Travel tips

Mexico says `Come on down' Since the September earthquakes in Mexico, it has been difficult to get accurate information on the status of airlines, hotels, restaurants, and historic attractions. The Mexico Secretariat of Tourism's office has compiled a list regarding travel at this time. When we called recently, we were told:

Telephone service is operative to more than 60 percent of the country, with service in Mexico City near normal. International service should be restored within 3 to 6 weeks.

All 53 jetports in Mexico are functioning normally.

Most of the hotels in Mexico City are functioning, some with minor damage, although a few were destroyed by the quake.

Only 11 of the 130 restaurants in the earthquake zone are closed.

Most tourist attractions in Mexico City are intact and can be visited.

Fourteen travel agencies in Mexico City were destroyed or damaged, but 35 agencies are operating, some in new locations.

In Ixtapa, 5 hotels are closed for repairs and renovations (some not earthquake-related), and 6 major hotels are functioning normally. All restaurants, discos, nightclubs, and beaches are operating normally.

A group of United States travel writers, agents, and tour operators went to Mexico in early October to meet with officials of the Mexican Tourism Industries and to see the area. The group reports that the communities were functioning normally with the exception of confined zones in Mexico City and Ixtapa.

The Mexican Tourism representatives state that full refunds will be made to any tourist who had to cancel his reservations due to the quake. For help with a refund call Roberto Zapata, president of the Mexico City Hotel Association (1-800-HOTELMEX).

For the latest information on travel to Mexico, call your travel agent. New French railpass for 1986

The French National Railroads will offer a new railpass to be purchased in North America starting Jan. 1, 1986, called the ``France Vacances Special.'' The pass provides coupons for 9 or 16 nonconsecutive days of rail travel to be used within a one-month period. A passenger can ride one day and stop off for a day without losing a day on the pass. The pass includes the usual France Vacances bonuses such as unlimited travel on the Paris metro and bus system, transfers to and from the airport, and more. It

costs $130 for 9 days and $170 for 16 days for second-class, or $199 (9 days) and $250 (16 days) for first-class.

French Railroads will also offer the regular French Vacances pass (7 days, second-class, for $115) which entitles the holder to ride any train in the French railroad network, including all TGV high-speed trains. Options for cruise passengers

November is a popular month for picking a cruise. Many lines are offering their own pre-season discounts now (to be booked through a local travel agent) in what appears to be a fare war resulting from the recent enlargement of the fleet of cruise ships. However, you might call to see what South Florida Cruises Inc. can do for you. This three-year-old cruise clearinghouse buys blocks of cabins for popular cruises at group rates and sells them at a discount -- 10 to 30 percent below the normal price.

The company is not allowed to advertise the names of the lines whose cruises it handles. South Florida Cruises does not offer every cruise on every date, and offerings change weekly; so you need to be flexible. Call 1-800-327-SHIP. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Eastern standard time.

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