Our online guru Eli Orzessek answers your travel questions.

We would like to visit Canada this year but are not sure of the best time to go as we would love to see the bears hunting for salmon in the rivers. The question is, when? July, August or September? Look forward to your reply.
Ellen Smith
Botany, Auckland

I visited Canada last August and part of my trip took me to a town called Tumbler Ridge, in the foothills of the Rockies. The scenery was mind-blowingly awesome — even coming from somewhere as beautiful as New Zealand. Unfortunately, I did not see any bears during my visit, only a couple of marmots (cute squirrelly mountain weasel-like critters).

My guides told me I'd probably have the best chance of seeing bears if we detoured past the local dump! So keep that in mind.

I asked my contact from Hello BC for some bear-spotting tips.


She says summer in the Rockies gets very busy, so it can be hard to find accommodation from June to September — shoulder seasons like May or October are good for summer days and more choices of places to stay.

She also adds that winter is amazing and it's worth considering from November through May.

But you're keen to see bears, hopefully fishing bears. The best time for that is September, when they get their fill of salmon before going into hibernation.

There's also a great way to catch some of the action from the comfort of your own home: BearCam. Every northern summer, Explore.org puts on a live stream using cameras placed around Brook Falls in Alaska's Katmai National Park — a venerable salmon-fishing hotspot for the local brown bears. It's a huge annual event for the internet, where bears become social media stars and the live stream gives you the option to choose the best camera angle and take snapshots of your favourite bears.

While the cameras aren't live just yet, you can watch highlights from last season — or check out some of the other animals being live streamed.

So start planning that trip — Canada definitely won't disappoint.

Readers respond:

I tackled a rather tricky question about getting visas for Russia, China and Mongolia (for the Trans-Mongolian Railway) while already abroad — some readers have come through with their own experiences and tips.

Getting visas sorted for the multiple countries the Trans-Mongolian Railway passes through can be challenging if you're already overseas. Photo / Getty Images
Getting visas sorted for the multiple countries the Trans-Mongolian Railway passes through can be challenging if you're already overseas. Photo / Getty Images

Natalya King said she had been able to get a Chinese visa in Bangkok.

"I obtained a one-month Chinese visa there (in November 2012) and from my research at the time it was one of the only overseas embassies that let you do it. Could also get your Russian visa in Bangkok and then fly on one of Air Asia's cheap flights to China to start the trip. For what it's worth, you can also get your Russian visa in London [if you wanted to start at the European end and if you could get your Chinese visa there — I've never tried]."

Tracey Adler travelled with Intrepid through those countries and tried to secure multiple visas before leaving home.

"One thing I would say is to make sure, where you can, to allow plenty of time before departure to obtain visas and to read carefully the instructions for each country.

While she had no issues with Mongolia, China was more complicated.

"I failed to understand that mainland China and Hong Kong, although under China rule, run independent border controls. So if you're moving in and out of China and Hong Kong, you actually need a new visa for each entry back into the mainland [if visit is longer than three days]."

Her Russian visa was declined on a minor technicality only a week before departure.

"Intrepid Travel fortunately gave me the address for a visa specialist in Hong Kong who I applied to in person and they managed to get me a Russian visa very easily and with a quick, 24-hour turnaround. Amazing!"

Peter Tuohy of Travcour also wrote in with some advice: "Chinese visas expiring three months after issuance are not much use to those on a long itinerary with visa being more than three months into the itinerary. One solution we use is to obtain a double-entry visa.

This is valid for six months [$210 for a NZ passport holder]. Simply never use the second entry you are entitled to."

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