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October 01, 1989|ERIC FRIEDHEIM | Friedheim is editor/publisher of Travel Agent magazine.

Question: Are there special times of the year for touring the White House?

Answer: The White House sightseeing tour is conducted year-round. Contact your senator or congressman for permission to join special tours that may save you from standing in long lines.

Q: Are private golf courses in Ireland open to American visitors?

A: All of Ireland's courses welcome U.S. golfers; greens and caddy fees range up to $15 U.S. each. It is wise, however, to apply in advance because on some days there may be tournaments, or all starting times may be filled.

Q: On our European trip we'd like to do some ballooning. Are there tours that provide this activity?

A: The Bombard Society packages ballooning tours in France, England, Austria and Switzerland, varying in length and itineraries. Contact your agent or call the society at (800) 862-8537.

Q: My travel agent is arranging a European tour for my small group and is using a foreign tour firm. Isn't that risky?

A: European tour firms are as competent and financially sound as those in the United States. Many are even affiliated with the American Society of Travel Agents. Have your agent check the credentials.

Q: I understand it is possible to stay with a Soviet family as a tourist visiting the Soviet Union. How is this arranged?

A: Such stays are being offered by American-Soviet Home Stays, Box 68, Iowa City, Iowa 52240, and possibly next year by Intourist, the official Soviet travel bureau, at 630 Fifth Ave., New York 10111, (212) 757-3884, which only arranges dinner or other brief meetings with a family.

Q: What's the outlook for resumption of tourist travel to Cuba?

A: Although specialized travel for journalists and others is sanctioned on a case-by-case basis, no lifting of general restrictions is imminent.

Q: Is it true that all travel agents sell cruises at discounts. If so, are these discounts the same at every agency?

A: While cruise lines allow their agents to sell below the advertised fare, the size of the discount can vary from region to region and agent to agent. Be sure that you deal with agents accredited by the ship lines.

Q: How much cheaper are the fares advertised by ticket consolidators than those available from regular travel agencies or the airlines directly?

A: With many new low fares being marketed, price differences between the consolidators and the carriers is narrowing. There are still bargains, however, through consolidators, which also are available at travel agencies.

Q: Can I obtain travel advice directly from the State Department?

A: The State Department Citizens Emergency Center provides updated information and current advisories on areas around the world. Call (202) 647-5225.

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