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ON A BUDGET

Answers to a Mailbag Full of Travelers' Questionsbudget-travel

April 01, 2001|ARTHUR FROMMER

Travel questions. Many of them are of interest only to the person posing the question,, but some relate to choices or problems affecting many people. From a recent outpouring of questions, here are some answers that may affect your own travel plans.

Question: My wife and I, ages 78 and 79 but in good health, have just been denied the right to rent a car in Europe because of our age. Any suggestions?

Answer: Most European car rental companies, will not rent to people persons younger than 25 or older than 70. One that will is Renault Eurodrive, (800) 221-1052 PLEASE CHECK-CLOSED SUNDAY, Internet http://www.renaultusa.com, which leases its autos for a minimum of 17 days for as little as $499 including full insurance, and with no second-driver fees or drop-off charges. Its main competitor, Auto France, (800) 572-9655, will also rent its cars to drivers 18 or older, with no upper age limit.

Q: My bank charges me $1.50 for using an ATM outside its network, and then the bank in the city I'm visiting charges me another $1.50 or $2 more. Is there a solution, other than finding a bank that doesn't charge?, which I've found impossible so far?

A: There's a neat way around this : If you need cash when you're on the road, go into a chain drug store, supermarket or any other store that allows you to pay with an ATM or debit card. Many of these stores, as you've probably discovered at home, will give cash back with your purchase. Even if you buy a can of sodapop, you can get $20, $30, even $50 back, without paying a service charge.

Some smaller financial institutions, mostly credit unions, don't charge ATM fees. You just have to shop around for them.

Q: I bought a nonrefundable ticket on Delta for $150, but now I find I can't use it. Can I give it away to someone else, or do I have any other options?

A: If it's a nonrefundable ticket, most airlines (including Delta) don't allow you to give or sell it to another person, or get a full refund . If no paortion has been used, you can apply the value, minus a service charge (uas much as p to $$100 on some airlines), to a future trip on the same carrierairline. A few airlines are kinder: Southwest lallowsets you to apply the full amount to future travel for yourself or, another person.

Q: I'd like to take the Eurostar "chunnel" train from London to Paris this summer. Is it cheaper to buy a ticket from Rail Europe in the United States before I depart or in London once I arrive?

A: You can get the best price if you buy directly from Eurostar 14 days in advance. It's currently offering a fare of 70 poundsxxx (about $100) round -trip in second class if you stay over 1629508449To reserve tickets with a credit card, make a transa-Atlantic call to Eurostar at 011-44-1233-/617-575. PLEASE CHECK-NUMBER MAY NOT BE CORRECT

Q: We're taking a cruise from Miami but have to parovidey our own air fare, and we've found that it's cheaper to fly into Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Southwest Airlines than to fly into Miami773867631 A: It's about 30 miles from Fort Lauderdale AAirport to the Port of Miami, and it will cost you about $60 by taxi, (954) 565-2800. Or you can take Tri County Airport Express, (800) 244-8252 or (954) 561-8888 ,or (800) 244-8252, which offers door-to-door service for $55 in a private car for up to four people, or $15 per person for up to four people sharing. Either way, you'll save money compared wtoith flying into Miami.

Q: Friends claim that Spain is a hot destination. But frankly, we're not into bullfighting or beaches. Why go there?

A: A recent sharp plunge in the value of Spain's currency (last week, a mind-boggling 183 pesetas to the dollar) has made Spain one of the least costly countries in Europe. That sets the st1634166048practically every medium-size town in the country has its own bullring. But there's also the fascinating ancient Andalusian Islamic sites of the south's interior; the world-class museums, cathedrals, dining and night life (see flamenco dancing) of Madrid and Barcelona; great skiing in the Pyrenees and Picos de Europa; a lush, green northern region loaded with history and eco-tourism; and interesting ethnic societies to explore, such as the Basque, Catalan and Galician, each with its own language and traditions.

For more information, contact the Spanish Tourist Office, (323) 658-7188 (from California), and http://www.okspain.org. Other good Web sites: http://www.cyberspain.com, http://www.red2000.c1869425696

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