A READER has informed us that within the last week all Portuguese banks have begun to implement a standard charge of 2,000 escudos (almost pounds 9) for cashing traveller's cheques. In addition the government is requiring a further O9 per cent (180 escudos - 80p) commission on any such transaction. This amounts to a fee of approximately pounds 10 for each encashment, irrespective of the value of the transaction.

Tony Ackroyd, commercial manager for financial services at Thomas Cook's head office in Peterborough, confirmed this. Yesterday Thomas Cook was looking into the matter. The Portuguese Tourist Office in London felt unqualified to comment on this 'technical' development: the official advice to visitors to Portugal remains to carry with them a certain amount of Portuguese cash, and traveller's cheques; credit cards are also widely accepted. A spokesperson at Banco Portugues do Atlantico in London was also unable to confirm or comment.

Until the situation is clarified the advice of the Independent Traveller is to take a small amount of Portuguese cash and a credit card or charge card with a pin number, to be used at cash dispensers which are widely available in Portugal. Watch this space for further news.