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Archive for April, 2009

Stay at home as UK set for dry summer

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Swine flu concerns or simply cash -strapped, Britons who plan to holiday at home this year can expect to enjoy a warm and dry summer after two successive years of wash-outs.  So says the UK Met Office. The forecast for a “barbecue summer” will cheer thousands of people planning to stay in the UK because of recession-hit finances and a weak pound not to mention a flu pandemic alert abroad. Forecasters said near or below-average rainfall this year made it “unlikely” there would be a repeat of the wet summers of 2007 and 2008, as they issued their long-range forecasts for June, July and August. One in five Britons who holidayed overseas last year will stay at home this year because of the recession, according to figures from the national tourism body, Visit Britain. This means an extra 5 million Britons holidaying in British beauty spots and beaches.

However, for those deciding to holiday at home this year, it’s worth remembering that 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. 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 expenses as the NHS is available for such instances. 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, or a campsite booking in the case of camping and caravanning, for a minimum stay of normally 2 nights away for the policy to be in force so the one night weekend trip away is definitely outside this definition.

 

This article is brought to you by travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Cancellation advice for travel to Mexico

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Now that the Foreign Office has issued advice against all non-essential travel to Mexico, tour operators must allow customers who have booked a package holiday to the country to cancel and receive a refund. This is because the operators have a legal duty of care to their clients and the FCO advice is effectively a confirmation that it is unsafe to travel. If you have booked only a flight and not a package holiday, you have no legal right to receive a refund if you decide not to fly, unless you have paid for a fully-flexible ticket. Many tour operators with big programmes are offering customers the opportunity to change their holiday to a different destination. You may feel you want to accept this offer, but you are not obliged to do so, and you must be allowed to opt for full compensation if that is what you prefer. This does not extend, of course, if you are booked to another destination but don’t want to travel because of swine flu concerns.  As long as the Foreign Office does not advise against travel to that destination, you have no legal right to a refund if you cancel a package holiday.

As for travel insurance, most travel insurance policies will not cover the costs of cancellation in these circumstances, though it is worth checking through the small print of your policy.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Essential travel to Mexico

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

The Foreign Office is now advising Britons against all but essential travel to Mexico after the World Health Organisation upgraded its alert level in the wake of the swine flu outbreak.

A statement posted on the Foreign Office website advises that  “The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised its Pandemic Threat Alert Phase to Level 4 (evidence of increased human to human transmission)”.  It adds that  “Routine Consular and all Visa Services at the Embassy in Mexico City have been suspended until further notice.  British Nationals in Mexico, who have an urgent consular issue should call the Embassy on (01 55) 5242 8500 for assistance. British nationals resident in or visiting Mexico may wish to consider whether they should remain in Mexico at this time. British Nationals should continue to follow local advice on precautions to take to avoid exposure to the influenza. Cases of swine influenza have been reported in Mexico City and a number of other locations across the country. Travellers should consult a doctor immediately if they show signs of flu-like symptoms.”

This article is  brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Swine Flu reaches Europe

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Spain today confirmed the first cases of Swine flu in Europe with all European countries on high alert. The virus has also spread to the United States and Canada and other suspected cases are being monitored as far afield as Israel, Brazil and New Zealand. The head of the UK Health Protection Agency said officials here should work on the assumption that the virus will reach Britain. The European Union’s Health Commissioner urged Europeans to postpone non-essential travel to the United States or Mexico because of the virus, while a top German holiday tour operator announced that it was suspending charter flights to Mexico City.

The Foreign Office has advised travellers to Mexico to check to see whether their trip is essential.  The huge interest and concern  over  the Swine Flu alert temporarily overloaded the FCO website today and they had to post a travel advice telephone number for Britons seeking advice. For FCO Travel Advice, please phone 44 0870 6060290.

The Association of British Travel Agents has advised that normal booking conditions for holidays to Mexico still apply as the Foreign Office is not advising against travel to the country and airlines continue to fly there. Tour operators can, at their discretion, offer holidaymakers and business travellers an alternative destination, but are under no obligation to do so. The current state of Foreign Office advice also means that a holidaymaker would not be able to claim against their insurance policy, should they cancel the trip.  Seven airlines offer direct or indirect flights from Heathrow to Mexico City: British Airways, United, KLM, Iberia, AeroMexico, American and Mexicana. A British Airways spokesman said that it would continue to operate its daily service to Mexico City.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

 

Higher travel costs from November 2009

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Travellers too will feel the pain from measures announced in Chancellor Alistair Darling’s  budget report.  Air Passenger Duty (APD) will rise significantly from November 2009. APD will now fall into four bands,with passengers being charged according to how far they fly. The increases, planned for November this year and November 2010, will hit medium and long-haul travellers hardest. A family of four flying to the Caribbean, South Africa, Kenya or Thailand next winter will pay £300 in APD, while those families planning trips to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia or Australasia, will pay £340, more than double the current rate of £40 per passenger. The duty on short-haul flights (under 2000 miles) will rise by just £2 over the next 18 months. However, Egypt, a popular summer destination, lies just beyond the 2000 mile limit (calculated as the distance between London and the destination’s capital city). This means that a family of four, flying to Egypt in economy class, will pay £240 in APD, £80 more than the current figure. What are the new Air Passenger Duty rates?

Band A (0 – 2000 miles from London)

Includes: Europe, Algeria, Greenland, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia

Currently: £10 Economy cabins and £20 Premium cabins rising to £11 and £22 respectively in November 2009 and to £12 and £24 respectively from November 2010.

Band B (2001-4000 miles)

Includes: Bermuda, Canada, Egypt, Gambia, Jordan, Oman, Russia (east of Urals), Syria, UAE, USA

Currently: £40 Economy cabins and £80 Premium cabins rising to £45 and £90 respectively in November 2009 and to £60 and £120 respectively from November 2010.

Band C (4001-6000 miles)

Includes: Botswana, Brazil, Caribbean, China, India, Japan, Kenya, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Seychelles, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand

Currently: £40 Economy cabins and £80 Premium cabins rising to £50 and £100 respectively in November 2009 and to £75 and £150 respectively from November 2010.

Band D

 (more than 6000 miles)

Includes: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore

Currently: £40 Economy cabins and £80 Premium cabins rising to £55 and £110 respectively in November 2009 and to £85 and £170 respectively from November 2010.

Tour operator’s have described the rates from 2010 as significant. APD is a contentious area for many passengers because airlines are reluctant to pay back APD to customers who cancel flights.  By rights customers should have the APD portion of their flight tickets refunded if they don’t fly but airlines are now charging an ‘administration’ fee for the processing of a refund and ‘funny old thing’, this fee generally equates to the value of the APD refund.  This makes most customers not bother to pursue a refund which effectively increases the profit margins of airlines, as APD is only paid to the government based on passengers flown.  It really is a ‘no win’ situation for consumers as travel insurance providers generally exclude APD from any cancellation settlement claiming that it is the responsibility of the airline to refund this element of holiday cost.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Head east for travel money to go further

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

If you are looking for your pounds to go further, then Turkey is emerging as the best value destination for 2009.  A year ago £1 would have bought €1.27 and, though it has improved greatly from a low of €1.03 in the first part of 2009, it is still considerably down on last year and the heady heights of 2007 when tourists were getting close to €1.50 for each pound. In contrast the Turkish Lira has remained stable at about £1 to 2.40 Lira over the course of the last 12 months. The Lira was the fourth most popular currency in 2008, behind the euro, dollar and Australian dollar. According to the Post Office, which changes £1 in every £3 that holidaymakers take overseas, the demand for Turkish Lira increased by 21 per cent in 2008 and is on course to grow again this year. Last year it overtook the Canadian Dollar to become the fourth most popular currency and, if its current popularity continues, it could overtake the Australian dollar to reach the third spot by the end 2009. And staying with the Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt remained one of the cheapest holiday destinations last year and 2009 will be no different. The low cost of goods and services in Egypt means that this country remains an attractive destination.

Wherever you decide to go on holiday this year, don’t forget to take out travel insurance to cover the holiday money you take abroad. Pickpocketing and theft is fairly commonplace these days so it pays to be protected. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Travel company Freedom Direct folds

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Thousands of British holidaymakers are facing disruption after the collapse of online tour operator and travel agent Freedom Direct Holidays. The Newcastle-based company has ceased trading, with 200 of its customers currently overseas and up to 10,000 holding advanced bookings. Freedom Direct had financial cover as it was a full member of travel organisation ABTA. In addition, all holidays booked until the end of March 2009 were covered by the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) system run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The company specialised in trips to the Mediterranean, Turkey and the Canary Islands and also organised some cruises. Freedom Direct is the latest travel company to collapse, citing the economic slowdown behind its decision. More than 25 ATOL-protected holiday firms failed in 2008, according to the Civil Aviation Authority, while dozens of airlines also went bankrupt. Will 2009 be different? With the news now of Freedom Direct ceasing trading, the financial crisis is likely to claim more victims so it is important to get some protection.

Some insurers offer Passenger Protection Insurance 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.

Spain still top travel destination for 2009

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Despite the strength of the euro, Brits continue to find new reasons to return to Spain in 2009, as over 90 per cent of British visitors have already been before. It is a destination with so much variety that its attractions appeal to a wide range of travellers, whether it’s adventure or culture seekers, families or pilgrims. While its countryside, language and culture are quite different from our own, Brits really do feel at home in Spain.  With holidaymakers looking for reassurance in every aspect of their lives, there was an increase in all-inclusives and a 10-15% rise in package holidays in 2008 and, despite the economic downturn, bookings are holding up for 2009. The Balearic Islands including Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca are the most popular area of Spain in the summer months.  Likewise, the Canary Islands of Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Fuertaventura, situated just off the North Western coast of Africa, are volcanic and have a sub-tropical dry and warm climate. This means that they are popular during summer and also the most popular destination for sun seekers during the winter months.

Spain facts – Did You Know that in Spain you are considered a minor until the age of 18. A 17 year old having a holiday without parents could be picked up by the Spanish local authorities and taken into a Minors’ centre for their protection. Also, drivers in Spain should be wary of approaches by bogus police officers, in plain clothes and travelling in unmarked cars. In all traffic-related matters police officers will be in uniform. Motorists should be on the look out for “highway pirates” who target foreign registered and hire cars, especially those towing caravans. If you decide to stop to check the condition of your vehicle, you should be extremely wary of anyone offering help. For up to date travel information for Spain visit www.fco.gov.uk/travel

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Ferry chaos as French fishermen protest

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Cross-channel ferry services are still disrupted following industrial action by French fishermen. The French ports of Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk are blockaded amid a protest by French fishermen against EU fishing quotas set by the Common Fisheries Policy. Kent Police have implemented Operation Stack, its system to ease freight congestion on the M20, in a bid to tackle growing traffic delays leading to the Port of Dover. Thousands of passengers using the cross-Channel ferry services have been affected, with many changing their plans and travelling via the Channel Tunnel instead.  The timing of the strike was particularly bad considering the number of travellers trying to return from Easter breaks.

Blockading ports is a time-honoured tactic by French fishermen and there were several episodes in 2008 to demand help with spiralling fuel prices at a time when crude oil cost more than $100 a barrel. Travellers to France are advised to check with their travel provider, before setting off for channel ports with services to France, for the latest news and to check that their travel insurance policies provide adequate cover for travel delay and abandonment. This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Thailand protests – Travel advice 14 April

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

A warning for British tourists to stay away from Thailand’s capital remains in force despite anti-government protesters appearing to wind down their demonstrations. The Foreign Office has warned British citizens not to travel to Bangkok unless their visit is absolutely essential and to review their travel plans to other parts of Thailand. This warning also extends to the estimated 40,000 expat Brits who have been advised not to leave their homes in the affected areas, where there a high risk of further bloodshed stating  “British residents in Bangkok and other cities affected by the violence are advised to stay indoors and to monitor the media and Foreign Office travel advice.”

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.