Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Will I get good value in the euro zone?
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Monday 01 July 2013
Q To stretch my holiday money, should I steer clear of the euro zone this summer?
Geoff Brown, Horsham
A Even though sterling has slumped against the euro in the past five years, the European single currency area isn't chronically expensive. Older readers may remember the peseta, drachma and escudo - respective currencies of Spain, Greece and Portugal. They were relatively cheap locations prior to euro notes and coins going into circulation in 2002, and are still good value.
At restaurants in Greece and Spain over the past year I have seen printed menus with the old prices rubbed out and newer, lower prices pencilled in. The aim is to attract more customers in the short term (from the next-door bar) and the long term (from rival nations). Since devaluation is not an option, the alternative is to cut prices.
I believe the real bargains in the euro zone are to be found at the extremes. Portugal is perennially excellent value - with €5 set lunches, €0.50 cups of coffee and a train ticket for the three-hour journey almost the entire length of the Algarve coast just €10. Oporto, in northern Portugal, is probably the Western European city that is cheaper than any other.
In south-eastern Europe, Greece is also formidable value - a great four-star hotel in the Greek capital or second city, Thessaloniki, can cost as little as €90 a night including a lavish breakfast.
For the very best value, forsake the euro area in favour of the Balkans - Serbia and Bulgaria particularly. My most recent room in central Belgrade cost the equivalent of £7 a night, while the same in central Sofia was £10. If a country uses the Cyrillic alphabet, the chances are you'll be able to live like a tsar.
Click HERE to email Simon.
You can also tweet him your questions @SimonCalder
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas
I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title
Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home
Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday
Top 10 cheapest cities to visit, according to TripAdvisor
Forget the Mile High Club, one in ten Brits get frisky at the airport
Worst Airports of 2014: Poll names Islamabad airport in Pakistan worst in the world
Rare, carnivorous and beautiful: Where to see the most incredible flowers in the world
The 50 Best Winter Breaks
- 2 Ebola outbreak: What is bushmeat – and is it to blame for the disease that has killed thousands?
- 4 Meet Thea, Norway's 12-year-old child bride
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
£30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...
£13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...