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Canada Is Easy on Backpacker's Budget

May 21, 2000|LUCY IZON

Canada is an especially good destination for young travelers because the U.S. dollar is strong, and exploring Ontario, Quebec and eastern Canada on a backpacker's budget gets easier every year.

Several companies have new budget tours departing from Toronto youth hostels.

The Moose Travel Network's hop-on-hop-off transportation service covers an 1,860-mile route around Ontario and Quebec aboard 15-seat buses. Stops are made for white-water rafting, mountain biking, whale watching and canoeing. At night the buses drop passengers at hostels and campsites. You can hop off and catch another bus a few days later if you choose. Buses stop at least three times a week. Passes are valid until mid-October.

A pass for the 930-mile Beaver route costs $200. It takes you from Toronto to Kingston, Montreal, Mt. Tremblant, Ottawa and Algonquin Park before returning to Toronto. You'll need four days at a minimum, but Moose suggests you take at least 10.

The Loonie Pass costs $150 and takes you from Montreal to Quebec City, Tadoussac, Trois Rivieres, Stoneham, Mt. Tremblant and back to Montreal. You need at least three days, but try to take seven. Both routes combined form the East Pass for $254. For this you need at least seven days.

Moose's tours also operate a $26 Niagara day tour from Toronto that includes time at the falls and a stop at a Niagara winery.

For more information, contact the Moose Travel Network, telephone (888) 816-6673 or (905) 853-4760, Internet To join up with Moose Travel Network's services in western Canada, passengers can now purchase Can Link Passes, which are valid for 12 days of travel within a 30-day period on VIA Rail's national network for $235.

CanaBUS Tours offers Ontario tours for one, three, five, seven and eight days departing from Toronto. You can jump off along the route, but you will have to wait a full week for the next bus. You get transportation to tourist sites, activities and hostels.

Entrance fees and accommodations are extra. CanaBUS's Seven-Day Experience, which departs Fridays until Sept. 29, costs $200 and takes you from Toronto to Kingston, then Ottawa, where you can stay in a jail that was converted into a youth hostel. Stops are scheduled for white-water rafting on the Ottawa River, canoeing in Algonquin Park, a tugboat tour from Parry Sound, a stay at a fishing lodge on the shore of Georgian Bay, Wassaga Beach, Sainte-Marie and Collingwood.

For details, contact CanaBUS Tours Inc., 74 Gerrard St. East, Toronto, ON M5B 1G6; tel. (416) 977-8311 or (877) 226-2287, Internet

Rip up your independent schedule when you sign up for a tour on Furthur Still's "cosmic coaches" (converted school buses painted with flowers). The same group stays together from beginning to end, spending nights camping (camping equipment is provided) and occasionally staying at youth hostels. Stops are made for swimming, canoeing and hiking. Passengers contribute to a fund that covers meals and lodging.

For the 14-day, 2,200-mile Eastern Experience of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the cost is $395 plus $120 for the food and accommodations fund. Furthur Still also operates three-day Ontario getaways for $67 plus $40 for food and accommodations, and a variety of day trips from Toronto, including Niagara Falls. For more information, call (877) 371-8747, Internet

Free Spirit Tours offers one- and two-day adventures from Toronto hostels to the Georgian Bay area for climbing, hiking and canoeing. Contact Free Spirit at (416) 219-7562 or Internet

Lucy Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Internet

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