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Archive for December, 2008

Buy your euros online

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Holidaymakers are already reporting they are getting less than a euro for every pound changed despite the money market rate still above the £1 to €1 parity level.  Nor should we expect to see the pound remain at this level as most experts predict it to fall below this physiologically important barrier.  It is a far cry from its high point of over €1.70 to the pound in 2000.  What does this mean to the pound in your pocket? Well, according to the Post Office Holiday Costs Barometer, which summarises how much items cost abroad in the Eurozone in December 2008 compared to the year before, a three-course evening meal including a bottle of house wine currently costs around £37 in Spain, compared to £30 this time last year. Similarly, a bottle of mineral water in France cost around 68p last December, but now costs about 84p. The advice is don’t leave it until you reach the airport or ferry terminal to get your euros, as the exchange rates will usually be worse than if ordered in advance. This is because regional airports have long taken advantage of travellers who leave buying their holiday cash until they reach the airport by offering far worse rates than outside the terminal. The best exchange rates can usually be found online, although rates vary widely depending on which provider you go to. British people planning a European skiing holiday in the New Year might want to buy half their euros now at today’s rates to limit the pain should sterling fall even further, and the rest before they depart just in case sterling should improve. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Ski cover essential

Monday, December 29th, 2008

News that a schoolboy is being held by police in connection with a hit-and-run ski death at an Italian resort, shows how  inherent the dangers are on the slopes.  This is a very tragic accident that, though still a rare occurrence, is not an isolated event and resorts in Switzerland and Austria now have speed patrols to take action against the ‘boy racers’ and ‘speed merchants’ who endanger others by their actions. Other countries will follow suit as this trend increases. But alarm bells should be ringing here, not just against the rise in the accident rate on the slopes, but that recent surveys still show a high number of people going abroad without any travel insurance at all. Whether this is just forgetfulness or a desire to live dangerously, it is shows that many people view travel insurance as an extra expense which can be added or deleted depending on the holiday budget. But with price of travel insurance premiums, particularly on the internet, being relatively cheap – you can find a week’s Winter Sports cover to Europe for under £10, it does seem to be an unnecessary risk to take. It is not necessary to pay through the nose these days and if you are prepared to surf the net then there some excellent deals to be had. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Top travel destinations for 2009

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Not sure where to holiday in 2009?  Well, top destinations tipped to weather the financial downturn include Mexico, Turkey and Egypt. The low cost of goods and services in these counties means that they remain an attractive holiday destination as they did througout 2008.  Other destinations in 2009, which are predicted to beat the global credit crunch, are Dubai, Dominican Republic, St Lucia, Cuba, South Africa and Australia. What is different though is that holidaymakers planning to travel are increasingly concerned about their tour operator going bust. This has prompted the Foreign Office to encourage consumers to ensure their tour operator is ATOL registered before they travel following the failure of XL Leisure Group last September. The Foreign Office is also advising consumers to have access to emergency funds and not to cut corners on travel insurance. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Too much snow!

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

First the good news – there is plenty of snow in the Alps to make this the best start to a winter season for 30 years.  The bad news is that there might too much snow as  some ski resorts across Europe have been forced to close temporarily this week after snowstorms brought chaos to the region.  Almost a metre of snow fell in one night sparking avalanche warnings in many European resorts.  Wintersports enthusiasts are being warned to take great care and, whilst perfect powder snow conditions are what most ardent skiers and snowboarders dream about, these same conditions can also be extremely dangerous for the unwary.  In particular, skiing or snowboarding off-piste should be avoided unless with an experienced local guide. Do also check your travel insurance policy, because many carry exclusions for off piste activities and, given the current surplus of snow, check whether your policy covers resort closure due to avalanche.  Many policies cover lack of snow but not all provide cover for lack of skiing because of too much.  And it does happen.  The resort of Saas Fee was cut off this week for 3 days due to high avalanche risk.  This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Will 2009 see more travel firm failures?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

And now it’s official, well according to Thomas Cook it is.  With over 30 tour operators and more that 20 airlines failing in 2008, the head of Thomas Cooke has predicted that up to 15 more British travel companies will collapse in the first quarter of 2009.  This is being put down to cash flow problems during the leanest months of the year. “If companies can survive the next three months they should be fine, but this period is crucial,” he said. The financial crisis is likely to claim more victims so it is important to get some protection. Some insurers offer Passenger Protection Insurance, often termed Dynamic Packaging Protection, sold separately or part of a travel insurance policy but always check the small print if this is offered because these are quite often restrictive in their cover. You can reduce the risk further by organising your travel through tour operators and agents covered by ATOL or who hold bonding through an approved body, such as ABTA or AITO. What is ATOL? This stands for Air Travel Organiser’s licensing and is a protection scheme for flights and air holidays, managed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and protects the customer from losing money or being stranded abroad when a tour operator goes bust. All licensed firms have to lodge bonds with the CAA so that, if they go out of business, the CAA can give refunds to people who can’t travel and arrange for people abroad to finish their holidays and fly home. And ABTA? Members of the Association of British Travel Agents are required to provide financial protection for their customers which means that you can book your holiday knowing that if an ABTA member fails financially while you are on holiday, you can continue your holiday as planned. If your holiday has not started, then you will receive a full refund or be given help to make alternative arrangements for the trip to proceed. Likewise AITO, or Association of Independent Tour Operators to give it its full title, require their members to protect their customer’s money in the event of an AITO member going into liquidation. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com– specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Ski resorts open early after record falls

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Ski resorts have opened early across Europe and those going to North america will find resorts in Canada and New England doing the same.  Andorra in the Pyrenees is reporting the best start to a season for 40 years with record snowfall.  Despite the pound sliding against both the Euro and the dollar, holiday prices appear to be lower than last year in many European countries, as much as 20% cheaper according to the latest survey from Co-operative Travel and in North America, the price of a ski package has also fallen sharply, by 11% in Whistler and Lake Tahoe.  So it’s not all doom and gloom for British travellers trying to make their dwindling pounds go further. For those tempted for a pre-Christmas dash to the slopes, conditions have hardly been better but before doing so, take heed of the advice from tour operators and specialist winter sports providers and don’t forget to take out adequate insurance. Recent surveys still show a high number of people going abroad without any travel insurance at all. Whether this is just forgetfulness or a desire to live dangerously, it shows that many people view travel insurance as an extra expense which can be added or deleted depending on the holiday budget.  So what should people be looking for? Most travel insurance providers offer good cover for intermediate and beginners. This is the vast bulk of the market. Yes, accidents do happen but they are more likely to be in a controlled fashion, by that we mean on well groomed pistes and with assistance and help on hand. The problem area is when the skier or snowboarder gains in confidence and skill and wants to seek greater challenges and with it more thrills. This generally means tackling ever more severe slopes but also to venture into what is loosely termed ‘off piste’. This is where the unwary can very quickly become unstuck and we are not talking about the snow conditions. Most travel insurance policies will have restrictions on ‘off piste’ such as ‘only with a guide’ or ‘only within a specified resort area’ so when seeking that ‘adrenaline rush’ it is important to know what you are getting yourself into first. What’s more, the increasing popularity of ‘half pipes’ and ‘free style’ means that the potential risk of injury has increased as more and more people are attracted to this immensely enjoyable leisure activity. To make sure you are properly covered for these more extreme sports activities, it is essential that winter sports insurance is obtained that offers protection to this level of activity. The more expert you are, the more likely you will need more specialist cover than provided by the usual high street provider. Mountain rescue and medical costs are expensive and if this requires repatriation then the costs mount up rapidly. It’s probably too late, as you are being strapped to the rescue sledge, to wonder whether the travel insurance you bought before the holiday is going to cover you. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

   

More set to holiday in the UK

Monday, December 15th, 2008

It is hardly surprising, as the pound slides closer to parity with the Euro and who knows may be worth less than a Euro come the New Year, that travel agents are reporting an increase in domestic holiday bookings.  It has been predicted that the number of families choosing to take their annual summer break in Britain next year could increase by at least a million with some operators already reporting a 15% increase in bookings over 2008. This comes on top of the recent Times survey that indicated that a third of people polled said that they were switching plans from a holiday abroad to a holiday in Britain. A reason given is that they might have one holiday break in the UK where they can manage their budget more easily than they can abroad. This trend is set to rise in 2009. The same rules though apply to holidays in the UK as they do elsewhere so do make sure you are properly covered in case of emergencies. Travel insurance, for example, is not always thought of as a necessity if you take a break in the UK, being so close to home and under the safety net of the NHS should you have an accident but travel insurance covers much more than medical emergencies. It is a fact that most people buy travel insurance for trips and holidays abroad but these policies do generally provide cover for travel within the UK, though do check the small print rather than assuming that this is always the case. So is travel insurance that covers holidays in the UK worth considering? It can be very useful to have insurance should you subsequently cancel a trip, say for illness, as your holiday costs will be reimbursed subject to any excesses to pay. Your personal effects will probably be covered too which is an important point to consider as theft and loss is not just confined to holidays on the ‘Costas’ – these things happen at home too. What you will almost certainly not be covered for will be for medical emergencies and expenses as insurers argue that the NHS is available for such instances and will point out that travel insurance is not a substitute for private medical insurance. One final word of advice though is do check the small print as many, if not most, insurers do require you to have proof of booked accommodation for a minimum stay of normally 2 nights away for the policy to be in force so the Sunday ‘trip out’ is definitely outside this definition.  This article is brought to you by travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Cycle ride raises £4700

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

So the final figure raised from this summer’s Land’s End to John O’ Groats cycle ride has reached just short of £5000.  This sum was handed over to the Pokot Rural Services Trust at a presentation held last night at West Buckland School in North Devon.  Attended by the school cyclist, their families and teachers and directors of Travel and Insure and Trade Aid UK, the money will go to fund the 24 hi-bred goats and associated husbandry training that the Pokot Trust have delivered to the remote area of Northern Kenya where they do their important work.  Those who followed the progress of the cyclists in July, through the Travel and Insure Blog reports at the time, may recall the incident in Bridgewater, which could have de-railed the charity ride, when bikes were stolen but then recovered through the efforts of the local police.  Not only did this allow the riders to complete the ride but the Bridgewater Police Force also donated £100 to the sponsorship appeal and were present at last night’s ceremony to hand their cheque to the Pokot Directors.  This is just one of the many examples of generosity that the cycle team witnessed throughout their 12 day ride, all of which contributed to the very worthwhile cause that these 14 to 17 year old riders and staff supported in the Summer of 2008.  This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Latest travel advice to Greece

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

If violent street protests and rioting right across Greece is not enough, then  a three day air traffic control strike affecting all flights to and from Greece will certainly disrupt holiday and travel plans over the next few days. Hundreds of flights have already been cancelled ahead of the 24 hour strike by air traffic controllers. The strike will add to the misery for travellers planning to visit the country. Violent demonstrations are expected to continue tonight, following the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy by Greek police. Streets in the capital have been closed, while unrest has also spread to Thessaloniki, Patras, Trikala, Ioannina, Corfu, Samos and Crete. The Foreign Office is advising travellers to exercise extreme caution in urban areas, particularly within Athens, adding that strikes and demonstrations are expected to continue throughout December. However, tour operators and airlines are unlikely to offer refunds to holidaymakers unless the Foreign Office advises against non-essential travel to the Mediterranean country. Concerned travellers should contact their airline or tour operator and check that their travel insurance provides suitable cover. Most travel insurance policies will have a section for Abandonment. This is just another term for cancellation which permits the traveller, once they have experienced the required number of hours travel delay, to cancel their flight and holiday in its entirety and claim back the costs. Whether you choose this option will depend on many factors, such as the length of your trip away, how long the delay will be and personal preference but it is a very valuable addition to have in any travel insurance policy. One word of warning, all travel insurance policies will have a clause that excludes any claim from being paid if the strike had been known about before the flight and holiday had been booked so it always prudent to check before you go firm on any travel plans. This article is brought to you by travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

High alert at Indian airports

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Passengers at Indian airports now face five rounds of security checks before boarding after procedures were tightened in the wake of Mumbai attacks which killed 171 last week.  According to the latest information from the Indian Government, passengers have been asked to arrive three hours before their flights and all luggage is being 100 per cent checked. This comes at a time when the Indian Bureau of Civil Aviation has warned of an attempt to hijack one or more planes at Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore airports. Chennai (Madras) Airport, close to where the England cricket team is expected to play one of its test marches, is also on hijack alert. The alerts come after a letter, which claimed terror groups might strike at the airports on Dec 6 and hijack a plane, was sent to an Indian news agency. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.