Best bets, from Brazil to Bonine

Special to The Times

MANY of the letters I receive from readers contain questions of importance to a range of travelers. Here are several recent ones:

What are the current hot spots for travel?

Argentina and Brazil lead the list, with Brazil’s northeastern coast (especially the beaches at Costa do Sauipe in Bahia, near Salvador) a close third. Currencies have tanked in both countries, resulting in bargain living for tourists, and Brazil’s luxurious Bahian resorts charge as little as a guesthouse in London.

Cape Town in South Africa has become a honeymoon magnet for couples who want rock-bottom rates for a sophisticated seaside city and nearby safaris. The South African currency is selling at historic lows, and conditions are pleasant and safe in and around Cape Town.


China is a hot destination, inexpensive and attracting savvy American tourists, as is Eastern Europe (especially Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Baltic states, Bohemia outside Prague, the former East Germany and the Croatian coast).

New Zealand’s tourism -- aided by “Lord of the Rings” images and a debased New Zealand dollar -- is soaring. Mexico (its currency worth 10% less in the past year) and Canada (whose dollar remains weak) are doing well, and Europeans continue to flock to such inexpensive Muslim countries as Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. Americans who aren’t worried about security might want to do the same.

I can travel only in the winter and only near the West Coast. Where do you suggest?

The south rim of the Grand Canyon can be visited throughout the winter, and Death Valley National Park is best visited in winter, when its weather is mild. From Los Angeles, map out a car itinerary that takes you through Death Valley on the way to the Grand Canyon, perhaps by way of Las Vegas for a total change of pace. And consider visiting Joshua Tree National Park on a short detour. Although none of these is on a straight-line drive, all can be pleasantly visited in one car trip, depending on the number of days you have.

Does it make any sense to purchase $1,000 in euros before our springtime trip to Europe? Friends say the dollar is about to drop 15% against the euro.

If accurate predictions were possible, your friends could make millions by speculating in currencies. In fact, no one knows the future of currencies. Even on the very eve of a trip, it’s unwise to buy and carry large amounts of cash and run the risk of loss or theft. Smart tourists carry their funds in the form of ATM cards, credit cards and traveler’s checks, and they purchase small amounts of cash as their trip proceeds.

What extra medications should I take on a cruise?

The ship’s doctor probably has everything you’ll need. But to avoid a visit to the ship’s clinic, you can take Imodium and Pepto-Bismol for stomach upsets and Bonine to ward off seasickness. Some passengers begin taking Bonine an hour before boarding the ship.


What is the best time to buy air tickets to Europe for an April or May trip?

Five or so weeks before departure, buy them from a discount consolidator selling distressed merchandise. For names of consolidators, go to the Encyclopedia of Travel in Ever the optimists, most airlines price their tickets high when they first go on sale. Seats that haven’t been sold as the date approaches are released to the discount outlets.

I’m a 24-year-old woman who lives in Union City, N.J., and would like to go on a one-week vacation this spring, but I’d like to spend less than $950, including transportation, lodging, meals and extras. Where should I go?

The easy answer would be an all-inclusive weeklong package (round-trip air from various U.S. cities, seven nights’ lodging, three meals daily and unlimited drinks and sports) of the sort offered by tour operators such as GoGo Vacations, Apple Vacations, TNT, GWV, Vacation Express, SunTrips, Adventure Tours USA and the like. Such off-the-shelf vacations -- usually featuring a beachfront hotel and buffet meals -- sell for just under $1,000 to the Dominican Republic, but they involve little contact with the local culture or conditions.

An alternative would be to spend some time at a spa or institute. Starting in May, you can try the Omega Institute, (800) 944-1001,, two hours by bus or car from New York City, for a week of psychological/spiritual introspection among caring people.