Consumer series. Joe Crowley checks out a hotel in Turkey dubbed 'the worst hotel ever', while Angela Rippon goes on call with the British consul in the Costa Blanca.
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Right now, I'm prepared to guess that there are millions of you
flicking through those glossy holiday brochures
because it's that time of year again,
when we all decide where we're going to spend our well-earned breaks.
And we all put our trust, and our hard-earned cash,
in the hands of the holiday industry, hoping it delivers on its promise.
But on occasion things can go wrong,
and that can end up turning a dream break into a nightmare.
The doctors said to me, "You've broken it in about eight places."
-And he said, "We're going to have to operate."
-When did you notice your wallet was gone?
-About five o'clock.
Well, I've not got much hope, to tell you the truth.
So, from uncovering the bad...
-Oh, my God.
To highlighting the good.
We're on top of a glacier, but it's adventure that's accessible.
We are the Holiday Hit Squad
and it's our mission to ensure that you avoid all of those
holiday horrors and really get the best out of your annual break.
Coming up on today's programme,
we're on call at the Costa Blanca's Consulate.
-You're 19 and you're going to be stranded in Spain.
It's knives and forks at the ready, as Joe
and I do battle to find the best break for foodies...
I don't think I need to say anything about this.
Or away. It really is a fantastic experience
for feeling part of this wonderful city.
And I'll be investigating the confusion that's surrounding
the European Health Insurance Card.
Thousands of holidaymakers are cross about it
because they feel they've been diddled.
But first, I'm checking into another hotel
that's in need of a bit of help.
# Here comes summer
# School is out, oh, happy day... #
It's the thought of our hols to come that keep many of us
going through the long winter months.
So it's all the worse when the time finally comes that,
instead of the accommodation of your dreams...
..you find you're booked into the Heartbreak Hotel.
# Momma told me not to come... #
That's why, throughout the series,
'I've continued my quest to stop the rot...'
Grime and dirt. I've even managed to pick up a live ant on my finger.
'..and raise the game...'
Someone's been a bit ill over there.
'..at some of the hotels that are winding British guests right up.'
-What needs fixing mostly?
-Have you got a bulldozer?
And today, I'm in yet another of our favourite holiday destinations.
With its impressive marinas and hundreds of hotels,
it's hard to believe that Marmaris was once just a small,
quiet fishing village.
Indeed, today, it's one of the most popular resorts in this
part of the Mediterranean coast.
And whether it's all inclusive breaks, time on the beach,
fishing or sailing, people come here in their thousands.
In fact, Marmaris is now the Brits' second favourite holiday
resort in the world,
but it seems not everything about this town is a Turkish delight.
You've been giving the 80-room Seray Forest Hotel a proper pasting.
Towels has holes in, sheets had holes in.
The mattresses were paper thin.
Dirty glasses, dirty cups, dirty plates left on the...landings.
Day in, day out, it's not moved.
It was a nasty, nasty holiday.
I would not recommend this to anyone.
# Tragedy, when the feeling's gone... #
There are dozens of damning online reviews...
calling it filthy, disgusting,
and even the worst hotel ever.
Joe Crowley checking in.
'The hotel's owner wants to improve the reviews,
'so they've invited me to check-in for the night.
'And it doesn't take long to spot things are going wrong.'
A couple of things I thought I'd share with you. In the bathroom,
first of all, down here in the corner,
there's a drain with no cap and a few little nasties in there -
not ideal. And then you've got this shower screen here,
which is...very past its sell by date.
For a start, this whole wooden thing on top seems to just be
resting on that screw there,
which is not good given the whole thing's rotting.
All in all, it's pretty scuzzy.
-'My neighbours, fellow Brits Kay and Rakesh,
'aren't happy either,
'after paying over £1,100 for their week-long stay here.'
-How's it been so far?
-Not too good.
It's not clean. I mean, the cleaners come in
and all she does it brings a mop,
and just mops the bathroom, and not even sweep.
I did a little test.
I had a Pringle, I kept it at a spot,
it was lying there for three days,
and eventually I picked it up again.
-You left a solitary crisp and it was still there...
-A whole one.
-..three days later.
I was thinking it was a waste of our money, really.
A lot of English families have gone back
and they've said the same thing,
"Staff's good, cleanliness is really awful."
-I'm guessing you won't be coming back.
-Not me, definitely not.
I'd come to Turkey, yeah, but not this resort.
'Oh, dear. It's far from a glowing review.
'I'm going to need help to hammer this message home.'
'Dr Lisa Ackerley is an environmental health and hygiene inspector
'with decades of experience helping establishments like this.'
Look what I found.
-Dust, hair and grime.
The trouble is, often people don't use clean mops,
so they're not actually cleaning at all, they're dirtying.
Why should people put up with dirty floors?
'The room Lisa checked randomly is a breeding ground for bugs,
'but how bad is it really?
'An electronic device that tests bacteria will tell us.'
OK. Right, so the moment of truth then.
OK, what's it going to show?
It's not a food surface, but I'd be expecting less than 30.
Oh, well, that's not brilliant. That's 132, so...
-Really, that's five times what it should be.
So that's not good enough - simple.
'And I have an idea why the grime levels are so high.'
I didn't have any hot water this morning.
If the water isn't hot enough then there's a potential
risk from bacteria such as legionella growing in the system.
'Legionella isn't necessarily here,
'but if it was it could cause legionnaire's disease.
'In 2012, three Brits died after an outbreak at a hotel in the Med.
'It thrives in lukewarm water.'
We're actually getting around 37.6.
-Guess what that is.
-Erm...that is the ideal temperature for legionella
is what you're going to tell me.
It's the ideal temperature for bacteria to grow, yeah.
-There you go. So we've got lukewarm water, scale.
That means if there were any legionella in the system,
they would have plenty to feed on and they're not going to get
-killed by the temperature of the water.
-So that's bad news.
-It is bad news.
The bacteria might not be present here,
but the conditions are ripe for it to thrive.
Considering the bathroom's already failed our hygiene test,
this is quite alarming.
Clearly the cleaning is not up to scratch,
but Lisa has a crafty test to find out just what's not being done
and Kay has volunteered her room.
Lisa's sprinkling powder, which only shows up with a special light.
# Dirt on the ground... #
We'll have a look tomorrow to see if they powder's still there
and we'll use an ultraviolet torch, which will then reveal
whether cleaning has taken place.
'Later, we'll find out the results of Lisa's test...'
That is very conclusive, isn't it?
'..and we'll see if the grimey all-inclusive experience
'extends to the kitchen.'
I'm starting to feel like I don't want to eat here.
Now you may not ever notice them,
and hopefully you won't ever have to use them,
but at resorts around the world, just quietly in the background,
there's always an army of professionals on stand-by to
make sure that your happy holiday doesn't go off the rails.
And I've got privileged access behind the scenes to show you just
what could happen if you're one of the quarter of a million plus Brits
every year that need medical help.
-Broken, fractured, what?
What a rotten way to end your holiday.
Or the estimated one in ten that end up victims of crime.
We didn't know nothing had happened.
Looking forward to coming to the country...
Makes you feel iffy for coming back.
It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, doesn't it?
Today I'm in the iconic Spanish region that attracts more
than two million British visitors every year.
The Costa Blanca has been one of our favourite holiday destinations
since package tours began.
Consequently, at the British Consul here,
Paul Rudwell is kept very busy.
And like all our Consulates worldwide,
the staff have to respond to all sorts of cries for help from desperate Brits.
Be it those that have been stung by foreign criminals,
been caught in natural disasters,
or even fallen foul of the law.
Every day here at the Consulate starts in exactly the same way.
They have an early morning briefing meeting, so that Paul
and his team can discuss amongst themselves who is doing what,
what cases they're looking after,
and what's likely to come up during the day. But, of course,
nobody knows what's going to come through the door as well.
The first call of the day is a British teenager in distress.
It's an emergency, so we're rushing out to a hospital in Valencia.
The deputy console, Liz Bell, has been contacted
by a 19-year-old girl who was on a cruise with her grandmother.
The grandmother has taken ill.
Details are all a bit sketchy, but clearly she needs some help.
Rebecca speaks no Spanish and is having to cope with
the trauma of having her critically ill gran in a foreign hospital.
-I'm Liz. We spoke on the phone.
Yeah, we did. Yeah.
My gosh, they have left you a bit isolated in here.
-But I suppose that's how you feel at the moment, is it?
-What's the situation you find yourself in here?
We were all on a 14-night Mediterranean cruise
and everything was fine.
My nan's health was OK and we'd just had dinner all together,
and looked through all the family pictures that we'd taken
throughout the holiday. And then, the next morning,
just when the ship actually arrived at Valencia, she had a stroke.
So... Yeah, we just found her...
-Gosh, it must be so distressing for you.
'It's a heavy burden for a 19-year-old.
'The insurance policy only allows for one person to stay,
'so the rest of Rebecca's family have to fly home,
'leaving just her and her gran in Spain.'
So what happened when you got here at the hospital then?
After struggling to actually speak to the doctors,
communicate with them to try and find out what was happening,
they wheeled her into an operation.
She's just been in a coma since, really.
Rebecca has found it hard to understand the hospital staff,
so, as a fluent Spanish speaker, Vice Consul Lis can help her
find out exactly what is going on with her gran.
Liz, Rebecca, I was getting worried.
So, first, Rebecca, what is the news with your gran?
My nan, unfortunately, got worse.
She got pneumonia this morning, so she's got a lung infection,
and the doctors are currently giving her treatment for that.
'But this 19-year-old Brit now has problems all of her own.'
The travel insurance hasn't actually accepted or confirmed
-the travel insurance cover yet.
Because they haven't received the medial report that they
require in order to accept our case.
'Rebecca has paid her gran's GP to fill out this
'report for the insurance company,
'but she's still waiting for it to be delivered.'
If the insurers don't actually accept the cover then I don't know
where I'm going to stay.
I have no hotel and I don't exactly have a lot of money either.
-And you're 19 and you're going to be stranded in Spain.
'Stuck in a foreign hospital with her very poorly gran,
'it's surprising to think that it's a GP surgery in the UK
'that has the potential to hold up progress for a Brit abroad
'that's in need.'
They've got multiple choices. I love multiple choices, I don't think.
Press four. OK.
My name is Angela Rippon and I'm with BBC television.
'I'm really concerned for Rebecca's welfare,
'so I'm calling the surgery.'
It seems that because the medical
report from your practice has been held up for various reasons
that we can't get any resolution with the insurance.
Unfortunately, they cannot and will not give any confirmation of a
release of funds until they get the medical report from your surgery,
and it seems that there's been something of a delay
in getting that report to them.
Can I please call on your good offices to ensure that the GP
gets this report out ASAP?
Will you do that for me? Thank you.
That's most kind of you. Bye-bye.
'The surgery and insurance company both promised that they will
'prioritise Rebecca's case,
'but shockingly it seems that the trauma that can be
'caused by these kinds of delays is not unique.'
We have been around the houses today.
How common is it for Brits abroad,
when they need to deal with the hospital and insurance
and their GP at home, to have this kind of delay?
We do hear of people who suffer those delays.
I mean...from families or patients themselves,
who have been waiting or have been in hospital for maybe a week or
so, ten days, only to find that their insurance company then refuses cover.
So they've incurred costs but because we are told that the insurance
company has been asking for reports, information,
sometimes from the UK, maybe the Spanish hospital.
As I said, if we're aware that it's at this end, the Spanish hospital,
we can help her speed that up.
-But we do hear of many cases.
-That's outrageous, isn't it?
'We can never predict when a crisis might happen,
'but to help lessen potential delays or disappointments,
'be sure that you read the terms of your insurance policy very
'carefully before you travel.
'Always declare any pre-existing medical conditions.
'And, if trouble strikes, call the insurer's emergency number
'as soon as you possibly can,
'preferably the moment that the illness or accident occurs.'
Happily, most of our holidays are hassle free.
So, as well as helping you avoid the bad,
the Hit Squad are also dedicated to highlighting the good.
Over the series, I've been asking Joe and Helen to come up with
a few really great ideas for holidays abroad and at home
because at least two thirds of us
here in Britain now take a regular break in the UK.
But can Britain really compete with the rest of the world?
# I'm picking up good vibrations... #
From city breaks...
There's so much to see. This is just Times Square.
I don't know where to begin.
..to beach treats...
It seems every time you go round another headland you find
another secret cove.
..they've been going head-to-head in a battle
of vacations versus staycations.
Today, a treat for food lovers.
I've given Helen and Joe a £600 budget
to create a long weekend for two.
This week, Britain's got my backing and I reckon it'll be no contest.
I don't think I need to say anything about this.
# Go west... #
300 miles of coastline and a huge farming community
means my destination is a Mecca for lovers of local produce.
If it's a food pilgrimage you're after then Cornwall is a great bet.
Good choice, Helen, but surely British grub's a bit boring.
I want to spice things up a bit.
So where did I choose? Fez in Morocco.
# Rock the casbah Rock the casbah... #
This ancient walled city is a paradise for food lovers.
It's vibrant, it's bustling, it's busy.
The looks, the sights, the smells. It's a really exciting place to be.
And sunny North Africa comes in at an amazing price.
If you plan ahead, you can fly here for well under 100 quid each.
And you can find some real accommodation bargains,
too, for a unique taste of exotic luxury.
Let me show you where I'm staying.
This place on the outside doesn't really give much away.
It's not glitzy or glamorous.
There is no clue as to what is going on inside,
but don't let that fool you because it's a very special place.
It's small, it's bespoke.
I think there are only five rooms here, but I read lots of reviews.
It got great write ups.
And this is the place where foodies want to stay
because the cuisine here is second to none.
# Feels like heaven... #
I have never in my life stayed somewhere like this.
It is absolutely beautiful.
# It feels like heaven... #
Two of you can experience this little piece of paradise
for little more than you'd spend in one of Britain's bog standard chains.
It really does feel palatial and extremely opulent.
And what's more, this converted traditional family home has
a terrific reputation for great food.
I've got to say, I am feeling a bit smug.
I think I have chosen the perfect foodie holiday here.
You think so, do you?
Well, Joe, our whole island is a heaven for good grub too.
It's going through a massive food revival
and Cornwall has some of the best of the west.
# Straight to the wild, wild west... #
Be it award-winning pasties, ice cream to die for,
cracking cafes or renowned restaurateurs,
Cornwall's got the lot.
There are swanky hotels and budget B&Bs,
but if it's summer, I've got to recommend camping on one of the
many spectacularly positioned farms.
It'll mean plenty of spare reddies to eat out
and a great excuse to stock up on picnic provisions.
Now I'm patriotic and a farmer's daughter,
so I am very proud of the phenomenon that is farm shops.
And this multi award-winning store is jam-packed with stuff
produced in the county or grown on the farm right here.
It's really exciting to be able to walk around and find
so many things that are made within a few miles of here.
And there's everything you need to create
the ultimate Cornish beach barby.
Here on this little island of ours, we grow stuff, we rear stuff,
we make stuff, and that is something to be proud of.
Have a look at all of this fantastic meat.
There's a real chocolate box of options and it's all from Cornwall.
Very good. Well, I can manage much more than a burnt sausage, Helen.
Fez claimed to be the oldest living Medieval city in the world,
and one of it's great wonders is its vibrant souk,
a winding labyrinth of market stalls and shops.
You can, of course, wander round on your own
and experience a riot on your taste buds.
But if you're not feeling quite so confident,
a souk tasting tour might be for you.
Oh, that is brilliant.
-This is Moroccan fast food.
Gail is an expert guide and insight comes at a set price,
so team up with another couple or two and you could get the reassurance
and special access she provides for less than 20 quid each.
That is the sweetest, richest,
most beautiful thing I've ever eaten.
I have a sweet tooth and I've never had anything that sweet.
-That is so good, and that's from his own hive?
# Much sweeter than wine... #
-This is the tongue.
-That's cow tongue.
It's falling apart, and it's tender and delicious.
It's so tender, isn't it? I love this stuff.
-This is the camel hump.
Yeah, it's a bit like having fat from any other animal.
'Well, I bet you don't get camel's hump in Cornwall, Helen.'
That's a thrill I think I could do without, Joe.
Don't worry, if it's quirky you're after,
I've got something up my sleeve for later.
If it's growing wild then we are allowed to take the four Fs,
which is fruit, flowers, foliage and fungi.
And I'll be getting a real taste of Moroccan family cooking.
There's some giggling going on from mum in the back there.
It presumably means this isn't quite right.
'Each week, I've been tackling some of the Great British holidaymakers'
'most common consumer questions.
'From how to avoid being burnt by the sun...'
Are you concerned at all that you may burn?
'..or the airlines.'
We came on an airline where they charge you per bag you take.
And this week, how to get more bang for your buck.
Having ready cash abroad is essential
if you want to have a trouble free holiday.
But when you're changing money, the amount that actually makes
it into your pocket is determined by two things -
the exchange rate and the fee that companies charge you.
# Your love gave me such a thrill
# But your love don't pay my bills... #
If you're savvy, you can save yourself money.
That's me today and I'm off shopping,
trailed by my twin Silly Helen.
Savvy Helen is using euros she changed before flying.
£500 gave her 570 euros on the high street,
so our first tip - shop around.
Exchange before you fly.
Let's see how Silly Helen's getting on. You know the one.
She's got her head in the clouds, always spending money like water.
That's nothing like me at all.
'Silly Helen doesn't think about money until she arrives.
'She changes money at the airport, where rates can be hideous.
'She withdraws euros from ATMs
'and pays out with plastic without a thought for the cost.
'Very silly indeed.
'That way our £500 budget might buy as little as 494 euros.
'That's a staggering difference of more than 70 euros.
'Not all cards are bad,
so our second tip is check out all the charges before you shop to avoid
'any nasty surprises.
'Out shopping it is easy to see the difference.
'A 50 euro scarf might cost £43 if I change the money at home.
'If I bought it on the worst credit card deal, it might cost £44.
'Not so much worse. But if I buy it with euros from the local ATM,
'it could be a whopping £49.
'That's nearly 14% more.
'Silly Helen's feckless ways could add hundreds of pounds to the
'family holiday overall.
'But while cash from the high street at home may be king,
'it can be stolen,
'so our third tip is consider a pre-paid card,
'effectively an electronic traveller's cheque.
'You load it with cash before you fly
'and use it on holiday like a debit card.
'It's safe even if you lose it,
'and while charges vary, they can be competitive.'
All that shopping's exhausted us. Time for a cafe break,
but even here there are ways we can trip up.
The cafe owner asks Silly Helen
if she wants to pay in pounds instead of euros.
Silly Helen says yes.
Bad move. Opt for pounds and you could face charges of up to 4%
because the cafe will choose the best exchange rate for them.
Rates can be poor compared to letting your bank do it.
A family meal of £75 could cost you an extra three.
This technique may have cost Brits abroad
a staggering £290m last summer alone.
Savvy Helen, that's obviously the version I normally am,
knows to always order in local currency because it's unlikely that
the cafe owner is going to be able to offer you a better exchange rate.
# It's a rich man's world... #
So our travel money tips are -
be aware of all hidden charges for your regular cards.
Buy your currency at home. Be wary of airports.
Consider a pre-paid card.
And, if given the choice, always opt for paying in the local currency.
Still to come on Holiday Hit Squad, I discover
the truth behind the EHIC card.
I had shown my EHIC card and it was dramatically waved away.
And Dr Chris and I encounter more classic holiday
conditions at our beach surgery.
Have you heard of deep vein thrombosis?
I wondered if that was a thing you might be worried about.
But first I continue my inspection into that hotel that's been
driving Brits bonkers.
The Seray Forest Hotel in Marmaris has come in for some serious
stick from British holidaymakers.
So along with expert inspector Dr Lisa Ackerley, I've been
conducting a grime scene investigation in an effort to
help them address some of the more obvious problems.
Oh. Well, that's not brilliant. That's 152.
Really, that's five times what it should be.
# I'll polish the leaves
# Make them green again... #
It's simply not good enough.
That's why we've set a crafty test in Kay and Rakesh's room.
We want to check whether Lisa's secret powder is still there
after the cleaners have been in.
The answer is plain to see.
Oh, look at that. That's the basin.
This, obviously, isn't dirt. This is just a power you put down,
-which you can't see with the naked eye in daylight.
BOTH LAUGH Very good.
-You wrote your name.
That is very conclusive, isn't it? That hasn't been touched.
-No, not at all.
So standards of hygiene are definitely failing in the bedrooms.
And we want to check out another complaint about this hotel
that guests have been making online.
I've read quite a lot of reviews that complain about the food here.
There's a review from a family who say they all got ill.
They all had severe diarrhoea.
They say it's a great holiday if you want to lose weight from illness.
Doesn't sound good at all. What do you make of hearing that?
Well, it doesn't sound good.
They could have eaten outside of the hotel.
But on the other hand, if they stayed in the hotel
it could be water or ice, or it could be the food.
-So it's definitely worth us having a look in the kitchen then?
'Now remember the lukewarm water I found in the bedrooms earlier?
'Well, alarmingly, it's the same for staff preparing food -
'hardly hygienic hand washing.'
No towel. No hot water.
'Then add to that all the food on the floor,
'of course lots of flies,
'and some pretty nasty drains.'
I'm starting to feel like I don't want to eat here.
There's actually cigarette ash down there.
The freezer's so frosted up.
There's obviously been some sort of defrosting at some point down there,
and then refreezing.
'Everywhere is filthy.
'Guests can certainly get ill when kitchens are like this.'
But a lot of these dishes are very dirty.
And considering they may have some ready to eat food on them,
that's actually quite shocking.
'Lisa tests the fridge - it isn't cold enough.
'They've no records of food temperatures
'and no way of testing them.
'There's not an accurate thermometer in the whole building.'
It's critical that the temperature of the food is correct.
-Massive alarm bells going off in my head right now.
'If you're looking to claim on insurance for food poisoning,
'or get money back from a hotel or operator,
'you'll need a doctor's note.
'Plus, get reports from other sick guests
'and take photographs of the grime.
'The owner has to do something about the hygiene levels in this hotel
'and I want him to see what guests are angry about.'
They're not cleaning here, they're not cleaning the taps,
they're not cleaning under the sink, they're not cleaning the toilets.
They need to clean more thoroughly
and someone needs to keep an eye on it.
Zahit's starting to get the picture
but it's not just a case of him double-checking.
The Seray Forest needs a whole new cleaning regime.
When we look at the fridge,
do you see what I mean about cross-contamination?
So they shouldn't be touching each other without being covered.
This has got to be five.
Five or below.
You can see it yourself, can't you, it just needs a big, deep clean.
Just have a look behind here, Zahit.
-That is worrying.
-Cos that looks like droppings or something.
Is it a shock to you?
I was not waiting to see like this but they need to make deep cleaning.
I don't think they understand what they need to be doing
so we need to change that.
My hotel visit has shaken up the owner.
Combine this with all the bad reviews and Zahit admits they need to change,
and change fast.
-When you go and when you don't see...
-..you don't know.
It's not just cleaning, it's everything.
It's keeping hands clean, it's not allowing cross-contamination,
it's sorting out the fridge and making it cold enough
and I'm sure we can come back and see this all fixed
and your hotel looking clean and lovely.
Tomorrow, it will be ready and the kitchen fixed. I am sure...
-..because it must be.
Zahit is making all the right noises, but before I go,
I'm making sure that Kaye and Rakesh's room
gets scrubbed from top to bottom,
so they can have a happier holiday.
-How's the room?
-So it has been thoroughly cleaned now?
-It has and it's good, you know.
It's not too much to ask, is it, really?
-And I'm pleased it's all sorted.
-Oh, good, thank you.
-Right, take care.
I even made Zahit commit to a deep clean of the filthy kitchen
and the manky freezer is being defrosted.
Well, Zahit just listened to all of our criticisms, he seems to
have taken them on board and I'm quite encouraged by his response.
He says he didn't realise just how bad how the problems were
so he's going to set about fixing them immediately.
I hope that's the case for all the people that come here in the future.
Well, I'm not letting him off that lightly.
Our investigation continues in a few weeks.
We want Zahit to keep his promise
so Brits can stop worrying about this hotel.
deadly wildfires scorch large areas of southern Europe.
In recent years, fires have raged in 28 countries
destroying an area the size of Devon,
killing scores of people and forcing thousands to evacuate.
And it's not just locals that are affected,
but also hundreds of tourists.
I'm with British Consul Paul Rodwell who is liaising with local
fire services near Alicante about a problem that we rarely face at home.
Year in, year out, there's always forest fires and we just don't
want tourists, British tourists, to be caught up in these fires.
Southern Europe is prone to forest infernos in summer
because of soaring temperatures, strong winds and dry vegetation.
For example, we had a forest fire that 11 Brits were evacuated.
We had also, 60 Brits were evacuated,
so these are things that do happen and it's important to make
sure that people are aware of the risks out there.
'Thousands of fire fighters battle hundreds of blazes
'from Spain to Portugal, Greece to Italy every year
'and from the air, you can clearly see the destruction.'
It's really striking when you can look down on tree-covered hills
and suddenly there's a fire break and it all turns to black
and the extent of the devastation is just breathtaking.
The fires that raged through here put people's lives in real danger.
These trees are reduced to blackened charcoal.
That gives you some idea of the intensity of the flames that
swept through this valley.
One group of Brits were minutes away from losing their lives
as the fire rushed towards them like a runaway train.
Ken, you're an ex-fireman.
What was it like being on the other side of the business as it were?
It's very scary, the speed of the fire that we were in was phenomenal.
The first we knew about it was the evening before
and I saw a wisp of smoke behind the house
and it was about 20km away and we thought, "No problem."
We just had our normal evening, went to bed,
and you were woken at 6.30.
Walked out on the roof terrace and the fire
was at the back of the house, only a metre from the house.
So, you had flames behind the house.
Yes, literally, the house was in flame and smoke.
It was just...something we'd never experienced before.
The pine trees out here, as they burn, they explode almost
and that's what was happening, just exploding around us.
Fortunately, Heather and Ken escaped
but others weren't that lucky.
Two fire fighters lost their lives.
Fireman Salvador Oliver knows just how dangerous fires can be.
If the wind changes, the fire can catch, you know?
-And you're surrounded before you know it.
-Yes, in seconds.
That's what happened here.
And it burns the people, the cars, the trucks, lorries, everything.
-Yes, it is.
So, Salvador, if someone spots a fire, what should they do?
They have to call the 112 number,
that's the emergency number for all of Spain
and there are people who speak English,
and, of course, they help you very quickly and send us to help.
112 works right across Europe
and will put you through to the local emergency services.
Blazes like these aren't just devastating to the environment,
they can also devastate lives.
And those who have experienced it first-hand have just
one piece of advice - be vigilant.
I don't think people realise until you're in it how scary it can be.
And, obviously, now I've been through it myself,
I travel anywhere else abroad.
You're on holiday and you want to enjoy yourself, fine,
but just be a little bit careful.
So be careful and be aware that, at times, it's against the law
to light any sort of fire, even a barbecue, in southern Europe.
Every year, tourists get caught up in fires
and to think "it won't happen to me" is foolhardy.
Just follow a couple of simple rules - put 112 in your telephone,
the emergency number,
and they will speak English on the end of that telephone and also find
an exit route just in case you find that you are caught up in a fire.
Fortunately, most holidays run problem-free
but there are all kinds of medical mishaps that can
get in the way of our fun in the sun
and that's why the beach surgery is open for business.
Over the course of the series, Dr Chris Van Tulleken and I
have been getting to grips with some classic tourist troubles.
From the irritating...
It's like my glands are swollen now.
..to the intimate.
I've got a rash under both breasts that itches.
'First up today is Kim
'with a recurring problem that could be a cause for concern.
'Each and every time she flies, her feet swell up.'
-I can't get any shoes on my feet.
-So you have to wear flip-flops?
Yeah, I empathise cos I've had that.
And how quickly does it go back down?
Generally, not till I get home for a couple of days
and then they'll go back to normal.
-That must be frustrating, Kim.
-Yeah, it is.
Time for an appointment with Dr Chris in our surgery in the sun.
Every time you go on a flight,
even these little two-hour flights to Spain, you get off with swollen legs.
Have you heard of deep vein thrombosis?
I wondered if that was a thing you might be worried about.
-I have heard of it, yeah.
-So that's when you can get clots in the legs.
-And things swell up.
Each year, one in every 1,000 people in the UK is affected by
deep vein thrombosis.
And it's believed flying can up the risk.
DVT usually occurs in a deep leg vein.
It can cause pain and swelling and may lead to complications
when a piece of blood clot breaks off into the bloodstream
and travels to the lungs.
-I'm just going to feel them if that's all right.
-That's fine, yeah.
So, what we want to see here is I'm checking to see
if there's tissue fluid.
If I put my thumbs there, can I make a dent that lasts and I can.
So, what you've got is there's just water in the tissues of the foot
and the lower leg.
-Have you got any pain anywhere?
-No, not at all.
-Are you feeling short of breath?
What we worry about on planes, cos people sit still,
is the blood in the veins can clot and then the clots can go back
up to the lungs and that's what people are worried about.
-I don't think that's what's going on here.
It happens too often, the swelling isn't that great.
You know, you're walking around, you haven't had any breathlessness.
-Somebody did say if I wore flight socks, that might help.
-Did you wear flight socks?
-Flight socks might well be a good idea.
I suspect if you go and spend this afternoon and you put your feet
higher than your heart for half an hour, all that will go down.
So, essentially, you could still lie on the beach all day,
just keep your feet up.
The beach is a perfect place to recover from having swollen legs.
You just need to go on your back with your feet up.
-Lay the other way on a sunbed.
The swelling in Kim's feet is just fluid as a result of cabin
air pressure and inactivity.
But if you're worried about DVT, and are travelling long-distance,
wearing tight flight socks can help.
On the plane, drink plenty of water and try to avoid alcohol,
perform simple leg exercises like flexing your ankles
and, every now and again, take a stroll along the aisle.
Next in the surgery queue,
Nigel Garside with an oh-so-common holiday complaint -
upset stomach and diarrhoea, which has knocked him for six.
Can I ask you some gory questions about diarrhoea?
I know I like to do this but this is my life, diarrhoea.
-What was it like?
-Just rusty water?
-How is it now?
-Well, I've been four times today so far.
-Has anyone you know got ill?
-Has any of the rest of the family been ill?
-Em, no, no.
This is quite a common story.
We often don't know what causes this and some people can be
sensitive to simply changes in water and change in diet.
Because you had the fever and you've had this watery diarrhoea
and you've come to a place where that's not unheard of,
it's very likely to be faecal contamination of something.
Pool water's a possibility or it could have been on something that
you ate and you just got an unlucky mouthful and no-one else got that.
Diarrhoea often occurs
because the undigested contaminated food passes through our system
too quickly for the body to absorb the moisture, and when the
digestive system secretes too much fluid for the body to cope with.
I don't think I'd recommend anything other than just keeping hydrated
and eating what you feel like.
And the drugs that stop you going to the loo,
so drugs like loperamide which is known as Imodium,
they work well and they don't prolong the problem.
So, people used to think that by keeping things inside,
you could exacerbate the problem and for most traveller's diarrhoea,
that's not the case.
Most cases of dodgy tummy will clear up after a few days untreated
but it's important to stay hydrated -
take small and frequent sips of water.
Eat what you can, in order to replenish salts in your system.
A pharmacist may recommend an oral rehydration solution.
And, if symptoms persist,
go and see your GP.
However well you've planned your holiday,
an unexpected mishap can mean that the whole thing just falls
apart, so every week, I've been investigating those potential
pitfalls which just might catch British holidaymakers out.
From the shocking...
If people go down head-first, you're looking at possibly fatality.
..to the downright scary...
The vehicle turned over and the lioness is approaching
and I thought, frankly,
that one of the lions would come and pull somebody out of the vehicle.
..I've been getting to the bottom
of some of the many ways that we can come a cropper.
This week, it's this little piece of plastic, the
European Health Insurance Card or EHIC, that's worthy of my attention.
The EHIC entitles you to mostly free emergency care in Europe.
Yet shocking headlines state that many people have
had their cards refused, resulting in medical bills costing thousands.
So, I want to find out more about these cards.
I've found one involving a lady in Scotland called Catherine Gerard.
Her EHIC was refused when she went into a hospital in Spain.
My friend and I decided to go with this organised
group for a golfing holiday.
Unfortunately, whilst there, my asthma started to give me
problems and I knew it was going to get worse.
Catherine went straight to the local clinic.
I proffered my EHIC card,
which was waved away and they asked for my passport.
They gave me the normal treatment for an attack of asthma.
But Catherine's health got desperately worse,
so she was sent to the nearby public hospital.
Again, I proffered my EHIC card and it was very dramatically waved away.
Despite this, Catherine was given treatment, so thought
nothing more of it.
Six weeks after I returned home, I received a letter,
in Spanish, which was obviously asking for approximately 145 euros.
I thought, "I'm going to ignore this, this is ridiculous."
But when they sent me the same letter in triplicate,
again, all in Spanish, I thought, "Gosh, this looks important."
And always being concerned about bad credit scores, et cetera,
I thought, "No, this one, I'll have to pay it."
I can't tell you how angry I felt, mainly because I had shown my EHIC
card on both...at the clinic and at the hospital
and it was dramatically waved away.
Catherine paid the money, but thanks to her persistence
she eventually got reimbursed from the NHS, back in the UK.
After more than 100 similar complaints, the European Commission
launched legal action against the Spanish government.
The Independent newspaper's senior travel editor,
Simon Calder, thinks it's outrageous.
You don't, on holiday, go to a hospital
cos it's a nice thing to do. You go there because it's an extreme event.
It is an emergency, of some sort, you need some treatment.
And, therefore, you are very vulnerable and if somebody says
to you, "Sorry, senor, that's not going to work,
"you have got to do this instead", the chances are you will just
do whatever they say, because you need to get some treatment.
The European Commission has said to Spain, "Oi! Sort this out!"
The Spanish Ministry of Health has said, "OK, we will."
However, there is a bit of a gap between Europe telling Madrid
"sort yourselves out" and Madrid telling the various hospitals
in the various regions of Spain, "You have got to adhere to this."
But it is a horrible mess. The European Union is cross about it,
the travel insurance business is cross about it and thousands
of holidaymakers are cross about it, cos they feel they've been diddled.
But the confusion doesn't stop there.
the process of actually applying for the EHIC online
is also catching us out.
The question is, should you be paying for an EHIC card?
The simple answer is - no.
This card is free.
Yet that's not how it seems if you search on the internet.
Put EHIC into your computer, into the search engine,
and let's see what comes up. There we go.
Right at the top of the list, I can sign up and...
Ah. Interestingly, it's going to be £23.50 for a standard application
and £24.99 for "fast-track". That works out
at £100 for a family of four - for something that's free.
Here is another one that is offering me an opportunity to get an EHIC,
for "a service charge of £23.99".
Here we go. Ah, at last. Three down,
I have finally got NHS Choices, which tell me that I can get
an EHIC absolutely free.
It's a lucrative business.
There are 25 million cardholders in Britain,
with renewal required every five years.
If just one in 100 of us sign up,
it could make this a million-pound industry, which seems absurd.
And it doesn't just stop with EHIC cards.
If you're applying for passports, there is a similar online scheme
that could cost you, so only use official websites.
Everyone agrees that the EHIC really is a very good idea,
but you should not rely on it and it's not enough on its own,
if you're unfortunate enough to have an accident
or need to go into hospital.
So, expect only the same treatment that a local would get.
If they have to contribute towards their treatment, you will, too.
The EHIC just covers
emergency treatment in public hospitals in Europe.
Travel insurance is recommended by the Foreign Office
for everything else.
Last, but not least, it shouldn't cost you a penny.
Don't be fooled into paying for your EHIC online.
'It is time for me to make one last call on the Seray Forest Hotel
'in Marmaris, Turkey, to see if it's improved.
'Cleanliness was a massive issue - in the rooms, in the kitchen
'and in the public areas.
'And, at first sight, it seems not much has changed.'
Little touches. Why are these bread crumbs there?
# Things can only get better... #
This place hasn't had a clean
going-over at the end of the season.
That worries me, because I would have thought that was the first thing
you'd do. You'd get to the bottom of this, you'd tackle this grime,
but, for now, they seem to be putting it off, leaving it for later.
# Things can only get better... #
'But there are already big improvements in the kitchen.'
'Owner Zahit tells me he's getting a new chef,
'who will be charged with the responsibility to improve
'and maintain hygiene levels here.'
-This is looking much better.
-This is the basic minimum standard
it needs to be all the time, doesn't it?
'The kitchen's almost
'unrecognisable since the last time we saw it.
'It's been properly deep-cleaned
'and Zahit tells me this will extend to the rest of the hotel,
'now it is shut.'
I am pleased to say there are quite a few positives here.
Zahit has committed to an extra cleaning supervisor,
so that sounds good and, hopefully,
by the start of next season, it should also be a very clean
and enjoyable place to spend your two weeks in the sun.
Earlier in the show, I sent Joe and Helen off
in search of holiday heaven, to see just how well Britain compares
with the rest of the world, when it comes to spending
our hard-earned holiday budgets.
This week, the challenge was to find a long weekend break
for two food lovers, for under £600.
'I've gone for a taste of exotic magic. Fez, in Morocco,
'famed for its food, is an ancient living, breathing,
'medieval, Arab city.
'A holiday here feels like an adventure, but is only a short,
'and cheap, hop away, by budget airline.'
'The number of British visitors to the country was up 10% in 2013,
'with around half a million of us heading here.'
'Whereas, I'm fighting Cornwall's corner
'and I'm confident I can deliver a knockout punch to Joe.
'This county is a magnet for foodies and tourists spend more than
'than £450 million on food and drink here every year.
'Add some of the best beaches and scenery Britain has to offer,
'and what's not to love?'
Cornwall has three restaurants with a Michelin star.
This is one of them. If the food is as exquisite
as the view, I'm going to be stuffed.
'Cornwall's traditional family fare is rightly something to be proud of,
'but it's also a great destination for a special food treat.'
-Chicken for you...
-..with baby carrots and sweetcorn.
Thank you very much.
'Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver both have restaurants here
'and there is no shortage of fine dining options.
'I reckon, if you economise by kipping under canvas,
'then you deserve the odd moment of indulgence.'
There were loads of things on the menu - lots of fresh fish,
lots of different types of meat and I guess that reflects how much
fine quality food there is on offer in Cornwall.
There is certainly plenty on that menu.
'All well and good.
'Nice restaurant. But I've come up with something far more unique.
'Check this out - a cooking course with a local family.
'What better way to get under the skin and cuisine of a country?'
# Magic moments
# When two hearts... #
-Use the shoulders.
-Use the shoulders?
Some giggling going on from mum, in the background,
which presumably means this isn't quite right.
'You'd probably laugh, too, Helen,
'but this class is a complete immersion into local life.
'You even get to bake your bread at the ancient neighbourhood oven,
'That does look amazing. I'm impressed!
'But Cornwall offers some pretty wild experiences, too.'
'I'm also off on a cookery course, but one with a difference.
'It's in a secret location. They take you there by boat.
'I already love this place!'
-I feel like I'm looking in a mirror!
-You look the part. I like this.
-Ready for a woodland adventure?
-I think so, but where
-will we find our food?
-Up in the fields, in the woods
-and, also, in the kitchen.
-Lead the way.
# Born to be wild... #
'Thom Hunt runs wild food foraging courses for people who want
'to reconnect with nature and don't have the expertise
'to risk picking wild produce.'
-Is this free?
-Of course it's free. If it's growing wild, then we are
allowed to take the four Fs - fruit, flowers, foliage and fungi -
as long as it's growing wild.
'So, plenty of free treats on offer in Cornwall's countryside.
# Wild thing...#
-Over here is the elder tree. You'll have heard of elderflower.
It's in berry at the moment, so we'll pick some of those berries.
We've got lots of common sorrel, this is.
Lovely, lemony citrus flavour.
Very lemony. Very zesty.
Everyone grows up picking blackberries, but there are
a couple of great tips.
Always pick the one that's on the end of the stalk.
-It's the one that ripens first.
-And always go for
the biggest. The bigger they are, the juicer it's going to be.
-OK. So, big bubbles, end of the stalk?
-Yeah. Lovely and sweet.
This time of year - perfect.
If any of these make it back to the kitchen, I'll be surprised.
I don't know what you mean(!)
'I even learned how to skin and butcher a rabbit.
'That's not for everybody, but it's definitely a terrific way to get
'up close and personal with the Cornish countryside.'
I've never cooked food in the ground before. What are we going to do,
-put the pot on here?
-Pot goes on the flames, cover it with rocks
and leave it for four hours.
'If it's up close and personal you want, Helen, I think I may have
'beaten you hands down. I feel like I've stepped back in time
'and become part of this historic Arab city.'
Sometimes, on holiday, you struggle to get beyond tourist activities.
Obviously, I can do this as a tourist, but it is not like
it is just staged. These are real people. You go into their home,
you make food with them, you get the bread baked at a local bakery.
It really is a fantastic experience for feeling part
of this wonderful city.
This is classic, gorgeous, home-cooked food.
'That does look amazing, Joe,
'but I'm communing with nature, learning new skills
'and enjoying delicious food, without having to set foot outside
'of our fabulous country.'
You don't have to escape this island to have an adventure, do you?
I feel like I've learned something.
-Great food. Thank you, Thom.
My breaks come in well under budget
and I've had plenty of money to treat my taste-buds.
You can keep your camel's hump, Joe!
As far as I'm concerned, West is best!
I'm within budget, too, Helen, and, yes, the food was fantastic
and unusual, but it's been about so much more than that.
I really feel like I've not only visited another continent,
but travelled back in time, too.
A completely unforgettable experience.
I have to say to both of you, I love cooking.
Rabbit stew - yes. A Moroccan tagine.
But I really don't fancy foraging for my own ingredients!
And fatty camel hump? Not on my menu, thank you, darlings!
But you have both given all the viewers plenty of food for thought.
Hopefully, over the last four weeks,
we've given you lots of useful hints and tips,
to help you avoid holiday heartbreak
and experience the very best that the world -
and Britain - has to offer.
But sadly, we've come to the end of the series for this year.
So, until the next time, from all of us on the Hit Squad, bye-bye!
Joe calls on hotel inspector Lisa Ackerly to check out a hotel in Turkey that's been dubbed online 'the worst hotel ever' and competes with Helen to find the best break for food lovers, foraging at home in Cornwall or abroad in Fez in Morocco.
Angela investigates the confusion surrounding the European Health Insurance card or EHIC and, on call with the British consul in the Costa Blanca in Spain, sees the devastation caused by forest fires and comes to the aid of a British teenager trying to sort out medical cover for her sick grandmother.