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Youth Beat

Visiting the Hot Spots

March 05, 1989|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Canadian travel journalist covering youth budget routes.

Soaking up sun on Turkey's Aegean coast, river rafting and riding elephants in Southeast Asia, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, absorbing the cultural atmosphere of Paris--they're all hot spots for young adventurers this year.

The image projected in popular Australian movies plus the lack of political and language problems have contributed to raise the interest of young adventurers in that area of the South Pacific.

Young Australians and New Zealanders are such avid travelers themselves it's not surprising that many have returned home and opened independent youth hostels.

For young visitors it means that even though prices are not cheap, there is a large network of services and information that you can use to get the most out of your dollar.

In Australia at the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef you'll find the world's first youth island. Recently Contiki Travel, the world's largest youth tour operator, opened the only resort on Long Island and limited it to guests between the ages of 18 and 35.

Exotic and Cheap

Thailand has become very popular with young visitors on the Southeast Asia route because it's exotic and cheap.

Thousands head out on hiking trips from Chang Mai in the north to visit hill tribe villages. Riding elephants and rafting on jungle rivers are usually incorporated into the adventures.

Keep in mind that although many go into those remote areas and experience an enjoyable adventure, you should check the credibility of local tour guides and operators with the tourist office and be aware that malaria is a problem in some areas, even if you have taken anti-malaria medication.

South America can be a major challenge to young novice travelers who haven't had experience in dealing with foreign cultures. Europe and the South Pacific offer well-developed youth services that are a good support system to those that haven't had the opportunity to learn how to be "street-wise."

Now, through international financial support, more youth services are being developed in South America. For example, in the last several years Brazil has opened more than 38 youth hostels.

Clean, Safe Hostels

That's important because the hostels not only provide clean, safe accommodations (to get the international funding they must meet international standards), they also offer good places to network with other young international travelers, and to get advice on how to travel and what to see in the area.

Turkey has been attracting young backpacking travelers with inexpensive domestic bus transportation and beds in pensions, on the Aegean coast, for $3 to $5 a night.

Train travel to Turkey is not covered by the popular Eurail or Interail transportation passes. The route most choose to reach Turkey is by boat from Greece.

Greece is still a good bet, with beds in youth hostels averaging $4 or $5 a night, although some young travelers are discovering that surviving on a tight budget is easier on the mainland in areas such as the Peloponnesus rather than competing with the large groups of tourists that head for the islands.

Athens is also still a popular transportation hub. Lots of competition has added up to some very competitive transportation fares. It's a popular spot for young travelers to pick up cheap flights to Egypt and Israel.

The Southern European countries have traditionally been the most comfortable countries for those traveling on tight funds.

"Italy seems expensive compared with other southern countries," one young traveler commented after being charged $10 to $12 for youth hostel accommodations. "That's the same price as Switzerland."

"Paris is much easier than London," commented a young traveler who visited recently. That's not surprising because through the AJF (Accueil des Jeunes en France, a Paris-based service for youthful travelers) more than 8,000 beds in youth and budget hotels are available to young visitors.

No Reservation Fee

The AJF charges no fee to make a reservation. One of its offices is in the new building at Gare du Nord (the north railway station).

This year certain Eastern Bloc countries will be more attractive to young visitors because they have been added to the system covered by popular unlimited rail travel passes. Hungary can now be reached while using the Eurailpass, and Czechoslovakia has been added to Interail Pass (for sale in Europe only to those who are residents of a European country for at least six months). Both tickets sell at special rates to travelers under 26 years of age.

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