‘Can we share an Egypt hotel room if we’re not married?’ | Travel

I booked an all-inclusive holiday to Egypt for December through Thomas Cook. When I received my travel documents, the accommodation voucher stated that “any person from an Islamic, Muslim country wishing to share a room will be asked to present a marriage certificate”. When I finally got through to Thomas Cook I told them that my partner is a British citizen and passport holder, but was born in Syria, and asked whether this would be an issue. Eventually I received an email response informing me that the hotel had clarified we couldn’t share a room unless we had a marriage certificate because of my partner’s country of birth. I then asked for a full refund, because the holiday was obviously unsuitable and this crucial information had not been provided before I booked. Thomas Cook has told me that I can cancel my hotel, but the flights are non-refundable and I must pay the full amount for them. Can you help?
Claire Coulter

This is an unusual problem, but after you’d received the advice that you and your partner couldn’t share a room it was plainly impossible for you to go ahead with the booking. Thomas Cook did eventually get confirmation from the hotel provider that because your partner has a British passport the rule doesn’t apply to him, and this means your holiday can go ahead. It has also, however, offered a change of destination. If you still want to cancel you would be charged for the flights, and because of this you are talking to your bank about disputing this charge.

We are two friends keen to spend four or five days over the new-year period somewhere interesting in Europe. We like good food and wine, spas, history and culture, walking and exploring. Direct flights from Edinburgh would be a bonus, and we’d also like a fun New Year’s Eve dinner event. What can you suggest?
Evelyn Dougherty

If dipping into steamy thermal waters after a morning’s sightseeing is high on your new year’s wish list then Budapest, spa capital of the world, would be perfect. The choice is between historic baths with outdoor pools and vigorous Turkish massages at Szechenyi, Gellert and Rudas (where entry to its pools, saunas and steam rooms costs from £14 for a day), and swish spas at hotels such as the Aria, where a day pass costs £42 (treatments extra; ariahotelbudapest.com).

The parliament in Budapest

The parliament in Budapest


Sign up for a free walking tour of the city to get your bearings (guruwalk.com) and book a culinary tour starting in the Grand Central Market, Budapest’s cathedral of food, with Taste Hungary (tastehungary.com). On New Year’s Eve, a three-course dinner cruise on the Danube will have you in prime position in front of the Hungarian parliament building for midnight fireworks; tickets start at £172pp (silver-line.hu).

If you want to splurge on five-star glamour, four nights from December 29 in a twin room with spa access at the Corinthia starts at £855 (corinthia.com). Or stay at the rococo Palazzo Zichy, which does not have a spa, where four nights starts at £700 (hotel-palazzo-zichy.hu). Ryanair and Wizzair fly from Edinburgh to Budapest, with return fares starting at about £165 over the new year.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu,…

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