Saturday 10 December 2016

Euro 2016: how to save better than big Packie Bonner

Kim Bielenberg on how seasoned followers of the boys in green will keep costs to a minimum during the tournament in France

Published 02/06/2016 | 02:30

Republic of Ireland supporters Jack Kiernan, Jimmy Corroon, Alisha Burns, Paddy Ward, Tony Molloy, Pat McCoy and Paul Carr from Mullingar, in the Bridge Bar in Mullingar. Jack, Jimmy, Paddy and Paul are travelling to France to support the Republic of Irela
Republic of Ireland supporters Jack Kiernan, Jimmy Corroon, Alisha Burns, Paddy Ward, Tony Molloy, Pat McCoy and Paul Carr from Mullingar, in the Bridge Bar in Mullingar. Jack, Jimmy, Paddy and Paul are travelling to France to support the Republic of Irela

They will go by planes, trains, cars and campervans. Up to 75,000 Irish fans are set to descend on France for the European Championship next week, and many will spend around €3,000 for the trip.

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With a relatively short distance to travel, this should be one of the cheaper tournaments for Irish fans, even though accommodation is turning out to be more expensive than at the European Championships in Poland in 2012. Food and drink will also be more expensive.

However, flights should cost much less than at previous tournaments, especially the World Cups in the United States, and Japan and South Korea.

Many supporters booked flights at cheap prices this time around, and are proving themselves to be quite savvy at making savings on accommodation through sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com.

So how much will Irish fans spend on their journey through France from Paris to Bordeaux to Lille?

Not even the fans themselves can be sure, but we can get an idea from the size of credit union loans to supporters, which frequently fund these trips.

Emma Casey, spokesman of the Irish League of Credit Unions, expects the average loan taken out by fans to fund the trip to work out at €3,000 each.

Some fans clearly intend to spend a lot more, and AIB was slammed soon after we won qualification when it offered loans for the Euros of up to €30,000.

With just over a week left to the tournament, there are no bargains to be had on package trips and direct flights.

Flying in and out of Paris from Dublin before and after the first round on the cheapest airline Transavia was costing €569 by the start of this week.

Stein Travel has a last-minute package deal offering trips to all three matches for €3,000, covering flights, hotels, and transport within France, but not including tickets.

While it is too late to bag a bargain on flights, anyone hoping to save money on the trip should talk to the seasoned fans who are well used to getting by on very little.

Many of them avoid travel agents and work out their own itineraries on the internet.

This is the first tournament where Airbnb will be widely used by fans, as thousands of French householders put rooms up for let.

Jack Kiernan, a fan from Mullingar who plans to stay for the entire first round and all the way to the final if necessary, says: "Airbnb is a lifesaver this time around. We are staying two nights in Paris and two nights in Lille as a group of four in an apartment rented on Airbnb and it is costing us €150 each."

Kiernan's party is planning to stay for a week in Bordeaux in a rented villa for €240 each.

One option still available for those hoping to save money on flights is to avoid flying to French airports. Kiernan and his party are flying in and out of Amsterdam for Ireland's opening round, and the fare was just €123 each return. In total Kiernan will spend €1,300 on flights, accommodation and internal travel.

The savvy fans avoid being scalped on the price of tickets by being affiliated to an official supporters club.

This not only guarantees a supply of tickets, but the prices are reasonable for the opening round.

Members of the supporters clubs affiliated to the FAI are getting tickets for Ireland's opening round matches for between €25 and €145.

Tickets become more expensive as the tournament progresses beyond the second round and face value tickets cost between €85 and €895 for the final.

Fans such as Joe McKenna from Donabate, Co Dublin were at their laptops booking hotels for the trip at the very moment the draw was being made in December.

"We all get together with a few cans when the draw is happening. We book lots of hotels in advance on Booking.com because it has free cancellation."

While there may be fewer bargains on hotel rooms now, fans who are booking late can still find reasonable hotel rates through price comparison sites such as Trivago and Tripadvisor.

There may be a tournament on, but many of the tens of thousands of American tourists who visit Paris every summer have been put off travelling because of terrorism fears.

On Trivago, a serviced apartment for two just 1.5km from the Stade De France is available on the night of Ireland's match against Sweden for €158. Hotel rooms for two in the Ibis Saint Denis next to the stadium cost €210.

Bordeaux, where Ireland will play Belgium in their second match, still has basic accommodation such as the B&B Hotel Bordeaux Lac sur Bruges available for €121 for two. The hotel is 2km from the stadium.

Perhaps the greatest savings last minute bookers can make in France are on food and drink. The seasoned fans may be patriotic, but they tend to avoid Irish bars because they are considered much more expensive.

Irish fans have a knack of discovering cheerful welcoming bars, where the prices are reasonable.

Joe McKenna says: "It's best to go to places off the beaten track where the locals drink."

Brighton-based Irish fan Louise Mimnagh recommends looking at the site Ybig.ie, where fans post up-to-date details of inexpensive, hospitable places to eat and drink.

Tips on how to make cost-cutting the goal

* Joxer may have enjoyed the party in a Campervan in ’88, but visitors to France should beware of huge tolls. The toll for a Campervan travelling from Paris to Bordeaux is over €75 and €52 for a car.

* A survey by Kwikfit Insurance found the entire cost of doing the round trip by car from Dublin to Paris Bordeaux and Lille, taking into account ferries through Britain, fuel and tolls is €523. The survey found that this was cheaper than flying and then renting a car, which costs €769.

*Avoid buying tickets in the station when travelling on the high speed TGV train. On the line from Paris to Bordeaux, tickets booked on the Internet days in advance cost as little as €20, but cost up to €96 in the station.

*Learn the protocol for buying drinks in cafés. Prices will usually vary for drinking at the bar (au comptoir; the cheapest option), sitting down inside (la salle), or on the terrace (la terrasse), which is usually the most expensive. Sometimes there is a huge variation.

* Use price comparison sites such as Trivago and Tripadvisor when booking hotels. There are still some reasonably-priced rooms available.

Irish Independent

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