Seniors can tour countries where dollar goes further

 
LA Times | Travel
 

With the soaring euro about 1 1/2 times the value of the weakened dollar, travel groups that serve the senior population are looking beyond Europe to greener pastures -- parts of the world where the dollar goes further, sometimes further than it goes at home. The European rates of exchange can...

By Rhoda Amon // 08.12.08
 

With the soaring euro about 1 1/2 times the value of the weakened dollar, travel groups that serve the senior population are looking beyond Europe to greener pastures -- parts of the world where the dollar goes further, sometimes further than it goes at home.

The European rates of exchange can be disconcerting to seniors who may cling to the notion that a euro is a dollar. It isn't. A T-shirt for a grandchild priced at 20 euros will cost $30.

But there are bargains to be had in other regions "such as $10 dinners in Thailand or a $10 massage in Bali or a cheap taxi ride in Costa Rica," suggests Priscilla O'Reilly, a spokeswoman for Grand Circle Travel, the nation's largest marketer of mature travel. And just a few years ago I remember being concerned when our host in Hanoi, Vietnam, insisted on paying our cab fare to a local restaurant -- until I found out the tab was $1.60.

Southeast Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and South America are regions currently promoted by Grand Circle and its sister, Overseas Adventure Travel, which caters to small groups. Of course, there is a catch: Airfares, fueled by high oil prices, can wipe out the $10 bargains.

While there's no escape, one way to lock in the costs is to book a prepaid tour that includes international airfare. There are other obvious benefits for booking an established tour, including group rates at good hotels and restaurants, and experienced English-speaking guides who will take you safely through unfamiliar parts of the world.

Here are a few relatively moderate-priced tours:

If you've never been to Vietnam, a 19-day Inside Vietnam Overseas Adventure Travel tour introduces you to that blossoming, friendly land from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and comes with 37 meals, including a home-hosted lunch, and a night aboard a private junk ship on Halong Bay. OAT tours guarantee no more than 10-to-16 passengers for seniors who prefer small groups. The tour is priced from $2,795 October through December, including round-trip airfare from New York and five internal flights. The cost averages $148 a day, according to O'Reilly (800-873-5628, oattravel.com).

Real Affordable Peru, an 11-day OAT tour, includes a night on Machu Picchu, one of Latin America's most beautiful ruins. Lima, Sacred Valley and Cuzco are other stops. It's priced from $2,145, or $195 per day, August through December. The price includes international airfare from New York and two internal flights.

While serving all ages, the Friendship Force International is particularly popular among seniors because of its mission to promote personal friendships through home-stay exchanges in 50 countries. Seniors who have taken Friendship Force journeys over the years since its founding in Atlanta in 1977 boast of having friends all over the world.

The Friendship Force of Long Island is currently planning a trip to Israel Oct. 21-Nov. 10, beginning with a weeklong home stay with a family in Raanana, near Tel Aviv. From Oct. 28, the tour takes off with visits to ancient Acco, with its old walls, old market and Turkish baths; Pequi'in, Safed, Afula, a nature preserve noted for its bird population, and a sail on the Sea of Galilee. There's also Beatitude Mountain, hot baths at Hammat-Gader, Golan Heights, Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea and Eilat, the Israeli Riviera.

From Eilat the group will cross over to Jordan to visit the ruins at Petra, said tour coordinator Harriet Weidenbaum of Huntington, N.Y.

The cost for the three-week tour is about $3,000 plus airfare. For more information, call 631-673-6116 or visit ff-li.org.