My companion is an enthusiast of Anzac theatres of war and he was keen to visit El Alamein while we were in Egypt. Through Viator, we found a company offering “Top VIP treatment”, with a luxury vehicle, expert English-speaking guide, tickets and lunch. So we paid a top price of £140, instead of hiring a local taxi for about £20. The pick-up was bungled because the guide was late, losing us nearly an hour; the car was a bit of an old banger; the guide was clearly tired and actually fell asleep as we drove along, necessitating a coffee stop; he was an (ancient) Egyptologist and knew very little about El Alamein, and some of that was wrong; his English was poor, requiring frequent repetition; lunch was horrible; drinks were extra. We provided a detailed account to customer service at Viator and requested a refund. They stonewalled, asserting they’d reviewed everything (no details provided) and found no justification for a refund. Can you help?
Catherine Mackenzie

A A good guide can make a holiday but a bad one can ruin it. It took quite a while for Viator to agree to look at your case again but it finally agreed to a refund and a 15 per cent discount on a future tour. A spokesperson said: “The experience your reader described certainly isn’t one we’d wish for any of our customers, and we’re glad it isn’t the norm. While our initial investigations and past customer reviews didn’t indicate any recurring issues with this tour or the local operator who runs it, our team is further investigating Catherine’s report to ensure our future travellers have the best experience possible when booking this tour.”

In November I was meant to be doing a yoga retreat in Guatemala. Unfortunately, there was a degree of civil unrest at the time I was meant to be travelling. There were petrol and food shortages and roadblocks across the whole country with emerging reports of violence. The Foreign Office advice was not to travel through roadblocks and to stay in a safe place; it said if the roadblocks continued, “in country” travel may have to be postponed and flights rescheduled. It wasn’t possible for me to get to my destination avoiding roadblocks so I decided to fly home early and lost a considerable amount of money. My travel insurance policy is included with my Nationwide current account and its policy states it will pay up to £5,000 compensation in the case of FCDO advice of “do not travel” or “essential travel only”. But I’ve been told my claim, for more than £4,000, is not covered. Is there any way I can get this money back because I didn’t receive any refund from the yoga school?
Lucy Hodge

A I’d say you were in a lose-lose situation here: had you travelled and been caught up in the violence, I doubt you’d have been able to make a successful claim because of the Foreign Office advice in place. After I got involved in your case, Nationwide rang you to explain its decision but it wouldn’t budge and your next step would be to take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service ( A Nationwide spokesperson said: “Reimbursement for a curtailment of a holiday is only covered if the FCDO advice prevents someone from travelling or impacts their holiday, so our customer’s claim was correctly declined. We recommend all customers check their insurance policies before travelling and ensure that they consider all travel advice before booking.”

A demonstration outside the Culture Palace in Guatemala

A demonstration outside the Culture Palace in Guatemala


My wife, adult son and I would like to see the northern lights in Iceland, ideally when it’s not too cold. Could you recommend a tour and a hotel that can accommodate three people in the same room and is in a location near other attractions? How many nights would you recommend we stay to guarantee we see the lights?
Tim Holton

A I’d love to be able to tell you that if you stay a certain number of days in Iceland you’ll definitely see the northern lights in all their glory, but even though the sun will reach the peak of its current activity cycle this year, if you get a run of cloudy nights you’ll be disappointed. My advice is to stay as long as you can afford in a location that’s far from light pollution, and pack in activities so that if the lights don’t appear you won’t feel you’ve had a wasted trip. A great base is the Hotel Ranga, in a perfect spot to explore the Golden Circle, which includes Gullfoss waterfall, Pingvellir National Park and the bubbling hot springs at Geysir, and to visit the main highlights of south Iceland: don’t miss the Seljalandsfoss (where it’s possible to walk behind the gushing torrent of water) and Skogafoss waterfalls. Go in October or November when there’s still a nice balance between daylight and darkness; a four-night break based on the three of you sharing a room starts at £1,345pp, including B&B, flights, car hire and tickets for a dip in the Blue Lagoon before you drop the car back at the airport (

Hotel Ranga

Hotel Ranga


We’re a family of nine (six adults, three children) and are planning to go by train to the Futuroscope theme park in France in April 2025. Would it be best for us to arrange the travel, accommodation and park tickets independently or is there a company that can do this? Would you recommend the budget hotels around the park? (I’m a Yorkshireman.)
Paul Jennings

A UK tour operators have yet to discover the wonders of France’s high-tech theme park, near Poitiers, but Futuroscope itself has a range of offers including hotel and ticket deals and it makes sense to stay in the park if you’re travelling by train. Prices for a family of four start at £100pp in April this year for a one-night, two-day stay including B&B and park tickets at Hotel Futuroscope ( The train journey from London St Pancras to Poitiers, 20 minutes from the park, takes about five hours via Paris or six to Futuroscope station (

Parc du Futuroscope

I really want to see red squirrels and I’ve heard that the Highlands are the place to go. Could you suggest a dog-friendly hotel in a suitable location? I’m planning to go by train in May and I don’t want to pay more than £150 a night.
Katie Richmond

A The Highlands are a red squirrel stronghold and you have every chance of spotting the bushy-tailed critters at the Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, which has a hide and red squirrel feeders, in Aberfoyle, about 90 minutes from Glasgow by public transport. Stay nearby at the cosy and dog-friendly Forth Inn in the centre of Aberfoyle. In the bar, which stocks only Scottish draught beers, you can get a map with loads of walking routes, some of which start and finish at the pub, and single rooms start at £98 B&B in May (

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