Bulgaria is best for bargain break but Eurozone may cost a lot less than expected

2009-05-06

Bulgaria has reclaimed the top spot in the annual Holiday Costs Barometer from Post Office Travel Services - overtaking last year’s top trio of Thailand, South Africa and Egypt, where prices have risen steeply. At around ?42 for 10 holiday items, including drinks and meals, Bulgaria’s Sunny Beach resort was two and a half times cheaper than Antigua - the most expensive destination surveyed. Two other holiday spots outside the eurozone - Turkey and Croatia - have joined Bulgaria as Europe’s cheapest options for a bargain break. But while attention has been focusing away from the eurozone for holidaymakers on a strict budget this summer, price cutting in some of the most popular eurozone destinations mean that the UK’s traditional favourites may cost less than expected. Prices have plummeted in Portugal’s Algarve putting the destination back into the Post Office top ten for the first time in two years - at only 39p more for the holiday shopping basket than in Spain, the cheapest eurozone destination surveyed. Local prices have dropped in Greece and Italy as well, which means that the annual price increase for the tourist items surveyed by the Post Office is just seven and five per cent respectively – and wholly due to the 11 per cent sterling exchange rate drop. Sarah Munro, Post Office head of travel services said: “The eurozone has taken a bashing this year but our survey suggests that tourist outlets in many resorts are taking dramatic steps to encourage tourists. Despite the weak pound, this means that UK tourists who shop carefully could find that they get more than expected for their money.” France is the most expensive eurozone destination in this year’s barometer – costing ?11.22 (+16.7 per cent) more than in Spain. And one of the newest eurozone entrants, Cyprus, joins France as the highest priced European holiday destinations. By contrast Malta, which, like Cyprus, joined the eurozone in January 2008, has held its prices steady and emerges as third cheapest after Spain and Portugal. Ironically the biggest price hikes were in the long haul destinations, highlighted as great value in previous surveys. The 10 commodities surveyed by the Post Office have risen by 53.7 per cent in Thailand - which still remains the cheapest long haul destination - and by 46.9 per cent in Egypt. Like the USA, which has dropped to 17th place in the barometer table after sterling slumped against the dollar, the Thai baht and Egyptian pound have strengthened considerably against the UK pound. Although this helps to account for the increases, the Post Office warned that resort prices have risen more than in other holiday spots. Sarah Munro said: “Prices for eating out have shown some of the biggest rises in this year’s survey. In Thailand we have tracked a 68.5 per cent jump, in the USA meals increased by almost 49 per cent and even in Turkey, one of our best buys, they have gone up by over one third. By contrast the increase in Greece was just above one per cent. However many of the same destinations where prices have gone up, notably Thailand and Turkey, remain great value for money. “One thing for people to bear in mind is to take enough currency with them. Although the average holiday money transaction in Post Office bureaux de change has gone up seven per cent to ?240, prices have risen more sharply and holidaymakers should take sufficient funds to see them through. The cost of changing money abroad – or worse still – using most credit or debit cards will pack an unpleasant punch when they return home.” Over 1,600 Post Office bureau de change branches offer the most widely requested currencies on demand, including all those featured in the Post Office City Costs Barometer (except the Malaysian ringgit, which can be pre-ordered). All currencies can be pre-ordered for next day branch collection at all 11,500 Post Office outlets or online at postoffice.co.uk. Home delivery can also be requested online. Travellers to the eurozone can obtain euros currency over the counter at more than 8,000 Post Office branches while 4,000 branches carry Turkish lira.