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Revealed: The destinations holidaymakers rate best value and the lowdown on those that actually offer the lowest prices

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Green listed Portugal scores on both counts as Holiday Money Report unveils the best bargain holiday hotspots and holidaymakers’ favourites

After being named one of 12 ‘green light’ destinations by the government as rules on overseas travel start to be relaxed from 17th May, the annual Post Office Travel Money Holiday Money Report brings news that Portugal has earned the highest rating for good value from UK holidaymakers. Its leading resort area, the Algarve, also emerges as cheapest in the Eurozone in the Worldwide Holiday Costs Barometer. Published within the annual report, the barometer found that prices have fallen in three-quarters of resorts and cities.

When holidaymakers were asked to name the destinations which they believed offered good value, Portugal topped their ratings alongside ‘amber light’ rated Greece and Spain’s Costas – providing a clue to where they are most likely to book holidays once travel is allowed. All three scored 89 per cent and that approval rating rose to 90 per cent or more among holidaymakers who had previously visited those countries (Greece: 92%, Spain: 91%, Portugal: 90%). Thailand was named the best value long haul destination with a score of 81 per cent, rising to 92 per cent among past visitors.

However, Bulgaria, which is currently on the government’s ‘amber light’ list, is the destination where holidaymakers will actually find the cheapest prices for a range of eight tourist staples (a three-course evening meal for two with wine, bottle of beer, glass of wine, can of Coca-Cola, large bottle of water, cup of coffee, suncream and insect repellent) according to the Worldwide Holiday Costs Barometer of 46 destinations, nine of them new for 2021.

Bulgaria is one of the cheapest destinations for tourist staples according to new research (Image: Visit Bulgaria)

Sunny Beach in Bulgaria continues to prove unbeatable value and tops the barometer for the fourth consecutive year. Prices were already at rock-bottom in the Black Sea resort but they have fallen a further 14 per cent to just under £28 since last spring, making Sunny Beach a quarter cheaper than runner-up Turkey. Barometer costs in Marmaris have also fallen by around 14 per cent year-on-year to £37 but this is entirely thanks to the weak Turkish lira.

Portugal’s Algarve (£44) completes the top three as a 16.5 per cent fall in barometer costs helped it consolidate its long-established position as the Eurozone’s cheapest resort area. The price fall has helped Portugal to pull away from Spain’s Costa del Sol, which is 31 per cent pricier at £58. The Costa has fallen from fifth to seventh place in the barometer top 10 after registering a three per cent price rise. Another Portuguese destination, Madeira (£62,10th), is one of two new entrants to the top 10, edging out Cyprus (£67, 13th).

Portugal’s Algarve is the third cheapest place to holiday after Sunny Beach in Bulgaria and Marmaris in Turkey

The second new entrant to the best value top 10 is Sri Lanka (9th), which replaces Japan, where prices in Tokyo (down from 3rd to 12th in the table) have risen 24 per cent to £66. The 16 per cent reduction in prices to £59 in Sri Lanka is a consequence of the weak rupee since local prices remain on par with a year ago. Prices for long haul destinations were provided by tour operator Travelbag.

While Thailand was named best value long haul destination by UK holidaymakers, the Worldwide Holiday Costs Barometer reveals that prices are lower in both Bali and Vietnam. Bali (£55) has risen up the barometer table to fourth place, thanks to a 13 per cent fall in barometer costs, making it the cheapest long haul destination surveyed this year. Hoi An in Vietnam (£58) takes eighth place after recording a nine per cent price fall. Prices in Phuket (£81, 26th) are 42 per cent higher.

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Cape Town, South Africa (£56, 5th) and Czech capital Prague (£57, 6th) complete the 10 best value destinations – although prices have risen 11 per cent in Cape Town, one of only seven destinations surveyed to show an increase.

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By contrast, prices have fallen in over three-quarters of the 37 destinations also surveyed in 2020 – by over 10 per cent in a third of them. Post Office Travel Money says this is because of volatility in both currency values and in local costs of meals and drinks, the items most likely to dent the holiday budget. The biggest fall of 46 per cent is in Costa Rica (25th, £80), where local prices in Tamarindo have dropped by a third and the benefit to UK visitors has been compounded by a sharp fall in the value of the Costa Rican colon.

There have also been significant price falls of over 20 per cent in Malaysia (£72, 17th), Jamaica (£76, 21st), Dubai (£99, 34th) and the Seychelles (£127, 43rd). A fall in the value of its rupee means prices are down 23 per cent and the Seychelles is no longer rated the most expensive destination as it has been for the past two years. In Jumeirah Beach, Dubai prices have plunged for the second year running and are over 27 per cent lower than in spring 2020.

Closer to home, Europe’s biggest price fall has been in Italy, where Puglia (£94, 30th) recorded a drop of over 18 per cent, making Italy marginally cheaper than Nice (£95, 31st) in the south of France for the first time.

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Nick Boden, Post Office Head of Travel Money, which accounts for one-in-four UK foreign exchange transactionssaid: “People who are hoping to take an overseas holiday and have not decided on their destination should make sure they know the regulations that apply to countries they are considering at the time of booking.

“When budgeting for their holiday, they should include all the costs of travel abroad in their planning. This does not just mean comparing package prices or flight costs but also doing their homework to check how resort prices have changed since their last trip. Big falls in many European and long haul resorts spell good news – so choose carefully.”

The United Arab Emirates destinations of Abu Dhabi (£159, 46th) and Ras al Khaimah (£142, 45th) are the most expensive destinations of the 46 surveyed – at least 42 per cent pricier than Dubai, the third Emirate surveyed.

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Turning to the Outlook for Travel, the report’s overarching theme, consumer research on attitudes to holidays abroad reveals caution, anticipation and aspiration in equal measure. Besides obvious concerns about the impact of Covid-19 on holiday cost and safety, with 90 per cent worried that changes to travel rules could cost them money, two-thirds of consumers remain concerned about post-Brexit red tape and delays. The cost of travelling to their destination (74 per cent) and prices within resorts (64 per cent) are a more important consideration than package holiday discounts (59 cent) and only two-in-five (39 per cent) rate job insecurity as important in decision-making.

Over half of those surveyed (51 per cent) have either booked holidays, are planning trips or still considering whether to do so. City breaks remain the top choice as they have been for the past three years, with over one-in-five (22 per cent) planning to visit an overseas city this year. However, the research reveals a growing taste for experiences that encompass scenery, wildlife and the world’s great sights – suggesting a desire to get off the beaten track on holiday.

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When asked what would prompt their future holiday choice, 57 per cent of holidaymakers named scenery, while 43 per cent said it was the chance to see the ‘world’s great sights’ and 37 per cent said they wanted to see wildlife. This helps to explain their bucket list choices. Australia and New Zealand – currently off limit to UK visitors – top the list and were chosen by 44 per cent of consumers. Canada was third with a 41 per cent vote, while Iceland (38 per cent) was the highest placed European destination.

One in four people in the UK get their travel money from the Post Office (Image: Post Office)

Further clues about where holidaymakers planning overseas trips might choose to visit are provided by currency sales trends in 2020 and 2021 to date. While the euro and US dollar remain by far the Post Office’s bestselling currencies, there has been strong demand for UAE dirham, which has moved up to fifth place in the top 20 bestsellers, suggesting Dubai will be a popular choice.

Another long haul destination that looks set to attract more UK visitors is Vietnam. The Vietnamese dong makes its first ever appearance in 13th place in the Post Office Travel Money top 20 for the past 12 months and has currently risen to eighth position in 2021 to date.

The healthy performance of sterling against most holiday currencies could prove the tipping point in their decision making. Analysis by Post Office Travel Money reveals that sterling is currently stronger than a year ago against over three-quarters of its top 30 currencies. The biggest gains of more than 20 per cent are against the Turkish lira, Costa Rican colon and Jamaican dollar. Sterling has also risen significantly against the US dollar and Caribbean currencies.

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Post Office Travel Money’s Nick Boden said: “Sterling’s strength against the majority of holiday currencies means it really ought to play an important part in decisions about where to travel abroad. The purchasing power of the pound means people changing £500 into US dollars or East Caribbean dollars, the currency for Antigua, St Lucia and Grenada, will get the equivalent of around £61 extra.

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The Post Office is the UK’s leading foreign currency provider, offering around 60 currencies for pre-order at around 7,000 Post Office branches or online at www.postoffice.co.uk/travel for next day branch or home delivery. 3,600 larger Post Office branches stock the leading currencies and around 7,000 offer euros over the counter without pre-order. These can also be ordered online for same day ‘click and collect’ at selected branches, next day collection at any branch or home delivery.


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Energy

New research reveals the top ways Brits are trying to keep a lid on soaring household energy prices

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From going to bed earlier to taking quicker showers and using a slow cooker instead of an oven – GoCompare reveals the measures people are taking to try and save on their energy bills at home

New research from GoCompare Energy has found that 83% of bill payers have seen their energy costs increase since the cost of gas and electricity has gone up exponentially.

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The research, which also asked more than 2100 people how they’re trying to curb costs around the home in light of these increased costs, shows that over two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed have started turning off the lights when they leave a room, making it the top measure people are taking to save money in the home. Other tactics included going to bed earlier, using the tumble dryer less and doing laundry at night.

Of the list of options provided, the top ten ways people are trying to save on their energy costs around the home were:

1Turning off lights when they leave the room                             64%
2Turning off appliances when they’re not being used / in standby mode54%
3Not filling the kettle to the top                             45%
4Washing clothes on a lower heat setting                             39%
5Having quicker showers                             36%
6Changing light bulbs to LED bulbs28%
7No longer using the tumble dryer                             24%
8Making the house more energy efficient                             19%
9Going to bed earlier                             18%
10Using the slow cooker instead of the oven                             17%

Just 10% of those asked said that they weren’t implementing any of the energy saving measures listed in the survey.

Other ways people are looking to save on their energy costs included doing the laundry at night(16%) visiting friends and family more (8%), spending more time in the office (5%), and 5% of people say they’re getting solar panels fitted.

Gareth Kloet, of GoCompare Energy, said on the findings: “With 83% of people feeling the impact of rising energy costs, it’s no wonder that lifestyle habits around the home will have been impacted. Some of these measures will undoubtedly help to keep increased costs to a minimum but there are obviously limits to the changes that people can make.

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“With the warmer weather hopefully on its way, we are now approaching the time of year when people traditionally use less energy, and some people may be feeling like there’s a bit of breathing space before the colder weather sets in again. But it’s important to remember that these habits can only be a good thing longer term – not just when it comes to saving on your bills, but also on the environment.

“If the market does return to some sort of normality and we start to see energy costs decrease, we would absolutely recommend that people continue with some of these changes longer term. Being aware of the way that energy is consumed in the house can only be a good thing and will be important to maintain even after things have improved in the market.”

For some other tips on how to save energy, visit this guide: https://www.gocompare.com/gas-and-electricity/guide/energy-saving-tips/

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Business

Gender pay gap: New research shows Swansea one of the fairest places in UK for women’s pay

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woman wearing white shirt

A new study reveals the UK’s fairest, best and worst places to work as a woman, compared to how much men are paid – with Swansea coming out 4th fairest in the UK.

The research, carried out by www.income-tax.co.uk, used the latest data available from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), to analyse the differences in median annual pay for male and female full-time workers in 321 districts across the UK.

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The district of Arun, in the heart of the country’s south coast, is the most gender-balanced workplace in the UK. On average, men in Arun have an annual income of £26,740, whereas women get £26,694 per year – £40 more than their male counterparts. That represents only a 0.15% pay difference.

Swansea comes in 4th fairest in the UK just behind Sunderland (2nd) and North East Derbyshire (3rd). On average men in Swansea have an annual salary of £28,525, with women earning £163 more a year with an average salary of £28,688.

While most of the places in the top 10 fall behind in terms of the UK’s average gross annual salary of £31,285, except for Stirling, they do make up in gender equality. Male and female wages in these 10 places only vary by up to £500 a year.

#PlaceMale average salary (£)Female average salary (£)Difference male-female av. salaries (£)*How much more men are paid than women (%)*
1Arun26,65426,694-40-0.15
2Sunderland26,63526,593420.16
3North East Derbyshire26,74026,691490.18
4Swansea28,52528,688-163-0.57
5Southend-on-Sea28,95229,185-233-0.80
6Stirling32,25832,722-464-1.44
7Tunbridge Wells27,94227,5244181.50
8Dumfries and Galloway27,20727,627-420-1.54
9Thanet26,44226,0144281.62
10Bedford29,62929,1334961.67

*negative value means women are paid more than men

Top 10 best workplaces for women

The area that inspired Jane Austen to pen some of her most well-known novels is now the best paying place for women to work in compared to men. Females working full-time in East Hampshire earn an average £4,086 more than males.

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Chorley and Conwy are the second and third, respectively, best paid places for women to earn more than men. Here, female full-timers earn almost three thousand pounds more than males.

The two places could not be more different in terms of their economic backgrounds. Historically, Chorley grew most after the Industrial Revolution, host to many important cotton mills, while Conwy is home to one of Kind Edward I’s castles. US Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently visited Chorley for the 2021 G7 Speakers’ summit, which gave the local economy an immediate boost.

#PlaceMale average salary (£)Female average salary (£)Difference female-male av. salaries (£)How much more women are paid than men (%)
1East Hampshire28,08732,1734,08614.55
2Chorley25,28528,2582,97311.76
3Conwy24,63427,4692,83511.51
4Rushcliffe29,60932,7203,11110.51
5Gwynedd25,50127,9902,4899.76
6South Oxfordshire32,86135,9643,1039.44
7Burnley21,48323,4331,9509.08
8North Ayrshire30,76233,1482,3867.76
9Ceredigion27,01628,5801,5645.79
10Carmarthenshire28,30029,5481,2484.41

Top 10 worst workplaces for women

At the opposite extremity of the gender pay gap is South Derbyshire – by far the worst offender. While deemed as one of the best places to live in England, women here only get about half of what men are paid. The data from the ONS suggests that, while men’s yearly salaries average to £33,967, women in South Derbyshire earn only £17,484. This is in high contrast to its county fellow North East Derbyshire, mentioned earlier, which ranks as the third fairest-paying place in the UK for both men and women.

As charming as its landscapes may be, Mole Valley paints a grim picture when it comes to gender equality in the workplace. Surprisingly, according to income-tax.co.uk, Mole Valley, is the UK’s eighth best paid place to work in, yet it fails to pay women anywhere near as much as men. While male full-timers rake in £49,222 per year on average, women in this Surrey district get 40.52% less.

The stunning island chain of Outer Hebrides on the north west coast of Scotland, also known as the Western Isles or Na h-Eileanan Siar in Scottish Gaelic, trails right behind as the third worst for gender pay equality. Women get around a third less than men.

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With only 29,000 living in Outer Hebrides, the islands rely heavily on tourism. Attracting roughly 219,000 visitors every year, tourism directly supports around a thousand jobs and hundreds of local businesses on the islands. Unfortunately, men rip most of the benefits, 38.36% more than women, to be precise. The average woman working in Outer Hebrides earns £21,518 a year, whereas men have an annual income of £34,911.

#PlaceMale average salary (£)Female average salary (£)Difference male-female av. salaries (£)How much more men are paid than women (%)
1South Derbyshire33,96717,48416,48348.53
2Mole Valley49,22229,27619,94640.52
3Na h-Eileanan Siar34,91121,51813,39338.36
4Dartford43,00926,76516,24437.77
5Erewash32,56820,80711,76136.11
6Redditch37,02324,10512,91834.89
7Gosport39,23725,79713,44034.25
8North Hertfordshire38,94825,64913,29934.15
9Rugby42,54328,36514,17833.33
10East Cambridgeshire33,61122,44811,16333.21

A spokesperson for income-tax.co.uk commented on the findings: “Our research suggests that some of the fairest employers are not necessarily the richest. Quite the opposite, in fact – districts with high-paying jobs in general tend to pay women much less.

“The difference in wages for males and females in Mole Valley is quite remarkable. Considering they can afford to pay men almost 50k a year, it is surprising that they slash 20k for women working there.

“Arun, Sunderland and North East Derbyshire were a nice surprise and employers operating there should get more credit for offering virtually equal pay for men and women. It is very fitting that women in East Hampshire, home to Jane Austen in her last eight prolific years, would earn nearly 15% more than men – the biggest leap of all.”

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Carmarthenshire

Carmarthenshire has fifth highest energy bills in UK according to new data

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Carmarthenshire will be amongst the worst hit by soaring energy costs, as research reveals it has one of the highest energy bills in the whole of the UK.

Households in Carmarthenshire pay £958 to their energy bills every year – over £200 more than the average UK bill (£757) and over £500 more than the UK area with the cheapest bills: Tower Hamlets in London.

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The research, by insurance experts A-Plan Insurance used new ONS data to analyse the energy bills in every local authority in England and Wales, to discover which region had the highest energy bills, and would be worst affected by the 54% increase in energy bills in April.

The Isles of Scilly in Cornwall had the most expensive energy bills, coming in at an average of £1,227.

Ceredigion in Wales has the UK’s second-highest bills (£1,092), and Welsh areas such as Gwynedd (£1,016), Carmarthenshire (£958) and Powys (£953) also dominate the UK’s top ten most expensive areas for energy.

At the other end of the scale, Tower Hamlets in London enjoys the UK’s lowest energy bills, with residents paying just £423 a year towards energy – over £300 less than the UK average.

Newham in London is the UK’s second cheapest area for energy bills, with households paying £458 a year for their energy. The City of London, Hackney and Southwark also have significantly cheaper energy bills than the rest of the nation.

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A spokesperson for A-Plan Insurance commented on the findings: “Energy bills are already sky-high and with bills soaring by a predicted £600 in Spring, it is those homes which are least energy efficient which will suffer the most from rising bills, as escaping heat will mean that your heating system works harder to compensate for the lack of warmth, costing you more.

“The government is advocating heat pumps as a solution to soaring energy bills, but these will not be effective without proper floor insulation – which 65 percent of homes in the UK currently lack. While households can use some hacks to insulate their homes better, for example, buying inexpensive pipe insulation from a DIY store, unless something serious is done about the energy crisis, we will see many more households driven into poverty.

“Although the government is introducing an ‘Energy Bills Rebate’ where energy customers will have £200 knocked off their bills, this functions as more of a ‘loan’ or a ‘buy now pay later scheme’, according to Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, who points out that families will have to pay back the loan in equal instalments of £40 a year.

“Some energy suppliers offer hardship funds, where you can get up to £750 off your energy bills if you are living in fuel poverty, so if you are struggling, it’s worth checking if your supplier offers this”

UK’s most expensive areas for energy bills  

UK area  Rank  Average annual energy bill (£) 
Isles of Scilly 1,227 
Ceredigion 1,092 
Eden 1,056 
Gwynedd 1,016 
Carmarthenshire 958 
Powys 953 
Ryedale 939 
Pendle 937 
Derbyshire Dales 936 
Richmondshire 10 933 
UK average    757 

UK’s cheapest areas for energy bills  

UK area  Rank  Average annual energy bill (£)  
Tower Hamlets 423 
Newham 458 
City of London 474 
Hackney 486 
Southwark 504 
Islington 512 
Greenwich 527 
Dartford 539 
Lewisham 555 
Brent 10 556 
UK average    757 

(Lead image: Getty)

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