Thursday, 31 May 2012

The best of Paphos for Families

The Cypriot destination of Paphos has long been a popular destination for British holidaymakers and ex-pats. It is easy to see why it is a favoured destination with its mixture of home comforts and also rich history.

For those wishing to enjoy a relaxing holiday, the area around Paphos is home to 27 beaches which are open to the public with 12 beaches being awarded blue flag status. It is also a hugely popular area for snorkelling and scuba diving with Cydive in the centre of the town offering a wide variety of scuba diving options.

Paphos is also home to four excellent golf courses with Aphrodite Hills being the most well-known. Aphrodite Hills features an 18 hole championship quality course, a large clubhouse and restaurant as well as substantial practice facilities. Other well know courses in the area include The Elea Golf Club, The Secret Valley Golf Club and Minthis Hills Golf Club which all offer a day’s golf of good quality at reasonable prices.

Whether you are staying on an all-inclusive holiday or self-catering, a true highlight of your holiday will be to sample the local cuisine. The style of food is a melting pot of Greek, Turkish Armenian, Lebanese, Syrian, Italian styles with popular dishes often involving meze’s fresh seafood, halloumi, olives and lamb cooked over an open flame. You need to make sure you leave plenty of room as Cypriot dinners are known for their legendary portions!

For families, a popular activity is a trip to the Paphos Aphrodite Water Park which is the largest facility of its type in Cyprus. It is set over 35,000sq metres and features a wide variety of slides, pools, sun loungers and catering facilities to make it a full day out. Adult prices are €29 per person with under 11 tickets costing €26 per person. Another popular daytime activity is a trip to Paphos Karting Centre. Located just to the north of the town, the facility is one of the finest on the island and has karts for all ages from the beginners to ultra-competitive dads!

One thing to consider before travelling to Cyprus is the heat. For families it may be wise to go in the relatively cooler months of May and June compared with July and August as it can be extremely hot during these months!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Review of Hilton Sharm Waterfalls Resort, Sharm el Sheikh

On 2nd May Alihoco client Emma Alcock travelled to Sharm el Sheikh with her partner Andrew for a week’s holiday at Hilton Sharm Waterfalls Resort. Emma kindly agreed to offer her feedback on the holiday once she got back to England (and reality!) and for it to be featured on our blog.

Hi Emma, 
What was your overall impression of Hilton Sharm Waterfalls Resort?
Andrew and I were really impressed with the hotel and the positive reviews from TripAdvisor were accurate about the hotel and a useful tool when booking the holiday. Upon arrival at the hotel the check in process was stress free and we were pleased with how clean the rooms were and the king size beds! The bathrooms were also very clean and modern and they remained this way throughout our week at the hotel.
This holiday was also our first holiday on an all inclusive basis and we were keen to sample the different restaurants at the hotel. We were pleased that there was some variety at the hotel as we could have become a bit bored of the food at La Cascade Buffet. We particularly enjoyed dining at Verdi Bistro and it was nice to feel like you were going out for a proper meal. The provision of drinks was also excellent and it was nice to have cocktails as part of an all inclusive package.
The hotel is set in very nice grounds which are kept beautifully and the hotel has a very nice pool and two small beaches. We spent most of our time by the pool as Andrew gets grumpy with the sand!

Did you explore the local area whilst you were on holiday?
 We took two trips, one to Naama Bay and Sharm Old Market which can be arranged with the hotel via a mini bus service for around £1 per person. We much preferred Sharm Old Market to Naama Bay as it was more laid back compared with Naama Bay which was a bit intense. We were looking for a chill out holiday and spent the majority of the holiday sunbathing, eating and drinking!

Do you have any tips to offer to other people thinking of going to Sharm el Sheikh?
I would say that it is definitely worth visiting Sharm and there is no need to be put off by the recent elections and trouble in the country. We were glad that we did some research before we left and chose a hotel with a variety of dining options and one that has a reputation for being clean and well staffed.

Would you stay at Hilton Sharm Waterfalls Resort again?
I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending the hotel to family and friends and we would be very happy to stay there again. We do like travelling to different places each year and we may decide upon Sharm el Sheikh again in a few years rather than deciding to travel there again next year. 

Thanks Emma :-) 

Friday, 25 May 2012

Holiday exchange rate 'postcode lottery'

A survey by Which? has found that there are wide variations in the rate of exchange dependent on which part of the country you live in.

The worst offenders were Thomas Cook and the Post Office with some differences as much as £25 on a transaction of £500 into Euros. The report focused on exchange rates in 10 locations across the UK including Birmingham, London, Glasgow and Norwich with Thomas Cook, the Post Office, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda being the focus of the survey.

The main differences found were when Which? was offered €585 by Thomas Cook in Sheffield but were then offered €554 at Thomas Cook in Manchester. When calculating the difference between Post Office branches Which? was offered €578.50 at branches in London and Glasgow but the amount fell to €565 in Birmingham.

When questioned about the differences, Thomas Cook and the Post Office both said that they have flexible rates in order to compete (or not) with local competition.

M&S were the only operated to offer standard rates nationwide whilst Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda were found to have small differences across its stores.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

BA looks to accelerate China expansion

Willie Walsh has announced that he expects to treble the number of Chinese destinations that his airline serves over the next ten years. The airline currently serves only Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong as destinations in China and Walsh plans to grow to 'eight to ten cities.'

He went on to add that the reason the airline had not expanded quicker was due to a lack of slots at Heathrow rather than due to regulation in China.

The reasons for purchasing BMI now seem to be clearer with the knockdown price for BMI coming with an additional 42 slots at Heathrow. The new slots will allow long haul flights from Heathrow by BA to catch up with Air France KLM who now offer nine destinations in China.

It seems like this may be a shrewd move as the Chinese economy is forecast to grow by 8.2% this year.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Does sunny weather make you want to stay at home or go on holiday?

Like many, I enjoyed a barbeque in my back garden last in order to take advantage of this week’s surprisingly good weather. At this point my girlfriend said ‘this weather make me want to go on holiday’ to which I replied (in a typically grumpy fashion), ‘why would you want to go on holiday, when the weather here is so good?’

At Alihoco we have noticed a rise in holiday bookings this week which may go to explain how most people think when booking holidays in that warm weather brings on our appetite for escaping to sunnier climes. Maybe it makes us looser with our wallets because we are all in a better mood because of the better weather or maybe it is an indication that summer is here once our own weather gets better. What do you think, do you consider booking a holiday when it is warm or at colder times of the year? 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Damian Green has British Rail moment over 'wrong type of wind'

No, not that type of wind either. Britains embattled Immigration Minister Damian Green today faced further ridicule after blaming delays on the way that the wind blows. Seeking to deflect away from the lack of staff at border checks Green said delays:

"Will depend on the wind, over which, with the best will in the world, airlines and the Border Force don't have the control."

Perhaps the Immigration Minister should try more common sense and less sarcasm at such an unpopular time for the government. His opinion is completely contrary to Colin Matthews, the BAA chief executive who believes that passengers have been noticing delays since summer 2010, from 6th May onwards perhaps?

Colin Matthews said: "We've seen a steady deterioration over the last two years. I've the impression that the Border Force need to develop their capability in planning."

Damian Green has sought to solve the problem by fast tracking 70 additional staff at Heathrow to deal with the current mess yet an additional 70 is paltry compared with 15% of staff cuts across the total number of Border Force staff made since the summer of 2010

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Try Ibiza for your perfect summer holiday

The Balearic island of Ibiza is known best for being the centre of the world for the wildest parties and biggest night clubs but it also offers much more than this for people of all ages. 

The island is inundated with flights from the UK in the summer months and a flight time of 2.5 hours and 1 hour time zone means that you can be on the beach by early afternoon after departing the UK on a morning flight.

Despite being only 45km in length and 25km wide Ibiza is large enough to not notice the nightclubs (if you are trying to avoid them) and small enough to visit any of the 50 beaches with a hire car. For those who did not want to venture further afield whilst on holiday there are also a wide variety of family hotels in child friendly resorts such as Cala Llonga and Santa Eulalia which also have the option of all inclusive stays so that you don’t need to worry about evening expenditure.

For those feeling more adventurous and active, the Ibizan Government has invested in Cicloturismo Ibiza. The scheme offers road and off routes around the island for cyclists of all abilities, although this is probably advisable in the cooler months of April and early May when the roads are quiet and you can hear your tyres hum underneath you. The main hub for hire bicycles is Kandani located in Santa Eulalia. 

For those looking for a more sedate form of exercise away from the beach, the island also has a single golf club called Golf de Ibiza which offers 27 holes of golf to suit all abilities. Green fees are around €90 per player including a buggy with the complex open all year round.

Ibiza can also offer the perfect retreat for those wishing to go on a spiritual holiday and to incorporate yoga as part of a break in the sunshine. Yoga specialists such as Ibiza Yoga operate such trips to the north of the island located near Benirras beach which is a must place to visit for anyone traveling to the island.

Located 45 minutes by boat is the stunning island of Formentera which is the perfect day trip to incorporate aquamarine waters and sandy beaches. It is worth noting that Formentera is rather exposed and worth taking a parasol due to the midday sun and lack of shade! There are also several restaurants on the island to have a nice meal whilst the mad dogs stay out in the sun.

Ibiza will remain as the focal point for the world’s lovers of dance music but it is worth a try sample some of its other secrets.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

All inclusive holidays: Heaven or hell?

When it comes to booking a holiday, is your idea of heaven sitting by the pool and not having to worry about a thing or does the idea of a holiday based in one place seem like your idea of hell? 

All inclusive holidays have been in the news recently and the majority of the articles sought to illustrate how these types of holidays cause damage to the community outside of the hotels walls. Prominent travel writer Simon Calder has been quoted as saying that all inclusive holidays are the "the devil's work” and are destroying communities.

Simon Calder is entitled to his opinion but people do have the right to choose what type of holiday they go on. Demand for all inclusive holidays has soared in recent years as families try to budget for a holiday and travelling on an all inclusive basis allows people to do this whilst also allowing people to relax away from stressful jobs at home. 

It could be argued that the rise in all inclusive holidays is due to marketing from travel companies swaying consumers to go on all inclusive holidays but I would argue that it is the consumer’s demand which has lead to the rise in this type of holiday.  I am also confident that First Choice would have been brave enough to launch an all inclusive only model on a hunch that all inclusive holidays would account for 50% of holidays taken by British tourists. 

Although I enjoy watching Simon Calder on Saturday morning television and he is paid to give his personal opinion, I think that he has never been inclined to take an all inclusive holiday in the same way that some people may never be inclined to back pack around Cambodia. Surely there must never be a right or wrong way to take a holiday and all that matters is that the person who booked the holiday gets the experience that they would like from it?

Back to the opening question, do you never take all inclusive holidays so that you can explore the local area during day and night time or do you always take them safe in the knowledge that you know what you are getting during your holiday? 

What we must remember is - the choice is yours! I hope that everyone enjoys their holidays this year if you are lucky enough to be going away.