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Let government be your guide

When you are considering a trip abroad, many sources may be consulted in preparing for your journey. Guidebooks, videos and magazine articles can give you the general feel and personality of a place, the features that tend to remain timeless. Newspaper travel sections are able to update that information by reporting current conditions.

But as long as you're doing your homework, you might as well consult the U.S. government, which provides practical, if sometimes generalized, information of the nuts-and-bolts variety. And this information is available for little or nothing.

Here are some publications from the Government Printing Office. You may be able to pick up some of them for free at local passport offices or through the mail for a nominal fee by writing the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954, or by visiting the Web site,

sudocs/sale/sb-302.html. There are also 24 Government Printing Office Book Stores across the country, including one in Jacksonville, 100 W Bay St., Suite 100, phone (904) 353-0569.

General travel information available: "Your Trip Abroad" ($1.50); "A Safe Trip Abroad" ($1.25); "Tips for Americans Residing Abroad" ($1.50); and "Travel Tips for Older Americans" ($1.25).

Among the country-specific information available are "Tips for Travelers" to: Canada ($1), the Caribbean ($1), sub-Saharan Africa ($1.50), Central and South America ($1.25), Mexico ($1.25), South Asia ($1), and Russia and the newly independent states ($1.75).

Baggage sealed tight

Luggage, even when locked, can be opened and its contents stolen. A thief simply picks the lock, takes what he wants and replaces the lock.

Baggage Guard Seals, once wired through both eyes of a bag's zipper pulls, can't be removed without breaking the seal and cannot be replaced, an instant sign of tampering.

A package of 10 costs $8.95 plus $3 shipping, and each seal comes with a serial number. From On the Go Publishing, c/o Guards, P.O. Box 91033, Columbus, OH 43209.

Compiled from Times wires