said they would either accept a phone call from Steve or faxed authority to deal with me.  At this stage I will not put Steve through the stress of even knowing about this problem so I have drawn a blank.

Moral of this is that if you have a joint bank account MAKE SURE THE AUTHORITIES HAVE PERMISSION TO DEAL WITH BOTH ACCOUNT HOLDERS assuming all other banks are as unsympathetic as Nationwide.  

Sunday, 18 December 2011

European Health Card

Following my use of the European Health card for dental treatment in France we are now testing it out for hospital treatment in Spain.

Steve had been feeling unwell for a week or so and we decided to get him checked out at the Doctors. We went to a local clinic, showed them his passport and European health card and they issued him with a temporary SIP card for Spain.

Using the SIP card we were given a free appointment at the Doctors.  Following on from this Steve has ended up in hospital and is having treatment for leukaemia.  At the time it was diagnosed the Doctor said a 3 day overland journey back to England by motorhome would be too long and flying back posed too much risk of infection so he would have to be treated in Spain.

At Alicante hospital he is undergoing chemo which will be for at least a month.  I contacted the British Consulate to clarify the ruling on what is covered by the European card and they quoted "necessary treatment".  They asked when we entered Spain, how long we were staying, when we were last here and whether we had used the card in Spain before - all to establish that we were neither living here nor using Spain to get treatment quicker than in England.  Based on all this I was assured Steve's initial treatment was covered and if we opted to continue our journey in Spain and he needed further "necessary treatment" for the same condition he would still be covered.

Whilst his has put a temporary stop to our gallop we do plan to get back on with our travels as soon as possible but it just goes to show that we have been right to pack in as much as we have done over the last 15 years.  You just never know what is around the corner.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

SPAIN Nice beach side free camping down the east coast as far as Altea

A really handy spot just below the main road.  50 minutes walk along to Tarragona and lots of beaches nearby as well as one directly in front of you.  Also bus stop just by the main road.  Water supply from the beach showers and toilet dump beside the toilet.  Well used, 20 vans there one night but the Police patrol and there were no problems. 

South end of the town on a track beside the hotel.  Probably not so good if the hotel is open but we visited in November and the hotel was closed until mid December.

Lovely spot behind the beach at the south side of town on a dirt track leading towards the delta.  Foot bath showers by the entry road for a water supply.

ALCOSSEBRE – CALA BLANCA N40 15 527 E 0 17 752

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Had your Email address book pinched ?

I recently joined in the HAL digital workshops on a cruise and one of the classes was about PC security.  Recently I have had many bogus emails from my friends email addresses and in class someone suggested a way to stop your address book being infiltrated.

Make the first name and email address in your address list a bogus one such as aaaaaabbbbb with a bogus email address then the computers should not be able to find your address book.  Now I am no computer nerd but thought this would be worth a try and to share with others.

Also if you want more info notes from the computer course check out the free digital workshop handouts for great advice especially for novices, or get yourself booked on a Holland America Line cruise and take the free classes !

Sunday, 23 October 2011

1 month motorhome journey through France to Spain

This is a very brief summary of our journey down through France mainly to highlight the places we free camped and interesting sights en route.

We use All the aires France and Camperstop Europe as out initial point to find places to stay but often find our own.

Arrived by ferry late at night and made the 20 minute drive to the aire at Wissant.

MONTVILLE, nice aire by the lake and river with free wi-fi.  Took the bus into Rouen Euro 2 each way.ROUEN saw many motorhomes parked on the riverbank opposite the old city so this would have been an alternative.  Interesting sights in Rouen.

MARBOUE, pulled up for lunch then ended up staying 2 nights.  Small village. Aire by park next to river.  Clean toilet available.

BEAUGENCY, aire is by the river, can get congested.  Basic toilet available.  Short walk into town.  Managed to get a free wi-fi signal from nearby hotel.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Expenses for full time living in a motorhome in Europe

Many people are curious to know how we can afford to live our lifestyle and how much we spend each month so here I will give you a little insight in the hope that it makes you realise you can afford to enjoy the privilege of this wonderful lifestyle also.

We always budget by the month as our rental income is paid that way.  Also this often evens things out as we may arrive in France and get bad weather imducing us to do a fast journey south where we then travel slowly so expenses would be higher at the start of the month but less towards the end.

With £25 a day you can live a nice life, £30 a day would enable you to do more tourist attractions and eat out more often.  £20 a day would still make it well worthwhile doing this but you would probably only do the free tourist attractions.

The following prices are in Euros so that you can work out against the current exchange rate. (Now around

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Picking a motorhome for full timing in Europe

Considerations when buying a motorhome for full time travelling and free camping.  We've lived in over a dozen variations of motorhomes and these are our conclusions.

A class motorhomes -
Pros - Lots more space inside as the cab area is as wide as the vehicle and the seats often swivel around to integrate into the living space.
A drop down bed gives you a permanent bed with no loss of living space.
These are usually amongst the most expensive vehicles to buy
Cons - The drop down bed is shorter due to the space required for the lifting hydraulics, no good for my husband who is 6'1" tall.
In the unlikely event you needed to drive off quickly the bed would have to be put back in place before you could get to the driving seat

C Class -
Pros - Excellent value for money
Usually you get a large over cab fixed bed
The over cab area can also be excellent storage space
Of all the motorhomes these usually have the most headroom inside
Cons - You have to climb up to the over cab bed

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cash back when you use your normal web site - not too good to be true

I love saving money and when I discovered Quidco and Top Cash Back I was delighted.

By initially going into the Quidco or Top Cash Backwebsite I can then link to the normal sites and get cash back.  Many popular sites include cash back and I have used Asda, Dabs, Jet2, WH Smith, Late Rooms and P&O ferries and received cash back from them all.

 What have you got to loose?  What have you got to gain?  MONEY WITH NO CATCHES.

Your money is paid back to you each month as cash into your bank account. 

Friday, 23 September 2011

Ferry bookings, getting the best price

Having decided to return to France we wanted to book the cheapest ferry crossing.  Whilst the comparison sites helped us to narrow down which lines were the most competitive (at the moment P&O ferries) we took it a stage further.

First through Quidco I got an extra 4% discount.

Then we booked the cheapest crossing, £31 at 21.05, but we arrived at the docks early knowing that most ferry companies will put you on one crossing earlier without any extra charge.

 It worked and we got the 7.30pm which should have cost £44 for the price of the £31 later crossing.

As they say look after the pennies .....

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Free camping in France

Finally we are back on the road with just the 2 of us in the motorhome so time to really try things out.  We've bought the "All the Aires France" book and coupled with the Tomtom it is proving excellent for finding cheap or free camping.

Last night we arrived late on the ferry from Dover so drove for just 1/2 hour to Wissant (it was from the beach there that Julius Caesar heading to England). The purpose made aire is by the main road, has plenty of slightly sloping spots and is perfect for a one night stop.

 Today we have headed south and found a beautiful spot in the village of Montville just north of Rouen.  The parking is by a stream with a small lake over the bridge and it is a 2 minute walk into town.  There is even free wi-fi.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Nick at FES Gas in Wales - our knight in shining armour

For our new motorhome we ordered 2 x 11kg aluminium refillable gas tanks from FES Autogas . The idea was to have them delivered to Cordoba Leisure to be fitted to our new motorhome before we collected it.

Cordoba received the joined gas tanks arrived but were too big to fit in the locker.  Rather than contact FES for advice Cordoba in their wisdom opted to dismantle the two tanks to fit them in.  They left the tanks unconnected, without the connecting pipework and with lots of leaks.

We had many problems but with help from Nick and Warren at FES managed to get enough sorted for

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Almost a dental tour of Europe.

Whilst travelling through FRANCE I had toothache. I was lucky to find an English speaking dentist who treated me immediately.  The basic charge in France is Euro 22 and for this price he drilled out the filling and took x-rays.  I had to pay extra for the prescription for anti-biotics.

In GERMANY I needed further treatment but had to find a specific dentist that would accept the European Health Card.  This time I was given topical medicine and a temporary filling, the standard fee is Euro 10 and this is good for 3 months worth of treatment.

In ITALY it turns out there are no public dentists and they are all private charging a minimum of approx Euro 100.  Whilst there are emergency dentists at hospitals these were not recommended.

Back in FRANCE I was having discomfort with the temporary filling and again managed to find an English speaking dentist but he could not do the required work on the European Health Card Euro 22 system.  For root canal work on a molar with 3 roots plus numerous x-rays the standard fee in France is Euro 90.  Had I been there long enough to have the follow on filling it would have cost Euro 70.

From reading on the Internet I believe I now have the option of trying to claim back some of the costs for treatment in France by completing and submitting forms.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

From Calais to Colmar in a motorhome

Have just done a journey across France using "Aires" for overnight stops and occasionally finding our own spots.  These are the ones we found that were not in "the book"

 ARQUES Free camping by the river, a bit tricky to get to but the Satnav showed us the way as it was almost on an island.  

VIMY village, very handy if you have been looking at the battlefields and monuments.  In the village follow signs towards the Salle de Fete and just before it you will see a nice car park, closed off, with superb flat parking in front.

BRIOST On an island between the canal and river, there are a few fishermens caravans but these were not used during the week. This is a really nice quiet spot with loads of parking places, picnic tables and basic toilets

EPERNAY We visited the Mercier champagne factory and they said it would be find to stay on the car park overnight.  Very handy for a stroll down the Avenue de Champagne

KAYSERBERG It's in the book but this stunning village is excellent, Euro 2 by day plus Euro 4 at night and free toilets, dump and water fill.  Also if you go to the information centre they will give you a code for 24-hours free wi-fi with reception at the Aires. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Quirks of New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport (and domestic)

Security at Delhi airport is very interesting.  This information applies to Terminal 3 where some domestic and all international flights arrive on the lower floor and departures are on the upper floor. 

On arrival be aware that if you walk out of the terminal building you cannot re-enter under any circumstances

For departures once you enter the building, even if you don't check in, you cannot leave under any circumstances.  Worse still the seats are uncomfortable and there are few shops or places to eat.

There is a free shuttle bus between T3 and T1.  Both terminals have the Police controlled pre paid taxi's but the fares are much lower from T1 and from T1 you can also pick up a rickshaw and local buses.  Funnily enough there are 3 Police taxi booths at T3, 2 inside (one each end) and one outside, they all quoted us a different price for the same destination!  From T3 you can connect with the metro.

Food and drink facilities are better and cheaper at T1.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Good value Rajasthan rooms and hotels with swimming pools

We are budget concious travellers but try to maintain a reasonable standard of accomodaion and like to get value for money.  Prices quoted are for a double en-suite room in April 2011.  Hotels with pools were good as we could sight see in the mornings then relax by the pool later in the day when it was too hot to be out.

For initial research on hotels and price I like make my trip .  They guarantee the lowest prices so once you know this price you can negotiate a lower price direct at the hotel to save them paying commission.   

Agra, Hotel Sidhartha, good location near the Taj Mahal on a traffic free street so nice and quiet. Paid Rs520 for a double non A/C room with TV.  Pleasant restaurant in the garden.

Sawai Madhopur Hotel Aditya resort is a good location very near the safari booking offices.  A little more basic than we would have liked but there are few budget options here.  Good value at Rs450 for non A/C double with TV, suggest lower floor room as the roof top one was very hot.  Rooftop restaurant, cleanliness dubious.

Jaipur Hotel Pearl Palace, contrary to the Lonely Planet book they do not do free pick up and drop off just free pick up.  Lovely rooms, all different, some may be noisy if under the restaurant and the air coolers are also noisy.  Great roof top restaurant.  Rs800 for air cooled room.  A little overpriced we felt.

Pushkar Hotel Navratan Palace, great value for money as it is in a good location (top of the bazaar street near the main temple), has a nice big swimming pool and gardens.  Not overly clean rooms but acceptable.  The A/C rooms were nicer than the fan rooms.  Fan room Rs500 or A/C with TV Rs700.   Restaurant in the garden

Udaipur Hotel Mewar Inn, booked ahead for our first night in Udaipur as we were arriving late.  Free station pick up.  Non A/C rooms were very good value under Rs200 but A/C rooms not so at Rs500 and Rs600.  Bad location.

Udaipur Ajanta Hotel, up a small alley in the old town.  This is like a haveli with attractive rooms and the most comfortable bed and pillows we had in India.  Small pool to cool off in.  Stunning roof top restaurant.  Free wi-fi and computers available.  Easy to walk to all the attractions.  Rs1100 A/C with TV

Jodhpur Blue House probably not our best choice but we went to Heaven and it was full and the prices had gone up.  At Blue House we paid Rs600 for a double A/C room with TV.  Tucked away down the backstreets.  Friendly family owners but not great value.  Manish owns Jankar restaurant (a 10 minute walk away) which has a lovely garden friendly staff good food and reasonable price.  The cheese veg bake is superb.  

Jaisalmer Hotel Golden City, ignore touts who tell you this place has a dirty pool and rooms.  The pool was spotless, rooms pretty clean.   A few people felt the sheets were not clean but the manager assured me they were all clean but old and stained they are getting new mattresses and bedding soon..  Good location and value at Rs650 A/C TV. Rooftop restaurant.  A short walk to the fort and en route you pass Royal bakery that has amazing fresh croissants, pastries and desserts.

Bikaner Hotel Padmini Niwas, believe this is the only hotel in Bikaner with an outdoor pool.  Rooms were comfy with carpets.  Beds a bit on the firm side but they gave me an extra mattress.  A bit out on a limb but you can walk to the fort in 15-20 minutes.  Restaurant had a limited menu with some things a little overpriced.  Good restaurant nearby at Shri Ram Heritage, the American breakfast at Rs110 was a huge feast for 2.  Double room A/C TV and fridge Rs600.

The majority of the rooms were what I call Indian clean, OK at first glance but when you look closer the bathroom doors are usually dirty, under the toilet seat and walls don't get a thorough clean.  I carry a small cloth and use tea tree oil in water to go over the important areas.

TIP - Always ask to see more than one room, for some reason they often show you their worst room first.  

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

INDIA Booking things on line

There are many websites to book things on line in India but the one we like best is Make My Trip

The hotel sections offers very good rates on rooms and reviews to help - we booked a hotel through them, could not print out the voucher but were not even asked for it by the hotel.

Flights,international and domestic, bus and train info is all on line.

Another good site is Clear Trip but their prices were often dearer.

Monday, 2 May 2011

INDIA booking trains on line and getting the tourist (TATKAL) quote

Travelling in India we have learnt that if there is a train making the journey it is almost always better than taking the bus providing you can book a seat.  Rather than waste time queuing at stations (first for the application form then to get a ticket) and getting bad information and outright lies why not book on the Internet.  

The India rail website has improved no end and I have booked on line using a UK credit card.

TATKAL is a type of ticket available to tourists 2 days before departure, as an example to travel on 3rd you can buy from 1st but we found out that with a 5pm train we could not buy it until 1 day before (i.e. the 2nd).

To plan ahead off line buy yourself "Trains at a glance" from the railway station and use the fold out map (hidden in about the 6th page in) to find the cities you want to travel between and then the matching numbers will lead you to the timetable.  This year all train numbers have 5 digits so if the timetable number has 4 you need to add a 1 at the front. 

For day trips we favour the CC (Air Con seat) category.  An open carriage with 2 seats at one side and 3 at the other, large windows, reclining comfortable seats.

TIP - For an overnight journey try to get bunks in the compartment not the aisle and in the centre of the carriage.  There are only 2 bunks here as opposed to 3 in the carriage they are shorter beds.  The bottom bunk is created by putting down the backs of the seats, sags in the middle and has a very uncomfortable join.  Also you get bumped whenever anyone walks down the corridor.  We were also right next to the door so at every stop had people queuing up beside us to get off, as usual talking very loudly and banging around, worse still we got the nasty niffs from the toilets. 

Thursday, 7 April 2011

3 delightful days in Delhi

We had 3 delightful days in Delhi and covered many of the tourist attractions without hassle.

This is our recommendation as to how to do the same.

On Day 1 either take a tour, we did one with Rao Travel which covered 8 major sights.  Alternatively take the tourist Hop on Hop off bus and see the major sights on offer.  Both of these options cost just Rs300.

For the next 2 days we used a local bus to get us to the metro and then the very cheap and efficient metro to visit other sights.

On our second day we visited Safdarjang’s Tomb but thought it was not worth the admission price but good to see from outside.  From there it is a short walk to Lodi Gardens.  Here you will see many ancient tomb buildings and it is all free.  A rickshaw will get to you Hammayans Tomb to round off this area.   

Day 2 began with a metro to the Fort area, a walk through Chandi Chowk bazaar area before entering the fort.   After this we took a cycle rickshaw ride to the mosque, Rs20 rickshaw.  From the opposite side you can visit Kareems for lunch.  

The afternoon was at Akshardham, the most impressive thing we saw in Delhi.  The metro stop is close to the entrance.  Free admission but you pay Rs170 if you want to do the 3 extra "Disney style and professional" attractions, a moving show, a movie and boat ride.  To do these and the rest of the temple justice allow at least 4 hours.

I know we did not get into the thick of Delhi but doing it this way we had a very faourable picture, little stress and plenty of time to do the things we wanted. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Andaman Islands ferries

If you want to get around the Andaman Islands you are going to have to take a ferry at some point.  Before arriving at the port arm yourself with photocopies of the Andaman permission slip, your India visa and your passport.  It is anyones guess which of these they will require so best to have them all ready and whilst you are at the xerox shop make sure you have enough copies for each of the ferries you may take.

Before going to the ticket desk get hold of a yellow slip of paper onto which you write the details of the journey you want to do.

The government ferries from Port Blair to Havelock and Neil vary.  For example our 11.30am one to Havelock went via Neil and almost doubled the journey time. Whichever journey you do the total price is Rs195.  There are no food or drink services on the boat.

On arrival you will be met by an immigration officer who will register your island permission form.

Leaving Neil island there is no ferry booking office, you just board and pay on the boat - no paperwork required. 

Monday, 14 March 2011

Indian buses, taking the rough with the smooth

Can you guess which type this is ?  - This is the De-Luxe A/C bus

Buses in India can be heaven or hell depending which one you end up on.  In our early ignorance we took local buses which were very cheap but uncomfortable and crowded.  They have 2 seats on one side and 3 on the other so designed for the smaller Indian bodies.  Luggage racks are very shallow so even carry on size baggage will not fit there.  We found out the best solution was to take a 2 seat each and sit by the window with the bag between our legs and our feet towards the centre.  This way a local can still take the adjoining seat. 
Next up the scale and a little more expensive are the run down coaches with 2 seats each side, reclining or not depending on which position they broke.  These have deeper luggage racks and more leg room and are considerably more comfortable. 
At the top of the scale we found A/C coaches with proper reclining seats, deep luggage racks and power sockets but at a much higher price.
Arriving at the bus station we found we were nearly always directed to the local bus unless we asked if there was a de-luxe one.  We also found the A/C coaches travelled faster with few stops and often made a 10 minute break at a restaurant.       

Saturday, 12 March 2011

INDIA Tiruvannamalai special mountain

In Tiruvannamalai the Lonely Planet focuses on the temple but we were lucky enough to know people who lived there who recommended us taking accommodation out near the Ramana Ashram.  This area is at the bottom of Mount Arunachala and favoured by spiritualists from around the world.  We had a very modern comfortable room at Mountain Breeze for Rs 450.  From there you can walk through the gate at the back of the ashram and then either up the mountain (around 2 miles for fine views and to see Ramanas home) or by taking the left hand turn off you can go around it.  The red markers show the way for the inner track but part way along you can detour to the yellow track which goes over a hill for a more interesting walk.  Even at a gentle pace the circuit should take less than 5-hours.  There are chances to spot wildlife, many impromptu shrines, a tank, a visitor centre and a temple with magnificent warrior statues. It is also good to take a rickshaw on the main round around the mountain to see the other temples and lingams.  Leaving Tiruvannamalai for Mamallapuram you can take the Chennai A/C luxury bus (Rs 144) and asked to be dropped off at Chengapattu (3-hours).  From the motorway off ramp a rickshaw will take you 2km to the bus station, Rs50.  Finally a local bus does the last 23km to Mamallapuram Rs9 approx 1 hour.  Alternatively return to Pondicherry and take the bus up from there. 

Friday, 11 March 2011

INDIA Pondicherry tour

If you are visiting Pondicherry it is very easy to walk around and see the main sights.  A great way to see things further afield is to take the day trip from the tourist office leaving each day at 9.45am.  At Rs 200 it is very good value.  Even if you just want to see the Matrimandir dome at Auroville this trip is cheaper than doing it yourself.  You also visit the botanical gardens, government museum, sacred heart church, the botanical gardens (recently used for filming of “The life of Pi”) and Chunnambar.  The additional boat trip at Rs40 is not great as you just got down stream for about 15 minute and see nothing of interest.  Lunch is at a posh hotel restaurant and you get a good southern Indian thali and the toilets are western and clean.  The tour is supposed to include the temple and ashram but in fact this is where they drop you so you can do these 2 sights yourself.  Our tour also ended early at 3.45pm but was still excellent. 

Sunday, 13 February 2011

BACKPACKING - The easy way

Backpacking used to involve carrying a rucksack with everything you needed to travel including a tent and cooking facilities.  You walked between locations and camped at night.

Today there are many variations on this enabling more people to enjoy the experience of travelling independantly.  It does not have to be uncomfortable or gruelling.

We have small bags containing everything we need but have changed from carrying them on our backs to the

Booking planes and trains on line in India

One of the easiest sites to use to book train and plane flights in India is Clear Trip .  They may not always be the cheapest but you get to view up to 5 days of flights to make a comparison and can book and pay with a foreign credit card.

At the moment they are offering a free flight (you pay taxes etc) for every flight booked but the promo code is for Spice Jet flights only and I have yet to find a flight against which you can use it.  However I have found other flights for Rs1 with this and Indigo airlines so it is probably not worth worrying about.

Saturday, 12 February 2011


We arrived in Varkala intending staying for 3 or 4 days but it is such a great backpackers area we will stay much longer.

We started at Sky Lark Guesthouse . Faith seems to know all the needs of travellers and has free wi-fi, a satellite TV and socialising area on the roof top and use of the kitchen.  She is often fully booked and could only squeeze us in for 2 nights so book well ahead if you want to visit.  Prices are very reasonable with long stay discounts

Further down Thiruvambadi Road we treated ourselves at Thiruvambadi Resort finding that out of high season they have some great rates on basic rooms and having a swimming pool is a real bonus.  Also the food they serve was all very tasty and inexpensive.  You can use the pool as a day visitor for Rs200.

A few yards down the road is "Black Beach" then turning right you reach Odiyam and left is the cliff top walk to the main beach.  Walking along you pass many shops and restaurants.  Although they are touting for business there is no pressure and everyone is extremely polite and friendly.  You are spoilt for choice with food from around the world and the evening displays of fresh fish are amazing.

Highly recommended for anyone needing a break from the hustle and bustle of the real India or wanting some western food and company. 

Sunday, 6 February 2011

INDIA Kerala backwaters trips

The big attraction of Kerala is to do a backwater trip on a houseboat.  We recently visited Alleppey and stayed with a local.  He told us about the problems this is causing and how we can help to reduce the pollution by doing the trip in other ways.

There are now around 800 houseboats in the district. Without holding tanks the toilet waste goes directly into the canals and the diesel and kerosene waste are also polluting the waters. Another problem is the erosion.

Going on a houseboat may be very romantic and an experience in itself but you can see as much if not more of backwater life in other ways.  As there are so many it has now become a parade with little chance of you being out of eyesight of another boat. Prices are around Rs 4500 to Rs 10000 per couple per night (including food).

 The most environmentally friendly alternative is to take a canoe and let yourself be paddled around the backwaters, Rs 150 an hour.  You will find that you are closer to the banks of the canals and being at water level you get a really good view of village life.  You can also go down the smaller and narrower canals and get away from the noise of the houseboats to enjoy a very tranquil trip. You sit on a mattress with a backrest which can get uncomfortable.  A 4 to 5 hour trip would be about right. 

Alternatively you can take a motorised small boat, Rs350 hour.  Again you are able to travel close and down the small canals and would probably do as much in 2 hours as a canoe in 6.  

There is also the local ferry boat running down to Kollam but this goes much faster and not down the small canals.

Monday, 31 January 2011

INDIA Cochin - ATM and SIM cards

If you need money on arrival at Cochin International airport there is an ATM.  As soon as you leave the arrivals hall there are two different bank booths directly across the road. The maximum we could draw in one transaction was Rs10000 but we could do a second transaction immediately after that. 

Checking around it seems Airtel have the best phone coverage throughout India.

We bought a SIM card for Rs 26 at one of their main offices.  We produced our passport for ID, Guesthouse receipt with address as proof of where we were staying and also needed a passport style photo.  Paperwork was easy and for Rs 222 we got 222 minutes of phone credit with no expiry.  Once you leave the state in which you bought the card you then pay roughly double to make calls and send SMS and also to receive a call but this applies to all the phone companies in India.  Even so with a base rate of Rs 1 for India text and Rs 5 for text to UK and Rs 1 a minute for calls even doubled up this is cheap