The stay in L.A. can be budget-friendly


I am planning my first trip to Los Angeles and the surrounding area. As a recent high school graduate and a frugal traveler, I am looking for respectable accommodations for $35 or less.

The Los Angeles area offers a number of clean, inexpensive accommodations, especially for those who don't mind dormitory-style rooms or visiting in the off-season (mid-September to late spring).

The 30-room Crest Motel, 7701 Beverly Blvd., West Los Angeles, Calif. 90036, (213) 931-8108, is across the street from the CBS television studios and near Beverly Hills and Hollywood. The Farmers Market, adjacent to CBS, offers relatively inexpensive meals at its many food stalls. Between Sept. 20 and mid-June, single rooms start at $34; doubles start at $36. All rooms have a private bathroom.

The Mesa Motel, 415 Old Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, Calif. 92663, (714) 646-3893, is 40 miles south of Los Angeles and a short drive from the beach. There are 30 rooms with private bathrooms. The cost is $27.50 for a single and $33 for a double.

The Colonial Inn Youth Hostel, 421 Eighth St., Huntington Beach, Calif. 92648, (714) 536-3315, 30 miles south of Los Angeles, is a short walk from the beach and popular with surfers. From mid-September to June, the cost is $12 for accommodations in )) dormitory rooms with three or four beds and shared bath. Doubles rooms with shared bath are $14 a person. No hostel membership required. Visitors have access to a fully equipped kitchen; a breakfast of toast and coffee is included.

I'm looking for a group tour to New Zealand's South Island that includes visits to the Franz Josef glacier, Milford Sound and other natural sites. Any suggestions?

The New Zealand Tourism Board, 501 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, Calif. 90401, (310) 395-7480, can provide some names of companies in the United States and in New Zealand that focus on the South Island, which has, among its natural wonders, glaciers, fjords, limestone caves, waterfalls and dense beech forests.

Outland Adventures, 3103 White-way Drive, Austin, Texas 78757, 411-5724, represents a New Zealand-based tour company called Serious Fun New Zealand, which specializes in hiking programs and other outdoor tours of the South Island. One itinerary, called "Best of the South Island," is a 14-day excursion that goes to six national parks.

Highlights include visits to Christchurch; Arthur's Pass National Park; the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers; a cruise through Milford Sound; Queenstown; Routeburn Falls and a three-day hike across the Southern Alps. The tour is suitable for anyone of average fitness who is willing to hike from 4 to 10 miles a day. Accommodations are in bed and breakfasts, historic inns and, during the Southern Alps trek, in mountain huts with hot showers and flush toilets. There are several departures scheduled this winter, including Dec. 16, Dec. 30, Jan. 20 and Feb. 3. The cost is $2,450 for a 10- to 15-person group, double occupancy. International air fare is not included.

Overseas Adventure Travel, 625 Mount Auburn St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138, (617) 876-0533, is also offering a South Island itinerary for active travelers. The tour features visits to Christchurch, Dunedin, Lake Wakatipu, Franz Josef glacier, the Otago Peninsula, Mount Cook, a Milford Sound cruise, an overnight stay with a local family in Queenstown, a visit to a sheep farm and a three-day Southern Alps trek similar to the one in the Outland Adventures tour. Lodging is in small hotels, inns and mountain huts. The cost of the 14-day program, which departs on Nov. 23, Dec. 14 and Jan. 11, is $3,590. The price includes most meals, accommodations, local transportation and international air fare from Los Angeles.

My husband and I will be traveling on the Yucatan Peninsula this fall and would like to visit the Mayan ruins in Palenque. What are the transportation choices from Merida?

Transportation between Merida and Palenque, down the flat Yucatan Peninsula to the foothills of the Chiapas highlands, is not always convenient or comfortable, though several options exist, including regular bus, train and plane service.

Travel by bus probably offers the best combination of comfort, price and scenery, if you have the time. The trip takes from eight to nine hours. The reservations office in Merida that handles the several bus lines serving the route may be reached by calling (52-99) 24-83-91. Be prepared for operators who speak little or no English. All buses have bathrooms, air-conditioning and comfortable seats; some even have televisions. Departures from the Central de Autobuses de Merida station, on Calle 70 in downtown Merida, are scheduled daily.

The 15-hour overnight train trip, while scenic and cheap ($5.81 one way), is for travelers who are willing to endure a rough trip. There are no sleeping accommodations, cars are often crowded and only second-class service is available. Information: (52-99) 28-62-74 or 27-70-88.

There is no direct plane service from Merida. Aerocaribe offers service aboard a propeller plane from Merida to Villahermosa in Tabasco and from there to Palenque. The entire trip is five to eight hours long. A one-way ticket costs $120.25, and a round trip is twice that.

The reservations number in Merida is (52-99) 28-67-90. Again, operators' English is limited. Travelers can also make reservations in English at Mexicana's Mexico City office. The number is (52-5) 325-0990.

Pub Date: 9/01/96

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