TRAVEL TIPS

Chattanooga Railway. In a city famous for its ``choo choos,'' the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is billed as the world's steepest. Back in the 1880s, a group of Chattanooga businessmen built an elaborate hotel just below a famous point on Lookout Mountain. To convey guests to the hotel, they built a narrow-guage railway up the side of the mountain. Today the hotel is long gone, but the railway remains, and it gives passengers the chance to see one of Tennessee's most impressive views. For more details, write the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Room T, Box 23170, Nashville, TN 37202; or call (615) 741-7994. Going to France? Nearly 2,000 Americans were turned away at French borders this year for not having visas. To enter France, you must get a visa - a stamp in your passport showing it has been examined by the proper officals of that country - before you go. You'll need a valid passport, $15, one passport-sized photo of yourself, and an application form completed and signed. Visas are issued on the spot if you apply in person; by mail it takes up to three weeks. A visa is valid for three years and permits you to stay up to 90 days at a time. For application and instructions, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the French Consulate in your region or to the French Embassy, 4101 Reservoir Rd. N.W., Washington, DC 20007.

Touring abroad. Here are six tips, compliments of David X. Manners Company Inc. of Connecticut:

Memorize your passport number. You'll need it when you cash a traveler's check, fill out a customs form, or register at a hotel.

Take a sweater. Even if you're traveling in a tropical hot spot, an air-conditioned bus or restaurant may be uncomfortably chilly.

Don't automatically change your dollars to local currency. Many cities will take those dollars, and it saves constant switching back and forth to new money.

Take an umbrella. Hopefully it won't rain. If you're touring by bus, rack it there.

Use a camera that offers control over flash. You'll get more pictures. Often it's the flash, not the picture taking, that's objectionable.

Coordinate your watch with your guide's. If you don't, and your watch is slow, you may get left behind.

Down East to the farm. The Maine Farm Vacation and Bed & Breakfast Association offers 11 vacation farms for country visitors. Guests stay in historic farmhouses, many of which are agriculturally prosperous, raising everything from organic wheat to cheese and goats. In addition to helping with daily chores, guests can fish, boat, hike, swim, observe wildlife, and take country walks. Hearty meals are served family style, and Maine's natural and cultural sites are nearby. Accommodations include 18th-century farmhouses, small cottages, and a renovated country schoolhouse. Rates and meal plans vary. For more information and copies of the Maine Farm Vacation brochure, write the Maine Publicity Bureau, 97 Winthrop St., Hallowell, ME 04347; or call (207) 289-2423.

Apartment in Paris. RothRay Apartments is now offering private apartment accommodation for visitors as an alternative to a hotel. Located in scenic and central sections of Paris - such as Marais, Chatelet, Montmartre, and the Latin Quarter - the apartments include a studio bedroom, living room with stereo, color TV, telephone, modern kitchen stocked with food, and bathroom. Many have been chosen for their 17th- to 19th-century charm, with beamed ceilings and large bright windows, and are priced under $100 a night. Contact William Forsythe, 135 Isabella St., Suite 708, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4Y 1P4; or call (416) 920-6329.

Good news for tourism in China. Visitors to China will be pleased to know that two new training centers are being built in Nanking and Tianjin to train personnel in the nation's tourist industry. In addition to government investment and help from local travel agencies, hotels are encouraged to set up their own training programs. Experts will be setting standards by which to grade hotels, and tighter supervision and monitoring will be made by authorities.

Passport to the parks. With domestic travel on the rise, America's 330 national parks will host increasing numbers of tourists this year. To help visitors gain a greater appreciation of the national parks, Eastern National Park & Monument Association, along with the National Park Service, offers the ``Passport to Your National Parks.'' The pocket-size book includes pertinent information accompanied by maps and photographs, and pages to collect ``cancellation marks'' and commemorative stamps. The guide recognizes the more popular historical national parks as well as the lesser-known natural wildlife preserves. For more information contact Kim Law, Marketing Coordinator, ENP & MA, Independence Mall Building, 325 Chestnut Street, Suite 1212, Philadelphia, PA 19106; 800-821-2903.

New York City hotel for families. The Omni Park Central Hotel's summer program assists parents traveling with their children July 1 through Labor Day. A ``concierge for kids'' is available to provide information, make reservations for family events and dining, and arrange for baby-sitting. The hotel also offers two rooms for the price of one, where children stay in an adjoining room free. Summer rates at the hotel (double occupancy) begin at $105 weekends and $165 midweek. Other family-oriented offers include half-price children's menu and picnic lunches. For reservations call 800-THE-OMNI; (212) 247-8000 (inside New York).

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