Dr Latitude: India's north easy to reach

Myself, husband and two children, 9 and 12, are travelling to India next year in the mid-year school holidays. Could you recommend a suggested itinerary? Is it feasible to do it on our own? - Yvette Korman

For the two weeks or so that you have, we suggest you head for north India and see some of the greatest sights in the country.

Starting with a few days in Delhi you'll want to see the National Museum and Humayun's Tomb before doing some serious shopping in the city's markets, bazaars and shopping emporiums. Also spend some time in Old Delhi's Red Fort and Jama Masjid.

Then get an early start for Agra where you'll take in the magnificent Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Akbar's Mausoleum. The nearby fortified ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri is worth exploring too.

Jaipur should be next on your itinerary with its dazzling dusky pink skyline and wonderful hill forts and palaces. Rajasthan's most romantic city, Udaipur, is serene and whimsical, surrounded by misty ochre-shaded hills, and it makes for a relaxing stop for a few days.

If you have time before returning to Delhi then you should indeed lose yourself in the breathtaking and fairy-tale fort at Jaisalmer (the Golden City) and perhaps ride a camel in the desert.

It's certainly very feasible to travel independently here. This is a well-trodden region of India and all the above-mentioned places can be easily reached by train or bus. Train is the preferred method of travel for tourists as it is more comfortable and doesn't involve scooting along some of those nerve-racking windy roads. Private buses are also an option: they're more luxurious, more reliable and quicker.

All you'll need is a good guidebook and a little bit of planning. Lonely Planet's guide to India includes all the information you'll need on places to stay, places to eat, what to see, how to get there and costs. You'll certainly save money this way and you'll get to see things and visit places that you wouldn't get to on a tour.

Before you go, read the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's advisory for India at www.safetravel.govt.nz.

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We plan to spend about five days in northern Sardinia, flying into Alghero, hiring a car and finishing up in Olbia on the east coast. We're hoping to catch a ferry to the Amalfi coast, our main holiday destination or, failing that, fly to Naples. If we flew, how would we travel from Naples airport to Sorrento? - S Barry

Most ferries heading regularly to Italy from Olbia sail to ports north of Rome: Civitavecchia (seven hours), Livorno (eight hours) and Genoa (10 hours). There are a couple of seasonal services to ports south of Rome: Medmar (www.medmargroup.it) sails from Palau (north of Olbia) to Naples; and Dimaiolines (www.dimaiolines.it; cabins from $70) sails from Olbia to Salerno (at the southern end of the Amalfi coast) twice weekly from June to September. Tirrenia (www.tirrenia.it) has a regular Wednesday service from Cagliari, in the south of Sardinia, to Naples ($147).

Trains run regularly from Naples to Sorrento (one hour). Sita buses (www.sitabus.it) run from Salerno to Amalfi (75 minutes) and from Amalfi to Sorrento (1.5 hours).

If these schedules don't fit your holiday plans, Meridiana (www.meridiana.it) flies from Olbia to Rome and Alpi Eagles (www.alpieagles.com; one-way fares from $182) flies from Olbia to Naples. Shuttle services operated by Curreri Viaggi (www.curreriviaggi.it; 75 minutes) run to Sorrento from outside the Arrivals concourse at Naples airport.

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My husband and I are travelling to Chile for about three weeks to visit our son who will be at university in Santiago. We feel because of limited time we should concentrate on Chile only. Would you agree and what would you suggest as the main sights and places to visit? Also, is it easy to hire cars in Chile and what are the roads like? I will be most grateful for any advice you can provide, as I feel quite daunted by travel sites on the internet, and many travel agents just give you package tour information. - Deborah Hilder

Chile is a huge country - not that wide, but more than 3000km in length.

Even three weeks is not enough time to see all the amazing highlights of this beautiful place but it is enough for a satisfying taste. So, in that case, it's a good idea to limit your travel to Chile. Apart from the fact that there's so much to keep you busy here, the distances are so great in South America that you might just burn out trying to fit in Argentina and Peru or Bolivia as well.

After spending some time in Santiago with your son, who no doubt can show you around his new home, you should make the short trip to Valparaiso, an unusual port city on the coast just north of the capital.

From the flat centre of this Unesco World Heritage site, funicular elevators move sharply upwards to a very different city above, with some of the most stunning vistas on the continent.

With your limited time, we suggest you head south from here. Limiting your travel to either north or south of Santiago is a good way to cut down on extreme long-distance travel.

Valdivia on the Calle Calle, Cau Cau and Cruces rivers is an impossibly charming university town that is supremely relaxed and pleasant. The German-influenced food and beer adds to the cosmopolitan nature of a very arty and diverse place.

The misty and verdant archipelago of Chiloe should also be on your itinerary. This group of islands evolved independently from the rest of the country and so escaped much of the colonial onslaught. The history and culture unique to these islands is well worth experiencing.

Way down south is southern Patagonia, home of the incredibly beautiful Parque Nacional Torres del Paine and Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (actually in Argentina). The Torres del Paine are spectacular granite pillars that dominate the landscape.

Hiring a car in Chile not only gives you great freedom but it's also necessary to get to some of the more remote national parks and villages. Security problems are minor but always keep your vehicle locked and don't leave valuables in it - obviously. And try to avoid driving in Santiago and at night.

Whatever you decide to do and wherever you decide to go in Chile, you should take a good guidebook.

Lonely Planet's Chile & Easter Island has detailed information on getting around, places to stay and eat, what to see and do, as well as excellent maps and a useful language guide.

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