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Strolling Down Book Lane, Turning Up Leaves

March 22, 1987|DON JAMES | James is a Los Angeles free-lance writer.

Ever start a vacation with reams of instructions and directions from well-meaning friends, only to discover that the "miles" are kilometers? You end up seeking divine help at a remote monastery or transportation at a Cheap-Charlie car rental agency.

In any case, a lot of time can be saved by taking along a supply of specific guidebooks for just your destination. And, too, books that will put you on the right track to fit your life style, whether you're looking for exotic cuisine, swinging singles, particular age groups, certain accommodations and/or other amenities.

The following guides are selected from recent columns, worth repeating for the international traveler. (Note: Prices are those quoted at the time reviews were published.)

For a more fun for the dollar vacation . . . "22 Days--Step by Step" guides to "Spain and Portugal" and to "Great Britain" present a worthy selection of itineraries. Rick Steve has also included one-day plans, schedules, bistros, cultural vignettes, et al., to help catch the more important see-and-do items (John Muir: $4.95 each).

Jack D. Novick offers solutions to medical, legal, financial, customs, duties and many more questions in "Legal Guide for American Travelers to Europe--A Practical Guide to 13 Countries." Don't leave home without this pocket-size book (Almanac: $6.95).

For a comprehensive guide to worldwide transportation, lodgings and attractions, "You Can Travel Free" by Robert W. Kirk presents hundreds of ideas and sources on how to take advantage of many free opportunities. It's worth the investment to get the feel of off-beat accomplishment (Pelican: $7.95).

"Rand McNally's Road Atlas and City Guide--Europe" ($12.95) is a collection of maps of each country and 85 cities that includes lots of general detail for a happier vacation.

Air travelers can alleviate jet lag and the accompanying pressures, time changes, diet, etc., with Charles F. Ehret and Lynne Waller Scanlon's "Overcoming Jet Lag." Anyone flying nationally or internationally will find the information important (Berkeley Trade Paperbacks: $4.95).

"Hong Kong, Macao & Canton--A Travel Survival Kit" by Carol Clewlow will make a visit to this area of 326 islands and an ever-changing skyline more enjoyable. It's crammed with good advice and important know-how that includes maps, where to stay, eat, shop or gamble (Lonely Planet: $7.95).

With a copy of "Born to Shop" "Italy" ($5.95) or "France" ($6.95) by Susan Schneider Thomas, it should be easier to bring back a gift for that special friend. The books offer advice on where and how to get the most for your money, including some special shopping tips, name brands and counterfeit awareness, customs, shipping, etc. (Bantam).

Frommer's "Motorist's Phrase Book--French, German and Spanish" is great for communicating on many subjects besides motoring, i.e., asking for a safety pin (Simon & Schuster: $4.95).

The "Best Guides" for "London" ($13.95) or "France" ($14.95) by Gault and Millau have been described as witty, breezy and opinionated. For 25 years both authors have been considered by many as the foremost critics on the art of fine living, with inside looks into the best or sometimes the worst (Crown).

"Travel Key Europe" is a detailed guide on how to get around the Continent. It points out how to avoid some pitfalls, hazards or embarrassing situations, i.e., finding the right public toilet in Yugoslavia where either a man's shoe or a woman's shoe is the only identification (Travel Press: $9.95).

Planning a vacation timed to include a celebration or two on the way? It will be easier with "A Guide to World Fairs and Festivals" by Frances Shemanski. The selection is almost limitless and includes such events as Buffalo Days, Cat Parade, Singapore Arts Festival, Le Mans Race, etc., (Greenwood Press: $29.95).

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