Kate Simon: Head east if you're looking for a good-value city break
Sunday 10 April 2011
The clocks have sprung forward; the daffodils are in bloom – it's that time of year when the nation comes out of hibernation and starts yearning for a change of scene.
This weekend, as the schools knock off and a fortuitous cluster of bank holidays rolls out before us, the exodus begins.
It's timely, then, that a host of useful reports crossed my desk in the past few days, revealing where the smart money is travelling to – and where you should go if you still haven't sorted out a holiday.
According to International Currency Exchange's monthly update, Hungary is a favourite. Orders received for the Hungarian forint have jumped by 58 per cent on this time last year as the pound has beefed up against the currency.
Unsurprisingly, ICE suggests we would do well to travel to Egypt, where travellers using sterling will get 10 per cent more for our money as well as good offers while the country recovers from the recent overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Thailand are also deemed savvy options for those looking to make their own money go further.
For city breaks, Eastern Europe is the place for best value, according to this month's report from the Post Office. Its 2011 City Costs Barometer, released last week, compares a basket of travel experiences at various cities. It includes travel cards, entrance to attractions and a night in a three-star hotel for two adults. Riga was found to offer the most for our money, followed by Prague, Budapest, Tallinn and Warsaw. Closer to home, ailing Dublin is said to be a solid bet for a pound-stretching break, while Paris is judged the most pricey choice.
Paris, however, remains the second-most popular overseas destination according to last week's Hotel Price Index from Hotels.com. This report also reveals that rising prices haven't put us off visiting New York, which topped the list of overseas destinations for UK travellers despite a 12 per cent increase in the average price of a room for the night. We may love the Big Apple, especially for bargain hunting in its big stores, but it is now, officially, one of the world's most expensive cities to visit.
Many of us will be hoping to catch some sun this Easter. The truth is you'd better pack a mac because the weather across Europe is notoriously fickle at this time of year.
But one place where they'll soon be welcoming a downpour is the Brecon Beacons. That's where, in June, they plan to launch two eco-friendly "b-bugs" (Beacons Buggy) named Boris and Blodwen – a new electric mode of transport for visitors that runs on power generated by the Talybont-on-Usk micro hydro scheme, which is powered by Welsh rain. These vehicles, which reach up to 30mph and have a range of 20 to 25 miles, are set to become the latest way to get around the national park.
If you're heading for the area and fancy road-testing one of the electric buggies, check out b-bug.com. Anyone with a fully comprehensive car insurance policy can apply for three to five days' free hire in return for filling in a questionnaire about the experience.
If we catch the b-bug, they'll roll out more. So, it seems the rain doesn't spoil everyone's holiday.
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