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.