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How to salvage your foreign holiday

By Priya Nair
February 19, 2016 16:28 IST
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Foreign tripUsually, the bigger tour operators offer packages at the same rates that you booked, even if the rupee declines between the time you make the booking and the date of travel.

With summer vacations a couple of months away, many are probably planning their holidays now. You look at the weather, options for sight-seeing and other leisure activities, shopping, ease of travel, etc.

You should also look at how the currencies of countries you are planning to visit have performed against the rupee.

Since January 1, the rupee has fallen by 3.1 per cent against the American dollar, by 6.6 per cent against the euro, by 4.7 per cent against the Singapore dollar, by 6.5 per cent against the Malaysian ringgit, by 3.4 per cent against the UAE dirham, by 0.6 per cent against the pound and by 0.5 per cent against the South African rand.

And has gained by 0.6 per cent against the Australian dollar and by 6.4 per cent against the Russian ruble.

With its weakening against major currencies like the US dollar and euro, will you have to increase your budget as air fares and hotel rates rise?

If you have already booked your package, what can you do to reduce expenses during the trip?

If you need to change your destination, will you have to incur additional costs?

Most holiday packages include air fares, accommodation and local transfers.

Usually, the bigger tour operators offer packages at the same rates that you booked, even if the rupee declines between the time you make the booking and the date of travel.

What will increase is the cost of food, sight-seeing, shopping or any extra activities you do on your own.

Neelu Singh, Director at, says: "Most people usually make foreign travel plans well in advance.

"A large number of Indian travellers looking to travel this summer have already booked their packages, which include air fare, hotels and sight-seeing.

"There might be a slight increase in shopping prices."

Karan Anand, head of relationships at Cox & Kings, says, "There is a certain minimum outlay of money for any foreign trip, especially for families.

"Trip prices to the US, for example, have not increased substantially this year, despite the rupee depreciating against the dollar."

This is partly because the price of an airline ticket has stabilised at lower levels than last year.

"Looking at it from that point of view, trips to destinations such as Europe, West Asia, Australia, Southeast Asia and Africa are less expensive as the rupee has been quite firm against their currencies year-on-year in addition to lower airfares," he adds.

Change in destination?

America and Europe continue to be favourites among Indian travellers, especially among those opting for high-end packages. Other favourites include Southeast Asia (Bali, Thailand, Singapore).

There has been an increase in enquiries for trips to Russia, Greece and Turkey this year, according Ranjeet Oak, chief business officer at

Anand says he has seen demand for trips to China, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Amit Agarwal, senior marketing manager for India & Southeast Asia at, says, "Holidays are being cut short, short-haul destinations are being preferred and people are opting for non-dollar destinations such as Sri Lanka, Dubai, Bali and Phuket or sticking to domestic destinations such as Kashmir, Kerala and Goa.

The fluctuating rupee has shifted focus on destinations where currencies are largely stable and fit into the budget of tourists."

Book in advance, opt for group tours

People planning to take international trips should start booking in advance, as further falls in the rupee can increase air fare costs, impacting the overall travel budget.

"People can travel in groups rather than customised packages to save approximately 30 per cent of the travel cost," says Singh.

It is safer to book your package 60-75 days before the day of travel.

Not only do you get enough time to plan the visa and other formalities, you can also get additional discounts, says Oak.

"Choose a tour operator who offers the rates in rupee rather than in a foreign currency, as this will avoid uncertainty for travellers. Customers can be sure of how much they are paying," he adds.

Anand agrees that booking the package at least three months in advance can save you up to 25 per cent on the total holiday cost.

Trade down on accommodation

Instead of staying in a four-star property, opt for a good hotel which might not be in the centre of the city but a bit away.

Public transport is well laid out in Europe and commuting is not difficult, says Anand.

Most tour operators offer accommodation to suit different budgets, from standard to five-star rooms.

However, if you have already booked a package, changing the accommodation preference might involve charges, says Oak.

You can also book the activities you want to do in advance, to save on cost. For instance, if you want to travel within a city in Europe during your free day, you can book a bus pass instead of spending on taxis.

These passes can be booked in advance if you are sure of the dates.

Penny pinching tips

In places like Europe, buying packaged water or food can be expensive.

Travellers are advised to carry food or at least snacks if you get hungry between meals.

It is also advisable to fill your water bottles in your hotel rooms, as tap water is clean and bottled water is expensive, says Oak.

Similarly, shopping in the local markets rather than shops frequented by tourists and eating at eateries preferred by locals can also help save money.

For European holidays, rail travel is also a great value proposition, where you can travel overnight and avoid hotel costs.

So are cruise options where multiple destinations are on offer, with all-inclusive dining and entertainment options, without the tension and costs of check-in and check-out or transfers, etc, says Rajeev Kale, chief operating officer at Thomas Cook India.

"Passes like the Swiss Pass offer inbuilt deals, including local transport, discounts to mountain excursions, etc, and city sightseeing by free hop-on-hop-off tours."

You can also opt to stay in apartments or youth hostels.

Most European youth hostels are ideally located, in or around the centre of the city.

"A unique opportunity is a stay-on-the-way on a transit destination. We also foresee strong demand for self-drive holidays and van tours this summer," says Kale.

Planning early helps

Kaksha Desai, who works for a life insurance company, is planning a trip to Italy in May. The 15-day trip will cover four cities.

Desai booked her airline tickets and accommodation in January. The total cost is approximately Rs 600,000 and she estimates she saved Rs 50,000-70,000 by booking three to four months in advance.

Desai is prepared to pay more than she had planned for the expenses she will incur during the trip because the rupee is weak.

To cut costs she plans to avoid eating out by carrying packed food, use more of public transport and avoid shopping.

She has booked apartments in central locations, as these are cheaper than hotel rooms and travelling around the city will be easier.

They also offer facilities to cook your own food.

"I will carry more cash than I had planned to for expenses that will crop up during the trip. I will use travel cards," says Desai.

The image is used for representational purpose only. Photograph: Rediff Archives

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Priya Nair in Mumbai
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