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   

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Mo Farah supports campaign to stop the closure of money transfer services

One of Great Britain's top athletes, the Olympic Gold medalist Mo Farah is helping to raise awareness about the issues people in the developing world will face now that Barclay's Bank has withdrawn facilities for money transfer agencies. He is backing a campaign started by MP for Bethnal Green and Bow Rushanara Ali to save money transfer agencies that help to provide a lifeline to some of the poorest people in the world.

Barclays bank has withdrawn remittance accounts for money transfer companies due to money laundering scams and the difficulty in policing the movement of money from the UK overseas.  In May after a review of their current anti-money laundering policy Barclays found that 250 companies did not meet their current criteria. 80 of these companies are still active in the remittance sector and were given 60 days notice that Barclay's would no longer be providing facilities for them to operate.

Over 25,500 signatures were handed in to 10 Downing Street on a petition which included Mo Farah asking for money transfer agencies to be protected.

In Somalia Barclays was the last UK bank to provide money transfer services to the country where it is estimated around 40% of the population rely on money coming in from remittance firms. Oxfam have reported an estimated £3.2 billion has been sent in aid via agencies from the UK with £109 million transferred from the UK to Somalia.

If residents of the UK are no longer able to send money to the developing world using local remittance firms they will use alternative methods which will cost more meaning the most venerable are likely to receive much less financial help. 
Large remittance firms such a Western Union and MoneyGram have not been affected by Barclays policy review. They still offer money transfer facilities to countries such as Somalia but are far more expensive with hefty transaction fees of up to £20 and provide uncompetitive exchange rates.

People desperate to get money to their loved one overseas may use unregulated dangerous and alternative methods that could see them losing their cash.

A meeting has been held with the British Bankers Association, the UK's economic secretary Sajid Javid, the UKs financial regulators, representatives from a number of major high street banks and representatives from money service businesses to try and find a resolution and help to ensure the safe provision of remittance services going forward. A spokesperson has described the meeting as "very constructive" and a review is taking place to see how those affected by the changes can be supported.    

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

British travellers increase the amount of travel money taken on holiday

Our figures show that the amount of travel money people buy for a holiday abroad is rising. In June 2011 the average travel money purchase was £604.34, whilst in June 2012 this figure rose to £646.37. Last month (June 2013) the average travel money purchase was £894.71 a staggering 31.46% larger than the amount purchased in the same month last year.

A recent survey by Halifax reported that 60% of British travellers buy currency in advance of their holiday to pay for items abroad. They found that people did not want to use credit and debit cards abroad because of the fees and costs involved. A mere 15% confirmed that they made withdrawals with a debit card whilst abroad and only 14% of those questioned used mainly cards or hard cash whilst overseas.  

Despite the security risks of carrying money over using a credit/debit or currency card people still prefer having cold hard cash in their travel wallets. British holidaymakers need to be aware of the risks involved in carrying a large amount of cash especially if they are travelling to a developing country or visiting an area where pick pocketing is a problem.

Travel Money Safety
  • Don't carry large amounts of cash when visiting the beach, a market or on a night out.
  • Store money in your hotel safe.
  • Keep money in a purse under your clothes or in a money belt on your front instead of in a handbag or pocket that pick pockets can easily access.
  • Watch out for distractions.... The little girl selling Roses in Rome may look sweet but she could be being used as a distraction to take your attention whilst an experienced thief steals your money.
  • Store money on a currency card. Exchange rates are agreed at the time of loading money on to the card and many providers offer free withdrawals from ATM machines. A prepaid currency card can also be used to pay for goods and services in most shops that accept debit and credit cards.

Travellers can use our travel money comparison table and our prepaid currency card comparison table to compare the UK's leading currency providers in order to find the best exchange rate.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Spanish property prices have fallen up to 70%

Brits are being lured back into the Spanish property market where prices in some areas have fallen by up 70 percent. An article in the Telegraph recently gave examples of a four bedroom "luxury seafront villa" close to two airports reduced from 2.1 million Euros to 650,000 Euros. Another villa in the same article in Mosa Trajectum had been reduced from 245,000 Euros to 125,000 Euros.   
An increase in consumer confidence in the UK and a want for guaranteed sunshine is driving this resurgence in the Spanish property market. People can see the value in property being offered at rock bottom prices by Spanish banks desperate to offload the large number of repossessed houses they have on their books.  
Search information provided by RightMove Overseas shows that Spain is currently the most popular prospective destination for a holiday home. Interest in property based in other countries hit badly by the recent financial crisis such as Cyprus have also risen. 
These countries still have their problems but as long as you are financially self sufficient the lifestyle these destinations can offer is incredibly appealing. The culture and climate attract many Brits.
Euro Exchange Rate
Although property prices have fallen by up to 70% the pound Euro rate has also changed dramatically. Before the financial crisis figures supplied by show the average interbank GBP/EUR bid rate in July 2007 was 1.4817 whilst the average GBP/EUR rate for last month was 1.1734 (June 2013).
If we use the property price mentioned above which fell from 245,000 Euros to 125,000 Euros we can see how much the overall cost of purchasing this house in pounds has changed  

 125,000 Euros
245,000 Euros 
 *Figures supplied by
If the property costing 245,000 Euros had been purchased in 2007 at a GBP/EUR rate of 1.4817 it would have cost £165,350.61. After the financial crash and the cost in Euros fell by 49% the actual cost to the UK buyer would have only fallen by 35.57% due to the decrease in value of the pound. The property would cost £106,528.04 in June 2013 £58,822.57 cheaper than the initial cost. 
Living costs
If you are considering buying a property within the Eurozone, the GBP/EUR rate will have a huge impact on your disposable income whilst you are abroad. Unfortunately a great number of retired expats have recently had to return to  the UK as they could no longer afford the lifestyle they had become accustomed to thanks to the decreased value of the pound.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Which? warns you should avoid buying travel money from the airport

Which? carried out exchange rate research on the main airport bureau de change providers and found that they offered substantially better exchange rates online compared to the rates available at the airport.

Which? warns holidaymakers travelling overseas that "they could lose out on their foreign currency" if they make their exchange at an airport.

Researchers compared exchange rates offered at Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Manchester and Stansted over a six week period and found the exchange rates available in the airports were significantly lower than the rates available at the same time online or on the high street.

Airport exchange rates and why you should avoid them
Currency providerAirportAirport average rateOnline average rateDifference

Table supplied by

  1. The rates shown are for £500 worth of euros, taken online and at airports over a six week period between 13 February and 20 March 2013.
From the table above it is possible to see that Moneycorp have the most significant difference between their online and airport exchange rate. Exchanging £500 into Euros with Moneycorp would give you on average 518.42 Euros at the airport or 569.82 Euros if you bought online. That's a whopping 51.40 Euro difference. On BBC's Watchdog show recently they reported on similar findings and contacted many of the currency providers to find out why airport exchange rates are so different to the exchange rates available to customers online. The general response was that the cost of operating within an airport was greater and this had to be reflected in the exchange rates available to customers. However the lack of competition is also likely to be a significant factor. Traveler's arriving at the airport with no foreign currency have no choice but to buy currency from the airport Bureau de change.

How to get a better exchange rate at the airport
It is possible to avoid receiving the poor exchange rate shown on the currency board at the airport bureau. Better online rates are available to customers who reserve/buy online beforehand for airport collection. To secure your online rate you should reserve/buy online at least 24 hours in advance of your flight. Travelex and American Express only require four hours notice for advanced ordering enabling you to place your order on the day of your journey.

Online exchange rates
As well as reserving foreign currency for airport collection you can also buy online for home delivery or arrange to collect your travel money from a local branch days before you travel.
Our travel money comparison table allows you to see who is offering the most competitive exchange rate so that you can be sure to get the best deal.

Although high street exchange rates are generally better than airport rates, to get the very best exchange rate it is always wise to go online and arrange to reserve and collect. The main high street providers such as the Post Office offer better rates online.