Priced out of a European holiday? Why not go here ...

Click to follow
The Independent Travel

Millions of British families will avoid holidays in Europe this summer because the soaring euro is making traditional destinations poor value for money.

But for those who find they have about a fifth less spending power in the eurozone than they did a year ago, the more unconventional sights and sounds of eastern Europe, north Africa and the Middle East have never been more attractive.

Though a family weekend break to Disneyland in Paris has gone up from £456 last year to £533 this year, a basket of everyday goods in countries including Croatia, Bulgaria and especially Turkey remains inexpensive. Favourable exchange rates and blossoming tourist hotspots are offering strong incentives to many holidaymakers in a period of widespread belt-tightening.

The Post Office will publish research this week showing how the costs of food and services in holiday destinations have risen sharply since last year, with the most striking increases evident in the eurozone.

Helen Warburton, the head of travel at the Post Office, said: "Sterling has fallen in value by 17 to 18 per cent compared to the euro over the past year, and the result is that people travelling to the eurozone are subject to much higher costs. Families on a budget are thinking hard about whether or not the eurozone represents the best value for money."

Many are coming to the conclusion it does not. "We have already seen a 15 per cent increase in our currency sales of the Turkish lira, a sure sign that there are still plenty of affordable destinations", Ms Warburton added. "It's a good time to be visiting eastern Europe, where tourists have never been more welcome and relative prices have rarely been better. And given that the pound is worth almost two dollars, and the prospect of cheaper transatlantic flights, the US could offer very good value too."

Anxious international money markets have pushed the value of the pound down 17 per cent since last February, as perceived weaknesses in the British economy and global economic turmoil continue to have an impact on disposable incomes.

Ms Warburton went on: "We've seen significant increases in the cost of popular holiday purchases, particularly eating and drinking. The typical basket of goods is much more expensive, with both luxury purchases and everyday goods dearer. We expect that the change will have an impact on holiday bookings, with many holiday-makers coming to the conclusion that their pounds go further a little further from home."

Sean Tipton, a spokesman for the trade body Abta, said: "Holiday makers should look around for bargains because even with currency fluctuations there are still some excellent destinations within western Europe."

Destinatons outside the eurozone

* Bulgaria

With snow-capped peaks to the west and a sun-kissed Black Sea coast to the east, Bulgaria has always been a remarkable country. Now it's cheaper than ever too. A favourable exchange rate on the lev, now at 2.18 to the pound, means a cup of coffee costs an average of £1.37, compared with a whopping £3.37 in Cyprus. Less than an hour's drive from Sofia, the antiquated capital, lies some of the most picturesque wilderness in Europe.

* Turkey

Billed as the bridge between Europe and Asia. It is the size of France and the UK combined and has coastlines on threedifferent seas – the Mediterranean, Black, and Aegean – that offer great beaches. Secular and Islamic impulses battle for supremacy in ancient cities such as Ankara and Istanbul. A magical trip down the Bosphorus can cost less than £10.

* Croatia

Tourists will find the Adriatic one of Europe's hottest coastlines. Zagreb, the fast-expanding capital, is a delight and Dubrovnik is a must-see world heritage site.

* Egypt

Contemporary Egypt is now an extraordinary tourist haven in its own right, even without the dazzling ancient sites. Cairo has long been a cauldron of revolutionary ideas. Day trips down the Nile can be found for less than £10; bed and breakfast in a good hotel much the same.