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For more than 10 years, Travelwatchdog has existed as a voluntary service to help the traveller. Have you suffered at the hands of a tour operator, travel agent, holiday company, bucket shop, airline, hotel or any other organisation involved in the travel trade, or had an accident or illness abroad? Are you looking for interesting travel experiences? In addition to helping members of the public who have problems with the travel trade, we also report and advise independently on trips for the traveller of which we have direct experience, some of which will not be found in the brochure. Do you have a particularly good travel experience about which you would like to tell others? We give equal space to both Saints and Sinners in the industry. You can contact our HELP DESK by clicking here.   We are pleased that over recent years our focus has achieved a better balance between helping travellers with problems and advising those who are planning trips. More and more travellers are consulting us, particularly about 'that trip of a lifetime'. We welcome your enquiries. There is no fee or obligation and we do not try to sell you anything. Difficult to believe, but true! If you in any way doubt your ability to get justice from one of the industry sinners please read Eileen's Story at this link and that of Shirley, immediately below.

There is no travel ombudsman and some elements of the industry have a poor record when it comes to dealing with justified complaints. Moreover, almost all travel sites offering help are actually selling something. We are not. Some travel agents and tour operators, particularly those joining the trade via the internet, will steadfastly reject even the most convincing of evidence, feeling safe in the knowledge that there is very little chance of ever being held to account. ABTA, being funded by the industry will support their paymasters in almost all cases, whereas we accept no support or 'free trips' and promise 100% honesty. If you have a legitimate complaint we try to help. If you do not, we say so. Similarly, unlike media correspondents, we do not travel as 'guests of the company'. What we write about a trip is our honest opinion, not a fudge in case our free travel is cut off! The bottom line is that you can trust our advice and the information given in our travel articles. If you have a complaint, simply want some travel advice, or have a good travel story to tell, please contact us using the form at this link

Traveller! Whatever else you do during this visit, please read the thumbnails on this page. It could save you money and heartache.

USA National Parks Abandoning Animal Conservation Principles


What travellers considering a visit to the USA should know before deciding to make the journey.


Prior to the year 1800, some 60,000,000 Bison roamed wild in America. Today that number is probably no more than 15,000, the remainder having been hunted or lost through disease. 1,000 years ago Bears roamed the forests of Britain but are now extinct due to hunting and disease and those still populating other parts of Europe are under threat.

Unfortunately, it appears that despite the lessons of history, those charged with custody of the planet’s endangered animals have learned very little and Yellowstone National Park is set to become the latest US location to cave in to the hunting/gun lobby by withdrawing protection from rare animal species. Yellowstone was almost certainly the first national park in the world and covers c3500 square miles. Principally in the state of Wyoming, but with some territory in Montana and Idaho, it has a unique ecosystem and around the world is generally but erroneously believed to be a totally safe sanctuary for wild animals.

Probably the most famous of the wildlife inhabitants of this park is the rare Grizzly Bear, made even more famous by the iconic cartoon character Yogi Bear. An estimated 717 of this endangered species are spread over the area of the park giving each individual bear around five square miles of territory, but their numbers are soon to be reduced still further. Every year millions of tourists are attracted to the USA. Most do not go to see the human inhabitants or cities. Above all they go to see the landscape and wildlife - everyone without exception dreams of seeing a bear. Few will meet that aspiration and the chances of doing so will be reduced even further if the slaughter of the US Bear population is extended from the killing fields of Florida into this unique national asset.

In the past year the plight of Bears in the USA has become precarious. In the latter part of 2015 Florida issued licenses to hunters to kill around 300 Black Bears and New Jersey soon followed suit, both despite the rarity of the species. The motivating factors include pressure from Hunters, generally a redneck underclass, but with a powerful voice, revenue from selling hunting licenses and business interests focused on securing land for development. In Florida the killing was particularly horrendous, with solid evidence of lactating mothers being shot thusß leaving orphaned cubs to die a lonely death, with other animals wounded and simply limping away to die. First reports from New Jersey suggest a similar scenario.

Lame excuses citing fear of the dangers arising from contact with human beings are put into context by the fact that the average loss of human life through such contact throughout the entire USA is two persons each year. This is two deaths too many, but set against the annual figure of 1,000 hunting accident gunshot wounds resulting in about 100 fatalities, and the 30,000+ Americans murdered by guns each year, it does seem to be grasping at straws.

The latest attack on these Bears arises with the proposed removal, by the government, of the protection afforded to the few remaining Grizzly's. If this happens the future looks bleak both for the Bears and for those who visit the USA in the hope of seeing them. The decision will be made by Fish & Wildlife Director, Dan Ashe, a politician with a reputation for being an avid killer of animals for pleasure. If permission is granted, this could spell the beginning of the end for America's national parks that without their wildlife are just sterile attractions devoid of interest.


Are my days in Yellowstone Numbered?

The impact on the tourist industry will eventually be massive. Throughout the world animal species are under unrelenting attack and many are endangered or will soon become so. In developing countries this is understandable even if unacceptable, simply because poor countries will struggle to improve economic performance by whatever means are available to them.

There is a view, and a perfectly reasonable one, that wild animals belong to planet earth and not to individuals or nations who are merely custodians for the time being. An extension of that view is that even if you take no action to influence the wildlife decisions of other custodians, there is a duty to preserve those species with which you have personally been entrusted. In the case of the Grizzly Bears of Yellowstone National Park, they are in the custody of the USA in general and the US Fish and Wildlife Commission in particular. Commissioner Ashe has an international responsibility to ensure their preservation.

In the worst case scenario hunting, followed by disease, could very easily eradicate these bears from the area. Many visitors to the USA are attracted by the unique nature of these national parks that are generally regarded as inviolable animal sanctuaries. Remove the protection and each becomes just another piece of real estate into which the abhorrent gun culture has been extended. (If there is one certain fact that the USA has not taken on board, it is the incredulity of the developed world at their tolerance of violent crime generated by the failure to control the use of guns that are still protected by an enactment introduced when there was no organised law enforcement and the musket was the available weapon.) Even more irresponsible is that removing the protection from a single park damages the integrity of the whole system and starts the inevitable destruction of a unique American attraction that people like George Catlin and John Muir worked so hard to promote.

Are there alternatives for your trip? Of course there are! Recent developments in China, the wilderness areas of Russia and particularly Argentina and Patagonia are just a few of the options a traveller can consider. They do not have the attraction of the Yellowstone Grizzly’s, but if those unique animals become simply a trophy on the wall of a gun crazy redneck, there is little else of special appeal. Sadly, the Bison lesson is being ignored.

Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself!

James Anthony Froude - English Historian and Scholar (1818-1894)


General Travel Advice

Even the experienced traveller needs to take a great deal of care in planning a trip. Most of the time nothing goes wrong, but if it does you really do need to be prepared. Take advantage of our printable travel trip check list and avoid the pitfalls that are regularly reported to us.

Travel Insurance

In recent months we have had many cases where holiday stopping events have occured after booking. ALWAYS arrange travel insurance as soon as you make your flight or holiday booking. Tour operators and travel agents will not normally refund however bad the tragedy. They make sympathetic noises but some see it as a bonus rather than a problem. To them it's a holiday they may be able to sell twice! Use our travellers check list at this link.

Travel Regulation Care

Travellers must be aware that it is their personal responsibility to ensure that they meet all Visa and other travel requirements before commencing their journey. The consequence of not doing so can be profound.

Mr K's family recently travelled to Brazil without him, but when Mrs K and her children attempted to return to the UK, they were prevented from doing so by the Brazilian authorities who will not allow a lone parent to take children out of the country. In this case, not being aware of the regulations before travel has caused a great deal of distress and additional expense.

Expect travel agents and airlines to offer advice on such matters, but they do not have the final responsibility; YOU DO! Check with the visa section of the relevant embassy if you are not certain that you are absolutely aware of the requirements you must meet for your journey.

Stop being a 'Sticky' Customer!

What is a 'sticky' customer? This is a term companies apply to those customers who either by design or ignorance can be relied upon to stay with the company. This happens where a company earns a reputation for being good value and despite market trends offering better value almost everywhere else, the company retains its customers because those customers are too lazy or too foolish to research other opportunities.

Beware Europcar on the Continent

Over the past couple of years we have had a number of e-mails about outrageous charges levied by Europcar for minor damage to hire cars. Europcar, owned by EURAZEO, is a franchise organisation with some very dodgy franchisees. Nice seems to be the worst place to hire from this company. The credit card of one customer was debited over €919 for a small dent in a bumper caused when they left the vehicle in a car park. More recently, another Europcar Nice customer's card was debited more than €500 for a dent in the steel wheel of a Peugeot and another in Malaga, €800 for a broken clutch cable! You can avoid such overcharging by using a credit card with a very low spend limit or avoiding this company altogether.


Before Travelling to any suspect region, check the latest travel advice with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office:



Finding new experiences is one of the great joys of travel. In these days when conforming to a pattern is more and more a part of life, when you find something different it is worth letting people know. If you are going to the Auburn area of California drop in and see Charlie Green at his fabulous winery in the hills.


USA Car Hire Scam - Read and be Prepared

You may be charged hundreds of dollars for rental car insurance -- even if you decline it!

Hundreds of stories on consumer advocate website describe being overcharged hundreds of dollars by Dollar Rent a Car and its sister company, Thrifty Car Rental. The website is run by San Diego attorney and investigative journalist John Mattes, who is currently counsel in two insurance overcharges lawsuits against Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group.

How does the alleged "scam" work? Consumers complain that the employees do one or more of the following:

a) Claim that the rental car insurance is mandatory (often claiming a "new law" specific to the state/country the traveler is in)

b) Tell the consumer they won't be charged for insurance, but add on the charges before the consumer signs

c) Direct the consumer to click a button or sign on an electronic screen. The consumer is told they're declining insurance, when they're actually accepting the charges

d) Fold the receipt so that any extra or unauthorized charges aren't immediately visible

When consumers complain at the counter, they're often rebuffed with "You signed the contract, there's nothing we can do." How can you prevent this from happening to you? Learn what your existing insurance (auto, credit card, travel) covers. Be very clear and vocal that you do not want any extra insurance. Be wary of items called "Loss Damage Waiver" and "RoadSafe". If directed to check a box or sign a contract, have the employee confirm what it is for. Review your contract/receipt at the counter and note any discrepancies beforehand. 

Have you been overcharged for insurance by Dollar / Thrifty Rent a Car? You're not alone. Attorney John Mattes wants to hear from you. Please see or email to get in touch. 

The information in this message is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.



© - June "> 2015. Images, video and articles from the site may be freely downloaded, but may only be reproduced in their full version and in the context in which they appear here

A message from the Editor

For more than 10 years we have offered free advice to the travelling public and, apart from a small annual payment from one of Britain's top firms of Solicitors and a few public donations, we have personally met all of the considerable costs of maintaining the site. If you wish to help, please use the Paypal button below. A Paypal account is not necessary.

Yours sincerely,

Bob Braban

About the Editor: Bob enjoyed a long career in the Royal Air Force before spending 10 years as a public school Bursar and a further 5 years as head of Education Marketing International. Throughout this time he worked concurrently as a part-time freelance journalist, for a period with BBC local radio and regional daily newspapers. Legally educated and widely travelled, he started in 2002 after successfully fighting misrepresentation by e-bookers and realising that in travel matters there is no independent source of advice assistance for those who feel they have been wronged. In recent years more focus has been placed on trip planning and pre-travel advice

Water cascading down Yoemite Falls, Cailfornia

The Stunning Yosemite Falls. Part of the California Tour


Photograph of golden domes at Perterhof, St. Petersburg

The Domes at Peterhof St Petersburg A highlight of any Baltic Cruise





Before you travel to the Middle East on holiday – Understand the Risks

Two years ago we issued a strong warning about travelling on holiday to the Middle East in general and Egypt and Sharm el Sheikh in particular. The area is particularly volatile since the Arab Spring and as well as a general risk from random attacks on individuals and groups, there has always been a serious problem with airport and aircraft security. The recent downing of the MetroJet flight serves as a timely reminder that airport and aircraft security is a lottery, particularly in the regions mentioned.

Travellers are generally impressed by the visible security measures at all international airports and those are backed up, to varying degrees, by measures the public cannot see. Don’t for one minute believe that this overt and covert activity creates anything like total safety. It does not! For almost four months some 50 years ago, I was responsible for the security at an international civil airport just 765Km from Sharm el Sheikh. I quickly found that despite having a lot of real good security staff and limitless powers to control entry, search vehicles, search passengers and staff, search all packages and restrict entry from outside the perimeter, the security was nevertheless flawed for reasons beyond my control. Technology and a host of other advances in security have ensued, but so have advances in bomb-making and the basic problem has only been reduced, not solved.

The number one problem is:

How do you guarantee the security integrity of what arrives on your runway? Every international airport receives flights from near and far and your security is as good as the security at the worst airport in the chain of flights that has brought that aircraft and its passengers and cargo to your runway.

Consider this: A light aircraft flown by a terrorist sympathiser takes off from a small airfield in an African state where security is very lax. A member of the crew is carrying a small parcel containing an explosive device. On their arrival at a larger feeder airfield he lands and is already inside the secure area. There maybe security measures in place, but at many airfields they will be poor. This is particularly the case at smaller airports where everyone is familiar with everyone else and unjustified trust is built up, thus reducing essential checks. By arrangement, the carrier passes the package to another sympathiser who places it, again by arrangement, under seat 38 on an airliner scheduled to fly to your airport. On arrival at your airport, say Sharm el Sheikh for example, an aircraft cleaner who is also a sympathiser, collects the package from seat 38. His cleaning duties take him to another aircraft where he arms the package and leaves it in a suitable place. Of course airport security officials try to take action to prevent such events, but they are a great deal more difficult to prevent than other incursions. More advanced international airports will have a far better grip on the problem than those in less well developed countries, but if you choose to holiday in places like Sharm el Sheikh you are taking a real risk.

If you are a UK Senior Citizen looking for other than travel advice, you may find these links of interest :

Booking on-line

Every week brings several stories of financial losses by travellers who have made mistakes whilst booking on-line. Getting travel companies to put these errors right is almost impossible with the best and quite impossible with the worst. They see it as money in the bank. if you are not confident go to a travel agent. If you are confident, take care. If you are over-confident, go to a travel agent! read this:



If you are approached by Resort Key be very cautious. See our complaint of the month for details

We have had a host of recent complaints about this company who take additonal charges from credit cards without the customer's authorisation. Although they are they operate out of Leipzig in Germany. They do not return calls and frequently send information etc. in German. Our advice is to avoid them like the plague.

Airline Return Tickets - Warning!

James who is currently in Australia e-mailed to say that he was stuck in Australia. To ensure that he could travel back to the UK on the same flight as his girl friend he purchased a return ticket intending to use only the return half. When he did not turn up for the outbound flight the airline voided to whole ticket so he lost his money.

This highlights a problem that can affect quite a number of people and one that arises from general ignorance of airline practices. If you purchase a return airline ticket and do not make the outward journey, the airline will void the whole ticket. They assume the right to believe that if you did not go, you will not be coming back. They pocket your money and sell the ticket again.




On Advice:

George Harris (1844-1922) US Educator

I intended to give you some advice but now I remember how much is left over from last year unused!

Oswald Theodore Avery (1877 -1955)

Whenever you fall, pick up something.

Edward VIII (1894-1972) Only two rules really count. Never miss an opportunity to relieve yourself; never miss the chance to sit down and rest your feet.