Our online guru Eli Orzessek answers your travel questions.
A group of us are looking to go to South America in November. Do you recommend getting US dollars in New Zealand before we travel or is it better to get local currency or even wait until we arrive in what ever country we go to?


Natalie Tambolash at World Expeditions gave me some good advice for you. For travel in South America, she recommends carrying a mixture of US dollars, partly in cash and partly in travellers' cheques, or ATM cards. US dollars are much easier to get changed compared to New Zealand dollars, so it's probably best to stock up on some before you leave.

Travellers' cheques are harder to change, but they're a safe way to carry money. Credit cards are accepted and ATMs are available in most large cities and hotels, but don't rely on them solely.

Each of the countries will have their own currency and will easily exchange US dollars. It's suggested you do not exchange money with the street "money changers", as you'll find that there is no great discrepancy between the official and street rate.

Carry your cash in smaller denominations, such as $10 and $20 notes and have $1 and $2 notes on hand for tipping.


Are there any airlines that still offer a smoking section? Sometimes I miss being able to light up high in the sky.

Well, first off, as a responsible advice columnist, I have to tell you that smoking is bad for you and you should quit immediately. With that out of the way, it seems to be a big no. I found a few shaky online anecdotes that claimed you could smoke on Air Algeria, Cubana, Garuda and Iran Air. One person claimed their friend had smoked on Cubana at the end of 2010, but I can't find anything official to back this up.

In 1993, someone actually tried to start an airline for nicotine fiends called "Smokers Express". The company was not only going to allow smoking on flights, but encourage it - by handing out free cigarettes and "full sized" ashtrays on flights. The proposed in-flight meals continued on the devil-may-care attitude towards health - hamburgers, pizza and steak featured heavily on the menu.

If any readers have flown on an airline that offered smoking in recent years, I'd love to hear about it.

Readers respond

I received some great tips for car hire in the UK from readers who've been there and done that. Anne Parsons found the cheapest way to hire a car was to book it through Avis here in New Zealand, rather than going through a UK branch.

She added some words of warning for travelling drivers: "Beware not to run a red light in the UK as drivers do here, otherwise you'll get a hefty fine!"

Mike Millett, did his research and decided against hiring a car in the UK - preferring to travel by rail.

"Unless you stick with the big brands and pay more and get full insurance with small or no excess, you will be stuck with the second-tier hirers," he wrote. "They sometimes sub-hire from other operators and far from getting senior rates they will have age restrictions lower than you might expect. Then we noticed the insurance excesses - underbody damage, if parked out on the road, glass damage, vandal damage and many other events. Do not think your travel insurance will cover your excess - the fine print will say that you must take up all offered excess cover offered by the hirer before they will pay a claim."

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