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Backpack & Budget

A Cheaper Way Around Japan

September 07, 1997|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She can be reached at http://www.izon.com

Budget travelers who want to visit Japan need all the help they can get to stay within their means. One service, Japanese Youth Hostels, can be a big help. The Japan National Tourist Office offers a free map (in English) indicating the locations of 350 low-cost facilities throughout the country.

The 1997-98 edition of Youth Hostels Map of Japan is available along with the JNTO's 52-page "Japan for the Budget Traveler."

Even though the booklet lists budget accommodations, the hostel map is helpful for comparing prices. In "Japan for the Budget Traveler," most budget accommodations range from $50 to $125 per night. Hostel accommodations cost $26 for members of Hostelling International. Nonmembers are charged an additional $5 per night. In the hostels, breakfasts are $5 and dinners are $8.50.

If Tokyo is your gateway, you can find the Kokusai International YH, 18th Fl, Central Plaza, 101, Kaguragashi, Shinjuku-ku; telephone 011-81-3-3235-1107. It's a one-minute walk from the Itabashi train station. The Tokyo Yoygi YH is at 3-1, Kamizonocho, Shibuya-ku; tel. 011-81-3-3467-9163, a five-minute walk from Sangubashi station on the Odakyu Line.

It is advisable to book your hostel accommodations in advance. Thirty-one of Japan's hostels are linked to Hostelling International's reservations service, and you can reserve a bed for a small fee before you leave home by calling (202) 783-6161.

The booklet also includes information on dining in major centers, suggestions for do-it-yourself tours by foot and by public transportation, and a list of sightseeing opportunities that are either free or not very expensive. For example, you'll learn about the free Boso-no-Mura Museum in Tokyo, an open-air site where the shops, residences, crafts and lifestyles of the people 200 years ago in Chiba Prefecture have been recreated. The museum is a five-minute bus ride from Ajiki Station on the JR Narita Line.

You'll also find the booklet helpful for pre-trip planning. It suggests that you buy a Japan Rail Pass (it must be bought before you depart North America) because it can save you a substantial sum in rail fares. For example: the seven-day pass costs less than the round-trip fare from Narita Airport to Kyoto via Tokyo.

You'll also learn where you can get English-speaking assistance after you arrive. Travelers can call the Japan Travel Phone, an English-language information service you can access by dialing locally in Kyoto's city limits at 371-5649. A tape in English about current events around Tokyo can be heard by calling 011-81-3-3201-3331.

For those using Tokyo as their gateway, there also is a Tourist Information office at 6-6, Yurakucho 1-Chome, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100; tel. 011-81-3-3201-3331. It's open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. There also are information booths at the Narita Airport (Terminal 2) and at Kansai International Airport.

For free copies of Youth Hostels Map of Japan and "Japan for the Budget Traveler," contact the Japan National Tourist Organization at 624 S. Grand Ave., Suite 1611, Los Angeles, CA 90017; tel. (213) 623-1952.

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Two new Internet sites representing backpacker budget bus services (one in Europe and the other in Australia) have been launched recently.

Wayward Bus is a small independent company that started offering minibus tours in 1990. They've now transported 25,000 travelers on their routes: Sydney to Melbourne, Melbourne to Adelaide and Adelaide to Alice Springs (plus summer trips to Perth).

Most routes still are covered by mini-coaches, but on the northern trips groups can grow as large as 35 passengers. Lunches are included, and night stops are made where travelers can choose between hostels, country pubs and motels. Budget travelers can expect to be able to find accommodations for about $14 per night.

The company still operates its original trip, the Classic Coast tour. It covers Melbourne to Adelaide or Adelaide to Melbourne in three days and costs $117. Picnic lunches are included each day. Travelers often go to a local pub for dinner.

Overnight stops are made at Port Fairy and Beachport. Departures are Wednesdays and Saturdays.

You can read about the trips on the Internet at: http:/www.camtech.com.au/tea/wayward_bus . You can write to Wayward Bus at 10182 P.O. Gouger St., South Australia, 5000, or you can visit the firm's office at 1st Floor, 237 Hutt St., Adelaide; tel. 011-61-8-8232-6646, fax 011-61-8-8232-1455.

Eurobus, which operates a backpacker bus service over three fixed routes in Europe (plus across the English Channel), has launched a new site on the Internet with route schedules and rates. You can find it at http:/www.onthebus.com .

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