Peter's Post: Hotel Hunting in Buenos Aires
PLUS: Where to stay during the US Open Tennis Championships, and how to get from Sicily to Rome by train
We will be spending three days in Buenos Aires in December. We are looking for a three or four-star hotel in a central position. Do you have any suggestions? - Maureen Michaels
Buenos Aires is not the cheapest city for hotel rooms. Here is a selection of hotels that could suit you. The rates quoted are from a discount website, www.booking.com, and they exclude 21% compulsory tax.
A good, mid-range hotel in the city is the Hotel Bristol, located at 9 de Julio Avenue, across from the Obelisk. It offers free wi-fi, gym facilities and comfortable bedrooms. Double rooms with breakfast start at R883 (www.hotelbristol.com.ar).
Or you could go trendy and stay at the Art Suites and Gallery, located in the Recoleta district with its chic cafés and designer stores. A studio apartment with breakfast will cost R1083 (www.artsuites.com.ar).
A very affordable choice is the three-star Hotel Impala, which offers double rooms with breakfast from R630. Also located in the Recoleta district, the hotel has clean accommodation near restaurants, bars and 9 de Julio Avenue, the most famous road in the city.
If you prefer smaller hotels, try Le Fresque Hotel. Located in downtown Buenos Aires four blocks from the Obelisk, it has 34 rooms in an old colonial building. It's rather eccentric, with antique furniture, wooden floors and modern touches. Rates start at R492 (www.lafresquehotel.com).
For a totally different feel, try Five Cool Rooms, a four-star boutique hotel in the Palermo area. All 17 bedrooms are classy and there's a great rooftop terrace, offering views of the city. Rates for a double room with breakfast start at R759 (www.fivehotelbuenosaires.com).
If you want to live it up, the five-star Claridge Hotel is a great neo-classical choice in the heart of the city. Enjoy stylish rooms, a heated outdoor pool and 24-hour service. Double rooms with breakfast start at R1275, a good rate for a luxury hotel.
Make my match
We want to go to the US Open Tennis Championships later this year. Is it advisable to stay in Manhattan? We would prefer not to spend too much time travelling and want to be able to attend the late matches. Should we try to find accommodation in Queens, closer to the complex? - Riana Miller
Most visitors to the US Open stay in Manhattan, as there is limited accommodation in Queens. From Manhattan, it is easy to use public transport to get to the complex, officially known as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The cheapest way to get there is to take the number seven subway, which stops at Mets-Willets Point Station, a short walk from the complex. However, you can also use the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), which runs from Penn Station to Mets-Willets Point for extended hours. It costs more than the subway, but it is faster, has a set schedule and has comfortable seats. It only takes 18 minutes each way.
Therefore, it makes sense to stay close to a number seven subway stop or Penn station. If you are worried about the time it takes to get to matches, then try to avoid carrying a handbag. There are two queues at the entrances: one for those with bags and one for those without. You can guess which one is insufferably long. So, unless you desperately need to bring a handbag, leave it at the hotel.
Secondly, the lines at the East Gate (closest to the subway and the LIRR) are very long. Rather walk around to the South Gate, which is directly in front of the Unisphere. It will be much quieter.
To Rome by rail
We are travelling in Sicily in September and would like to go by rail to Rome. What are our options? - Arlene Emmenes
Flying would be much more convenient and cheaper, but the trip would be enjoyable for those who like train travel. The journey from Palermo to Rome takes around 11 hours, 20 minutes. There are three departures per day - at 7am, 10.07am and 6.30pm.
On www.eurorailways.com, a test booking for the 7am train was $163 one-way in first class, including booking and handling fees. In second class, it costs $130.
If, like me, you are wondering how the train crosses the ocean, here's the secret: the cars are rolled onto barges for the crossing of the Strait of Messina. The trip takes about an hour and, during the crossing, you can stay in the train or go on deck. You will arrive in the port of Villa San Giovanni near Reggio Calabria in southern Italy and travel on to Rome.
An alternative is to make the trip by ferry. Ferries run from Palermo to Civitavecchia, the port for Rome. GNV ferries run three times a week (www.gnv.it). I was quoted 95 euros for airline-style seating and cabins with beds from 267 euros (internal) and 285 euros (external). The journey takes around 13 hours.