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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

See China, Egypt on budget- priced tours


Pacific Delight Tours (operating trips to Asia) and SunnyLand Tours (operating trips to Egypt and elsewhere) aren't known for their bargain packages. Yet recently, in these times of economic uncertainty, both companies suddenly have added budget-price packages to their standard lists. Nothing could better reflect the current condition of international travel and the decision by travel companies to overcome the current cautious spending habits of the American public — with bargains.

Pacific Delight goes economical

Long before anyone was talking about tours to China, there was Pacific Delight Tours, operating to China for a very select audience. A pioneering travel company created in the 1970s by the late Francis Luk, Pacific Delight has always been the Tiffany's of the Asian tour operators, charging substantial — but not overly high — prices for first-class and deluxe facilities. And would you now believe that Pacific Delight is selling a budget-price tour to China?

Pacific Delight's "Ancient and Modern China" tour is headlined as costing $1,219, but that's for a single departure in December and another in January, and doesn't include another $120 in taxes and fees (that all the operators now include in their rates). So, Pacific Delight really is charging a still-excellent $1,619 or $1,419 ($1,499 for most dates in November through February, plus $120 in fees and taxes, and $1,219 plus $120 for isolated dates) for a very impressive tour that spends eight nights in China (four nights in Beijing, one night in Suzhou, one night in Hangzhou, and two nights in Shanghai). The tour also includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles. By any standard, it's a bargain.

SunnyLand Tours cuts the rate

For the first time I can remember, a top tour operator to Egypt — SunnyLand Tours (800-783-7839, ) —has actually created a separate website (www.egypthotdeals.com), totally independent of its normal listings of costly tours, to present what it regards as new and unprecedented bargains to Cairo (five nights); to Cairo plus cruises of the Nile to Upper Egypt (total of eight nights); to Cairo, a Nile Cruise, and a stay in the resort of Hurghada on the Red Sea (total of nine nights); and still other variations; always with round-trip airfare on Egyptair from New York/JFK to Cairo.

Its cheapest package ("the Silver Package") consists of round-trip air to Cairo and five nights in a first-class hotel with daily breakfast and orientation sightseeing tour, for $1,099 to $1,299 for departures in late fall and winter, the peak of the season in Egypt (where summer weather is far too hot for comfortable tourism), to which the only obligatory extra charge is a varying amount from $134 to $195 for airport and government fees and taxes.

And what is perhaps a more attractive package ($1,299 to $1,499 for most dates in late fall and throughout the winter (high season) is the "Grand Nile Cruise and Tour," which takes you for one night to Cairo and then on a seven-night Nile Cruise stopping at all the historic sights of "Upper Egypt," and of course including round-trip air from New York to Cairo. Add $189 in fees and taxes.

There's also "Affordable Egypt" ($1,699 to $1,999 for fall and winter departures) flying you round-trip to Cairo, Egypt, from the U.S., where you will then spend two nights in Cairo, four nights on a Nile Cruise, two nights in a Hurghada resort on the Red Sea, air transportation within Egypt (returning you from Hurghada to Cairo) and one night in a sleeper train from Cairo to Aswan to join the cruise. Three other varied air-and-land packages complete the "Egypt Hot Deals."

Here, at last, is an effort to package Egypt at a moderate price, and although your total expenses will exceed what you'd pay for a trip to China or Vietnam, they will bring you the Egypt experience for a reasonable sum.

Arthur Frommer is the pioneering founder of the Frommer's Travel Guide book series. He co-hosts the radio program "The Travel Show" with his travel correspondent daughter Pauline Frommer. Find more destinations online and read Arthur Frommer's blog at frommers.com.

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