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Hostels From Sea to Shining Sea

November 20, 1994|LUCY IZON

Between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Key West, Fla., and from Hilo, Hawaii, to New York City there are more than 1,000 places where travelers can stay for less than $20 per person, per night. You can find out where they are in the new edition of "Jim's Backpacker's Bible."

The 120-page book includes hostels, hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts and cabins. KOA campgrounds have been included because many offer "kamping kabins" with bunk beds, which would be suitable for backpacking travelers.

Unfortunately, most listings are very skimpy. In most cases you just get the name and address, telephone and fax number. The information is provided by the listees. You don't get an unbiased appraisal. If a listing is longer, containing more information, it's a paid advertisement.

Publisher Jim de Cordova or one of his representatives visited a few locations, which are indicated along with the date of their visit.

At some of the lodgings affiliated with national associations, such as the Canadian Hostelling Assn. or American Youth Hostels, you can expect certain safety and cleanliness standards to be maintained. But the guide does not always indicate this affiliation, which is why it's important that you try to talk to other travelers about their experiences and recommendations.

When looking for low-cost lodging also keep these points in mind:

Recommended locations tend to fill up fast, so try to arrange your transportation so that you arrive early in the day.

Tourist information services in rail and bus stations are not always unbiased. Try to determine if they are operated by the government. If not, they may only recommend facilities they are paid to represent, and they may give you misleading information.

Touts (people who earn a commission by getting you to go to their hotel/hostel) can be very aggressive. Keep in mind you may be paying a higher hotel rate to cover their commission.

Check a room out before you pay. Make sure bathrooms and showers are acceptable.

"Jim's Backpacker's Bible" is available for $6 from Jim's Backpacker's Bible, P.O. Box 5650, Santa Monica, Calif. 90409. The price includes postage. Copies can also be ordered for $6.95 using Visa or Mastercard by calling (800) 208-7226.

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