Travellers have always been seen as a soft touch.
Romanticised 18th century highway robbers demanded ‘your money or your life’, but three centuries later intrepid travellers are still at risk of being fleeced.
At almost every stage of your journey, from home to the hotel, you’re at risk of being taken to the cleaners.
You may not be able to avoid tax and air passenger duty, but Streetwise looks at the many other sophisticated ways the travel trade relieves you of your cash – and suggests ways to avoid being taken for a ride.
· Booking fees
Beware of hidden booking charges. Many tour operators use premium rate phone lines to book your holiday, so watch out for 090 and 0871 numbers.
Calling these numbers can cost anything from £1.50 to 10p a minute from landlines, and significantly more from mobiles.
Check websites for standard rate numbers to call, or better still, book online.
· Drip pricing
Don’t be fooled by low headline prices. That £20 flight can soon morph into hundreds of pounds more when you tot up booking, luggage, check-in, credit or debit card fees and reserved seat charges.
Always compare all the extras you’ll be asked to pay and explore flying with airlines like BA, whose prices include luggage and other extras. It can often work out cheaper.
· Getting to the airport
Once you know your travel plans book early. Taxi fares are rocketing, and it pays to shop around.
Better still, travel to airports like Gatwick and Heathrow by coach or train. It’s convenient and painless and can cost as little as £15 return. If you must park the car at the airport, slash rip-off charges by booking online, or search the web for independent secure parking facilities.
· Beat the moneychanger
Never buy your bucks from an airport or ferry port bureau de change. You’ll get ruinous rates of exchange, and you’ll be hit in the pocket again when you change your foreign currency back into sterling.
Use a debit card for everyday expenses, and a low rate credit card for larger purchases. Pay off the balance on your return and you’ll be quids in.
· Airport and on board catering
Starting your holiday at an airport restaurant will cost you dear. Prices for basic meals can be double those on the high street. Resist splashing out before you travel by stacking up with pre-prepared sandwiches, and buy your drinks from airport shops instead of restaurants.
On some budget airlines a small can of beer and a toasted sandwich can cost nearly £8. Avoid eye-watering on board catering charges with more reserve sandwiches, and buy soft drinks or water from departure lounge shops.
· Car hire hikes
Watch out for ‘extras’ that soon mount up. The favourite at the car hire check-in desk is insurance to cover excess payments, and yet more travel insurance. Do your homework before you go and buy a competitive policy in advance to cover these contingencies.
· Airport taxis
Dodgy foreign airport taxi drivers are a legend. Never hire a taxi to your hotel without first negotiating a price before you pile aboard. Airport information staff will tell you the acceptable going rate, or research online in advance.
Tricks include taking you on a long scenic tour before you reach your hotel, or slapping you with an excess charge for airport travel.
Better still, travel by bus or train. Tickets, prices and timetables can all be found online.
· Hotel minibars and Wi-Fi
Hotel minibars have stratospheric mark ups, with seriously overpriced beer and wine. Shun the fridge and buy your room drinks in supermarkets.
Internet access still brings rich pickings for hotels. Charges can range from the modest to the ridiculous – frequently in excess of £15 a day.
Go native and find free Wi-Fi access at local cafes or bars. Learn more about the locals and save on the cost of your drinks.