Inside travel: Cyprus cash crisis
If you have booked a holiday but decide not to take it, what are your rights? If you go, how should you cope financially?
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Saturday 23 March 2013
Q. I am booked on a cruise over Easter, departing Cyprus, and am reluctant to travel. Can I change or cancel?
A. No. You will lose most or all of the money paid. I cannot envisage circumstances in which a holiday firm, cruise company or airline would offer refunds so long as Cyprus remains a safe place to travel. Some tour operators may offer the chance to switch to another destination, but they have no obligation to do so.
Q. I've paid a deposit for a Cyprus holiday. Should I pay the balance?
A. Yes. Cyprus is an excellent destination and, despite the problems, holidays should proceed normally.
Q. What should I do about holiday spending?
A. Take euros in cash, and some sterling as back-up. Do not rely on credit or debit cards. In trading terms Cyprus could, temporarily, be back in the Stone Age. Perfectly rationally, anyone from a taxi driver to a restaurant owner may feel that any money in the bank could be taxed or lost entirely if Cyprus goes into financial meltdown. Payments processed through the island's banks – such as cards or travellers' cheques – may be rejected.
Q. What is the best source of cash euros – and is it safe to carry large sums?
A. To avoid getting tangled in fees and commissions, ask: "How much, in sterling, will it cost to buy €500?" In a recent sweep on the high street I found Thomas Cook offered the best rates. But if you seek a substantial wad of cash, look online. Home-delivery deals are often good, but it may be more convenient to order online (eg through Travelex, MoneyCorp, American Express or ICE) and pick up the cash at the airport. Another possibility, if you can reach central London: print out the voucher at bit.ly/ICEvhcr to get an improved rate on euros at the ICE office opposite Platform 18 at Waterloo station.
Cyprus is a safe country – though as always you should take great care at transport terminals, particularly airports. In crowded areas, never take your eyes off your possessions for a moment.
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