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ON A BUDGET

Weak Currencies Build Bargain Packages Around the Pacific Rim

April 15, 2001|ARTHUR FROMMER

If you have wanted to visit the Far East, Australia or New Zealand, now is the time: Weak currencies and reduced business travel across the Pacific have caused many airlines and tour operators to cut the costs of their vacation packages in Asia and Down Under. Here are five offers for late spring and summer:

* Even specialists in travel to China-in this case, the reliable, New York-based China Silk Tour are rushing to operate low-cost air-and-land packages to other Asian favorites.

From June 1 to Aug. 31, China Silk will fly you from Los Angeles to Bangkok on Northwest Airlines, put you up for six nights at the fancy Amari Atrium Hotel and throw in daily breakfast, airport-hotel transfers and two half-day tours, all for $910. If you can go in May or September through November, it's $820.

Information: China Silk Tour; telephone (800) 945-7960 or (212) 679-6888, Internet http://www.chinasilktour.com.

* Southern California's Escapes Unlimited, tel. (800) 243-7227, has managed a price of just $829 for a five-nighter in one of the world's most enchanting tropical getaways, the Indonesian island of Bali (tranquil despite sporadic unrest elsewhere in Indonesia).

Using top-flight Cathay Pacific Airways, the package whisks you from Los Angeles to a two-star hotel near Kuta, one of the most happening of Bali's fabled beaches, and includes transfers and taxes; you can also stay on at $20 per additional night, stop over for free in Hong Kong and upgrade to other hotels and regions of Bali. The deal is available during June and from Aug. 15 until Dec. 1.

The same trip is available on Singapore Airlines for $60 more, which includes a stopover in Singapore with vastly discounted hotel rates.

* How about a triple-header flight from L.A. to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Bangkok for $820? This fare on China Airlines is available from the online agency Ticket Planet, http://www.ticketplanet.com. It's for travel in September and includes taxes (but not hotels). The same itinerary is available for $988 in June, July and August; taxes are not included in that price.

* A favorite among readers is back: 10 nights in six Chinese cities, June through September, for $1,299 per person, double occupancy (single supplement: $300). You fly on Air China from San Francisco to Beijing and spend three nights there before traveling on to overnights in Suzhou, Qufu, Taian and Jinan, then finish with three nights in Shanghai. You receive three meals daily throughout, transportation by motor coach and train in China and all entrance fees-even evening shows and a special Peking duck dinner party on your last night. (And breakfast is of the full American variety.) Extra fees: $42 for U.S. departure tax and $30 for a Chinese visa.

Contact China Focus at (800) 868-7244 or http://www.chinafocustravel.com.

* From Discover Wholesale Travel, consider this for a vacation Down Under: Americans now get 2.50 New Zealand dollars for $1 U.S.

This means you can roam the wonders of New Zealand's two charming islands, from the Maori culture and volcanoes of the far north down to spectacular Milford Sound and the fiords of the South Island, all in the comfort of a motor home.

For $895 per person, double, the deal includes a round-trip flight on Air New Zealand from Los Angeles to Auckland and 10 days' use of an RV (including mileage and insurance).

For those who would just as soon not drive their own hotel around with them, a more conventional five-night fly-drive program costs $915 for round-trip air fare, a stick-shift compact car (automatics cost extra) and a "Go Kiwi Hotel Pass" to 43 motor inns around the country.

Both deals are good May 1 through Sept. 2, after which the RV package goes up $13 per person per night and the fly-drive hotel deal to $1,115.

Discover Wholesale Travel is in Costa Mesa; tel. (800) 576-7770 or (714) 481-7333, e-mail barbarag@discovertravel.net.

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