First they say they don't, then they do - require a visa, that is. For the moment, at least, American visitors to the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia must have visas for travel to those countries. Visas for Latvia and Lithuania can be issued at the border, where they're free, or applied for in advance in the United States, for a fee. Visas for Estonia, however, can be obtained only at the border, in Tallinn or at the offices of the consulates in Stockholm or Helsinki, according to the Estonian Consulate in New York.

At the Latvian Embassy (4325 17th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20011), visas for single entry for a period of up to 60 days can be obtained for $20. The Lithuanian Embassy (2622 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009) issues multiple entry visas, good for three months (with extensions of up to six months possible), for $25.For more information: Latvian Embassy, (202) 726-8213); Lithuanian Embassy, (202) 234-5860; Estonian Consulate, (212) 247-1450).


A "sightseeing" tour of New Orleans and the Mississippi for the blind and sight-impaired? That's how the visually handicapped see it, says Betty Hoffman, whose White Cane Tours will take a group for two nights in New Orleans, and a seven-day cruise up the Mississippi, Dec. 20-29. Participants tour the French Quarter by horse-drawn carriage and on foot, then board the Mississipppi Queen for a cruise past the historic and graceful river cities of Natchez, Vicksburg and St. Francisville. Along the way there'll be some serious dining-Creole, southern, continental and traditional American cuisine too.

The Hoffmans (Betty and son Jack) have taken such groups all over the world for the past 30 years, and regularly conduct tours to China, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, among other venues. The New Orleans trip costs $2,695 per person (based on double occupancy and inside cabin), includes tips and most meals, and excludes airfare. Sighted companions are welcome, at reduced prices for the tour. For more information, call (800) 435-2288.


If you have to carry it around, it's nice to be able to sit on it too - your backpack, that is. A pack that turns into a comfy chair when you need to rest (its frame becomes the chair) could be just the thing for people who attend outdoor athletic events. The seat is fully detachable, and you can carry it off for $49.95, including shipping, from Traveler's Checklist, 335 Cornwall Bridge Road, Sharon, Conn. 06069, (203) 364-0144.