We all know about big baggage fees and currency exchange rates but what other sneaky travel expenses should you be wary of?
Thanks to Brexit those pesky roaming charges are back, and don’t forget about coughing up for a pricey PCR test.
To help you not fall into common travel traps, we’ve compiled a handy list of hidden costs and how to get around them.
Read on to get started.
The hidden costs: As has always been the case, almost no British travel insurance policies cover destinations to which the Foreign Office currently discourages non-essential travel – and, right now, that surprisingly includes many amber-list destinations, including Italy.
Also beware that while most policies do now offer coverage for emergency Covid-related medical expenses or alterations demanded by a positive test result, very few insure customers against cancellation costs due to lockdowns or changes in Foreign Office advice.
The solution: Recent research by the consumer body Which? found two policies – the HSBC Select and Cover and the Barclays Travel Pack – offering travellers ‘complete’ cover.
The big PCR fail
The hidden costs: Trips abroad currently demand at least one pricey PCR test and often more. ‘Not only do travellers face paying lots of money,’ says Which? travel editor Rory Boland, ‘but they are frequently let down by delayed or missing results.’
The solution: Don’t just choose the cheapest firm, warns Boland – some have poor test-delivery track records that risk leaving you quarantining for longer or unable to fly.
‘Several large tour operators or airlines subsidise tests or provide discount codes,’ he says. ‘Otherwise, look for those who offer a refund and let you rebook for free should a test not be returned on time – and double-check that the price listed is actually the final one you’ll pay.’
Car hire horrors
The hidden costs: Various factors, such as new Covid-cleaning costs and reduced fleets leading to vehicle shortages, have seen global car-hire prices soar.
A survey by iCarhireinsurance.com estimates European rates to have risen 40 per cent on average from 2019 – two-week prices above £2,000 are common this month in the likes of Portugal and Greece according to Holidayautos.com.
The solution: Try to book well in advance (selecting options with free cancellation to mitigate against potential upheaval) after searching for the lowest rates on price-comparison sites boasting big databases.
Skyscanner, for instance, scrutinises more than a thousand options.
Roam free? Not now
The hidden costs: Post-Brexit, two mobile networks have announced the reintroduction of mobile roaming charges for customers travelling in the EU – despite previously pledging they wouldn’t.
EE customers who joined or upgraded their contracts after July 7 will pay £2 a day to use their tariff, new or upgrading Vodafone users face the same fee from January 6.
The solution: Beyond switching to the likes of Three or O2, Boland suggests seeking out a suitable sim-only deal.
‘There are also ways to reduce your data usage abroad,’ he continues, ‘such as only using wifi, or downloading content like music and films before travel.’
Penalising debit cards
The hidden costs: Recently, eco-friendly car-hire firm Green Motion was called out on Twitter for charging an additional £170 fee after a traveller paid by debit card, rather than credit card.
Although the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012 try to prohibit such penalties, their wording can be ambiguous. In its defence, Green Motion does also outline this penalty fee in its booking small print.
The solution: It pays to research new companies. Although mainly for claims of unjustified damage charges, Green Motion has repeatedly earned bad press and scores only 3.2 out of five on Trustpilot.
The direct dodge
The hidden costs: Large hotel booking platforms typically charge property owners 15-20% for every room purchased via their site, according to Which? research.
And much of that cost is passed along to the customer. ‘UK travellers are paying up to 12% more for stays when booking this way,’ says Boland.
The solution: Call the hotel direct. ‘You’ll be helping B&B and guesthouse owners who have had a tough year to make more money,’ says Boland, ‘and you’ll usually get an improved rate to boot.’
The Which? travel pages include airline, hotel and comparison-website recommendations, plus booking advice and product reviews.
If you want more tips and tricks on saving money, as well as chat about cash and alerts on deals and discounts, join our Facebook Group, Money Pot.
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