Don't fall victim to thieves on your holiday
I have just booked my first holiday with my new grandson – a villa in Corfu in September. All my children will be joining us, bringing back memories of sunlit family holidays 30 years ago. I can't wait.
But, sadly, holidays these days can have their darker side, too. A friend and her husband Paul have just returned from a cruise to the Far East.The ship docked in Vietnam, and they began to walk together into Ho Chi Minh City. Paul was walking on the pavement, carrying a small bag, when a moped mounted the pavement; the rider grabbed his bag and disappeared with it.
The cash was insured, the credit cards were secure without his PIN, but his beloved sketchbook filled with memories of previous holidays was irreplaceable, as was the special Mont Blanc pencil he used for drawing.
When they returned to the ship, an American passenger told them she had been robbed in similar circumstances – her bag was snatched by a passing cyclist.
Almost the same thing happened to me a couple of years ago in Spain. Wandering through a little coastal town in the sun, I paused and sat down to admire some yachts bobbing in the sapphire-blue water. I put my handbag down beside me on a seat and a man ran silently past my back, swiped the bag and ran on. I tried to set off in pursuit but couldn't keep up.
Fortunately, I had been warned about robberies and had taken my keys and wallet out of it, so I only lost the bag itself. But theft is always a brutal shock, and for my friend Paul the loss of his precious sketchbook wrecked his holiday.
So piece of advice number one, if you are wandering around a town, it may be safer to put your valuables in various pockets, or stash them into one of those bumbags you can strap around your waist and hide out of sight.
Piece of advice number two is for you if you suffer, as I do, from holiday madness. I don't know why, but all my inhibitions disappear when I leave British territorial waters, and I fall for the most unlikely temptations. Shoes, jackets, and the occasional pretty necklace call to me seductively from shop windows, and I invariably crumble.
I try to stay sensible and haggle over the price and I always pay by credit card. Then when I get home and examine my credit card bills, I discover the ransom I have to pay in return for my madness – the huge extra charge the credit card companies impose upon you when you buy goods abroad. So be prepared.
Your moment of holiday madness may turn out to be even more expensive than you feared. One answer is, of course, to take travellers' cheques. They are safe, and don't incur wild extra charges, but not everywhere accepts them. I admit that I usually forget to order them in time, so I take some sterling with me instead. Not huge amounts, because I get nervous carrying loads of cash.
For the same reason, I worry about carrying a debit card, fearing that it could fall into the hands of a robber. Some seasoned travellers open a special pre-paid travel card or apply for those credit cards that charge no foreign exchange levy or extra fees at foreign ATMs – but that takes more concentrated effort than I can muster.
So this September I will invest in a bumbag and take with me a couple of credit cards, and a little cash to cover emergencies. Whatever it costs me, it will be worth it. For I know that I will come back with a treasure beyond price, that no robber or exorbitant rate of exchange could take from me. One golden week spent with my children and my baby grandson.
Esther Rantzen is a renowned broadcaster and founder of ChildLine. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Issued by a bank as part of a current account and, in a nutshell, serves as electronic cash. Unlike a credit or charge card, where you get an interest-free period before you have to settle the bill, the funds spent on a debit card are withdrawn immediately from your current account. Unless you’ve arranged an overdraft, if you don’t have the cash in the account, you can’t spend it.
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.