Don't be afraid to ask for this to be spelt out to you or your European breakfast — which consists of a bread roll, jam and fruit juice — may seem like siege rations. The same with excursions: "a trip to the castle" may well only include the costs of a guide and interpreter but not the entrance fee.
• An agreement between the client and the firm which, in contrast to the tour agreement, is a two-sided contract defining the rights and responsibilities of both parties.
Around half of all tour operators now sign agreements of this kind which set down the firm's responsibility in emergency situations as well as their liability with regard to keeping to schedule, looking after luggage and so on. It also sets out the responsibilities of the tourist. If a holidaymaker is caught in the act of smuggling illegal goods through customs, then he must take full responsibility for his actions.
• The fourth document is only provided by 90 firms in St Petersburg who have received the appropriate certification.
This is the so-called information leaflet for the tour, a wonderful invention which briefly describes the region to be visited and a mass of vital details such as the exchange rates, public transport, climate and telephone numbers for the emergency services, police, foreign consulates and so on.
Going to the United Arab Emirates without one of these leaflets would be nothing short of risky. Any attempt to engage a woman in conversation on the street is considered to be a pass and the offender can be locked up in a local jail — the same goes for chucking trash out of a moving car. And, remember, these information sheets are not mere products of the tour operator's imagination: they are governed by industry standards.
Last but not least. Any firm that cannot produce a certificate awarded by a professional body (or a license for that matter) should be regarded with extreme caution.
This doesn't necessarily mean that they will cheat you and then abandon you, they may even help you to save money. However in this case, you should be aware that you are taking a risk and you shouldn't count on a happy conclusion. Being a professional myself, I can tell you that the tourist trade is becoming increasingly unpredictable.
IF THERE'S NOTHING BETTER THAN A HOLIDAY, THERE'S NOTHING WORSE THAN COMING HOME AND BACK TO EARTH WITH A BUMP. BUT THERE ARE WAYS OF SOFTENING THE BLOW.
AS EVERY psychologist knows, the time when most of us need to go on holiday is when we have just come back from a holiday.
We have had an all-too-brief escape from everyday cares. Many of us have turned our fantasies into reality. We have had a go at being someone else - a Mediterranean playboy, a sailor, a scuba diver, an archaeologist, or a beach bum. August is that kind of month.
We have been reminded how much fun life can be, and how much there is to see and do. It tends to be unsettling. Re-entry into our familiar world is difficult. There is all that laundry to be unpacked and accumulated mail to be opened. (Why are there always more bills than cheques?) It's back to cooking dinners, weeding the garden, washing the car, feeding the dog, and commuting to and from work.
Long experience has taught me that there are some simple steps which should make this easier to bear.
Open a bottle or two of that wine you had too much of every night and which you have brought back for a friend, a relative, or neighbour. Your need is greater.
Resist the urge to tackle all those boring chores at once. This is known as jumping in at the deep end. Your best bet is to paddle in at the shallow end. Go out to a restaurant for the first night or two, and leave everything for another day. If you must unpack, don't get maudlin about it. Never mind those lingering, nostalgic moments as you shake the golden sand out of your beach togs. Just chuck it all into the bottom of the wardrobe -you can sort it put later.
On no account weigh yourself. There is no point in getting even more depressed.
Don't screen the movie you have made of your holiday. It's too soon for that.
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