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Take Foreign Currency for First-Day Expenses

September 20, 1987|ERIC FRIEDHEIM | Friedheim is editor/publisher of Travel Agent magazine.

Question: Is there any advantage in buying foreign currency here for our trip abroad?

Answer: It's always wise to carry a reasonable amount for taxis, buses, tips and other expenses on arrival; this also gives you time to find out where to obtain the best exchange rates.

Q: With all the publicity about travel scams, how can I find out if I'm booking a tour from a reliable operator?

A: Be sure to have your agent check the tour wholesaler's business reputation. Many operators have performance bonds. Your agency can contact the American Society of Travel Agents, 1101 King St., Alexandria, Va. 22314, phone (703) 739-ASTA, and the U.S. Tour Operators Assn., 211 E. 51st St., New York, N.Y. 10022, phone (212) 944-5727, for information about their members. Also, you can check your local Better Business Bureau.

Q: I've heard that some European hotels still charge huge prices for overseas telephone calls. How can I avoid them?

A: Use a phone credit card or dial home collect. Also, there are reasonably priced telephone cards available locally in various denominations in West Germany, France and Britain that can be inserted into pay phones.

Q: Is there adequate unleaded gasoline available in Mexico , and is an American driver's license valid?

A: Unleaded gas is still unavailable in some areas. U.S. driving permits are acceptable, but you need Mexican insurance, which is available through your broker or the Automobile Assn. of America.

Q: My agent sold me a non-refundable air ticket. I arrived 15 minutes before flight and was told I was late and the seat was sold. What's my remedy?

A: Each carrier has its own pre-departure time rules; if the agent gave you wrong information, he can be held liable.

Q: Do European railroads still mix the sexes in their first-class sleeping compartments?

A: Women traveling alone on the Trans Siberian Railroad must buy both berths or risk sharing the compartment with another person, regardless of sex. Continental trains segregate the sexes in first-class but mix them in second-class, six-berth compartments.

Q: I'm interested in an extended freighter cruise of at least a month or more. Is there any age limit for passengers?

A: Some cargo vessels won't accept anyone older than 79 because there is no medical staff aboard, but your agent may know of ships with no restrictions.

Q: We'll be in Vienna this fall. Can we see much by using public transportation, instead of a guided tour?

A: Vienna has an extensive system of street cars and buses that should enable you to do extensive touring on your own. Unlimited travel passes are available locally. Contact the Austrian National Tourist Office, 11601 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 2480, Los Angeles 90025, phone (213) 477-3332.

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