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For students, discount travel is in the cards

Want a student discount on domestic air travel or 15 percent off rail and bus fares? How about a 20 percent discount on express rail from London's Gatwick or Heathrow airports into the city, or 50 percent off your entrance fee to the pyramids outside Cairo?

Whether you just want to cut travel costs for your next spring break or discounts for touring abroad, as someone 25 or younger _ or a faculty member _ you are eligible for thousands of special offers. Here's where to look:

More than 15,000 discounts from various travel suppliers or destinations are available in North America to holders of the Student Advantage Card. These discounts include spring break packages, car rentals and rooms at Choice Hotels. The card costs $20 for one year and $60 for four years. It is available to part-time and full-time students at least 16 years of age and to faculty.

Two of the best breaks are 15 percent off Amtrak Rail fares (www.amtrak.com) and 15 percent off Greyhound walkup fares (www.greyhound.com). For more information on the Student Advantage Card, go to www.studentadvantage.com, or call toll-free 1-877-256-4672.

Student Universe (www.studentuniverse.com), an online airfare booking service, offers deals with major airlines to full- and part-time students and to faculty. Some airfares have age restrictions. It's not necessary to purchase a membership card.

The site also has hostel-bed booking with helpful destination information. And you can buy reduced-rate international rail passes (for those 25 or younger), and book StudentCity.com spring break packages.

You also can book discounted student airfares and youth rail passes through the worldwide network of STA Travel offices (www.statravel.com, call toll-free 1-800-781-4040) and the Canadian student travel service, Travel CUTS, which has 10 offices in the United States (www.travelcuts.com, call toll-free 1-800-592-2887).

STA has an office on the Temple Terrace campus of the University of South Florida. Call (813) 974-3380.

"Student airfares were developed for students who were going abroad to study and didn't know exactly when they wanted to return," said Carol Seymour of STA Travel. "The student fares STA Travel sells allow you to be away for up to 360 days, to fly into one destination and out from another, and not be penalized heavily for date changes or cancellations."

To purchase the student fares STA and Travel CUTS have negotiated, the airlines require you to have a $22 International Student Identity Card (often referred to by its acronym, ISIC). The card also makes you eligible for thousands of student discounts worldwide. STA Travel and Travel CUTS also sell International Youth (25 or younger) and Teacher Identity Cards.

For more information on the International Student Identity Card, go to www.isicus.com.

The ISIC was created as something that could be recognized worldwide by the museums and transportation services offering discounts. It is administered by the 50-year-old, not-for-profit, International Student Travel Confederation and is available to full-time students 13 and older.

The ISTC works with student travel services around the world that negotiate discounts in their countries for card holders. The ISIC is now accepted in more than 100 countries, for 32,000 discounts, including transportation, accommodation, cultural attractions, entertainment, restaurants and at Internet cafes.

Among those deals ISIC card holders are eligible for:

In Canada, a 35 percent discount on VIA Rail economy point-to-point tickets and 25 percent on Greyhound. In London, a 20 percent discount on Heathrow and Gatwick airport-to-city express rail and reduced entry to the Tower of London and Kensington Palace. In Australia, a 10 percent discount on McCafferty's/Greyhound bus services nationwide. In the Czech Republic, 40 percent off entry fees at the Castle and Chateau of Cesky Krumlov. In Egypt, 50 percent off national museums and historic sites, including the Egyptian Antiquities Museum and the pyramids at Giza.

Also, in Greece, from 50 percent off to free entry at national archaeological sites and museums. A 15-euro discount on the Budapest-Vienna hydrofoil. In New Zealand, 20 percent off Intercity Coachlines. In Spain, 50 percent off the National Museums of Spain. In Mexico , up to 50 percent off national museums.

You can view discounts for specific destinations online at www.isic.org. The site includes background information by Lonely Planet, news of events, weather forecasts, currency conversions and a message board.

The ISIC Card includes a phone card and a service that enables family and friends to leave voice-mail messages that you can pick up during your travels. You also get basic accident and health insurance for travel outside of the United States, plus access to a free, 24-hour, multilingual emergency help line, for medical, legal and general emergencies referrals.

Lucy Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer and author of "Izon's Backpacker Journal." Her Web site is www.greatlearningvacations.com.

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