Travellers told to wait to change money

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The Independent Online
TRAVELLERS setting off for the Continent who are confused by the ERM ructions are being advised to wait for as long as possible before they buy European currencies.

France and Spain remain the most popular destinations for British tourists. And with French interest rates likely to be cut soon, banks and holiday operators are confident that the franc has further to fall.

Thomas Cook calculates that a family that changed pounds 500 of holiday spending money into Spanish pesetas at yesterday's rates would have benefited to the tune of pounds 96 over the rates offered at the Easter break.

They would have got pounds 71 more in Portuguese escudos and pounds 37 in French francs.

'We suggest that people take traveller's cheques in the local currencies,' a spokeswoman said. 'Although there has been a steady depreciation in the currencies, we think tourists should still hold fire.'

Thomson Holidays says bookings for camping and self-catering holidays could increase. They will become relatively cheaper.

Thomson advises people not to carry cash for security reasons. 'Even though travellers may be able to buy francs cheaply we would say cover yourself with a mixture of credit cards and traveller's cheques.'

Keith Betton, director of corporate affairs at Abta, said holiday prices were unlikely to drop if European currencies continue to fall. 'Prices for 1993 were fixed last July when in fact exchange rates were far more favourable to the pound.

'Tour operators are actually making less money on the holidays they're offering at the moment than they expected. But most holiday-makers will find they'll get more foreign currency for their pound. They'll have more spending money than they expected.'

In addition, tourists hiring cars abroad could get a better deal if they pay for the vehicle in local currency.

----------------------------------------------------------------- TOURIST RATES ----------------------------------------------------------------- Rates Rates yesterday at Easter Belgian franc 49.00 52.75 Dutch guilder 2.69 2.82 French franc 8.02 8.67 German mark 2.38 2.49 Greek drachma 326.00 340.00 Italian lira 2360.00 2340.00 P'guese escudo 221.50 258.00 Spanish peseta 169.00 209.00 ----------------------------------------------------------------- The full list of tourist rates is on page 23 -----------------------------------------------------------------