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Backpack & Budget

A Summer of Global Meaning

March 30, 1997|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer

This summer travelers can volunteer to work on community projects in 24 countries through the New York City-based Council on International Education.

Volunteers are needed for two to four weeks. The work ranges from renovating historic sites to excavating ruins in Japan, India, Russia, Morocco, Turkey, Tunisia, Costa Rica, Ghana and Lithuania.

Participants must be at least 18, and nonstudents are welcome. Project fees of $295 cover accommodations and meals. You must pay your own way to the site. Most programs operate between June and September. For information, contact the Council Information Center; telephone (888) 268-6245.

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Switzerland can be very expensive for young travelers on tight funds, but there is help.

The city of Geneva publishes a youth guide, in French, with a map and details on where to stay and what to see that is inexpensive in that city. Even if you don't speak the language, you should be able to decipher the addresses, times and prices. Topics covered include: youth accommodations, budget hotels, campgrounds, markets, bike rentals, emergency telephone numbers, ride centers and youth information services. Happy faces indicate which museums and attractions are free.

"Info-jeunes" is available at tourist information offices in Geneva. You'll find the guides at Rue du Mont-Blanc 3 and at Place du Molard 4.

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A new youth hostel has opened in an ideal hiking area of Northern Ireland, near Ballycastle, and has sweeping views of the sea and the North Antrim Coast.

The new $1.5-million White Park Bay Hostel has 15 rooms; four are twin-bedded and equipped with TV and a coffee maker; 10 are four-bedded rooms; one is a six-bedded room. Rates for beds start at $14 per night for members of Hostelling International; $16.50 for nonmembers.

The hostel also has a kitchen that guests can use, a restaurant that is open for breakfast and dinner, a laundry room, foreign currency exchange and ATM machines.

The hostel is located at 157 White Park Road, Ballintoy, Ballycastle, County Antrim BT54 6NH; tel. 011-44-12657-31745. White Park Bay is six miles west of Ballycastle and 3 1/2 miles east of Bushmills on the A2 Coast Road. You'll find it 165 yards from the main road sign-posted White Park Bay. The bus stop is 220 yards away.

It also is close to the Giant's Causeway--a World Heritage Site with 40,000 basalt columns that were formed by cooling volcanic rock. .

Also nearby are the ruins of Dunluce Castle, Old Bushmills Distillery, Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge and Rathlin Island (a bird sanctuary). Spectacular views reward those following coastal and cliff hiking paths.

For cyclists, the 28 miles of the Antrim Coast starting at Larne is scenic and flat. The Youth Hostel Assn. of Northern Ireland (YHANI) warns: "There are no dedicated cycle tracks in Northern Ireland and while drivers are used to accommodating cyclists, you still need to be careful, particularly on the narrow country roads." In addition to the new hostel at White Park Bay, there are YHANI hostels in Belfast, Derry, Portaferry, Newcastle, Castle Archdale and Cushendall. During the summer a new hostel will open at 39 Abbey St., Armagh, County Armagh.

Reservations can be made by contacting Hostelling International at (310) 393-6263. You can reserve a bed from the Belfast Youth Hostel at 22-32 Donegall Road, Belfast BT12 5JN; tel. 011-44-1232-324733.

YHANI and budget accommodation guides are free from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, 551 Fifth Ave., No. 701, New York, NY 10076.

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

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