Make your holiday pounds go further

It won’t stop raining. We’re officailly in a double-dip recession. The Government seems bent on fiasco after fiasco (does anyone really have House of Lords reform at the top of their list of things to do?). The stock market is plummeting. Greece is imploding and France has become the latest country to reject austerity.It’s all doom and gloom. Or is it? The one bright spot, for us consumers if not for exporters, is the strength of the pound

In the wake of the financial crisis and and first recession, the pound dropped in value against other major currencies like the dollar and euro, making travelling abroad much more expensive. However the current shenanigans in France and Greece has weakened the euro across the board, and in spite of some poor growth figures for the UK economy, the pound has gained several euro-cents over the last month or so.

The pound is currently trading at a 22-month high of €1.244 (or 80.32 to the euro), a level not seen since the financial crisis of autumn 2008

So clearly Europe is becoming an attractive travel prospect again

But it’s not just the Euro that sterling has gained against. Other countries in Europe, like us, have kept their own currency and sterling is dong pretty well against them too. And further afield….

NMTBP brings you 10 countries where your pound now goes further than last year

1. Iceland

Iceland’s economy has had a tough time of late and its currency is still falling – the pound has gained 9.3pc over the past year. The top tourist attraction in Iceland si the Blue Lagoon spa where you can bathe in a shallow, opaque, blue-green lagoon amid a jet-black lava field while smearing white silica mud all over yourself. The lagoon was artificially created from pumped-in seawater and runoff from a geothermal power plant — not exactly a natural wonder, but it could make you feel like one!

2. Hungary

The pound has gained 18.5pc against the Hungarian forint over the past year. Visit Buda and Pest, crusie down the danube or, for something different don your leathers and head for Alsóörs on the north-eastern shores of Hungary’s Lake Balaton for the annual Harley Davidson Festival in June. Motorcycle fans go all out with a procession of Harleys, barrel-rolling contests, stunt shows and arm wrestling

3. Turkey

In Turkey, meanwhile, you’ll  find your money going 14.6pc further than last year. And while Hungary ahs two cities spanning a great river, Istanbul spans two great rivers and two continents. Breakfast in Europe and have lunch in Asia. Or go in June and experience the Istanbul Shopping Festival, an annual 20-day extravaganza spread throughout the city, involving not only fashion shows and shopping events but also concerts, games, parties…

4. Poland

Good news for England fans who want a Polish base for this summer’s Euros. they’ll find their pounds buying 12pc more of the local currency, the zloty. If you fancy something different then try Krakow, where the city’s historic Jewish district, Kazimierz, hosts the Jewish Culture Festival every year in June and July. Synagogues, cafes and outdoor venues celebrate the richness of Jewish culture, music and song. Eminent kantors are invited from cities as far flung as Moscow, London and Tel-Aviv.Music is the essence of the festival and street musicians get the crowds’ toes tapping to klezmer melodies, while singers intone infectious Yiddish tunes. The festival traditionally draws to a close in the grand finale concert in Szeroka Street

5. Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, sterling has appreciated by 9.5pc against the koruna over the past year. If you’re quick you can catch this years Czech Beer Festival (May 17 - June 2). It gathers top and lesser-known national breweries at the Prague Exhibition Grounds in Holešovice. Each tent features its own entertainment stage and, from Pilsner to Budvar and Staropramen, beers are reassuringly served in glass pitchers.Featuring its own currency, the Tolar, which can be bought at your table, several catering companies and hundreds of waiters in traditional costumes, the festival promises no queues, speedy service and great atmosphere. Or go in September to the South Moravia region for the annual Pálava Vine Harvest and Wine Festival (there’s a theme here!), celebrated all around Mikulov

6. Romania

As for Romania – against its currency, the leu, sterling is 14.5pc stronger. Bucharest is a beautiful city, but for motor racing enthusiasts October is the month to visit for the Bucharest Grand Prix, that sees driftracing champions from across Europe put foot to pedal. It all kicks off with a parade through downtown Bucharest on the Friday night, following by the practice (from 12pm) and qualifying races (from 6pm) on Saturday. Sunday is devoted to the final races, which last all day. The main event begins on Sunday evening before the impressively-lit Palace of Parliament

And if you want to venture further afield…

7. Brazil

The pound has gained 14.8pc in value against the Brazilian currency, the real, over the past year. There’s far too much to do even in an extended holiday and it’s too late for Carnival this year, but what about sampling Barretos in August, where around 800,000 people come each year for the Brazilian Rodeo, Festa do Peão, with competitors from as far afield as Italy and China. Along with rodeo competitions, the busy 11-day programme includes spectacular displays and concerts

8. India

Against the Indian rupee, the pound has gained 14.2pc over the past year. again tons to do and see. For something bizarre, even by Indian standards, why not experience Bastille Day, July 14,  in Francophile town Pondicherry, on India’s south-eastern coast, where it’s celebrated with plenty of French pomp and pageantry. A parade hits the streets with retired soldiers in war finery singing French and Indian national anthems, while French flags adorn houses.The history of modern Pondicherry starts with the arrival of the French in 1673, who ruled for most of the next 281 years

9. South Africa

In South Africa, tourists from the UK will find their money going 12.4pc further than a year ago. Cape Town is a must as is the annual Stellenbosch Wine Festival, the Cape region’s premier wine event, that attracts thousands of local and international visitors every July. In addition to more than 500 varieties of wine to taste and lots of food, the festival features competitions and children’s activities. Or in August take in Northam’s Oppikoppi Farm  Sexy. Crooked. Teeth Festival, South africa’s answer to Glastonbury, but with better weather. The remit is splendidly simple - no cover bands and no pop bands, this is a rock music festival

10. Mexico

Fly to Mexico and find your money buying 9.8pc more pesos than last year. Every September, the city of Guadalajara hosts the International Mariachi and Charrería Festival. The packed programme features Catholic masses accompanied by mariachis in the Guadalajara Cathedral, a parade featuring floats of mariachi groups and folk ballet artists, mariachi competitions at the Benito Juárez theatre, rodeos, art exhibitions and plenty of food and drink. Jalisco is considered to be the cultural capital for this sweet music. Mariachi bands serenade visitors from all over the world

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May 10, 2012

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