The most popular spots for young travelers planning international trips this year are the South Pacific and Europe, but student travel agencies are also noticing significant interest in Eastern Bloc countries and in Thailand.
Here are some basic tips for wherever you go:
A good investment is a membership in the International Youth Hostel Federation. Not only does it provide you with access to low-cost lodgings in more than 50 countries, but it can also help with special services.
For example, at Expo 88 in Brisbane, Australia, budget lodgings will be quite limited, but the Australian Youth Hostel can help.
It offers a variety of low-cost 7- to 14-day packages, including bus transportation from many Australian cities, youth hostel accommodations in Brisbane and at a beach resort, and a three-day Expo pass.
For details contact YHA Adventures, 60 Mary St., Surry Hills, New South Wales 2010, Australia.
Get Hostel Membership
You should get your youth hostel membership before leaving the United States. The 1988 rate for travelers 18 and over is $20. Contact American Youth Hostels, Los Angeles Council, 357 West 7th St., San Pedro 90731, phone (213) 831-8846.
For the last several years many independent hostels have been developing in Australia and New Zealand. They offer the advantage of fewer rules, but they do not have to meet international standards. They tend to promote each other, so when you stay in one you can pick up information and addresses for others. Gateway city tourist information offices can help you find the hostels when you arrive.
When you are about to buy tickets for a journey, a tour, a night in a hotel or a restaurant meal, be sure to ask about taxes when you are quoted a price. It can make quite a difference. For example, the general sales tax in New Zealand is 10% and it may increase to 12.5% by October.
You should also check to see if you are required to pay an airport tax when you leave the country, so you can have the right amount available in the correct currency. In Australia, the departure tax has just been raised to a hefty $25 Australian.
Thailand Is Popular
Thailand's popularity with young travelers is due in part to its being fairly Westernized. "You don't feel like a fish out of water," said a student travel agency representative. It's also a country of friendly faces and one where your dollar will stretch a long way.
Thailand is not without a few problems, though. If you are going into the remote village areas in the north, stick with a guided trekking company, for safety's sake.
Before heading for Thailand or any tropical country, check with a tropical disease clinic for needed inoculations and medication. Malaria exists in that part of the world, and you are particularly at risk in rural areas.
Even taking the anti-malaria medication is not a 100% guarantee against contracting the disease.
Inform Your Doctor
If you get sick during your travels abroad or after you return home, make sure that your doctor is aware of the areas you have visited.
Recently, after we boarded a train to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, a police officer introduced himself by presenting an English-language card that said not to accept food or drinks from other passengers because you could be drugged and robbed.
This problem isn't limited to Thailand; it has occurred in a number of countries. So whether you are on a train in Thailand or Southern Europe or anywhere else, be careful about accepting a beverage or snack from another passenger.
Even though the dollar isn't worth what it was five years ago, young travelers are still going to Europe. "We have a fairly optimistic clientele--they are not representative of the general traveling public," one youth travel agent said.
Said another: "Europe is never particularly bad; it's less desirable at some times than at others. It is still one of the most accessible and one of the best all-round destinations in terms of getting people an exposure to lots of different things in a very short time."
Advice on Discounts
Students should be sure to get an ISIC (International Student Identity Card) before heading for Europe or any other foreign destination.
In the discount booklet you are given with the card, you'll learn about student travel agencies at home and abroad that sell reduced or low-cost transportation and tour programs suited to independent young travelers. Usually these trips can be booked through any of the affiliated travel agencies.
For example, Scandinavian Student Travel Service is operating a variety of summer trips behind the Iron Curtain, ranging from seven to 14 days. A seven-day, land-only Leningrad/Moscow tour costs $280 U.S.
For more information on ISIC cards and services, contact Council Travel, 1093 Broxton Ave., Los Angeles 90024, (213) 208-3551.
Be sure to carry all your money in traveler's checks and leave a photocopy of the numbers and of your other important documents at home with a member of your family or a friend. That way, if you lose everything, you are only a telephone call away from the information you'll need to arrange replacements.
Before you go, invest in a guidebook that has been researched for your style of travel. Hardly an area of the world has not been researched for the independent, low-budget, student-style traveler by one of these three publishers: Harvard Student Agencies, Lonely Planet and Moon Publications.