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The Doc answers your travel questions

Doc Travel recommends using travel specialists when visiting emerging countries like Slovenia. Picture: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

DOC Travel answers your questions on Croatia/Slovenia, cruising to Africa, credit card travel insurance and travelling in America by train.

A FRIEND and I are travelling to Slovenia and Croatia next August. Accessing the Vrisic Pass appears to be OK by bus at that time of year, but accessing the schedules is proving a challenge.

Also, accommodation in both countries does not seem to be as readily available through the usual online booking sites. We would like to book before leaving Australia. Can you advise on public transport and accommodation options in Slovenia?

DOC: When planning visits to emerging destinations, such as Croatia and Slovenia, it’s wise, based on the Doc’s direct experience, to go to specialists who understand the region, can offer advice and have access to trusted local partners in the destination should you require assistance.

These are services not always offered online, according to eastern European travel expert Bryce Crampton at Beyond Travel (

Crampton adds that booking through a licensed Australian company also gives the security of Australian consumer law, such as the Department of Fair Trading and Travellers Compensation Fund.

He says that in July and August, there is usually at least one bus daily via the spectacular Vrisic Pass between the Slovenian towns of Bovec and Kranjska Gora (on weekends there may be several a day), but poor weather, landslides and roadworks can close the pass at any time.

Both these towns are worth a stop, as they offer beautiful alpine scenery and are popular centres for hiking, paragliding, and rafting tours, with a decent selection of hotels and restaurants.

The summer schedules are not currently available, but the bus often departs early in the morning and requires a stay of at least a night before departure. There’s generally no way to book the service and tickets are simply purchased on board at about €6 ($8) a person, with the trip taking between 1 1/2 and two hours. Once you are in Krasnjska Gora on the southern side of the Alps, it’s easy to travel to or from Bled, Ljubljana and into Croatia by bus or limited rail connections.

Beyond Travel can custom-build packages for travellers, with hotels, sightseeing, rail, ferry and car hire options included.

WE ARE looking to tour Africa next year and thought that getting there by cruise ship and flying back would be desirable. Are there any cruise ships from eastern Australia to east or South Africa?

DOC: With an ever-increasing number of cruise ships sailing in Australian waters each year, there are more and more opportunities to tackle the holiday you propose.

Cruise lines such as Cunard ( and PO Cruises World Cruising ( offer annual world voyages, with their ships often visiting both South Africa the main port of call in Africa and Australia.

For instance, in February 2013, PO superliner Azura will make its maiden visit to Australia on its inaugural world cruise, which will include a 40-night cruise from Sydney to Cape Town, via Asia. In March 2013, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 will offer a 22-night voyage from Sydney to South Africa via Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle as part of its world voyage.

Depending on your plans, Cape Town is a good base from which to explore the rest of Africa.

Both of the aforementioned cruise lines also have ships visiting South Africa and Australia on their 2012 world cruises, although availability is limited.

WE WANT to travel between Washington DC and New York next month by train. But the only service with a baggage car is at 10pm and we want to travel during the day.

Our cases are larger than the small carry-on style luggage allowed, according to the Amtrak website.

DOC: Luggage can be a hassle on trains overseas as most rail operators allow little space for it on passenger carriages, particularly in Asia.

However, Amtrak has a two-piece luggage limit, with each bag not weighing more than 23kg. Unless you have a huge amount of luggage, you shouldn’t have to resort to the baggage car at all, in my experience.

My advice would be to be spend a little extra on a more spacious business-class seat, via the Amtrak website or through an Australian-based rail travel agent such as Rail Plus (, and line up early so you can be first to access the luggage storage areas at the front and/or rear of the carriage. Travel outside the peak morning and afternoon periods between the two cities, which can take as little as just over two hours depending on whether you take the faster Acela Express service when it’ll be cheaper and less busy (meaning more luggage space for you).

You may also want avail yourselves of the excellent and trustworthy services of Amtrak’s uniformed and easy-to-spot Red Cap porters. All baggage handled by Red Cap is protected by a claim chit and while the service is notionally free, a generous tip is recommended. If you’re still worried about luggage issues on the train, email Amtrak through its website (

The Doc writes

Several readers have written to the Doc following a recent item on the quality of travel insurance provided by credit card companies, a subject that regularly fills our inbox.

In the item, the Doc advised on exercising some caution when using such cover because travel insurance is not the core business for credit card providers.

Happily, readers have written to express their satisfaction with such policies.

Michael says that on his way to Europe in June, he was hospitalised in Singapore for two days and had an operation that resulted in him having to twice cancel connecting flights to London. He says his claim, through his credit card travel insurance, for medical expenses, delayed flights and a new flight booking was for more than $20,000.

“The claim procedure was hassle-free, with no questions asked, with a payment received within three weeks. I was suitably impressed and will continue to use this approach for future travel insurance.”

Helen says she will continue to use her credit card insurance since she made a claim for accommodation and air travel, caused by a change in itinerary, as well as a broken camera, without any problems.

Finally, Beryl says her husband fell ill four days into an Asian cruise last year. He was put ashore in Darwin, where he was in hospital for a week and flown home for surgery.

“(The credit card-based travel) insurance repaid all our expenses in due course, without any hassles, including reimbursement for the number of cruise days we lost. We plan to use them again for a Mediterranean cruise next year. We do read all the pre-conditions carefully, as everyone should.”

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