Kate Simon: Where holidays are cheaper – if you don't fly Ryanair

Travel View

Thinking of heading for the sun this winter? Before you book, it might pay to take a look at the annual Long Haul Report just released by the Post Office to see how far what you spend will stretch.

The survey reveals that cash-strapped travellers should consider Sri Lanka for a blast of winter sun, where prices for tourists are down by a third this year. Thailand comes a hot second, closely followed by Vietnam, the best-placed new entrant to the table for a good-value holiday. In fact, according to the Post Office's "barometer", more than two-thirds of destinations featured have seen prices fall.

To compile this useful yearly survey, the Post Office's researchers gather a basket of 10 items likely to be bought by tourists in 28 destinations across the world – six more than it took data from in 2010. A cup of coffee, sun cream, a packet of fags, and even a three-course meal for two with a bottle of wine are typical of the purchases they second-guess we're likely to make.

So where will we have to splash the cash? Well, you'll need to watch your yuan in China, where prices shot up by 27 per cent, and Hong Kong tops the chart as the most expensive place to spend your dosh, even though it is 11 per cent cheaper for tourists than last year.

See the report for yourself at postoffice.co.uk/longhaul2011.

***

Of course, you might decide not to go away at all. Mintel's British Lifestyles Report, another recently released survey, reveals the unsurprising news that we've cut our spending on holidays. Most of us see them as a luxury now, and those of us who are taking a break are largely travelling within the UK.

In 2010, total expenditure on holidays dropped to a five-year low, says Mintel. And while not so many of us took holidays in the UK as in 2009, six out of 10 holidays were still to domestic destinations, while the number of overseas holidays continued to fall.

***

As if anyone needed another reason to tear out more hair over Ryanair's consumer-unfriendly ways ... from 1 November you'll have to pay your fare with the Ryanair Cash Passport, a new pre-paid Mastercard that the airline has decided to introduce, if you want to avoid stumping up a charge of £6 per passenger per leg of the journey for, er, paying your fare.

First of all, only holders of an Electron card could avoid this lucrative extra. Then Ryanair changed its mind and demanded that the fee could be waived only if you used a pre-paid Mastercard. Now the airline is insisting only its new piece of plastic will do.

What's behind all this? By law, Ryanair doesn't have to count in the admin charge as part of the core price so long as there is a way to pay for free. So that great bargain you saw advertised might not be quite the fare you'll have to pay when you show the colour of your money.

The Office of Fair Trading has been trying to tighten the rules. But, for now, your choice as the consumer is to fly with another airline to your choice of destination or play ball with Ryanair – until it moves the goalposts again.

Do you have a travel issue? Email sundaytravel@independent.co.uk

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