It is better to travel cheaply than not at all : LETTER

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AS HILARY Bradt points out, there have been cases of insensitive behaviour by independent travellers ("Better to travel cheaply?", Sunday Review, 12 February). However, to use a few morsels of anecdotal evidence to construct an argument against the whole concept of low-budget travel is totally to mislead.

For example, the claim that "tourists" feel happy paying twice the going rate and make no attempt to haggle over prices ignores basic human behaviour. Ask any tourist in an organised group how they feel and the chances are you will hear the familiar complaints of over- charging and being conned.

A large percentage of the profit from these inflated prices may well stay in the host nation, but he chances are that it will remain in the hands of a few wealthy entrepreneurs who will often be exploiting their fellow countrymen.

For the vast majority of tourists - particularly the young - paying the local rate is the only way they can manage to visit several countries. Budget hotels in many countries are an industry in themselves. The kind of tourism that Bradt seems to be advocating - special buses, hotels and treatment - is for a privileged lite only. This kind of travel without the independent-minded kind to balance it merely leads to host nations developing distorted views of the West and raising expectations.

Richard Nelsson

London SW2

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