Tuesday 26 September 2017

Cash in on the downturn

A cafe near a beach, Little Venice, Greece
A cafe near a beach, Little Venice, Greece

Gemma O'Doherty

It's only natural that Irish holidaymakers heading to the sun should feel twitchy about the economic strife hitting southern Europe.

And as the summer moves on, from the Algarve to Alicante, the situation is likely to become more volatile, not less.

What happens if the euro finally goes belly-up and you're stuck in the Costa del Sol?

Would credit cards still work, or should you take a bundle of extra cash? How would you cope if transport workers go on strike or an airline goes under?

These are all fears looming in the minds of the cautious traveller. But austerity can present some lucrative opportunities for them, too.

Prices are at bargain rates, hoteliers are desperate to make you happy and many tourist attractions, such as museums and beaches, are much less crowded this summer.

Greece was the once the favourite holiday destination of the Germans. This year, they're staying away in their droves for fear of the aggro they may face for imposing such pain on their home away from home.

For the rest of us, that means more towel space on the sand and much quieter resorts.

Most of the protests are taking place in Athens, but, beyond the fiery capital, Greece is still as dazzlingly blue and white as ever.

If you're taking a trip, it makes sense to take extra euro in cash, as banks could close at short notice and ATMs may go out of operation.

But if Greece does go back to the drachma, fears that the euro would become worthless over- night are completely unfounded.

Most Irish sunseekers leaving the country this summer will head for Spanish shores. Renamed the Costa Catastrophe, due to the vast number of unsold new homes along the country's coastal provinces, bargains abound -- especially in luxury hotels and villas, where you can pick up savings of up to 50pc.

If you want to escape the ghost estates of Andalucia, go north, where you'll find great-value casas (houses) in lovely locations in mountains and quiet villages.

Eating out was never hard on the pocket in Spain but now it's cheaper than ever.

In a new survey by the Post Office in Britain, it came out the least expensive destination in the eurozone, with a three-course dinner for two costing an average of €28.43, including wine.

The same meal would cost twice as much in France.

Watch out for the ubiquitous 'menus anti-crisis' in restaurants offering three-course deals for silly money.

One recent visitor commented that there seems to be a new todo a cien (pound shop) on every street corner.

Tourists will also notice the roads are much quieter, as locals can no longer afford to spend much on petrol and fewer people have jobs to go to. Spain, with Luxembourg, is also the cheapest place to drive in Europe now.

But watch out if you're using plastic to pay. Retailers prefer to do business in cash these days and, in smaller cafés and shops, you risk incurring their wrath if you hand them a credit card.

So pack a few extra notes and keep them safe.

Crime, as in all recession-hit countries, is sadly on the rise.

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