The Best & Worst Holiday Experiences

Lost Passport

This happened to a former work colleague of mine.
He was travelling by himself on a bus in Turkey. He had fallen asleep but woke up when the bus stopped at a large bus terminal. Realising he urgently needed to go to the toilet, he jumped off the bus, did his business and raced back outside only to discover the bus had disappeared with his luggage. He frantically hurried into the terminal and lined up at the service desk.
"My bus has left without me and taken all my luggage!"
"Your passport please sir?" Asked the customer service officer.
Reaching into his safe wallet strapped around his waist, he realised it was not in the wallet. A thorough search of every pocket did not find it and he got the horrible feeling that he was in big trouble. A moment later he felt a tap on his shoulder.
"Excuse me sir, is this your passport?"
A man was standing behind him with a passport which he passed over. Sure enough, it was the missing passport. He asked the man to please wait while he sorted out his missing luggage. Turned out his luggage had been taken off the bus and was in storage.
He then asked the man to tell him where he found the passport. He said he found the passport in the bowl of a toilet. He took it out, washed and dried it, and handed it to the attendant in the toilets. He then went and did his business, washed and dried his hands and when he went to throw the paper in the bin he noticed a passport in the bin. He took it out and realised it was the one he had handed to the attendant.
Deciding he better find who owned the passport, he walked up and down the terminus listening for an Australian voice (as he noted on the passport). He heard my colleagues voice and tapped him on the shoulder.

Best Hotel

The hotel Dewachen in the Phobjikha Valley in Bhutan.
Built in traditional Bhutanese style and set high on the side of the valley with a magnificent view it was a beautiful and magical place.
Massive rooms all with valley views. Even the shower had a view of the valley through a small window. In terms of atmosphere it was one of the best places I have ever stayed in. No TV or internet and the power went off on the first night after a huge rain downpour. Power had not come on before we left but it didn't matter. They had a generator (they turned it off at 9 pm) and they cooked some things on the wood fire in the dining room which also had a magnificent valley view. We had wood heaters in our rooms which most of us lit and kept going from a stock of wood outside.
The Phobjikha valley is home to the rare black necked cranes from Tibet who spend the winter there.

Worst Hotel

Kettering in Tasmainia.
Whilst touring in Tasmania we decided to visit Bruny Island for a day. We needed to catch the first ferry across so decided to stay somewhere close to the ferry overnight. Whilst driving along near Port Huon, I found this hotel in Kettering (where you catch the ferry) in the RACV accommodation book. Rang and inquired about a room for the night. Guy says he will check and 10 mins later comes back and says that is OK.
Got there and nice looking hotel on the hill overlooking the bay full of boats. Booked in and went upstairs to discover we were the only ones there. Very run down. Communal showers, toilets & kitchenette all in poor condition. Room just OK. Went down road to get pizzas for dinner and took them back to kitchenette. Lights not working because no globes in sockets. TV not working. In bedroom, a globe was suspended from the ceiling with the old style pull switch.
In bed and the noise started. They had a bar below us that the locals frequented. It stopped about midnight.
It reminded me of Faulty Towers. The RACV book gave it 2 stars but I think there was a printing error and they forgot to put the minus in front of the 2.. It was once a magnificent hotel in a lovely position. The views in the morning to the bay were stunning.

Worst City

Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.
The air was polluted and streets littered with rubbish. The traffic was chaotic. Power outages contributed to the pollution because people used generators. The streams were littered and raw sewage was running into them. High poverty level and people living in the streets. There is no reticulated water. The main area called Thamel was a rabbit warren. The infrastructure was crumbling and I could see no evidence that anything was being fixed. I would not call it a functioning city and wonder what it will be like in 10 years time. I have no idea where one would start to fix things. I purchased the Lonely Planet guide to Nepal before we left and none of this was mentioned in the guide. Many others I have spoken to say it has "Spiritual Significance" but not for me.
Some of the so called "sacred sites" were in a very bad condition. Litter everywhere, motorbikes allowed to drive through them. The sacred river had raw sewage running into it. At some places we had to pay an entrance fee because we were tourists. Where is all this money going?
Pokhara, the second largest city, was in a better state but who knows what it will be like in 10 years time.
There is an organisation called the
Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP). It is a non government project committed to preserving the environment in Nepal and includes initiatives for improving conditions in Kathmandu. They are doing some excellent work and we can only hope they make a difference in the longer term.

Most Awe Inspiring Sight

Walking through the Sun Gate via the Inca trail and the first view of Machu Picchu.
This was the most spectacular thing I have ever seen. It was mid afternoon on a sunny day and it took my breath away. The Sun Gate is about 300m above and 1km away from Machu Picchu so you get a magnificent view over Machu Picchu. We sat there for ages soaking in the atmosphere. Most people never see this view first because they go up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes village by bus. The Sun Gate is a stone arch strategically positioned on a ridge above Machu Picchu so that the sun shines through the arch onto Machu Picchu at sunrise which is apparently the best time to be there.

Most Frightening Experience

A Snowstorm whilst Trekking in Nepal.
We were trekking in Nepal between places called Tadapani and Chistibung
. We set off and walked for about 2.5 hours and struck the first snow. Had lunch in a gully where the snow was quite thick. After lunch it started to snow so we put all our snow gear on. Good thing we did because it got worse. Then came thunder and lightning. Then we had to traverse a few treacherous sections. Very narrow path (ledge) on very steep terrain. Made slippery with the snow. I was scarred. Others were helped by the guides Still more thunder and lightning and snow. Could not see very far. A collegue was walking near me and I heard him yell out. I looked over and he had fallen over. My first thought was that he had slipped and hit his head but he yelled out that he had been hit by lightning. All who were nearby raced over to help him but he kept complaining of a terrible headache. We took off his head gear but could not see any damage. He seemed keen to keep going and the guide said said it was only about 10 mins to shelter and it was. He had a headache for a few days and fully r covered.

A Lost Travel Insurance Claim

We lost $6,000 under circumstances I am still not happy about
In Sept 2011, I made a travel insurance claim because I contracted a severe urinary infection which caused me to cancel a holiday the day before I was due to leave.
The insurance company denied my claim because my situation fell within their policy’s definition of a “Pre-existing Medical Condition”
I disputed their decision and eventually my dispute ended up with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). They assessed my claim and sided with the insurance company.
Before I had taken out a travel insurance policy, my GP had referred me to a specialist because of the symptoms I was experiencing (urinary symptoms and rising PSA levels). My PSA levels are checked every year so this is a routine check. Shortly after my GP visit, I took out a travel insurance policy because I also had made some final payments for the holiday. I then saw the specialist, had a biopsy and contracted the urinary infection from the biopsy. Later, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had it removed.
My claim was denied because my situation fell within the insurance company policy definition of a “Pre-existing Medical Condition” because:

  • I had an ongoing medical condition, the symptoms of which I was aware of before the policy purchase.

  • I was also currently being investigated for a medical condition (urinary symptoms and rising PSA levels) before the policy purchase.

I disputed the insurance company’s decision because:

  • The cancellation was due to a urinary infection, not prostate cancer.

  • I was not aware that the symptoms I was experiencing meant that I had prostate cancer (it had not been diagnosed before the policy purchase).

  • I did not consider a referral by my GP as commencement of "the investigation of a medical condition". Investigation commenced as soon as I saw the specialist.

The FOS agreed with the insurance company because:

  • Even though my trip was cancelled because of an infection that developed following a biopsy, the infection was nonetheless connected to the symptoms I exhibited before the policy purchase and ultimately, the cancer. I would not have contracted the infection if I had not exhibited the symptoms (consistent with cancer) which necessitated the biopsy. The FOS told me that in law this is known as a "causal" relationship.

  • The FOS agreed that even though I was unaware that the symptoms I had were prostate cancer, they had issued a recent determination which dealt with the same argument and concluded that since I was aware of symptoms that could turn out to be definitive of the cancer, and it turns out to be true, the law could not assist me in the matter.

  • The FOS considered that the investigation of the medical condition commenced from the time my GP provided the referral to the specialist.

Insurance companies are very thorough and experienced in investigating travel insurance claims related to medical situations. They will request all faucets of information relating to your claim and if you refuse to provide it they will deny your claim. I had to provide a copy of my GP’s referral, my GP and specialist had to fill out forms and they requested hospital discharge papers. They even have their own doctor who assesses your claim.
The insurance did refund $2,000 towards the cost of my wife’s travel costs. We lost about $6,000.