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Youth Beat

What's Down Under?

November 22, 1987|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Canadian travel journalist covering youth budget routes.

If you are planning to go to Australia next year, don't forget to do your homework.

It will be a year packed with celebrations--Australia's 200th birthday, plus Expo 88 in Brisbane, Queensland.

Birthday celebrations begin Jan. 14 with a 10-nation gathering of tall ships in Hobart, Tasmania. The ships will race to Sydney and parade in the harbor for Australia Day celebrations Jan. 26.

During the year, bicentenary events will include an international hot-air balloon race across the country, a 10,900-mile relay race around the country involving 16,000 runners, a vintage car rally and an air show in October near Sydney that is being billed as the largest aviation event in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Big Exposition

Between April 30 and Oct. 30, Expo 88 will be open in Brisbane. The theme is Leisure in the Age of Technology.

One easy way to find out about many of the major events is to get a free copy of "The Aussie Holiday Book," a 128-page guide. Copies can be obtained from the Australian Tourist Commission Distribution Center, 21330 Superior St., Chatsworth, Calif. 91311.

You will will also find information on regular events such as the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Adelaide on Nov. 15, and the Henly-on-Todd Regatta, a race in bottomless boats on a dry riverbed in September at Alice Springs.

"The Aussie Holiday Book" also provides maps and details on a variety of services, including information and prices for different types of domestic travel, and notes which special fares, which must be bought before you arrive, are not sold in Australia. Many can be bought on the scene.

Three Australian bus companies--Ansett Pioneer, Greyhound and Deluxe Coachlines offer passes for unlimited travel on their systems for periods of seven to 90 days. One thing the guide does not tell you is that students with an international student identity card are eligible for a 5% discount on the Koalapasses offered by Deluxe Coachlines.

The Koalapass

The regular rate for a seven-day Koalapass is $155 Australian (about $115 U.S.), a 10-day pass is $199, a 14-day pass is $270, a 22-day pass is $370 and a 32-day pass is $499. (All prices are in Australian dollars).

Young travelers on limited funds might want to wait until they arrive before buying one of the unlimited travel passes because sometimes point-to-point bus fares that allow stopovers are best suited to a traveler's plans.

Two good sources for information about budget tickets and youth or student discounts are Student Travel Australia and the travel service of its youth hostel association--YHA Travel. Student Travel has offices in most major Australian cities and at 1A Lee St., Sydney. YHA Travel is at 355 Kent St., Sydney.

In Australia, 130 youth hostels are affiliated with the International Youth Hostel Federation. There are also many independent hostels.

The independent hostels do not have to impose curfews and do not require memberships. They tend to network among themselves; when you stay at one you find out about many more. Information on how to contact one network of independent hostels is included in "The Aussie Holiday Book."

Keep in mind that to visit Australia you will need a visa ("The Aussie Holiday Book" includes an application) and you'll have to pay a departure tax of $20 Australian (about $15 U.S.) before you board your plane to leave.

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