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Backpack & Budget

Ensuring a Place to Hang Your Hat

June 29, 1997|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She can be reached at http://www.izon.com

Finding suitable budget lodgings can be a challenge, especially during the peak tourist season. Try to arrive early in the day so that you'll have the widest choice. Remember, there may be many others using the same guidebook and heading for the same low-cost lodging.

If the accommodations are full, ask the staff for a recommendation. They may know of facilities that are not in guidebooks.

In many cases, tourist information services will be able to help you locate budget lodgings in their area, from hostels to private homes. Keep in mind that not all information services are unbiased. Some are operated by local governments, while others only give out information on services that pay them a fee.

When you arrive at rail and bus stations in many areas of the world, you'll find touts--people whose job it is to persuade you to go to a particular establishment. At best, they can help you locate a room or a bed when you are weary and don't want to search. But the room rate may have been increased to cover their commission, and it may not be the best room for the money.

Touts, and some taxi drivers who also collect commissions for delivering clients to hotels, have a reputation for telling tales. They may ask you where you are going, then tell you that the hostel or hotel you are heading for has moved, closed, burned down, etc. Don't take their word for it; there's a good chance they are just trying to maneuver you to another location that will pay them a fee.

Before you agree to take a bed or a room, ask to see the facilities. If you are in a budget hotel or student residence, and the bathroom facilities are down the hall, check them out too. Not only do you need to check for cleanliness--you should also make sure the hot water works.

Hostels affiliated with Hostelling International offer a reservation service for a small fee. So if you are heading toward a popular tourist area, ask at the hostel where you are staying if you can book a bed in the area that you are heading to.

"Budget Lodging Guide" is a comprehensive source on college and universities in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Europe, New Zealand and Australia that rent rooms to travelers during school holidays. The guide has not been completely updated for 1997; instead, a 1997 supplement has been added, which includes 129 revised listings. You can order copies for $18.10 (includes shipping, handling and California tax) by calling (800) 525-6633 or writing to B&J Publications, P.O. Box 5486, Fullerton, CA 92838.

Keep security in mind too. If you are in a shared room in a Hostelling International facility, there is usually a locker to store your gear, using your own lock. In an independent hostel or budget hotel without lockers, ask to leave valuables at the front desk. If you do this, don't leave exposed credit cards. They could be used without your knowledge. Put your credit card in a sealed envelope and sign it so that no one can tamper with it.

In budget hotels in some parts of Asia, some room doors are outfitted with hardware that can be padlocked. Always use your padlock when you leave the room.

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Campus-style accommodations are available to travelers in downtown Toronto this summer. The Neill-Wycik College Hotel (96 Gerrard St., East, Toronto, ON, Canada M5B 1G7; telephone [416] 977-2320) is welcoming visitors until Aug. 26. Rates for July and August are $14.50 per person for a bed in a shared (two to four people) room. With a full breakfast, it is $19.65.

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