Simon Calder: Should you beware Greeks bearing beers?

The man who pays his way

Greece and Portugal have much in common. Both are proud maritime nations whose influence extends way beyond their shores and islands. The mainland of each occupies the sunny latitudes from 37 to 42 north, which explains the locals' conviviality and the long-lasting British love affair with them. And both are broke.

How do these beautiful, benighted nations respond to their economic woes? According to the Post Office, by hoisting prices for tourists. Its 2012 Holiday Costs Barometer asserts prices have soared by 10 per cent in Portugal and 11 per cent in Greece. Factor in the 8 per cent improvement in the pound against the euro, and the impecunious pair have put up local prices by a fifth.

Have bar owners, shopkeepers and restaurateurs in Corfu and the Algarve really raised profit margins to make up for dwindling visitor numbers? In my experience they have done exactly the opposite, cutting prices to boost business. So I looked into the Post Office's methodology.

The survey is based on a basket of "holiday essentials". Unless a pack of Marlboro Lights is among your daily purchases when abroad, the Post Office's shopping list may not match yours. It gives the same weight to a bottle of sunscreen (which you are unlikely to buy every day) as a cup of coffee (which you might). The Post Office also appears to think you will buy a tube of insect repellent as often as you do a bottle of beer; happy hour could get very messy if you muddle the two.

However odd the survey selection, contrasting prices between countries provides useful information for prospective travellers – so long as they are like-for-like comparisons. In Corfu, says the Post Office, a beer costs €4.50, compared with just €2 in Spain. But before you cross Greece off your holiday wish-list, note that no quantity is specified. From my exhaustive research on the subject, beer in Greece tends to be served in jumbo, thirst-quenching half-litres, while the standard measure in Spain is halved: a measly 250ml, hardly worth getting out of bed for, and unsurprisingly cheaper than that pint in Corfu.

How much was that beer, again? In the Corfiot resort of Sidari this evening, any bartender trying to charge €4.50 for a foaming pint of Mythos (that's Greek beer, not insect repellent) will see all his customers vanish to Shaker's Bar, where the same drink costs €2.

Likewise, the "cup of regular filter coffee" priced by the Post Office at €2.50 is a nonsense: any sensible visitor will sip proper Greek coffee in a kafeneio, and is unlikely to be troubled for more than a euro.

Another element that makes Greece look expensive is the price of a postcard home. Wish you were here? Not with a card and stamp costing €2.80.

As the Post Office no doubt knows, a stamp for a postcard home from the nation which gave the word "philately" – or at least the components from which the term was coined – costs 78 cents. That implies the typical postcard costs a couple of euros. Either postcard robbery is rife in Corfu, or the survey is wide of the postmark.

The smuggler's guide to Europe

Portugal's sharp rise in prices, at least according to the Post Office, is due to the scandalous cost of sun cream: €12.50, three times the price in Spain. Except that the survey does not specify the size of that daily bottle of sunscreen, nor the brand – only the sun protection factor, a very precise SPF15.

The Post Office says its figures are "the lowest average price for commodities supplied by National and Regional Tourist Offices", and are cross-checked by the leading tour operator Cosmos.

Assuming the figures are right, a spot of cross-border trading could stretch your travelling funds: insect repellent in Portugal and mineral water in Italy are both four times more expensive than on Spain's Costa del Sol. Careful, though: while postcards in Dubrovnik are apparently one-30th the price in nearby Corfu, the fact that they show the historic walls of the wrong city may diminish their value.

Share your views of our new look

Today's Independent Traveller has a fresh appearance. Our aim remains the same: to inspire and inform. We hope the new design helps us in our mission. You, of course, are the judge: let us know what you think.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home