Eli Orzessek finds the answers to your travel questions.
My husband and I are going to Europe later in the year. We've been before, but this time I would like to visit Switzerland for part of the trip. I've always heard that it is expensive. Is it worth it?
If you've been to cheaper countries in Europe, Switzerland can definitely be a shock to the system.
What I found the most expensive was hotels and restaurants, however, you'll still find budget hotels in most towns and you can save more money by staying in hostels or camping. Popular tourist towns will be more expensive, but you can save by staying in well-connected nearby villages.
Choose wisely while eating out, but don't be afraid to splurge now and then. I had a meal at the celebrated vegetarian restaurant Haus Hiltl in Zurich — it was definitely expensive, but worth every franc.
Save money by staying somewhere you can prepare your own food. While the Swiss supermarkets are more expensive than their German and French counterparts, I still found the prices to be comparable to New Zealand — we are a fairly expensive country after all.
And, if you're close to the border, consider crossing over to another country to shop for food — that's what many locals do. In Basel, it's just a short tram ride to Weil am Rhein in Germany where you can stock up on cut-price groceries at Aldi.
If you're keen to move around a lot, research your best rail pass option and book well in advance to take advantage of any deals. It's an incredibly beautiful country and if you love mountains, cheese and chocolate, you can't go wrong.
After last week's column I received some great tips on driving in Madagascar ['Ask Away', Travel, January 16] — all agree it's probably not the best idea to do it yourself.
Margaret Campbell visited Madagascar in September with Tours Direct, a company using 4x4 vehicles and local drivers and said the roads were much rougher than our farm roads.
"Not potholes and ruts but gulches and gullies in the countryside, cities not quite so bad," she wrote.
"There is really only one road to get from A to B, so if a bridge happens to collapse under an overladen truck as it did for us, our six-hour day trip became a 24-hour cross-country, river-fording, mud-sliding, ditch-leaping, in-the-pitch-dark adventure and our driver with local language and knowledge was invaluable."
Todd Henry wrote to warn of occasional police checkpoints with corrupt officers keen on extorting money from foreigners. He also recommended avoiding taxi brousses, as most were filled beyond capacity.
"I recommend that she does not miss Ranomafana National Park and Isalo National Park. The waterfalls are a bit of a hike through desert-like conditions but it is well worth it!
"Madagascar is beautiful and there are many friendly people but it runs on an entirely different system than we are used to in NZ."
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