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Backpack & Budget

Not-So-Lonely Planet's Advice

September 08, 1996|LUCY IZON

For more than 20 years, Lonely Planet travel guides have been the bible for budget travelers exploring many areas of the world. You can get a taste of the type of information covered in the guides through their free quarterly newsletter called Planet Talk. The company plans to make the newsletter available by e-mail by the end of the year, and they are developing an e-mail list. To be added to the list, contact them at @lonelyplanet.com.

Lonely Planet now publishes more than 200 travel-related books, and Planet Talk is, of course, designed to promote their books. But in addition to updates and excerpts from new releases, the newsletter includes tips from guidebook users that are very helpful to other travelers.

For example, in a recent 14-page Planet Talk, one traveler to India pointed out that he had found good dormitory facilities at the Delhi airport, which would be useful to budget travelers who arrive late or have to take an early morning flight. "The rooms are large and surprisingly comfortable and clean. . . . If you are strapped for cash, you can stay there and get the local bus into Delhi."

Another traveler reported that in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the trekking industry had been improved "with licensed guides having to earn (rather than buy) their licenses."

Some comments are more practical, such as the advice passed along by a European explorer, who said that by storing his backpack inside a large army kit bag before putting it on a bus or plane, it was protected from dirt and "the usually vulnerable pockets are impossible to get at."

Some comments have been contributed by guidebook researchers, and provide advance information that will be included in the future editions of a guide. For example, the April-June edition of the newsletter includes a report of a "spiffy" new youth hostel in Santiago, Chile--at Ciefuegos 151; telephone 011-56-2-671-8532--that charges $10 per night for a bed.

You can arrange to get the newsprint version of Planet Talk by contacting Lonely Planet Newsletter/Booklist, 155 Filbert St., Suite 251, Oakland, CA 94607.

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Two North American hostel networks are now offering free maps showing more than 200 locations where you can find budget beds.

The Rucksackers North America map covers the locations of 55 independent hostels, mostly in the mainland United States, but also including four in Hawaii and one in Mexico.

Although there are no set standards to meet for hostels to become part of this joint marketing vehicle, Rucksackers says: " Typically, our hostels feature common lounges and self-service kitchens. Most hostels are dormitory-style (co-ed or single sex), with a number of beds per room and shared bathroom facilities. Some hostels offer private accommodations as well." A hostel must be recommended by a Rucksackers member to be included, and there is a trial period before the hostel becomes officially part of the network. Rates average from $10 to $18 for a bed in a dormitory room. Some of the hostels also offer camping sites.

For a free copy of the hostel location map send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Rucksackers North America 250 W. 77th St. New York, NY 10027.

Hostelling International-USA has just introduced a free map showing 149 American locations. The map includes two new hostels, which charge $12 per night, per dormitory bed for HI members and $15 for nonmembers.

The new HI-Clearwater Beach is at 606 Bay Esplanade Ave., Clearwater Beach, FL 34630, tel. (813) 443-1211. HI members can get beds for $12 a night, nonmembers are charged $15. The hostel has 33 beds including private family/couples rooms, volley ball, tennis, bicycle rentals, free use of canoes and a swimming pool.

The New HI-Death Valley Hostel is in California's Mojave Desert, just 1 1/2 hours' drive northeast of Los Angeles, at 316 Goler Ave., Johannesburg, CA 93528; tel. (619) 374-2323. It's a cozy 12-bed facility in an area popular for mountain biking and hiking.

These two hostels have opened so recently they are probably not included in your guidebook. For a free copy of the map, contact HIAYH Map Brochure, 733 15th St. N.W., Suite 840, Washington, DC 20005; tel. (202) 783-6161.

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