A stamp, a beer, petrol, or even a telephone call

By next thursday, as you know, the peseta, pfennig and punt will be well and truly extinct, along with the guilder, mark and three kinds of franc. For the citizens of the 12 Euro countries, the escudo is already as dead as a drachma. The single currency has been embraced, or at least invited in to stay.

By next thursday, as you know, the peseta, pfennig and punt will be well and truly extinct, along with the guilder, mark and three kinds of franc. For the citizens of the 12 Euro countries, the escudo is already as dead as a drachma. The single currency has been embraced, or at least invited in to stay.

For British travellers, the benefits are considerable. No longer will you lose cash every time you cross a frontier. But equally important, visitors can at last make easy price comparisons between one country and another – at least for some items.

Many of the travellers' purchases are too slippery to define to make comparisons meaningful. Anything from the price of a beer to the cost of a hotel room is a highly variable quantity, since prices differ widely from one establishment to another even in the same street. But there are certain commodities where the price is more or less fixed within a country.

Using four items – the cheapest adult bus ticket in the capital city, the cost of a stamp for a postcard home, a three-minute local call from a payphone and a litre of unleaded petrol – The Independent has constructed an unusual basket of purchases in a bid to identify the cheapest and priciest Euro destinations. (The information has been supplied by national tourist boards, so let us know if you think they are understating costs.)

Top of the league for budget travellers is Athens, the only capital to sneak in below €2 for the basket of commodities – assisted by the cheapest bus fares and petrol in Europe. Greece was the last country to join the single currency, and appears to offer the best value for travellers.

The next six – Rome, Lisbon, Madrid, Dublin, Luxembourg and Paris – are separated by only 26 cents (16p). The French capital is the first in the "expensive" half of the table; the median cost for Europe is €2.60, and Paris is 3 cents on the wrong side.

A special guest appearance has been allowed by London, where each of the components has been converted to Euro prices. The capital has been treated generously, with a second-class domestic stamp accepted rather than a stamp for abroad (at 37p, nearly twice as high). The bus journey allowed was a 70p suburban one, rather than the £1 flat rate for any bus journey trespassing on the central area. With such concessions, London scored a relatively modest €3.24. The remaining five Continental capitals hit €3 or above; Brussels, Helsinki, Amsterdam, Vienna and Berlin are the high-cost cities. Berlin comes out worst because of a particularly expensive bus ticket, though to be fair this will take you around for up to an hour.

The smart (or mean) traveller on a tour of Euroland will catch a bus and fill up with petrol in Athens, make phone calls in Paris, and post cards in Madrid (or, even better, wait until he or she gets home).

To stretch your funds, the things to avoid are buying stamps in Holland, refuelling in Rome, phoning a friend in Helsinki and boarding a bus in Berlin. And remember the simple things in life are barely half the price in Greece compared with Germany.

Additional research by Liz Jones

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