‘I paid a £4,000 deposit for a South Africa trek — then our tour op went bust’ | Travel

✉ In March last year I booked a guided trek in South Africa with a local company as a birthday treat, and paid a deposit of about £4,000 using a Visa debit card from the banking app Revolut. I was due to travel in February, but about a week before our trek the company said it was ceasing trading and would attempt to repay my funds; nothing has been forthcoming. I tried a chargeback through Revolut but it told me that I was outside the “chargeback time period”. I understood that Visa relates this time period to the event date (the same as if a concert or football match is canceled that was paid for months before) and I made my claim in early March, so within four weeks of the canceled event. I have exhausted all routes with Revolut, including an official complaint, and hope you can help me to retrieve my deposit payment. Instead of being a much needed celebration it has been an expensive nightmare.
Robert McNeilly

You’re quite right. Chargeback claims need to be made within 120 days of the “agreed delivery date” of the event or holiday, not the date you paid. Unfortunately it seems that your initial claim was not logged by Revolut’s system and when you contacted the company in August for an update you were asked to make a fresh claim, which of course was too late under Visa’s rules. After my intervention, Revolt has refunded your deposit and paid you £300 in compensation for “the inconvenience caused”.

A lion in the Kalahari desert, South Africa

A lion in the Kalahari desert, South Africa


✉ We’d like to take my mother-in-law for a short trip during February half-term. She has been unwell so will need to stay somewhere accessible within easy reach (maximum 90 minutes) of Liverpool. We’re looking for self-catering, with three bedrooms, and possibly some history or culture, or just something that’s a bit of a treat, which doesn’t require much walking. Ideally we don’t want to pay more than £250 a night. What would you suggest?
Deborah Kay

Set your sat-nav for north Wales, which is an easy drive from Liverpool and has plenty of cozy cottages within your price range. Cwm Heulog is a bungalow on a working sheep farm between Llanrwst and Abergele, home to Gwrych Castle, which hosted the 2020 series of I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here. It sleeps six in three bedrooms, there are views down the valley from the sunroom, and three nights from February 14 would cost £455 (sykescottages.co.uk). Or try the traditionally decorated Pen y Banc, tucked away in the hamlet of Sarnau near the market town of Bala, which has just been revamped so that it has a ground-floor bedroom with a walk-in shower as well as two bedrooms upstairs. Three nights in February costs £420 (carolscottagesinwales.co.uk).

Kanana, Botswana

✉ My wife and I want to travel to Botswana but we can go only between December and February. Is this a problem? I know that this is the rainy season, the Okavango Delta will be flooded, and there will be mosquitoes, but some say it is the best time to visit because the scenery is spectacular. Can you advise?
Richard Scott

These are Botswana’s wettest months, with regular thunderstorms, but Chris McIntyre, the managing director of Expert Africa and author of the travel publisher Bradt’s Botswana guidebooks, says there’s plenty to enthral visitors at that time of year. “On clear days, December through February shows the delta off at its most triumphant: rampant, verdant vegetation; crystal-clear, dust-free air; and life bursting out generally at the seams. Yes, there are definitely more insects during this period — but this also means plentiful food up the chain for amphibians, reptiles and birds, most of which are in full breeding plumage.”

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He suggests going in early December, when the birds are raising chicks, and attractions such as the great heronries at Gcodikwe and Kanana will be in full flow, with thousands of breeding storks and herons piling onto tree islands in the middle of a great lagoon. Visits to the heronries form part of Expert Africa’s seven-night Ground Squirrel Safari, which is split between a private, guided mobile safari and Kanana, a permanent safari camp on the edge of the Okavango Delta’s waterways, where you could explore on foot, by boat and dugout canoe, as well as on drives. The trip costs from £5,370pp full board, including most drinks, all game activities, park fees and transfers. Flights to Gabarone start at about £800 (expertafrica.com).

✉ My husband and I have booked a holiday in Crete for next summer, with car rental from Chania airport booked through CarTrawler on easyJet’s website. I’ll be the driver and still have a paper license — do I need to get a photocard license? Alamo, the car hire company, insists that I need an international driving permit (IDP), but according to gov.uk I don’t need this to drive in Greece. I have emailed easyJet, CarTrawler and Alamo to find out which of the three types of IDP they would like me to have but to no avail. I’m obviously not keen to arrive at Chania and find we can’t have the car, but I don’t know where to turn next. Can you solve this mystery?
Frances Hancock

I’m not surprised you’re worried but although car rental companies generally prefer to see a photocard license, Alamo told me its Crete office has confirmed your paper license can be used and no IDP is needed. You will have your passport with you so that will of course have photo ID. And I’d suggest that you buy an excess insurance policy in advance so that you can rebuff Alamo’s attempts to sell you more expensive cover at the rental counter. An annual policy from iCarhireinsurance costs £49.99 (icarhireinsurance.com).

Seljalandsfoss waterfall at dusk, Iceland

Seljalandsfoss waterfall at dusk, Iceland


✉ We are looking for a seven to ten-day break next March to celebrate our anniversary. We’d like to fly from Glasgow if possible and our budget is about £5,000. We were considering Iceland, but it has been difficult to find high-quality accommodation. What can you suggest?
Ann-Marie Muirhead

Iceland has some gorgeous boutique hotels, and four of them feature in Discover the World’s seven-night Iceland Connoisseur fly-drive around the south and west of the island. They include the Northern Light Inn (a 20-minute drive from Reykjavik airport and within walking distance of the Blue Lagoon), where it’s all about the views of the lavascape and there’s a 360-degree observation lounge for aurora spotting. The remote Hotel Husafell is self-sustainable and powered by hot springs. Walking behind the spectacular Seljalandsfoss waterfall, snowmobiling on the Myrdalsjokull icecap and taking a close a look at Snorri’s pool, a preserved hot tub dating from the Middle Ages, are possibilities en route. The trip starts at £1,012pp including flights from Glasgow, car rental and B&B (discover-the-world.com).

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