Rental vans available in Europe, but the prices vary from country to country

TRAVEL Q&A

November 15, 1992|By New York Times News Service

Q: Six of us would like to rent a van for three weeks in Europe, visiting the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Switzerland. Is a van available?

A: Through one rental company or another, there are vans available in all the countries you plan to visit. For a party your size, a van that holds nine passengers would be most comfortable if you were taking luggage for all of you, rental companies say. When planning your trip, you might want to compare costs for picking up and dropping off a van in each of the countries. You should factor in the value-added tax (VAT), the equivalent of sales tax. In the Netherlands the VAT is 17.5 percent, in Belgium it is 19.5 percent (with an additional 9 percent tax on rentals from airports), in Luxembourg it is 15 percent and in France it is 18.6 percent. Switzerland has no VAT but levies a 6-percent tax on vehicles rented at airports.

Here are some examples of van rental rates, given for 21 days. Unless noted otherwise, the prices are for nine-passenger vehicles and the rates include unlimited mileage but not collision damage waiver or other extras. In some cases, these rates are available only if reservations are made a specified time in advance -- as much as 14 days -- and only if they are made in the United States. Generally, the vans have manual transmissions.

In the Netherlands, Avis has only vans that hold seven passengers, and the cost is $5,315; in Belgium, a nine-passenger van is $1,006, in Luxembourg it is $2,302 plus $1.07 a kilometer (about 66 cents a mile); in France, $2,430 (a special rate in effect through February, including VAT, collision damage waiver and other insurance); in Switzerland, $2,225 plus about $1.25 per kilometer (or 77 cents a mile).

Budget does not have vans in Amsterdam and in Paris. In Luxembourg and Belgium, a nine-passenger van is $1,191 and in Switzerland an eight-passenger van is $1,878.

In the countries you plan to visit Hertz has only minibuses that seat seven people. In the Netherlands the 21-day cost is $1,719; in Belgium, $864; Luxembourg, $895; France, $1,675, and Switzerland, $1,256.

Q: How can one get tickets in advance to the Chelsea Flower Show in London? I have heard that if you join the British Horticultural Society you can avoid the crowds.

A: The next Chelsea Flower Show takes place May 25-28 at the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. Only members of the Royal Horticultural Society may attend on May 25 and 26 and until 3:30 p.m. May 27; these times are indeed less crowded. Admission is $22.50 (prices at $1.63 to the pound) May 25 and 26 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.; $12 after 3:30 p.m. For non-members, admission after 3:30 p.m. May 27 is $16, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 28, $26.

All tickets are sold in advance. A telephone line that will take orders by credit card, (44 71) 379 4443, is scheduled to begin operation tomorrow.

There will be a preview of the show from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. May 24, with some of the proceeds going to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Tickets are $235 and may be ordered from Celia Joseph, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 16-18 Hatton Garden, Third Floor, London EC1 8AT, England; (44 71) 405 3344, fax (44 71) 430 0710.

Membership to the Royal Horticultural Society is $40 for an TC individual and $70 for a family. Contact Membership Department, Royal Horticultural Society, P.O. Box 313, Vincent Square, London SW1P 2PE, England; (44 71) 834 4333. Members get order forms for tickets in early January.

Keith Prowse, 234 W. 44th St., Suite 1000, New York, N.Y. 10036, (800) 669-8687, will sell tickets for the flower show. Prices have not been set for 1993; for 1992, they were $44 for a whole day and $31 for attending after 3:30 p.m., with a $5 service charge for each ticket.

Q: I understand that at times there is skiing on Hawaii. When and where?

A: There is skiing each winter season on Mauna Kea, a 13,825-foot mountain on the island of Hawaii (commonly called the Big Island). Skiing has begun as early as Thanksgiving and extended into June; February and March are the most reliable months. High temperatures are usually about 45 degrees in those two months.

There are no lifts or marked trails on Mauna Kea. So, using a four-wheel-drive van, a private company runs trips to the slope and transports skiers to the top of runs, which vary from 400 to 4,000 vertical feet, depending on snow conditions. The company, called Ski Guides Hawaii, P.O. Box 1954, Kamuela, Hawaii 96743, (808) 885-4188, charges $150 a person for a day of skiing. The price includes transportation to and from Waimea and lunch. A $250-a-person package includes pick up at a skier's hotel, skiing on more remote areas and a more elaborate lunch. Renting skis, boots and poles is $30 a day.

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