Mallorca! Therein lies the prospect of miles of unspoilt beaches, golden sunsets, and a brief reprieve from the so-called weather we Brits oftentimes endure. Get away for a week or two, and you can come back feeling refreshed, relaxed, and a shade or three less pale. Who wouldn’t want that?
Of course, though escaping the daily rat-race is not as complex as (for instance) filling out a tax return, (after all, you just book a package with Alcudia Holidays, right?) it is not without its challenges. For instance, where do you change currencies? How do you get the best exchange rate?
To address these questions (and more!) I have taken the liberty of compiling some answers below. Take heed, oh pursuer of blue oceans and sand, and enjoy Mallorca!
1. When should you change currencies?
The answer to this question can be summed up in two brief phrases, together adding up to a simple nine words: “Not at the airport” and “As soon as possible.” Perhaps I should elaborate.
Changing currencies at the airport is a bad move because, like those people that sell cans of coke at music festivals for £4, bureaus de change at airports know they’ve got you right where they want you, and they’re prepared to make you pay a premium. Get your euros there, and you could pay significantly over the odds, and end up with a much less impressive sum in your pocket. Consider yourself fair-warned!
Second of all, get your mitts on those lovely lovely euros as soon as possible (or at least thinking about it), and you’re less at the mercy of whatever rate is available at the last minute. Hurrah! For instance, if you change currencies just a week before catching your plane, you really have little choice but to accept the euro total offered there and then.
On the other hand, find out where the rate is three or even six months in advance, and you can ask: “Is this a low rate? Could I do better?” After all, even a one cent difference can make a big difference in the euro total you receive.
2. Where should you change currencies?
This question is a bit more tough to answer, given that exchange rates can change a lot from service to service and day to day. Your best bet is to click on Google, and type in “bureau de change” into the search engine. If the programmers at Silicon Valley are worth their salaries, you should then get a list of foreign exchange services in your local area.
Give them a call, telling them what currency you’re changing and what amount, and ask who will provide the highest euro total when all is said and done. Of course, you need to call a few places in quick succession to do this, because the exchange rates are changing all the time, but it really is the best way to find out who can provide you the best euro rate.
3. What pitfalls should you look out for?
Commission is the big one. You don’t want to be paying it. Bureau de changes make their money by taking the interbank exchange rate and offering you a rate below that, so that they themselves take the difference. For instance, if the euro is at 1.20 and you get 1.18, that means the bureau de change is taking 2 cents from you. This is normal practice. Commission though is when you charged on top of this, which is absolutely outrageous and should be avoided like George Osborne avoids pasties.
4. Are there alternatives?
You could of course use your debit card to pay for things in Mallorca. Oftentimes though, banks including NatWest and Santander charge a £1.50 fee every time you buy something in another country. Furthermore, they also charge you to withdraw cash from a machine. That can quickly add up!
There is also a similar predicament regarding credit cards. Most credit cards charge 3.0% when you use them abroad, which is equivalent to the rates you might get at a bank. Hence, although they are convenient, they can be costly too.