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Backpack & Budget

Getting in Touch With Your Inner Wallet

June 04, 1995|LUCY IZON

Here's one of the cheapest ways to find out about low-budget lodging in North America this year.

"The Hostel Handbook for the U.S.A. & Canada" is a listing of more than 500 budget facilities for travelers. Many of the locations listed are affiliated with international networks, such as American Assn. of International Hostels, Backpackers Hostels Canada, Hostelling International-American Youth Hostels and Hostelling International-Canada. It also includes unaffiliated hostels and, in areas where no hostels exist, alternative budget accommodation suggestions.

The 48-page guide is prepared each spring by the staff of Sugar Hill International House with the help of the staff of the Blue Rabbit International House, two small hostels in New York City.

Facilities listed average $9 to $15 per night. The trade-off is that travelers should expect to share a dormitory room, plus lounge and kitchen facilities. For most facilities, you'll also need to pack your own sheet sleeping bag and towel. The authors point out, "Keep in mind--you are not paying for a five-star hotel and it won't be one." You do give up some privacy, but in exchange you get a greater opportunity to meet, mingle and share information with other travelers.

You should also keep in mind that most travelers' hostels will not allow local residents to stay, and some only welcome travelers who can prove that they are on an international trip.

The booklet also includes travel tips, advice on scams to watch out for and information about other services suitable for backpackers, such as sources for cycling information, how to connect with an Internet guide to hosteling and details on bus services. The drawback to the guide is that in the accommodations listing you just get the facts as the hostel manager presents them. There are no independent insights on the quality of the facilities.

To order the booklet, send $3 to Jim Williams, The Hostel Handbook, 722 St. Nicholas Ave., New York, NY 10031.

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Switzerland is ideal for hiking and each summer there are more than 80 hostels open to international travelers, many in Alpine resort areas. While restaurant meals can be terribly expensive, the hostels often offer economical breakfasts and dinners, and cooking facilities for those who want to shop at a grocery store and prepare their own meals.

You can base yourself at a hostel and get hiking information from the local tourist information office, or you can arrange to join weeklong guided hiking, biking or mountaineering programs offered by Jugi Tours, the travel service affiliated with the Swiss Youth Hostel Assn.

On Jugi Tour Hiking Weeks, travelers walk three to seven hours each day and stay at the same hostel each night so they don't have to carry large packs. The programs are designed for travelers age 18 to 30. Rates include seven nights' dormitory lodging, breakfasts and dinners and the services of a guide. In Zermatt, Hiking Weeks will begin on July 1 and 22 and Sept. 30. The cost is $383. In Grindelwald, the famous ski resort, Hiking Weeks start July 15, 29 and Oct. 10. The cost is $344. In Maloja, about nine miles from St. Moritz, Hiking Weeks start Aug. 5 and Oct. 7. The cost is $330.

It is also possible to join a variety of walking and cycling tours, where you carry your belongings and stay at different hostels en route . Also new this year is a 12-day, 12-lake bike tour. Travelers start from the German border and travel through the lowlands around Zurich and Lucerne to Switzerland's capital, Berne. The tour finishes in the French-speaking area of Montreux. There are departures July 10 and 24. The cost is $509.

For more information contact Jugi Tours, Schaffhauserstrasse 14, Postfach, CH-8042 Zurich, Switzerland; telephone 011-41-1-360-1400.

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