Thursday, 2 January 2014

Where can I buy Icelandic Krona?

With the best chance of witnessing the Northern lights predicted in over a decade many Brit's will be heading to Iceland to witness this spectacular event.

Travellers must be aware that the Icelandic government has limited the supply of Icelandic Krona, meaning there is limited supply in many British bureau de changes. Oliver from commented "We have found that Natwest, M&S and the Post Office have had limited supply and customers have reported difficulty buying Icelandic currency in branches of Natwest and at the Post Office in the Bristol area."

If you are travelling to Iceland soon we would recommend visiting the compare currency travel money comparison table where you can check which online currency providers are still able to provide Icelandic Krona.

Debit and credit cards are widely accepted in Iceland so if you do fall into difficulty buying Icelandic currency in the UK you will be able to spend whilst away on your cards. If you choose to make withdrawals from ATM's in Iceland please ensure that you do so using your debit card as you will incur hefty transaction charges for withdrawing money on a credit card.

You can also exchange pounds for Icelandic Krona in banks and hotels in Iceland... generally banks offer more competitive exchange rates than hotels so you would be wise to use the former.

Monday, 28 October 2013

What did I miss about the Algarve?

My family has recently returned from a trip to the Algarve and don't get me wrong, we did have a nice time but that in itself was the problem, it was just nice. Somehow we all seemed to miss out on the amazing experience shared by so many others. Yes we had sunshine, yes our villa was nice, the food was good and the people were friendly but the resort in itself seems to lack a little soul.

The four of us travelled to Vale do Lobo a beautiful resort just 25 minutes from Faro airport, which was extremely convenient as myself, husband and children all dread another long journey once the plane has touched down. Before we left the UK we had downloaded a map Portugal so we were fully prepared for the car ride to our villa. During our short journey the road layout was great and the traffic minimal which made a pleasant change from the gridlocked roads of our hometown Bristol.

Vale do Lobo itself is an extremely attractive "holiday suburb" the tree lined streets are lined with tidy villas, apartment blocks and many of the larger houses would not look out of place on MTV cribs.  The main draw of this development is the golf and tennis facilities which are some of the best in the world. But as we were travelling with a toddler, these were not facilities we got to experience.

We travelled around central Algarve visiting a number of places recommended by friends who had stayed in the area. Some of our day trips included Vilamoura which is a beautiful marina but we were ready to leave after a 30 minute post lunch stroll.  A slightly mediocre ZooMarine that was amazing value for what it was but somehow seemed to lack the wow factor offered by similar shows we have seen in other resorts. If Marineland in Mallorca was the Manchester United of the Dolphin show world, Zoo Marine should be regarded as a hard working but rather unsuccessful Bristol City.

The shopping in this area is good, but then again so is the shopping at home.... The forum Algarve is worth a visit on a wet day. It includes Zara, Massimo Dutti and MAC.

One positive I must add about this exclusive but slightly disappointing destination is that it is great value for money. We found the supermarkets far cheaper than those in France and it was easy to find restaurants serving great food at reasonable prices.  

We love to explore on holiday and did venture into the nearby towns of Almancil and Quarteira. Whether it was just our misfortune on the days that we visited both destinations, but on each day we were greeted by local drunks passed out on the street, old men begging and a feeling of desperation and poverty by many of those walking around us. What we witnessed so near to Vale do Lobo was a completely different end to life's spectrum and this is what I think sits most uncomfortably with me about this holiday destination. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Brit's abroad bad habits

For many of us a holiday abroad is a chance to jet off somewhere warmer where you can forget about the 9-5, the bills and other commitments. It's a chance to relax, unwind and recharge your batteries.

Some however take the term "relaxing" to a whole new level and get up to things they simply wouldn't dream of at home. A recent poll by surveyed 1,189 adults uncovered some of the most common bad habits people admitted to abroad.

British holiday habits 
  • 47% of those questioned admitted to overspending whist abroad.
  • 47% Burned or had too much sun despite knowing the health risks.
  • 38% Drank too much alcohol on holiday.
  • Many admitted to relaxing their diet and eating less healthy food.
  • Bedtime and exercise routines also change dramatically whilst on holiday

Brits behind bars
More worryingly the number of arrests the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has had to handle is on the increase. Between April 2011 and March 2012 the FCO assisted 6,015 British nationals that had been arrested abroad compared to 5,700 the previous year. Brits have been getting into the most trouble in Spain followed by the United States of America. During this timeframe arrests of British nationals in Spain rose 9% and 3% in the USA.

Have fun but be safe when on holiday
Whilst it is good to let go and relax on holiday it is important to remain safe. You do not want the consequences of your frivolous carefree actions to negatively impact your life when you return home.  Skipping the salad bar and snoozing through your usual running routine isn't going to do you any harm. However excess alcohol and sun exposure can seriously damage your health.  Sunstroke,  sun burn and skin cancer are all serious risks resulting from over exposure to the sun. Whilst excess alcohol can lead to a long list of trouble!! You may seriously damage your health and also be unable to make rational decisions putting yourself in danger.

It would be a shame to return from your relaxing holiday to face the stress of the debts you had accumulated whilst living it up abroad. Think carefully about how much you want to spend before you travel and make sure you save enough before you go to ensure you can afford all of the things you want.

Shop around for the best exchange rate before you travel

If you leave your holiday money till the last minute you will be starting your holiday with less money than you could have had if you had shopped around beforehand. Airport bureau de changes are notorious for offering uncompetitive exchange rates. We have found that the best rates are online. You simply order online and arrange for the currency to be delivered to your home address. This page compares the leading travel money providers

Currency Cards are a good way of preventing overspending. Unlike using a debt or credit card you can only spend what you have loaded on the card. Exchange rates are generally far better than what you'd get for travel money which will help your money to go further. For more information on Currency cards visit our comparison table.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Brits get more active on holiday

A recent poll carried out by the Post Office Travel Money Activity Barometer uncovered that over 75% of British adults questioned aged 18-64 wanted to "have a go at a new sport or physical activity while on holiday."

Most popular activities Brits want to try on holiday

·         Rally car driving was top of the list for the over 55's. 58% of adults aged 18-64 wanted to give it a go.
·         Scuba Diving 49%
·         Water Skiing 47%
·         Jungle Trekking 45%
·         Sailing 44%
·         White Water Rafting 43%
·         Canoeing  41%
·         Paragliding 41%
·         Snowboarding 41%
·         Surfing/Kitesurfing 40%

(Figures are based on the Post Office Activity Barometer poll which asked UK adults aged 18-64 what they wanted  to try on a future holiday. Source: Omnibus research by Populus (26-28 July) among 1,664 UK adults aged 18-64.)

The study revealed that three quarters of British holiday makers want to experience a memorable new activity whilst away from home and two thirds of the group questioned had already tried one of the 27 activities they were questioned about on a previous holiday.

Water based sports as a group were incredibly popular with over 40% of people choosing one of these activities which included Scuba diving, water skiing, sailing, white water rafting, canoeing and surfing. 

Family, work, home maintenance and other commitments seem to prevent people from trying new activities at home. On holiday people are away from their normal routine and want to use their leisure time to try something new and exciting.

The Post Office study also showed the average amount people are willing to pay for an activity and compared this to the actual cost of each activity. As you can imagine prices differ widely from ne destination to the next.

Amount people are willing to pay for the activity
Closest to the amount people are willing to pay
Over budget
Rally Car Driving
£166.97 Subaru Rally Experience - Australia
£338.67 Subaru Rally Experience France
Scuba Diving
£35.56 1 x Dive Gozo Discover
£80.00 1 x Dive Portugal Discover
Water Skiing
£43.33 1 x 30 Min lesson Maldives Beginner
£71.11 1 x hour lesson Portugal introduction to water skiing
Jungle Trekking
£15.41 1 x Day Jungle trekking in Khao Thailand
£600 1 x Day Gorilla Trekking Tour Rwanda
£51.23 Half Day Sailing Experience South Africa
£300 2 x Day RYA Start Yachting Introduction to Sailing Majorca
White Water Rafting
£40 3-4 Hours Austria Rafting
£80.03 4 x Hours Switzerland River Rafting
£4.33 1 x Day Hire in Hungary
£55.33 Tandem Flight Portugal
£106.67 Tandem Flight Spain
£466.94 2 x Hour Private Session Bankso Bulgaria
£192.67 2 x Hour Private Lesson USA
£44.44 1 x Hour Private Kitesurfing Lesson Greece
£75.56 1 x Hour Privte Kitesurfing Lesson Egypt

If you are planning to try a new activity whilst on holiday the cost of that activity can vary significantly from one destination to the next. Most people expect to pay more for an activity than the cost in many destinations apart from Snowboarding and Rally Driving where the actual cost far exceeded the desired cost. It is therefore wise to do your research before you book your trip to ensure that you get best value for money especially on high value activities.

To help your money go further whilst abroad check out our travel money comparison table to find out who is offering the best travel money deals. 

Monday, 23 September 2013

MoneyGram International gets closer to consumers by acquiring money transfer companies based in Greece

International money transfer services provider MoneyGram acquires super agent  Advanced ChronoCash Services (ACCS) and has signed an agreement to acquire MoneyGlobe Payment institution. The acquisitions are thought to help MoneyGram get closer to consumers and add cash to account services.

ACCS have a loyal retail agent base in over 400 locations and has been a great partner to MoneyGram.  "By acquiring the company, we will now be able to continue to expand the network directly in partnership with our agents who serve our consumers every day." explained Carl Scheible the executive vice president  of Europe and Africa at MoneyGram.

MoneyGobe on the other hand provide cash to account money transfer services from Greece to Bangladesh. MoneyGram hope the acquisition of this company will enable them to be able to offer a technology-driven solution to people based in Greece with money transfer requirements. 

MoneyGram has acquired ACCS through a share purchase agreement and has signed an agreement to do the same with MoneyGlobe subject to closing conditions and regulatory approvals in the hope of capturing a larger market share in Greece once the country begins to recover and new opportunities arise. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Currency Cards - A safer way to carry money abroad

Currency cards are becoming more and more popular with tourists travelling across the globe. They offer a safe and secure way of carrying lots of money and can be replaced if lost or stolen. A prepaid card can be topped up easily online or via SMS and unlike paying with credit or debit card you can only spend the money you have and not dip into an overdraft (authorised or unauthorised!!)

Travellers visiting areas notorious with pickpockets, don't want to carry large amounts of cash in their wallets. All prepaid currency cards use chip and pin security and if your card is stolen your money will be replaced. 

What currencies are available on a prepaid card?
The main currencies available are:

£ British Pounds
€ Euros
$ US Dollars
$ Australian Dollars
$ New Zealand Dollars
$ Canadian Dollars
Swiss Francs
South African Rand
The Post Office


Fair FX

Caxton FX


Benefits of using a prepaid card
  • Unlike travellers cheques, a prepaid card will fit conveniently into your wallet and does not require additional identification for use, allowing you to keep your passport safe and not on your person.
  • Secure - Chip and pin security gives you peace of mind that should your card become lost or stolen it cannot be used easily.
  • Fast replacement - If your card is lost or stolen
  • Competitive exchange rates - Most providers are currently offering better exchange rates for prepaid card customers than rates available for travel cash.
  • Budgeting - No overspending. You can only spend the funds you have on the card.
  • Easy to top up. Prepaid cards can be topped up online by you or a family member or friend giving you access to additional funds quickly when you need it.
Travelling to a country with a currency not on the list above?
If you are travelling to a country which does not use one of the currencies available on a currency card you can load a card with British pounds. Your money will be converted into the local currency each time you make a withdraw.  This method enables you to still benefit from the safety aspects of using a prepaid card but the downside is that you will have little control over the exchange rate you will receive. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Changing face of the British High street - The closure of many bank branches is imminent

Over the next decade 6,000 High street bank branches are set to disappear as more and more customers use online banking facilities. Bank branches currently account for around 60% of banking costs including salaries, rent and maintenance. With a growing number of customers using telephone and online banking, local branches are becoming obsolete.  
In 2012 348 banks and building societies closed within the UK and experts are predicting this number to escalate in the coming years. Property advisory firm Jones Lang LaSalle have warned that by 2020 half of the banks within Europe will face closure.   
Currently in Britain there are 11,600 bank branches on the high street. With the predicted closure of so many how will this affect local towns in the future? A particular concern is how the closures will affect the elderly..... Those most likely to be without home internet and who struggle with automated telephone banking services and foreign call centres. Even for those confident in using online banking facilities when a problem occurs many find it far easier and less stressful to get the issue resolved in branch than over the telephone. Many people also enjoy the social aspect of going into their local bank branch and speaking to a member of staff face to face.

HSBC has announced branches in Cheshire, Newport, Yorkshire, Gwent and Leicestershire will shortly be closed, bring the total number of closures since June to 25. RBS and Natwest has closed 60 branches and Barclay's has closed 30 this year