I was charged overseas transaction fees for local hotels via booking website

LET’S (NOT) GO DUTCH

I have been using this booking.com for many years. As a Genius member I received discounts on bookings and more. Last year I booked accommodation and was shocked to see that I had been charged an overseas transaction fee of nearly $ 50. Inquiries to booking.com were time wasting and fruitless. They blamed the hotel and were of no assistance at all. I eventually found through my bank that the charges were being routed through Amsterdam. Last month I looked at booking four nights accommodation and booking.com advised that the usual charge was $ 1340 but as a Genius member I could have it for $ 1,090. It sounded good, but on a whim I phoned the hotel directly and they said that I could have it for $ 990.

Peter Frederics, Balmain, NSW

Reading Robert Taylor’s letter about booking.com (Traveler lettersApril 23), do readers remember a YouTube video by Dick Smith a few years ago? He warned us that the money we were paying was ending up in The Netherlands. I almost caught myself when booking accommodation in Tweed Heads. I thought I was on the motel website and proceeded with the booking. Looked at my credit card statement to find an amount charged for a foreign currency exchange fee. Upon contacting the motel I was offered the same rate but with breakfast included. The motel would have had to pay a fee to booking.com if I had proceeded. The only good thing I can say about booking.com is that I was able to cancel and my money was refunded immediately. In yesterday’s news Trivago, who advertise some of these booking websites, has been fined a huge amount for misleading customers. I strongly recommend booking directly with your accommodation if possible.

Carol Bush, Port Macquarie, NSW

In response to Robert Taylor’s complaint about booking.com charging at 3 per cent transaction fee, booking.com wants payment in US dollars or euros. Large companies and banks have great leverage and get a very good deal changing currency. A transaction is just an entry in a database made at the interbank rate and at negligible cost. That 3 per cent is pure profit and generates enormous income. You will find as a traveler, or with online purchases, you pay a hefty fee to the likes of Paypal and credit cards when currency exchange is involved. For large transactions you can try payment directly to a bank account in their desired currency if they give that option. Then use Currencyfair or similar low cost exchange providers.

Richard Dowling, Blackburn, VIC

LETTER OF THE WEEK

WEED THRILLER

Nothing stirs the longing for travel like the memory of loved food (Traveler, April 23). My craving, triggered by cold beer on a warm evening: Lao river weed, served as a snack in cafes and bars in Luang Prabang, Laos. You get a mound of hot, salty, crispy-fried green sheets, shiny with oil and flecked with sesame seeds and garlic slices. Perhaps there’s a side bonus of jeow bong: a local sweet-spicy chilli relish. Who’d have thought? Filamentous algae dredged from the Mekong, rolled into sheets and dried on racks, then searingly wok-fried, could be the pinnacle of beer snacks.

Sally Pope, Five Dock, NSW

THAT’S THE SPIRIT

Our Qantas flight to Gladstone last week allowed an hour in Brisbane for connecting flights, and left Melbourne 75 minutes late due to baggage handling issues. Flight attendants kept us informed of progress, gave us priority disembarkation in Brisbane and provided a personal escort to the departure gate. Relieved that we had made the connection, we then saw our bags being loaded onto the plane. Thank you to all the Qantas staff who provided such friendly, efficient and caring service. We could not have done it without you.

Leone Thiele, Cape Paterson, VIC

TAKE A LEAF

For the first five decades of my life dreams of travel could only be lived vicariously through the books I read. About a decade ago I started traveling to some of those places- the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves; I stood under CS Lewis’ lamppost in Oxford (from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe); and in Romania, followed in the footsteps of Jonathan Harker from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’m still looking for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s secret garden – maybe I’ll find it as I wend my way from Southwark to Canterbury cathedral following in the steps of Chaucer’s pilgrims!

Elva Miller, Kenthurst, NSW

BEE WELL

Having suffered weeks of seasickness (Traveler lettersApril 23) on a cruise from London to Australia via South Africa many years ago, I discovered that a brilliant, chemical-free remedy was – a teaspoon or two of honey (take creamed honey, it’s less likely to spill). It worked a treat for my sister as well.

Tanya Tintner, Halifax, Canada

SCREEN GEM

We traveled over the Easter period and read the horror stories out of the state capital airports regarding people missing flights and / or luggage. Flying out of Darwin, we were in the security queue for about 30 minutes. Not because of a lack of people in the Top End but simply due to the updates to superior security screening systems that meant laptops stayed in bags, and my husband, who has a defibrillator implant, walked safely straight through the scanning machines. Major airports take note. Update too, and then you won’t have to deal with the “inexperienced traveler”.

Lynda Lovett, New Port, SA

BAD FORM

I nodded my head furiously in agreement when reading John Boast’s letter (Traveler lettersApril 23), regarding the Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD). Having just returned from the UK, I completely agree with all his comments by him. We were well aware of the need to fill out the declaration online so duly downloaded the app and created accounts before leaving Australia. However, my daughter and I had terrible issues when trying to complete the form before returning home to Sydney. Neither of us was able to log in using the username or password we had created – one or other of them “could not be authenticated” – and even when they were changed and accepted the message regarding it still appeared upon log in. We were certain of both those details before trying to access the site. All very frustrating, and we had the luxury of decent WiFi and a printer. You can only complete the form 72 hours before departure from overseas, so do it as soon as possible after then, because you may encounter hours of frustration as we did.

Teresa Cayzer, Frenchs Forest, NSW

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