Simon Calder: As sterling sinks, time to test out some funny money

Hitch-hiking is inherently rewarding. You travel through interesting places, chauffeur-driven by a member of a self-selecting group of friendly, helpful people. Occasionally, you can step out of a vehicle having made a cash profit too.

In the days when 50p represented a pint of beer and a half-ounce of Old Holborn, I earned that princely sum from a driver asked me to shift some furniture after giving me a lift to Brighton. Twice as profitable, though, was the first lift I hitched on the Isle of Man. The lady in a Skoda who picked me up outside Ronaldsway airport handed me a Manx £1 note to show that the island is a separate country, and refused to take it back. Ten minutes later I climbed out with tangible evidence of the island's financial advantages.

Another tax-haven island with what some would regard as "funny money" is seeking to profit from the slump in sterling. Last weekend, Jersey Tourism took out advertisements with the slogan, "Europe without the euro". The ads promise an exotic experience in the largest of the Channel Islands without the need to undergo ritual humiliation at the hands of foreign-exchange dealers. But according to a survey conducted on behalf of Jersey this week, many travellers are unaware that sterling is sovereign on the isle.

The "JEP", as the Jersey pound is abbreviated, has been the official currency for 175 years – even through the German occupation during the Second World War. But of 1,000 people polled, one in six said they believed the euro to be legal tender in Jersey. The same proportion said they had no idea which currency circulated.

How, I wondered, does the UK's travel industry compare? I conducted my own phone survey of 10 enterprises to gauge how well-informed our travel professionals are about the Channel Islands. From Sheffield to Shanklin on the Isle of Wight (where the pound also prevails), eight travel agencies and bureaux de change instantly answered "sterling" when I said "I'm off to Jersey – what currency do I need?".

The two odd pennies? A branch of Thomson in Bristol, which told me, "They have got their own currency; it's not something we can deal with, but they do accept sterling." And the travel agency at Warwick University, where I once studied mathematics. "Let me see if I can find out," the helpful but baffled member of staff replied. A moment later: "Everyone's on the phone. I was going to Google search it, but our internet's just gone down." Warwick was always a bit of a muddle.

Another rate of exchange: one empty water bottle equals free hydration. I always carry such a vessel through the airport security check to refill on the other side and avoid the extortionate price of water on "low-cost" airlines. Fail to plan ahead, though, and a bottle of water could cost a fortune.

That was the experience of Martin Lewis, a reader who flew to Kittila in Finland on a Thomson charter flight two weeks ago: "We tried to buy two 500ml bottles of water (branded, ironically, 'Thirsty Planet') priced at £1.60 each." This is already about 10 times the cost of aviation fuel, but the price was about to more than double.

"We only had euros on us and therefore I handed over a €20 note. The steward said change would be given in sterling and offered us £12."

You do not need a questionable maths degree to work out that, with the pound effectively at parity for anyone trying to buy euros, Mr Lewis was being charged £4 per bottle. When he complained, "The response was that their exchange rate was €1.28 to the £1 because Thomson 'buys euros forward' and we were charged the rate they paid." That, if I may, is a ridiculous assertion on the part of the cabin-crew member.

If Thomson has strategically locked into euros, for example to pay Finnish hoteliers, at a rate of €1.28, then it has done well for its shareholders and passengers. But new earnings in euros, such as from Mr Lewis's desire for a drink, have nothing to do with hedging arrangements; they will be converted at the prevailing rate.

The frank explanation that Mr Lewis reports from a stewardess sounds more plausible than the smoke and mirrors of financial instruments: "You should pay in pounds – our exchange rates are extortionate."

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
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
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

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?