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Backpack & Budget : Travel Assistance From Geneva's 'Car'

March 06, 1994|LUCY IZON

Each summer, in the lovely Swiss lakeside city of Geneva, a special information service geared to visitors on student-style budgets operates out of a big yellow bus in the center of town. It's known as "The Car," and you can find it at Rue du Mont-Blanc, just outside the shopping gallery under the main railway station.

The Car's staff helps visitors find budget accommodations and cheap restaurants, and offers advice on economical entertainment and budget transportation. It's open from July 1 to early September.

Travelers can also pick up a free copy of Geneve Info Jeunes. It's a city map that includes information on accommodations, camping, restaurants, currency exchange, transportation, bike rentals, entertainment, beaches, museums and emergency services.

Travel in Switzerland can be challenging on a tight budget. But by using these sources, you can locate economical lodgings. For example, at Home St.-Pierre, which is at 4 cour St.-Pierre (in front of the cathedral in the old city), female travelers can find clean, cozy and comfortable shared-room accommodations for about $11 per night.

Geneva is home to more than 30 museums, the world's longest park bench (416 feet), the world's tallest fountain (the 460-foot Jet d'Eau) and the largest July 4 Independence Day celebration outside of the United States.

Geneva is also the home for the United Nations (in Europe), and it's the birthplace of the Red Cross.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum offers moving exhibits ranging from World War I film footage to a room stacked with the 7 million index cards used to help locate and identify the 2 million prisoners of war detained in Europe during World War I. The regular entrance fee is $5.50, but students are charged only $3.50. The museum can be reached by taking bus No. 8 from Cornavin Railway Station.

If you need a break from big cities, Jugi Tours, the travel service affiliated with the Swiss Youth Hostel Assn., operates programs geared to independent international travelers who want to explore the countryside with other like-minded adventurers.

Jugi Tours' guided hiking weeks are open to travelers between the ages of 16 and 30. Groups are limited to 15 people. Three to seven hours are spent walking each day. Tour prices include seven nights' dormitory accommodations, breakfast and dinner, the services of a guide and local transportation. Participants return to the same lodgings every evening, so you don't have to worry about carrying your luggage.

This summer, seven-night hiking weeks leave from the Swiss cities of Zermatt, Grindelwald and Maloja. From Zermatt, the programs begin July 7, July 23 and Sept. 1; the cost is $255. From Grindelwald, seven-night treks begin July 16, July 30 and Sept. 10; the price is $258. From Maloja, the programs begin July 9, July 23 and Sept. 1; the cost is $244.

The seven-night programs for hiking in the Jura region (the French part of Switzerland) are point-to-point programs, so hikers have to carry their luggage. The trips will begin July 23 and 30, and the cost is $258.

Jugi Tours also offers walking tours for travelers 16 to 30 (expect to be on the trails three to nine hours a day and stay in dormitories at youth hostels, mountain hotels and inns), plus mountaineering courses, cycling tours and "Swiss Safaris," which involve cycling, boating, biking, hiking, climbing (under supervision) and summer skiing. For more information, contact Jugi Tours, Engestrasse 9, 3012 Bern, Switzerland, telephone from the United States, 011-41- 31-301-23-26, or fax 011-41- 31-301-66-71.

A map of Switzerland, Know-How '94, is available free from the Swiss Youth Hostel Assn. The map includes a list of the 80 hostels in the country and their facilities. Copies can be picked up at youth hostels in Switzerland.

For more information on Switzerland, contact the Swiss National Tourist Office, 222 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 1570, El Segundo 90245, (310) 335-5980.

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