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This is the best time to travel abroad

Smita Tripathi | October 11, 2003

The financial papers are full of stories about how exporters will be hit by the rising rupee.

But, how is the man in the street affected by a stronger rupee? One thing's for sure: foreign travel has just become a lot cheaper. So, is it time to travel abroad on the wings of the mighty rupee?

If you have no issues about leaving home during Diwali, this is the best time to take a break and see a new place.

Travel companies like Cox & Kings, Thomas Cook and SOTC have all come out with new packages and schemes to ensure you get your rupee's worth.

One advantage of going for a holiday now is that the costing of all plans is done in dollars. So, you'll be paying only Rs 45 per dollar compared to Rs 50, six months ago, and you'll obviously end up saving a decent sum.

For instance, SOTC's 15-day grand tour of Europe costs $1,349 which is around Rs 60,705. It would have cost around Rs 67,450 if you had gone in February or March.

What's more, once you are abroad, your heart won't skip a beat every time you buy a can of Coke or a T-shirt with the Statue of Liberty printed on it.

With the rupee becoming stronger, at last, things are becoming slightly cheaper for us poor Indians, who have the terrible habit of converting everything into rupees.

Cox & Kings Flexihols are meant for those who don't want to go on a conducted tour and would rather do their own thing.

So if you don't want to wake up at seven in the morning to visit the Eiffel Tower, take a Flexihols package.

The company will design your itinerary depending on your budget. Says Vikas Khanduri, regional manager, north India, Cox & Kings: "Flexihols enables us to provide the customer with an itinerary which fits the number of nights and the category of hotel, within the customer's budget."

For instance, if you plan to go to Egypt, a seven-day eight-night trip can cost you anywhere between $419 and $763 per person, depending on which hotel you choose.

So if you are comfortable in a four star hotel, your trip will cost you Rs 18,855 while super deluxe luxury will cost you Rs 34,335.

Add airfare of Rs 28,900 (including taxes) by Emirates and you can have a perfect holiday which includes a full-day tour of Cairo and Luxor and a four-day cruise on the Nile, for between Rs 47,755 and Rs 63,235.

The benefit: you do not travel with 50 other people. So you can wake up when you like and eat where you like.

Similarly, Thomas Cook can also plan your holiday as per your guidelines.

For instance, if you'd like to go to Greece you can either take a pre-planned package for a seven night-eight-day trip, which will cost between $750 to $1,100 depending upon the hotel, or you can take a Greek rail pass for around $100 and get your hotel bookings done. Then you are on your own.

So pick up a Lonely Planet Greece, pack your bags and get ready to feast on the marvels of antiquity -- and the Mediterranean.

SOTC is also pulling out all the stops in its bid to woo the outbound traveller. Its 15-day Grand Tour of Europe costs $1,349.

However, the first 100 people who take the tour get $300 off. So effectively the first 100 people will tour Europe for only Rs 47,205 including airfare, accommodation, sightseeing and most meals.

SOTC has also recently launched its BhramanMandal offer meant for the Maharashtrian community. The BhramanMandal's European Extravaganza tour costs $2,199 and is a 14-day tour covering nine destinations.

All customers travelling on this package will get a video camera worth Rs 28,000 free.

Similarly, its Vishwa Darpan offer is meant exclusively for the North Indian community. Those travelling on the European Delight offer will receive a Panasonic handycam worth Rs 28,000 free as well as one night free in Dubai.

The European Delight costs $2,299 for 15 days and includes England, Belgium, Holland, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy.

Also, those going for the all-inclusive Far East tour will get a Panasonic digicam worth Rs 10,000 free.

If you do not want to take a holiday package but would prefer visiting friends and family in the US or Europe, go now. The airlines have slashed economy fares in order to attract more outbound tourists.

Air India has cut its Delhi-London-Delhi fare to Rs 26,000 from Rs 34,000. It has also reduced the Delhi-New York-Delhi to Rs 43,000 from Rs 49,500.

The Delhi-Frankfurt-Delhi fare has also been brought down to Rs 25,000 from Rs 34,000. British Airways has also reduced its economy fares by 25 per cent.

So what are you waiting for, put on your travelling shoes, pack your bags and hit the road.

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