Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Will we have any problems on our Cyprus trip?
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.
Wednesday 27 March 2013
Q. We are going to Cyprus on 14 April. Do you think we will have any problems?
A. No. Indeed, I was there last spring and I wish I were going there again. Cyprus is a great destination in terms of beaches, culture, cuisine and people. Right now, life is extremely uncomfortable for the Cypriot people, but the best way to help out is not to cancel your travel plans. You will, though, need to address your holiday finances. In trading terms Cyprus is temporarily back in the Stone Age, and you cannot rely on credit or debit cards.
Perfectly rationally, a merchant may feel that any money in the bank could either be taxed by Europe or lost entirely if Cyprus goes into financial meltdown. Therefore any form of payment that has to be processed through the island's banking system may be rejected. So take cash, in euros. You might also want to take some sterling as back-up, since British notes are readily accepted.
Agreed, carrying a large amount of cash is a risk, but I can't see an alternative - travellers' cheques are unlikely to find favour, either. Fortunately Cyprus is a very safe country, and the only problem the Foreign Office warns about is about "Room safes and hotel safety deposit boxes" being targeted in hotels in the area around Coral Bay in Paphos. It's worth checking your travel insurance to see how much cash is covered.
Were you to cancel, you will lose the vast majority of the money you have already paid. I have talked to Thomson, Thomas Cook, British Airways and easyJet, and they all say normal conditions apply - which means big cancellation penalties. It is not inconceivable that some tour operators may offer the chance to switch to a different destination, but they have no obligation to do so.
Whether or not Cyprus remains in the euro, or goes back to the much-missed Cypriot pound, the sun will still shine, the mountains will look glorious and you'll still be warmly welcomed. And if Cyprus does leave the euro, the economists I've consulted believe that prices relative to sterling should fall by one-third or more.
While that wouldn't feed through to the cost of a package holiday, it could make "DIY" trips cheaper - and your holiday pounds will go further in bars and restaurants.
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