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YOUTH BEAT

A Wealth of Lodgings Down Under

May 14, 2000|LUCY IZON

As we move closer to this year's Olympics, the world's spotlight will fall on Sydney, Australia. With its beaches and loads of budget accommodations, it's one of the world's most popular cities for young travelers. And another internationally affiliated youth hostel will open in July.

The new Cronulla Beach Hostel is the fourth YHA (Youth Hostel Assn.) Australia hostel in the Sydney area. It's nine miles from the international airport and offers free shuttle service. From the hostel, about 20 miles south of downtown Sydney, you can get to the city by rail.

The family-run Cronulla Beach Hostel is about 1,000 feet from the beach. Rooms have two to six beds, and rates range from about $11 to $16.50 per person, per night. It has a kitchen, barbecue, lounge, laundry, Internet access and free continental breakfast. Area activities include bush walking (hiking), canoeing, kayaking, diving and surfing. Contact the hostel at 40 The Kingsway, Cronulla 2230; telephone 011-61-2-9527-7772, fax 011-61-2-9527-0533.

Sydney has a choice of hostels, and standards vary; to find genuine YHA hostels, check the Internet site at http://www.yha.com.au.

The YHA site also provides details on special packages and do-it-yourself tours. You can purchase a "YHA Sydney Explorer" package through the site, including three nights' accommodation (four beds per room) in the Sydney Central Hostel, a $10 phone card, a Sydney information kit, a full-day tour to the Blue Mountains and daily breakfast. Until June 30, the package is priced at $140. From July 1 until March 31, 2001, the price is $150.

Sydney Central YHA is opposite Central Station, at the corner of Pitt Street and Rawson Place, tel. 011-61-2-9281-9111, fax 011-2-9281-9199. Each floor of the hostel is painted with murals reflecting a different region of the country. There is a rooftop swimming pool, sauna and barbecue. Beds in dormitory rooms (up to eight share) are $13 to $15; twin rooms are $19 per person, or $21 per person with a private washroom. The hostel offers bus passes and has a travel service and a pub. "Explorer" packages similar to Sydney's are also available for Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne and Perth.

"YHA Go Australia" packages, designed for independent travelers, are new this summer. Transportation between Sydney and Cairns on McCafferty's Coach service costs $230 with vouchers for 10 nights of YHA accommodation. You can make as many stops as you want and take up to three months to complete your trip. For 15 accommodation vouchers it's $287; for 25 vouchers, $402; and for 35 vouchers, $517. Popular stops along this route include Surfers Paradise, Brisbane, Airlie Beach and Townsville. It is wise not to pre-purchase vouchers for every night because there is a variety of budget accommodations along Australia's east coast, and in some locations you may prefer to try non-YHA facilities.

For more information and details on other do-it-yourself travel packages, contact YHA, 422 Kent St., GPO Box 5276, Sydney NSW 2001, Australia; tel. 011-61-2-9261- 1111, fax 011-61-2-9261-1969.

To compare flexible travel passes for backpackers, look into Oz Experience, available from travel agents who sell to students, such as STA Travel, tel. (310) 824-1574 or (800) 781-4040, Internet http://www.statravel.com, and Council Travel, tel. (310) 208-3551 or (800) 2-COUNCIL, Internet http://www.counciltravel.com.

Oz Experience caters to backpackers. The bus schedules are not as frequent as McCafferty's, nor are the routes as extensive, but you do get picked up and dropped off at hostel doors, sightseeing and activity stops are made, accommodation can be arranged for you, and you can move at your own pace. A flight from Sydney to Cairns plus jump-on-jump-off coach transportation from Cairns to Sydney (minimum nine days, but you can take up to six months) costs $336.

Lucy Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Internet http://www.izon.com.

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