Saturday, June 15, 2024

Is Britain the world’s biggest holiday rip-off?

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I searched on Airbnb for a two-bedroom property in trendy Southwold, again for Aug 5-12: the cheapest option, a cute cottage, costs £1,548. Opt for the equally cool Peñíscola in eastern Spain, however, and you’ll find a decent apartment for half that price.

You’ll have to factor in the cost of getting there, of course. But even with airfares on the rise, you can still find peak-season flights to Europe for around £50 each way, or Eurotunnel returns for £200.

“We took a holiday in East Wittering just after Covid and it was awful, we’ll never do it again,” says Suzi Love, a mother of two based in Winchester. “The house we booked cost £1,800 from Monday to Friday, it was tired and mediocre at best, there wasn’t much choice of places to eat out and the high prices didn’t reflect in the quality of food or service. Added to which, the weather was dodgy.”

Ah yes, the weather. Even if British holidays could compete on price, it’s hard to overlook the fact that Cornwall gets roughly 187 hours of sunshine and 73mm of rainfall each August, while Andalusia gets around 300 hours, and 1mm.

“My girls are three and six, so they just need a beach or a pool, but when the weather is not good, you have to really entertain them and that’s not a holiday for us adults,” adds Love. “With gridlocked roads and beaches contaminated with sewage it’s all pretty off-putting, so we’d rather jump on a plane and get to the south of Spain in three hours where the weather is more guaranteed.”

Eating out

Spain tops the leaderboard when it comes to Britons’ favourite destinations, says the ONS, with 21 per cent of all overseas visits in 2023 to the land of sangria, followed by France (11 per cent), Italy (6 per cent) and Greece (5 per cent). And when you look at the cost of eating and drinking in these countries, it doesn’t take a lot of head scratching to figure out why.

Every year, the Post Office compares food and drink prices, along with other typical holiday purchases, in dozens of popular destinations. Buying a coffee in the Algarve will set you back 88p, it estimates, while on the Costa del Sol the average price is £1.58. For a three-course meal for two, including a bottle of wine, you can expect to pay £40 or £60 in the two sun-soaked regions, respectively, it says. Compare that with the UK, where a coffee ranges in price from £3 to £4, and an average three-course meal for two (including wine) costs closer to £70 or £80.

Furthermore, while food and drink prices are still on the rise in the UK (the year to January 2024 showed a 7 per cent increase), it’s a different picture abroad. The 2024 Post Office Holiday Money Report found that prices for meals, drinks and other goods had fallen since last year in 25 out of 40 destinations surveyed.

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