Traveller debate: The price of the perfect break

A question of cash: what's the best way to organise your holiday finances? And where's the best value on Earth? Simon Calder answered your online queries


Q I have always used my credit card when making major purchases abroad – and have been reasonably happy about the exchange rate. Am I missing something or is it really not a bad idea? Martin

A. It's a good idea; I do the same. Credit cards are governed by Visa/MasterCard policies that basically mean you get a not-too-bad exchange rate, and no charges (unless you make the mistake of using an ATM or you don't pay off in full before the deadline). But with a debit card, your individual card provider takes a rake-off; for a typical €20 lunch, you'll pay an extra €2 or more for using your debit card. I take my debit card abroad, but only for use in ATMs when needing an emergency cash injection. And one more thing when using any plastic abroad; never take up the option of settling in sterling. Example: this week, at a Spanish airport, I spent €27. I was offered the chance of paying just under £25 in sterling which represented a rate of about €1.08, even worse than the prevailing tourist rates.

Q We're on holiday in Turkey later this year and looking forward to shopping in the bazaars. But I'm worried about carrying loads of cash in the crowds. Have you any canny suggestions? Margaret

A. Don't fret: in my experience Turkey (along with Egypt, Morocco, Ethiopia...) is one of many places in the world where you need not worry about pickpockets. The riskiest locations are European cities: Barcelona, Rome, Prague are the prime pickpocket territory, with rogues also in Krakow, Paris, Seville and elsewhere on the tourist trail.

Q What's the best value holiday destination in the UK? François Nel

A. Good question. In my experience for the totality of holiday spending – transport, accommodation, meals, attractions – you need to look to the less touristy fringes, such as Northumberland, Lincolnshire or Argyll. And to answer the opposite question, the most expensive destination in the UK is London (followed, in hotel-rate terms, by Bath).

Q I'm heading around Asia and Australasia in a month's time. Can you tell me any best practice on managing money while away? Backpacker

A. For your trip, a pre-paid MasterCard looks the best bet: you or your family can top it up as you go. A good wad of US dollars for the Asian stretch will also help.

The prepaid cards I carry are FairFx for euros, Phones4u for sterling, and Travelex for US$. You can make reasonable-price withdrawals from ATMs with these. But once in Australia, if you're there for a long stretch then opening a local bank account will help make up for the present punitive AUD rate.

Q How much should I take to live well in Buenos Aires? I like to think I could have good time on around £200 for a week. Gracias. Miguel

A. Even though Buenos Aires is Argentina's most expensive location, it still offers excellent value. Choose one of the cheap hostels (my favourite is Hostel One at Bolívar 1291) and you'll pay as little as £80 for your accommodation. That leaves £17 a day for large steaks, red wine, etc. You could do it, but by skimping you won't be making the most of a great city.

Q What's the best-value spot in the world to spend a month? Happy slumming it within limits. Borassic

A. India by a mile; I've enjoyed accommodation at less than £1 a night, eaten all day for the same, and travelled thousands of miles on the finest transport enterprise in the world, Indian Railways, for a pittance. And you've also got fascinating cultures, amazing landscapes and one billion friendly people to brighten your trip. Happy travels.

For a full transcript of the Traveller Debate, go to independent.co.uk/holidaymoney

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss