If you're the type of traveler who needs an exact itinerary, guaranteed arrival times and privacy, Green Tortoise probably isn't the bus tour company for you. However, if you're flexible and informal, it may just suit your style and budget.
Green Tortoise describes its U.S. and Mexico tours as self-service vacations for adventurous people. The buses carry up to 38 passengers, who average 20 to 35 years old. During the day, the passengers ride the buses, making stops to cook, swim, explore caves, climb mountains, raft, hike and visit towns. At night, they sleep on the bus on thick, foam mattresses fitted with sheets. If the bus is not traveling that night, passengers can camp in the wilderness.
San Francisco is the departure point for most of the tours. Green Tortoise maintains a guest house at 494 Broadway; dormitory beds are $12 to $15 and double rooms, $29 to $36. They also maintain a hostel in Seattle at 715 2nd Ave. North.
Coast-to-coast tours between San Francisco and New York or Boston are from $279 to $379 one way, plus money to put toward group meals, and range from 10 to 14 days. The eastbound route will operate until Sept. 27; the last westbound departure is Oct. 16.
Green Tortoise transportation between San Francisco and Seattle costs $49 one way. Between San Francisco and Los Angeles, it's $30 one way. Rates may rise during the peak summer schedule.
Three-day Green Tortoise trips from San Francisco to Yosemite this summer or fall are $99, plus $21 for the food kitty. Six-day Northern California Redwoods and Parks Loop tours are $199, plus $51 for the food fund. Nine-day Grand Canyon adventures are $329, plus $71 for food.
There are also several departures on a 16-day National Parks Loop tour that departs San Francisco and visits Idaho, the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Monument Valley, Lake Mojave, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. The tour includes rafting on the Colorado River. The price is $499, plus $121 for the food fund.
A 30-day Alaska expedition departs San Francisco July 26; cost is $1,500, plus $250 for a food fund.
This fall there will be nine- and 14-day Baja California tours--$249 and $349, plus $51 or $71 for the food kitty, respectively.
More information is available from Green Tortoise Adventure Travel at 494 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 91433; telephone (800) 867-8647.
The publishers of the "Let's Go" guidebooks, which are researched annually by Harvard and Radcliffe college students, have introduced six map guides that are now available in bigger bookstores. The cities covered are Boston, London, Paris, San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C.
The 20-to-36-page pocket pamphlets include fold-out regional, city and transportation maps, plus overviews of entertainment, sightseeing, restaurants and accommodations.
They are lighter and smaller to carry than guidebooks, but not as comprehensive. For example, the "Let's Go Map Guide to London," which sells for $7.95, includes 36 pages packed with details on what to see, how to get around, entertainment and restaurants, but it offers only six suggestions for budget accommodations in one of the most expensive cities in the world. In comparison, the 672-page "Let's Go: Britain and Ireland" costs $16.99 and includes 60 suggestions for economical lodgings in London.