Q We booked a flight and a hotel for mid-September to Hong Kong. We paid a deposit and the final payment is now imminent. We would really like to visit Hong Kong, but the idea of staying in a hotel for a fortnight does not appeal. If we cancel now what are our rights?
A If you cancel now, you have no rights. In the absence of a warning from the Foreign Office against visiting Hong Kong, you will lose your deposit. And, since it's only a month before departure, I'm afraid you will not even be sued for an extra payment. First, let me tell you what I would do in your position. I had the chance to visit Hong Kong several times, especially at the time of the tragedy of Tiananmen Square, 30 years ago. I have always found the city-state welcoming, energetic and safe.
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The dramas unfolding on the world's screens are deeply troubling, but I believe that thousands of tourists will appreciate Hong Kong's spectacular architecture, rich culture and superb cuisine. So, even if the current uncertainties persist, could you be confined to a hotel for a fortnight? I doubt a lot.
If the conflict between protesters and authorities intensifies, you may find yourself in a position where the decision is made for you. If the Foreign Office fears that British lives are in danger, he will warn not to go to Hong Kong. At that time, your trip will be canceled and you will be refunded.
So the best policy is simply expect see and trust the judgment of the professionals. You will receive a pleasant and safe vacation in Hong Kong or a full refund. There is a "third way" possible: the travel company can offer a diversion to other Asian countries. Singapore, Bangkok or Tokyo would prove a very different experience, but also rewarding.
Q Thanks for the updates on travel to Hong Kong. I'm going there next month on a ticket issued by Lufthansa: Heathrow-Frankfurt-Hong Kong-Singapore-Munich-Heathrow. The whole of the Lufthansa has flights outside the Hong Kong-Singapore flight, which is all part of the same ticket, with the exception of Singapore Airlines. If I get caught in Hong Kong after the protests, is Lufthansa obliged to provide a hotel, etc.?
A Hong Kong International Airport has been in disarray for days. After the protesters closed on Monday, more than 500 departures were canceled and 103,000 passengers were disrupted, according to aviation and travel data analyst Cirium.
"There is a potential for further disruption of short-term flights," is the underestimated view of Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong airline. Everything was supposed to start returning to normal yesterday, but the departures were then interrupted.
Assuming you are always happy to continue your journey, you will obviously follow the events. If your flight to Hong Kong was canceled due to unrest, the European Air Passengers' Rights rules would apply and Lufthansa should offer you the option of a full refund or, where applicable, refunds. A hotel in Frankfurt until they were able to leave.
But part of your unprotected trip goes from Hong Kong to Singapore. The carrier is a non-European airline operating from an airport located outside the EU. The rules on passenger rights do not therefore provide for any duty of care. It may be as the situation develops that you are less inclined to travel. Therefore It may be relevant to review airline cancellation / modification policies.
While Cathay Pacific allowed the affected travelers to request refunds and postponements, the other airlines showed less flexibility. For example, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have allowed travelers with imminent departures to change dates later in August. But, to my knowledge, no carrier still offers flexibility to passengers who no longer wish to travel to Hong Kong. Although flights continue (although sporadically), they have no legal obligation to do so. But in the unfortunate case of intensifying violence, it is quite possible that airlines introduce the possibility of changing destinations.
Q I am currently being treated for cancer, but would like to visit my sister in Tasmania. I would like an annual travel insurance policy that covers me for other trips, but I feel that the insurance costs are equivalent to the travel costs. Is there an insurance policy at economic price?
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A To answer your question frankly: the cost of an annual insurance policy for someone a In progress cancer treatments typically reach hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Insurers know from experience that the risk of expensive claims is relatively high. Fortunately, you can choose to take advantage of the UK's reciprocal health agreements. – including with Australia. In the unfortunate case where you need medical care, you can expect the same treatment from the Australian health service as the NHS, namely: no or negligible cost.
In addition, over the last 18 months, the only big problem of British travelers who chose to "self-insure" in Australia has been solved: the problem of stopovers in places without a reciprocal health care agreement . With the new Qantas non-stop flight from London Heathrow to Perth, you can get from one environment to another easily, in about 17 hours. Once in Australia, you can fly to Tasmania – but it will probably require a connection to Melbourne.
The EU promises promising for the rest of your travels, at least until October 31st. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) provides equivalent care to the NHS in the European Union, again no or very low cost. Nobody knows what will happen to CEAM after Brexit, so you may be able to make serious trips to Europe in the next 11 weeks.
Q We are going to Dorset from Leeds, Yorkshire, with our seven year old granddaughter. It's a long trip back and forth. We will spend a vacation in a caravan park Haven.
Can you suggest stopovers of one or two days to take a break?
A the Bird-flying distance from Leeds to Weymouth, home to three of Dorset's four Haven caravan parks, is 223 miles – the general direction is south-southwest. But by the way, you can expect to add at least a quarter more – and if you want to use the freeways over most of the distance, the distance is considerably longer.
All the more reason for a stop en route.
According to the AA Route Planner, the optimal route is 291 miles and begins to descend directly to Leeds M1 at junction 15A, just outside Northampton. That covers 129 miles, barely two hours with a good race.
Take the A43, a short stretch of the M40, then the A34, and inside 165 miles – maybe three hours – you are at Oxford.
The "City of Dream Arrows" seems to me to be an excellent place to stay, either for the night or for only a few hours. If you choose the latter option, use one of the following parks and attractions: Seacourt is the most convenient and allows you to avoid some draconian rules of access / parking in Britain.
The tourist office in the heart of the city can help you with ideas for children: Oxford has some spectacular parks, as well as great family outings, including one devoted to Harry Potter sites – although your granddaughter is not ready for this for the moment.
For more indulgence, try the George & Danver Glacier at 94 St. AldateS
For the rest 126 miles take the A34 – almost standard highway for most of its length – then after a brief skirmish on the M3 and M27 motorways, you are on the A31 motorway. It cuts just north of the main part of the New Forest, so weather permitting, you can head to Lyndhurst, the city in the center of the National Park.
After Bournemouth, take the A35, which is not a very good road and is often congested, and finally the A354 in Weymouth – and the good start of your vacation.
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