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Backpack & Budget

Benefits of Youth: a Flexipass

November 17, 1996|LUCY IZON

Young travelers on tight funds who are planning off-season tours in Britain can take advantage of a special offer from BritRail or hop aboard a year-round backpacker bus service.

BritRail Travel International has announced a 50% discount on BritRail Youth Flexipasses for travel completed before June 15.

The passes are available to travelers ages 16 through 25 and allow unlimited coach class rail travel in any direction for a specified number of days. The special rates are available for passes purchased before Dec. 15. You must begin using the pass within six months of the date of purchase.

Britain's rail network is extensive, including more than 15,000 departures to 2,400 destinations daily in England, Scotland and Wales. An advantage to taking the train, in addition to having lots of flexibility, is the opportunity to meet local residents who are also using the service.

Here's the deal: For $80 you can now purchase a BritRail YouthFlexipass valid for any four days within a one-month period; $113 buys eight days of travel within one month; $170 buys 15 days of travel within two months. The passes must be purchased before you go abroad and are available through travel agents. You can also call BritRail direct at (800) 677- 8585 or (212) 575-2667.

Another budget alternative is the backpacker bus service called the Slow Coach, on which you travel along a fixed route with departures limited to several times per week. The Slow Coach buses circle Britain, dropping off and picking up passengers at the hostels along their route.

Each of the 33-seater Mercedes coaches departs from Earl's Court International Hostel in London and travels to Windsor, Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, Manchester, the Lake District, Edinburgh, York, Nottingham, Cambridge and back to London. The $145 ticket allows you to begin your journey at any of these points and to take as much time as you want to travel the circuit.

Slow Coach operates a Book-a-Bed-Ahead program, where for a small fee each hostel will reserve a bed for you.

During the winter months, buses pass each point on the route three times a week. Passengers can stop wherever they want and, when they are ready to move on, they reserve a seat and a hostel bed for the next section. The minimum number of overnight stops when traveling from London is three.

There are no age restrictions for using Slow Coach. Tickets can be purchased in Britain but travelers are offered an incentive for purchasing before leaving home--a voucher that can be exchanged for a T-shirt and a variety of discounts on services ranging from bike rentals and day tours to a 12.5% reduction on accommodations at any of the YHA hostels in England and Wales. You can purchase tickets for the Slow Coach through Council Travel, 10904 Lindbrook Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90024; telephone (310) 598-3338.

In Britain you can purchase Slow Coach passes (bring a passport-size photo) at 38 Bolton Gardens, Earl's Court, London SW5 OAQ; tel. 011-44-1249-891959.

In the spring, the European backpacker bus service, Eurobus, will operate a similar style of service around Britain. The company plans to start up again in early April. Check with student travel services for further details.

CityZap, the budget bus service that linked London with Amsterdam and Paris, is a casualty of bus and air price wars. The service has been discontinued and there is no word on whether it will start up again next summer.

Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She can be reached at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/izon.

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