We are heading to New Zealand to cancel COVID-19 travel and would like to remind your readers of New Zealand NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority). After googling, and without really checking, I clicked on the first site offered. I went through the application process for my husband (German passport holder) as it looked like a real NZ government website and when asked to enter my credit card details I did. I thought it was kind of funny not to specify the amount, but knowing the cost was about $20, I went ahead. One day later, the eTA returns via email. So is everything ok? While checking my credit card account (regular practice), I noticed that I was charged $160. When we return from our trip, I plan to ask my bank to refund the fee, but unfortunately, I doubt it will, since the issued visa is actually valid.
Pat Schafer, Dawes Point, NSW
Editor’s note: Unfortunately, visa processing websites masquerading as official government websites are very common. Read more about these scam sites here. The official website to apply for NZeTA is nzeta.immigration.govt.nz Note, however, that Australian passport holders do not need to obtain an NZeTA to visit New Zealand.
After a recent trip to Europe we returned to Australia via Doha, Qatar. Our flight involved a 20 hour layover in Doha, so we booked an overnight hotel room and a morning tour of West Qatar. I’ve been looking at Qatar’s website for entry requirements and it all has to do with COVID restrictions and visas for those attending the FIFA World Cup; since we weren’t at the event we didn’t think these would apply to us, especially since the event hadn’t started for 10 days . Imagine our surprise when we were stopped at customs and told we couldn’t enter the country because we didn’t have a Hyaa card visa which, it turns out, is only issued to those with World Cup tickets. So we were stuck at the airport for the next 20 hours. On the plus side, I would like to commend the Qatar Airways ground staff for making us as comfortable as possible in the business lounge.
Frank Hofmann, Wheelers Hill, Vic
pay attention to your language
Your wonderful story about food in Tokyo (touristsNovember 19) by Ben Groundwater whetted my appetite to return to this great destination. But may I add my own opinion on those cute, cozy, inviting “izakayas” that Ben mentioned? They look very welcoming from the outside, but it can be tricky for foreigners to get in. I’ve been waved away by staff as I’ve tried multiple times to get in and many have signed up stating “No menu in English” to further discourage tourists. My advice is to go with someone who can speak Japanese, as they have the best chance of experiencing these fascinating venues.
Ross MacPherson, Sea Forth, NSW
what a ripper Stories About Food in TokyoThe content about the amazing food halls of department stores is especially useful, especially for the uninitiated. Another piece of advice is that there is a lot of unsold fresh food on the day (bento, sushi, ready meals, etc.) that are sold at low prices at the end of the day. Discounts usually range from 20% to 50%, so if you time it right, you can get a great dinner for a better price.
Margot Pope, Lewisham, NSW
Katherine Marshall’s essay on “The Art of Local Literature” (touristsNovember 19) takes me back to 2008 when I was in Havana.i took graham green’s our people in havana Read it when I was wandering around Old Havana in Old Havana. The book was written in the late 1950s, and as I sat on the wall of the Malecon and hung out on Calle Obispo, time stood still. What he described more than 70 years ago still exists today. The buildings of Old Havana are still there, and taxis have been on the streets since the 1950s. You think you might bump into Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, or Don.
Robert Pallister, Punchbowl, NSW
I was amazed by Michael Gebicki in his column (touristsNovember 19) omits Priory Guest Rewards when evaluating hotel loyalty programs. Admittedly, it’s not the most attractive or rewarding program, however, it does have its rewards and has served my travel needs (among others) as a worthwhile option for years.
Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW
I am interested in reading the letter, “Rex is better” (Traveler Letters, November 19). I certainly wouldn’t fly with them, ever. I had booked a return flight to Adelaide over Christmas but had to change the date to fly from Melbourne to Adelaide. Originally booked through Flight Center for $199, I was stunned to learn that the change fee was $184 ($154 for Rex, $30 for Flight Centre). What’s the point of charging, considering I had to wait less than a minute before being told that changes could be made? The family catch-up just has to wait until 2023.
Grant Taylor, Malmesbury, Vic
Tony Sullivan (Traveler Letters, November 19) raises an important point about the advantages of bus travel in Europe global.flixbus.com Being an amazing provider with a great roadmap. While the main routes may be well served by rail, some other routes besides rail may be better served by these hidden bus routes. One limitation can be frequency, but there is no problem with booking in advance. Flixbus clearly labels stops locations with detailed address information and conveniently links to Google Maps with images of stops to avoid all doubts. Some routes are direct, avoiding rail transfers.
Paul Gerrard, Kellyville NSW
I once heard a different account of the bombing of Cologne in WWII (Traveler Letters, November 19). A few years ago I met a flight lieutenant in the RAF. He comes from a family with multiple links to the RAF, and he told me about an aunt who proudly claimed that the RAF bombing was so precise that the crew was able to avoid damaging the cathedral. My friend was skeptical because of the inaccuracy of high altitude raids, especially night raids, by the RAF. While delving into RAF records, he discovered that the cathedral, a prominent landmark, was actually used as an aiming point.
Norman Jessup, Epping, NSW
tip of the week
take me to the river
When it comes to the best beaches in the world (touristsNovember 6) cannot cross Normal Bay on the Tidal River at Cape Wilson, Victoria. This is a magnificent wide beach over a kilometer long – very beautiful (even if swimming can be a bit chilly). Add other nearby beaches like Squeaky Bay and you’re complete. Maybe I should add that I met my wife there, so it’s no wonder I love this place.
Alan Thomas, Hawthorne, Vic
heaven is greece
To answer a reader’s question about visiting Greece on a small cruise ship, a friend and I once spent the Christmas holidays in Greece. We got a winter ferry schedule from the Greek National Tourism Organization in Athens and used it to go island hopping. The ferries are large and frequent. There are usually cabins for overnight trips. During two weeks we traveled comfortably, visiting and staying in fascinating places such as Samos, Rhodes and Crete, among others. This is an inexpensive and flexible way to see the island. Hydra and Mykonos, Santorini and Cyclades were particularly attractive as we were out of season so we had no issues with accommodation on the islands. By the way, we are happy to be seen as companions of single Greek women who are occasionally assigned a bunk in our spacious cottage.
Nola Tucker, Keama, NSW
In response to Tracy Mackey’s letter (Traveler Letters, November 19) I have two stories to tell about her initial disappointing check-in at the Virgin Edinburgh Hotel. We arrived at our hotel in New York at around 8pm after a long trek from Sydney only to be told they had no room for us. I looked straight into the receptionist’s face and said “you’ve been emailing me a lot over the last two weeks trying to convince me to upgrade so you can’t say you didn’t know we were coming. I also told you I’d be traveling 24 Arrived here at hours and couldn’t be contacted during that time. We won’t be leaving. You can give us a penthouse suite if necessary, but you’ll find us a room tonight. They did. The room wasn’t big and we have the next day Changed the corner suite we booked, but we did get a refund.
Susan Rowe, Epping, NSW
I don’t know who Ben Groundwater associates with vanilla slices in his article (touristsNovember 13) but I’ve been eating vanilla chips for over 60 years and have never heard such a disgusting description of them, and I wish I had never.
Christine Samuels, Casuarina NSW
Correction: A pictorial caption on this week’s letter previously incorrectly stated that Australians would need an NZeTA visa exemption to enter the country. As mentioned in the editor’s note above, this is incorrect and Australian travelers are not required to obtain visa waivers.
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Writer of the Week wins a Hardie Grant travel book worth over $100. November includes Ultimate Food and Drink Australia; Ultimate Caravan Australia; and Naarm-Melbourne Cycling Community Guide.
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