For more than 10 years the double-decker buses of Top Deck Travel have been a familiar sight in Europe, Britain and Asia, providing a "mobile-hostel" style of budget tour for travelers 18 to 35.
This year Top Deck has added China to its destinations, but is not using double-deckers.
Top Deck tours in China and Southeast Asia offer accommodations in budget hotels, lodges or hostels. Tour costs are economical, but you can expect to share rooms with other tour passengers (single supplements are not charged) and only a few meals are included. Participants try restaurants at their own expense.
The rate for the new 24-day hotel tour of Eastern China and Hong Kong is 1,039 (about $1,766 U.S.). The trip departs from Hong Kong, includes transportation by bus and rail plus city sightseeing tours, six meals of the food of the country and all meals while on train journeys.
Participants on the China, Southeast Asia and India by Rail tours are required to carry a frameless backpack.
Top Deck's Southeast Asia destinations include Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali and the Philippines.
Tours range from 10 days in the Philippines to a 40-day journey between Katmandu and Bali. Transportation is by Jeep, train, taxi, ferry and plane. Accommodations are primarily in budget hotels.
For example, a two-week guided tour of northern Thailand departing from Bangkok includes an elephant ride, three days of trekking and staying in tribal villages, and two days of rafting down the Mae Kok River. It starts at 383 ($650 U.S.).
Young travelers who don't want to tour India independently but also prefer not to stay on a bus with 19 other passengers have the option of an escorted tour around India by rail. Accommodations are in three-star hotels.
Prices from Delhi for the 22-day journey start at 716 ($1,217 U.S.). This includes breakfasts, first-class rail travel, three evening meals and all city sightseeing tours.
Most Top Deck tours attract young travelers, but only the trips that use Deckerhomes impose the 18- to 35-year-old age restriction.
Cooking, Sleeping Space
Deckerhomes have cooking facilities, lockers and provide sleeping space for up to 20 passengers (average group size is 16). You must take your own sleeping bag.
Before you are swayed by price, think seriously about whether you'll enjoy such close quarters over an extended time. Deckerhome travel is promoted as a "party on wheels." Many will find it fun, but it won't suit all travelers.
Deckerhome trips between London and Katmandu range from 5 to 13 weeks. Rates for the five-week tour start at 587 ($997 U.S.), plus 87 ($147 U.S.) for a shared food fund. A 10-week trip would cost from 915 ($1,555 U.S.), with 165 ($280 U.S.) for the food fund.
Top Deck's overland route passes through Iran. U.S. citizens must fly over. Most choose to spend extra time in Egypt and then fly to meet the group in India. This means they pay an additional $600 to $700.
Top Deck also offers Deckerhome tours of northern India (including Rajasthan and Kashmir), trekking programs in the Himalayas and white-water rafting tours in Nepal.
For more information, contact the L.A. Flight Center, 7531 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood 90046, phone (213) 874-4191.