Expensive Ireland takes more of the tourists' green stuff

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Norway and Ireland have become two of the most expensive holiday destinations in the world, a survey comparing the cost of holiday essentials has revealed.

Norway and Ireland have become two of the most expensive holiday destinations in the world, a survey comparing the cost of holiday essentials has revealed.

A "shopping basket" of 13 items such as drinks, meals, camera films, sunscreen and postcards shows a wide variety in costs in the 12 countries surveyed.

Long-haul destinations such as Thailand, South Africa and Australia emerge as good value for British holidaymakers while, closer to home, Italy proved the cheapest of the six euro-zone countries surveyed.

Using information from National Tourist Boards for each of the 12 countries surveyed, American Express found that prices varied by around £90 for the same items. The cheapest, with a shopping bill of just £65.45 was Thailand and the most expensive was Norway on £154.60.

The study also showed that the cost of holidaying in both Australia and America had dropped by about 20 per cent in the past 12 months, assisted by a strong exchange rate for sterling.

However in Europe, while costs in Italy had fallen by nine per cent, prices in the other countries surveyed - Spain, Portugal, Greece, France and Ireland - had risen. The most dramatic rises were in Ireland which experienced a 26 per cent increase in its holiday essential bills on last year.

The price of individual commodities varied dramatically for every country surveyed. A bottle of lager was £3.96 in the Scandinavian country compared to £1.71 in Thailand.

The cheapest bottle of lager (65p) was to be found in South Africa, which was the second-best value destination after Thailand.

While a postcard and stamp to the UK from Thailand cost just 24p, the comparative cost in Norway was £1.32.

Ireland proved the second-most expensive country after Norway, with the 13 items costing £143.99. A snack meal for four including soft drinks cost £42.53 in Ireland compared with just £14.28 in Thailand.

South Africa was the cheapest country for a bottle of Coca-Cola (46p), for suncream factor 15 (£1.16), for 24-shot camera film (74p) and for a three-course dinner for two including wine (£26.03).

France had the most expensive Coca-Cola (£2.48), Ireland had the dearest suncream (£10.28), Spain and Ireland the most expensive camera film (£4.25) and Norway the dearest dinner (£74.84).

The survey also looked at the cost of hiring a car for three days as part of the holiday experience, asking the car-hire firm Hertz to quote rates for all 12 countries. At just under £37 for three days hire, Spain proved by far the cheapest while Norway cost £139.62 - almost four times as much.

Brendan Walsh, a senior vice-president of American Express foreign exchange, said: "As was the case last year, the 2005 Cost of Living chart demonstrates clearly that one currency does not mean one price.

"The costs vary significantly for every item that we surveyed - by £2.02 for a bottle of coke bought in a café and £1.40 for a large bottle of supermarket mineral water, for example," Mr Walsh said. "Overall, the cost in Italy was virtually half that in Ireland for the same 13 items."

Holiday hamper: The highest and lowest prices

By Kunal Dutta

CAPPUCCINO Thailand: 43p Greece: £2.84

BOTTLE OF COKE (330CL) South Africa: 46p France: £2.48

MINERAL WATER (1.5L) France: 13p Norway: £1.53

POSTCARD AND STAMP TO BRITAIN Thailand: 24p Norway: £1.32 SUNCREAM South Africa: £1.16 Ireland: £10.28

SNACK LUNCH FOR FOUR Thailand: £14.28 Ireland: £42.53

THREE-COURSE DINNER (WITH WINE) FOR TWO South Africa: £26.03 Norway: £74.84

CAMERA FILM (24 SHOTS) South Africa: 74p Ireland or Spain: £4.25

CAR HIRE (3 DAYS) Spain: £36.91 Norway: £139.62

BOTTLE OF LAGER Thailand: 65p Norway: £3.96

MUSIC CD USA: £7.58 Norway: £15.76

ICE-CREAM BAR Thailand: 24p Greece: £1.77

6-PACK BEER Portugal/Spain: £1.95 Norway: £6.87