There's good news for student travelers heading to Eastern Europe. Starting Jan. 1 the International Student Identity Card will, for the first time, be honored for reductions in a number of Eastern European countries.
The ISIC was created so that companies offering special discounts to students traveling overseas could easily distinguish who was eligible for the reductions. Schools issue thousands of styles of cards each year, and it's all but impossible to distinguish the valid from the phony.
The answer was to offer a single-style identity card worldwide. The language varies, but the ISIC looks the same whether it's issued in Hong Kong, New York, Iceland or France.
The card is endorsed by the International Assn. of Universities, which has 900 members in 122 countries. It's expected that by the end of 1990 about 2 million ISIC cards will be in circulation. Even the Union of Mongolian Students has ordered 8,000.
The 1990 version of the ISIC also has a new look. It's a plastic, credit card-size photocard. This new version, which is already on sale, will remain valid until the end of 1990.
The weak link of the ISIC system has always been Eastern Europe. Students have had to buy a second card, issued by the International Union of Students, to take advantage of student discounts there. Now the two cards have joined forces.
There will be discounts covering such areas as transportation, museums and accommodations in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Yugoslavia.
When buying the card in your home country you are issued a booklet that includes the addresses of the affiliated student travel services, along with outlines of some of the key discounts in the participating countries.
For example, you'll find that Almatur, the student travel service of Poland, sells vouchers for $7 U.S. that are valid for a night's accommodation (with breakfast) in 19 Polish cities during the summer months. You don't have to make reservations, and unused vouchers are refundable in Polish currency.
You'll also learn that many Eastern European countries offer special discounts to students for rail travel to other socialist countries.
In Yugoslavia, student visitors are eligible for 50% discounts on museum and gallery entrance fees. In Hungary (now included in the popular Eurail train ticket system), your ISIC is honored in Budapest for a 25% discount on student-style accommodations and for a four-hour city tour at a reduced price of $3 U.S.
Finland's student travel service, Travela, offers special budget trips from Helsinki to Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev during summer.
For more information on the ISIC photocard, contact STA Travel, 7204 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles 90046, (213) 934-8722, or Council Travel, 1093 Broxton Ave., Suite 220, Los Angeles 90024, (213) 208-3551.