Asian financial flu good for travelers

November 09, 1997|By NEWSDAY

The recent bout of foreign financial flu that has been causing alternating chills and fevers in investors may bring smiles to the faces of travelers.

Asia's economic woes, which actually have been brewing for months, had already spawned two-week trips for less than $1,500 and values even in long-unaffordable Japan. The most significant effect of the recent currency crisis seems to have been in Thailand, where SmarTours president Eli Milbaur said the U.S. dollar now buys 40 percent more than three months ago -- great for Americans drawn to the Far East by the prospect of exotic shopping.

Hong Kong offers bargains, too, but not because of devalued currency. Tourism has slumped for the former British colony since it was handed back to China July 1, prompting inducements such as hotel upgrades, Milbaur said.

Some money-saving advice:

* If you don't have a five-star bankroll, stay out of five-star restaurants -- or treat yourself to an elegant but cheaper lunch or early dinner. Produce markets and street stalls are sources of cheap, tasty meals as well as abundant local color.

* Bypass international chain hotels in favor of guest houses, which also offer a better glimpse into the regional culture.

* Buy fare-saving commuter passes for city buses and subways.

* Plan museum visits for the evenings when admission is free, and take advantage of free entertainment in parks and other public places.

* Look into discounts for foreign visitors -- rail passes, for example -- which often must be booked before you leave.

Pub Date: 11/09/97

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