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Thailand Rated Tops by Travel Guide

April 11, 1999|LUCY IZON | Lucy Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Internet http://www .izon.com

What are the best international destinations for independent budget travelers? According to the 1999 edition of the "Alternative Travel Directory: The Complete Guide to Travel, Study and Living Overseas," they are: Thailand, Turkey, New Zealand, Ireland and Costa Rica. I'd have to agree that they are all good choices.

The "Alternative Travel Directory" is a 387-page book compiled by the editors of "Transitions Abroad," a bimonthly magazine that focuses on opportunities for travel, study and living overseas. The book is one of the most extensive resources I know for information on programs and publications of interest to independent adventurers.

The author of the list, Terry Redding, chose Thailand for his top favorite. Head beyond crowded Bangkok into this fascinating land of Buddhist temples, beaches and hill tribe villages and you may discover, as Redding did, that "the food and accommodations are abundant and cheap. . . . You can live well in Thailand for $10 to $20 a day."

Next on the list is Turkey. "Toss 'Midnight Express' out the window," suggests Redding. "The Turks are friendly, generous, kind, hospitable and outgoing." A March bombing of a department store in Istanbul may make some think twice about including Turkey in travel plans, but it still has a lot to offer. "You can pull off the road and walk among the ruins of an ancient Greek city," says Redding, who found that on as little as $10 per day, you can "get by quite well."

The next three countries are more expensive (expect to spend $20 to $35 per day) but offer good value and great opportunities. Redding describes New Zealand as "about as close to paradise as I have found." About Ireland he writes: "The countryside is breathtaking and the history is fascinating." Finally, there's Costa Rica: "Especially beloved by nature fans. Mountains, beaches, jungles, volcanoes, islands, parks, parks and more parks. The country is a very safe haven in a recently unsettled region."

The "Alternative Travel Directory" presents so many possibilities for overseas adventures that it should have you dreaming for days. There are thousands of listings that include dates, prices and contact information. You'll learn about foreign volunteer programs, language studies abroad, guidebooks and travel opportunities ranging from cycling in Ireland and sailing in Jamaica to trekking in South America or helping to preserve a rain forest. It also includes information for seniors and disabled travelers.

The "Alternative Travel Directory" is $19.95. For a copy, write to Transitions Abroad Publishing, P.O. Box 1300, Amherst, MA 01004; tel. (413) 256-3414, Internet http:// www.transitionsabroad.com.

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STA Travel has introduced new packages, available until November, that are geared to students and young travelers visiting Australia.

The Lucky Boomerang Package includes a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney on Air New Zealand, a Sydney starter pack of transportation from the airport, your first night's hostel accommodation (shared room), a day trip to the Blue Mountains, a Sydney Harbor cruise and an Oz Experience (backpacker bus service) pass for transportation between Sydney and Melbourne.

Also included: return flight to Los Angeles from Melbourne on Air New Zealand, one month travel insurance, an International Student Identity Card (for qualified full-time students) or an International Youth Traveler Card if you are not a student but are under 26. The price is $950 plus tax for travel from May 1 to Aug. 31, $990 plus tax for travel from Sept. 1. All travel must conclude by Nov. 24. To reserve, call STA, tel. (800) 537-5431, Internet http://www.statravel.com.

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