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Sunday, December 26, 2004; Page P02

'Third Man' Tour

NO "Third Man" tour to Vienna is complete without a spin on the giant Ferris Wheel (Riesenrad) in the Prater ["Vienna, With a Twist of Lime," Dec. 12]. In the film, Harry Lime takes Holly Martins on the wheel and from the top, Orson Welles makes his famously creepy speech justifying evil and comparing humans to insects. The Prater is easily accessed from the Vienna undergound.

Alan Margolis

Alexandria

ATM Cards Abroad

EXPANDING ON your idea to use credit cards for a good exchange rate [Coming and Going, Dec. 12], don't forget that such use of credit cards also entails cash advance interest rates. A better way would be to use one's ATM card for that good rate where, in my experience, funds are withdrawn directly from one's checking account.

My bank, USAA Savings Bank, charges no commission so that one gets the bank exchange rate on exchanges. Just be sure to let them know to allow the PIN for international use. USAA credit cards not only have no commission but rebate the commission that MasterCard or Visa impose. Thus, international credit card purchases are also given the bank exchange rate.

Jan Smith

Columbia

London Lodging

ON OUR recent trip to London we spent a lot less on accommodations than on previous trips by renting a short-term apartment instead of staying in a hotel. We used Accommodation London, www.accommodationlondon.net. Our place was clean and convenient, if a little primitive, and cost us about $91 a night. We heartily recommend this idea to other travelers.

Hope Hare

Bethesda

Pa. Elks, Cont'd

WE WERE so impressed with the article on Pennsylvania elks by Cindy Loose ["The Elks Club," Nov. 14] that we made plans to see it for ourselves. We were not disappointed. The Towers Victorian Bed and Breakfast (circa 1865) is the finest we have ever visited. The elk were most cooperative and we were able to watch three herds (about 60 elk). We plan to return next fall to view the elk and the foliage. Thank you for bringing this wonderful area to our attention.

Doug and Pauline Cook

Annapolis

Costa Rica Buses

IN YOUR article on Costa Rica ["On the Edge in Costa Rica," Oct. 24], the author says, "A rental car is essential to cruising around Costa Rica. Buses, we were told, are often over-packed and unpredictable."

I assume he was told this by some who worked at a rental car agency. Nobody else with any knowledge of Costa Rica would have said something so ridiculous.

I spent three weeks in Costa Rica in 2004 and found the buses cheap and reliable. Advance purchase is permitted and recommended for peak periods. In addition to the normal buses, two pricier companies offer air-conditioned luxury buses for tourists.

Bruce Gilsen

Alexandria

Lithuania Experts

IN YOUR discussion of Lithuania ["New Old World: 10 More for the EU," April 24], you mentioned the tour company Visit Lithuania. Having recently returned from a trip to that country, I can report that our Visit Lithuania trip was truly outstanding. One member of our group called it the trip of a lifetime, another said it was the best trip she had ever taken, and the rest of us shared in the delight of a wonderful experience.

Five members of my extended family had decided to visit Lithuania to pursue our heritage. In discussions with a U.S. representative of Visit Lithuania, Rimas Chesonis, we agreed on a 10-day tour by van with a driver who would also serve as our guide.

The tour was marvelous. Our driver, a wonderful fellow always anxious to please, did not speak English. Consequently, depending upon where we were, we were provided -- at no additional cost -- two tour guides, both very knowledgable and charming, to assist us. We saw major cities and experienced their centuries-old atmospshere, visited numerous ancient churches, stopped at old villages. We saw the Hill of Crosses, the Witches' Hill and Gruto Parkas, where massive Soviet era statues have been assembed in the wooded setting. We viewed the Baltic Sea, high atop a sand dune, and delighted in the Amber Museum.

Our hotels were very nice and the breakfasts generous and delicious. Our other meals were very good and the beer was exceptional. And the cost of all this was, in comparison with U.S.-based tour companies, quite reasonable. For anyone interested in visiting Lithuania, we highly recommend Visit Lithuania (585-216-9714, www.visitlithuania.net).

Loren Karacki

Derwood, Md.

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