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Backpack & Budget

Switzerland on a Skinny Wallet

May 18, 1997|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer

Switzerland can be a tough challenge for travelers on tight funds, but don't cross it off your list. The scenery, from majestic mountains to vineyards and castles, is worth the financial tug. The Swiss Youth Hostel Assn. has arranged some packages for independent budget travelers that can help keep costs under control.

Its "Go as You Please" program combines a Swiss Pass (valid for travel on public transportation throughout Switzerland) with vouchers that you can exchange for a night in any of the 74 Swiss Youth Hostels.

There is no age limit for this program. Accommodations are in multi-bed rooms with breakfast included (at some locations you may have to pay local taxes). The Youth Hostel Assn. books a bed for you for your first night at one of the key gateway hostels: Basel, Geneva, Lucerne or Zurich. You also get a travel kit containing vouchers and maps.

The cost for four nights and a four-day Swiss Pass is $245; for eight nights and an eight-day Swiss Pass, it is $364; and 15 nights and a 15-day Swiss Pass is $522.

Most hostels also have kitchen facilities, so you can reduce food costs by preparing your own meals.

The Swiss Pass allows unrestricted travel on the whole Swiss Travel System and includes tram and bus services in 36 towns and cities, as well as reductions on many mountain railways.

For more information, contact Jugi Tours, Schaffhauserstrasse 14, P.O. Box 8042, Zurich, Switzerland; telephone 011-41-1-360-1400, fax 011-41-1-360-1444. Jugi Tours also operate guided walking, hiking and mountaineering tours for travelers age 18 to 35.

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The 1997 edition of "Hostelling North America: The Official Guide to Hostels in Canada and the United States" is now available. It gives complete details on the 22 hostels in Canada and the United States affiliated with Hostelling International, a network of 5,000 hostels worldwide.

The 71 Canadian hostels open this year range from a former jail in Ottawa (bunks are in cells, and you can see the gallows--the site of the last public hanging in Canada) to a former courthouse in Kamloops, B.C. (the dining area is in the courtroom, complete with the original prisoner and witness box, jury seats and judge's bench). The most northerly hostel in Canada is in Dawson City, Yukon. It's a rustic 30-bed facility. Guests can rent canoes or enjoy the sauna and sweat lodge. Beds in these hostels range from $14 to $15.75 per night.

One recent change not included in the handbook is the Toronto International Youth Hostel, tel. (416) 971-4440, which will move to 160 Mutual St.

Of the 151 hostels listed for the U.S., 11 are new, including:

Hostelling International-Outer Banks--1004 W. Kitty Hawk Road, Kitty Hawk, N.C.; tel. (919) 261-2294. It's in a 1920s schoolhouse on 10 wooded acres. Most people are drawn to this area by the beaches of the 100-mile string of barrier islands. Nearby is the site where the Wright Brothers succeeded with the first powered airplane flight. At the 40-bed hostel, you can get a bed for the night for $15, and bike, canoe and kayak rentals are available.

HI-Savannah, 304 E. Hall St., Savannah, Ga., tel. (912) 236-7744, has 18 beds available for $12.50 per person, per night. The hostel is an 1884 Victorian home with 13-foot ceilings and slate fireplaces. It's in the city's historic district, which features cobblestone streets.

Other new HI-AYH locations in the U.S. include: Hurricane, Utah; Houston; Buffalo, N.Y.; Melbourne Beach, Fla.; and Tecopa, Independence, Johannesburg and Midpines, Calif.

"Hostelling North America" is available from local hostels for $2. Credit card orders are accepted at the HI-AYH national office. Contact: HI-AYH, 733 15th St., N.W, Suite 840, Washington, DC 20005; tel. (202) 783-6161, fax (202) 783-6171.

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

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