Trip Coach: June 6, 2006 Tim Leffel, author of "The World's Cheapest Destinations," answered your travel questions Budget Travel Tuesday, Jun 6, 2006, 1:20 PM Budget Travel LLC, 2016


Trip Coach: June 6, 2006

Tim Leffel, author of "The World's Cheapest Destinations," answered your travel questions

Tim Leffel: Greetings everyone. I'm a travel writer and author of The World's Cheapest Destinations, as well as Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune: The Contrarian Traveler's Guide to Getting More for Less (out in August). I've been around the world three times and travel outside the country a few times a year: alone, with my wife, or with her and my daughter. But let's talk about YOUR trips!


Sterling, VA: I am looking to book a honeymoon to Bali in September of this year. What is the best way to get a good deal on all inclusive packages with meals, activities, and airfare? I seem to be finding good deals on accomodations but airfare seems to be very expensive. Thanks!

Tim Leffel: That's a long plane trip, first of all, almost as far as Australia. But I am guessing you are seeing higher airfares right now just because it's the beginning of summer--prime travel time for Americans and Canadians. As we move closer to September, prices should fall. Bali is indeed one of the best deals on the planet in terms of accommodation, so that will likely be a great deal no matter what and standards are very high. Don't get too tied to the idea of getting an all-inclusive package: meals are a terrific bargain everywhere on the island so it will be a paltry percentage of your budget. It's fun to just pop into different restaurants while you're out exploring and you'll get a better variety. Budget Travel Magazine often lists some attractive packages to Bali, as do the usual travel booking sites, but if you don't see one that suits, my advice would be to sign up for a fare alert with Travelocity and set a target price you're willing to pay for plane tickets. When it drops below that, you'll get an e-mail automatically. Then you can split your hotel time between different locations on the island. Another option is to look into a round-the-world ticket or a circle-the-Pacific ticket. If you keep going and make another stop or two, it can be as cheap or cheaper than just coming straight back. Check out these agencies:


Hopewell Junction, NY: Tim, IS there a cheap destination in Europe?

Tim Leffel: With the dollar taking a beating against European currencies, cheap is a relative word. Eastern Europe is still far cheaper than Western Europe though, especially if you avoid the tourist-magnet cities of Krakow, Prague, and Budapest. Get out into the countryside and spend time in lovely Czech or Hungarian towns outside the capitals. Or go to Bulgaria, or Romania--they are still a comparatively great value. Or head to Turkey, which has one foot in Europe. In these places you can manage to spend less than you would at home instead of double what you would at home.


Detroit, MI: I've heard that Central and Eastern Europe have been raising their prices for tourists now that most are joining the EU. Is there a way to get local prices instead of tourist prices? Which countries are better for this?

Tim Leffel: It's not necessarily that they are charging tourists more, though there's sure to be some of that. It's just that as they align more with the EU, prices tend to edge up closer to what they are in the rest of the continent. Also, Americans are going to pay more as the dollar loses value against the euro.
The countries that are still a ways out from joining the EU are the best bet, especially Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey.


Bowling Green, KY: With the U.S. dollar's exchange rate being so bad against the euro, where are the best places for Americans to travel internationally? Which ones are still good bargains for us? I am planning a trip for two weeks in spring '07.

Tim Leffel: The dollar could strengthen by the spring, but I wouldn't bet on it. Fortunately, a lot of countries have their exchange rate pegged to the U.S. dollar, either officially or in practice. Ecuador and Panama actually use our currency as their own, so no worries there. Most of Latin America is pretty stable in terms of exchange with the dollar, through Brazil and Chile bounce around. Much of Asia is also stable, including China, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and India. So the short answer is to head to Asia or Central/South America. Or Mexico.


Georgetown, DE: I'm thinking about visiting Malaysia with my 7 year old daughter in October. Can you recommend some places and activities that are safe and interesting for a child?

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