Keep a watch out for expensive travel tricks

Make sure you’re aware of holiday horrors before you head off for the sun, advises Simon Read.

Excess car hire insurance scam

If you hire a car on your holiday, you’ll be pressed to buy excess insurance at your destination, even though you may have already stumped up for car cover. If you don’t, you risk being liable for up to £2,000 if the car is damaged or stolen, even if it’s not your fault. Even a small chip on a windscreen can cost hundreds to fix, and the car hire company will demand the cash from you – or take it straight off your credit card – if you don’t have cover.  

But the excess insurance sold at holiday destinations is hugely expensive and can add up to 40 per cent extra to the cost of hiring the vehicle. A survey of car hire companies last month at Barcelona airport by online broker iCarhireinsurance.com found that Hertz was charging £20.59 extra a day for the excess cover.

However, you can buy excess insurance before you fly from as little as £3 a day. or £40 for an annual policy.

“Car hire companies make good commission selling excess insurance to tired, disgruntled travellers who just want to be on their way,” said Ernesto Suarez, of iCarhireinsurance.com.

“But travellers can buy an excess policy from a third-party provider which not only costs a lot less, but is often more comprehensive than those offered by the car rental companies.”

The currency conversion con

Traders in shops, cafes and hotel often offer a great “service” – to convert your bill into sterling, rather than charging you in the local currency. You may also be offered the option at cash machines overseas. It can seem an attractive option as you’ll then know how much you’ll have paid for the goods or services in good old English pounds.

But what you won’t be told is that the trader or bank ATM will use their own conversion rate. This is known as dynamic currency conversion and is favoured by traders in resorts as their conversion rate is likely to be very different from the one which your bank may use. And guess in whose favour the different rate will apply?

You can avoid the hidden charge by turning down the “service” and opting to pay in the currency of the country you are in. Your bank will convert the money for you at a its standard rate which may not be the best on the market, but will be a lot better than the local rate applied.

If you plan to use plastic to get money out while abroad, be armed with the right card to avoid hidden charges. Credit cards, for instance, charge interest from the moment you withdraw cash, and most plastic cards also charge a foreign loading fee of  2-3 per cent every time you withdraw cash abroad.

The exception are cards from Santander, Post Office and Saga. Pre-pay cards often have no extra charges and as you load up currency beforehand, you know the rate you pay.

Mobile phone roaming rip-off

It’s useful to take a phone on holiday, but even if you leave it in your suitcase, you could still rack up charges of £336 in a week, research published this week found.

Investigators from Which? discovered that the huge bill can tot up if you leave your data roaming turned on while outside the EU.

Doing so will mean applications and downloads automatically run in the background, without you knowing.

The cost of using one MB of data outside the EU is highest with Three which charges £10 in some countries. If you removed Three’s data cap of £49, watching a three-hour film would set you back £3,600.

 To avoid massive bills turn off data-roaming on your mobile – it should be found under your phone settings. However, if you’re holidaying within the EU,  bills should not prove so high.New data-roaming rules came into force this month to cap charges at  68p per MB of data used.

Another solution is a local, pay-as-you-go Sim card. You’ll be charged local rates for data downloads and local calls and texts.

Also, use wi-fi hotspots, which are often offered free in hotels, restaurants and cafes.

Insurance that doesn’t pay

Why do you need travel insurance? To  give you the peace of mind that anything stolen or lost will be replaced and that if you need medical treatment, you’ll be able to afford it. So you must ensure you have adequate cover. If you’re travelling outside the EU, for instance, you need worldwide cover. In addition, be sure to check that a policy will cover the length of your trip.

There are also new risks of ending up not being covered. First, many hotels in Spain and Greece are asking to be paid in cash this summer. That can mean needing hundreds of pounds. However, many policies limit the amount of cash covered to £300. Check  your policy will cover you for cash.

Then there’s the risk to cameras or phones if you’re asked to check cabin baggage into the aircraft’s hold when you’re flying. Valuables may not be covered there.

“Pack valuables in a smaller bag which you can keep with you,” advised insurer LV.

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