The team gets to the bottom of which countries are ones where it is - or isn't - safe to drink the tap water, and test out the most effective ways to beat travel sickness.
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We asked you, "Who's left you feeling ripped off
"when it comes to your holidays?"
and you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.
A holiday's supposed to be a time of relaxing, not a time of more stress,
and certainly not a time of stress whilst you're away.
You go into it with your eyes wide open.
If you think something's too good to be true then it probably is.
So, whether it's a deliberate rip-off, a simple mistake,
or indeed a catch in the small print,
we'll find out why you are out of pocket and what you can do about it.
Your stories, your money. This is Rip-Off Britain.
Hello and welcome once again to Rip-Off Britain,
where we've come to the beautiful island of Tenerife,
clearly with gorgeous sunshine.
And we're here to get to the bottom of all manner of issues
that you've asked us to investigate, relating to your holidays.
And today we'll be giving you the lowdown
on some real travel essentials.
Yes, all those thorny questions,
like how do you get the best value out of exchange rates?
How will you cope with certain aspects of the journey?
And whether or not you should be drinking the local water.
There's a regular one.
And they're all things that can play on your mind
and, indeed, stop you from enjoying yourself while you're away.
And some of them are issues that have caused far bigger problems
for the people that we're going to be meeting.
So, on their and your behalf, we've made a big effort to discover
the best tips and advice to keep stress levels at a minimum
on your next trip
and, in the process, save you a bit of money too.
..the prepaid currency cards that left these holiday-makers
seriously out of pocket.
I was, as you can imagine, absolutely flabbergasted.
How on earth could they justify making a charge
for MY money on MY card?
And what's the best way to beat travel sickness?
With the help of this extraordinary spinning chair, we put some of
the best-known remedies to the test.
Pleasantly surprised at how long Shar actually lasted.
This was a very big, strong result.
Now, with exchange rates constantly changing and some foreign currency
providers offering - let's be absolutely honest -
truly atrocious deals, working out how and when to get your holiday
spending money can sometimes be a bit of a faff to say the least,
which is why one in ten of us now use a prepaid currency card
when we go away. And there's no doubt that they can come with
lots and lots of benefits, not least if you choose the right one
offering, of course, some of the best rates on the market.
But there can be downsides as well because every card comes with
a different set of terms, conditions, and sometimes charges.
So if you're not careful, you could find yourself forking out
more than you would have expected in fees.
And for the people in this next film, it really was a lot more.
While going on your hols should mean a chance to switch off
and leave all your worries behind,
it's hard to truly kick back and relax
until you know everything to do with your spending money
is properly sorted out.
But the world now officially has 180 different currencies,
so deciding how to deal with the one
where you're headed isn't always easy.
For some, cash is king.
But it's bulky to carry and isn't always the safest solution.
So, for decades, traveller's cheques were many people's
preferred solution when they went away.
You only cash them in as and when necessary
and they've always been seen as secure.
And because they never expire,
the ones you don't spend you can simply put in a drawer
and forget about until your next trip.
All of which explains why seasoned traveller Sylvia Robert-Sargeant,
from Cardigan in Wales,
has always favoured them when she goes off on her adventures.
I've travelled very extensively.
You could say everywhere from Bhutan to Brazil.
On the other hand, from Ethiopia to El Salvador.
So, lots and lots of countries,
and I suppose at the last count, it was somewhere over...
..over 90 countries.
Sylvia normally takes on her trips
a combination of cash - usually dollars -
and those traveller's cheques.
Traveller's cheques were always useful to have
because you knew exactly what you had.
If you'd bought five traveller's cheques at 20 each, then you had
100 in your wallet and it would remain 100 until it was used,
even if it was only 12 months later.
But back in 2011, when booking a trip to America,
Sylvia decided to take a road less well travelled
and her head was turned by a new way to take cash abroad.
I had ordered my traveller's cheques online,
as I normally do, from Travelex,
and I had the option of buying a prepaid currency card, also,
which appeared to be marketed as an extension,
or a newer version of a traveller's cheque.
The way these currency cards work is that you preload them with cash here
in the UK. Then, when you're abroad, you can either use the funds
you've put there to pay for things
or you can withdraw the money from a cash machine.
And if you need more money, it's usually a doddle to top them up.
So, happy that a card would be handy to have, Sylvia ordered one.
When I got it, I loaded it with about £300 in sterling,
which is about, at the time, about 470,
and I also had dollars as a currency as well.
So, it was really just a backup for my travels in the States.
Sylvia's trip to the US went swimmingly well
and while she did sometimes use her prepaid currency card,
there was still about 300 left on it when she came back -
a fact that didn't worry her at all,
as she was sure she'd use them in the future.
I would very often be going back to countries time and time again,
so I would never bother to cash the traveller's cheques
or local currency,
and the same applied to the prepaid currency card.
And sure enough, just over four years later, in 2015,
Sylvia remembered about the card and the money left on it
when she was planning another trip.
In 2015, I was planning to travel to some of the remoter parts of
Indonesia, so I thought particularly my prepaid currency card would be
useful in the capitals and some of the larger cities,
and in some of those countries
you can't get local currency until you arrive.
So, I thought at that point, "I'll just double check
"and see exactly how much I've got remaining on it."
Though pretty sure she still had a balance of around 300,
just to be sure, Sylvia called Travelex to confirm.
But I'm afraid she was in for a surprise.
They checked and they came back and they said, "162."
By Sylvia's calculations, that meant her card had lost about 138
since she'd last used it four years ago.
And when she asked why, it was explained that
after 12 months of inactivity, the card had incurred a monthly fee.
I was, as you can imagine, absolutely flabbergasted.
It was my money. I had put it on a card.
I wasn't using it. They were not giving me any interest.
They were providing no service.
So, how on earth could they justify making a charge
for MY money on MY card?
In each of the 39 months since the inactivity charge had kicked in,
around £2 had been taken from the remaining balance on Sylvia's card.
So, by now, the amount left had almost halved.
Had I known that there was going to be a charge,
then I certainly wouldn't have proceeded with the transaction.
Now, it IS made clear in the small print that comes with the card that
you'll be charged an inactivity fee of around £2 per month
if you haven't used it within a 12-month period,
but I'm afraid Sylvia hadn't registered that.
In hindsight, I thought I was a fairly savvy traveller but this one
certainly caught me out and it really tells you -
look at the terms and conditions very carefully,
even if you think there is nothing sinister in them.
But clearly, in this case, there was.
Well, Travelex told us that the majority of its cardholders
use or top up their cards at least once within a 12-month period,
in which case no inactivity fees are charged.
It says the fee is...
..and reiterated that the information about it
is clearly displayed in its terms and conditions.
It advises anyone who thinks they won't use their card for a year
to either load it during that time with a minimum amount,
or cash out the balance.
But fees like this aren't uncommon.
Prepaid currency cards from other big names
often have a monthly charge for inactivity as well.
And, as we know from all the e-mails and letters you've sent us on this
topic, the various cards available can have all manner of other fees
and costs that you may not have been aware of
until you end up paying them.
So our personal finance expert Sarah Pennells
says it's really important that you understand
exactly what these might be.
The main disadvantage of prepaid travel cards
is the cost and charges.
For a start, there can be lots of them.
You could get charged a set-up fee when you first buy the card.
There could be a monthly fee.
There could be a fee for topping up the card
or one for withdrawing money.
And there could even be a fee for taking the money off the card
once you come back from holiday.
And because different providers impose different fees,
it can make it really hard to compare one with the other.
But if you're aware of all of this before you take one out,
these currency cards can be a great way
to safely store your holiday funds.
There are a couple of big advantages to using a prepaid travel card.
One is that the card isn't linked to your bank account,
so if it gets lost or stolen then there's no worries, really,
about fraudsters getting hold of your bank details.
The other is that you normally get a better rate, a better exchange rate,
so your money will go further.
And, also, they can be really good for budgeting
because you can't spend more than you've loaded on the card.
All that was exactly why Simon Riley from Hull
opted for a prepayment card on a recent trip to Thailand.
He got a really good exchange rate and felt that it was
by far the safest way to take cash on his holiday.
In February, we planned a trip to Phuket, Thailand,
and somebody had told me about these prepaid travel cards,
where you preload this card with cash before you go
and then you can exchange the money at their rate over in Thailand,
or wherever you're going.
When Simon booked the holiday at Thomson,
he was advised that the company's prepaid multi-currency
travel money card could work out cheaper than using
his own debit card to buy or withdraw cash.
And the only charge he understood he'd face would be a flat fee
of 80 Thai baht, around £2,
every time he took money out of a cashpoint.
So, Simon bought £800 worth of Thai baht to go on his card.
But before flying out of the UK, thinking nothing of it,
he used the card for a meal and a trip to the pub.
Then as soon as he arrived in Thailand he withdrew 10,000 baht,
which Simon thought was the equivalent of around £240,
and was confident that the transaction would cost him 80 baht.
The first cash withdrawal,
the charge was what the guy in Thomson's told me,
so I was happy with that. The card was doing what it said on the tin.
And all was well.
A few days later, Simon withdrew the same amount of cash
from a different ATM, assuming that he'd only be charged a small fee.
And again, later in the holiday,
he visited a third ATM to withdraw what he reckoned should be
the remaining £250 or so still left on the card.
But, to his surprise, he found that the card's balance
was far less than he thought.
The third time I tried to use the card,
it declined my application for money.
I was absolutely horrified at the time,
thinking there must be a mistake,
or has my card been robbed, or has somebody tampered with it?
Didn't really know what to think. It was panic mode.
Simon's card no longer had anywhere near as much money
as he was expecting,
and when he rang the helpline number he'd been given,
it became very clear why.
Although Simon had estimated that he'd only spent
around £550 of his money, in fact - although he hadn't realised it -
he'd managed to rack up an additional £105,
made up of various charges.
For starters, there'd been a small charge for using his card in the UK.
That's because the currency he'd loaded up with was Thai baht,
so he'd been charged a less-than-favourable exchange rate
for changing it back, plus an additional fee for the transaction.
But a far bigger charge of around £35 had come from
using the cash machines in Thailand,
because he'd mistakenly chosen the option of pounds and euros,
rather than the local currency, which would have been far cheaper.
Well, the upshot of all of this was
he now had far less money than he'd expected,
which was especially frustrating
as he'd thought using a prepaid currency card
would help him save money, not cost him more.
I felt angry and as though I'd been a bit gullible
in not realising this.
Well, Thomson, now known as TUI, confirmed to us,
as well as the smaller charges,
Simon had unwittingly been caught out by what's known as...
..which comes about when you're given the option of what
currency you want a transaction to be completed in.
The company says, where possible, you should always choose to pay in
the currency that's loaded on the card for the country you're in.
Otherwise, as happened here...
TUI points out it does advise of this
in the information sent out with its cards.
And then the company went on to say that its travel money card is
one of the cheapest and most secure ways to spend money abroad,
and that the vast majority of the feedback it receives from customers
is very positive.
Well, it's true that if you do follow the recommendations
on how to get the most out of any prepaid currency card,
then they can be one of the most cost-effective and flexible ways
to spend your money abroad.
Although Sarah Pennells doesn't advise relying on one completely.
It's generally a good idea to have a mix of methods of payment
when you go on holiday. So I always take some foreign currency,
I normally take a credit card,
and then a prepaid card can be a good one to add to this.
But I would never recommend just relying on one card,
or one method of payment, because you could come unstuck.
Of course, many people swear by their prepaid cards
and wouldn't dream of going away without one.
So, the key advice here is simple -
check what charges you might face and that you're totally across
the pros and cons of using them.
The companies in Sylvia and Simon's cases, Travelex and TUI,
have both made goodwill gestures
to cover at least some of the charges incurred.
But, even so, I'm afraid Simon and Sylvia say that next time
they head off for new experiences,
they'll use old ways of handling their spending.
The whole experience of this prepaid travel card
has left me 100% dissatisfied with it.
I'll never use one again.
I'll just use my own UK bank debit card from here on in.
In the future when I travel, I will go back to using local currency,
traveller's cheques and a credit card,
and I certainly will not be even contemplating
using a prepaid currency card that operates under those conditions.
Now, travel sickness is fortunately something
that I very rarely suffer from,
but I have travelled with many people who do,
so I do know how it can turn an otherwise pleasant journey
into something that's far more stressful and unpleasant.
And if you are one of the unlucky ones that it affects, then you will
probably have tried just about everything there is
to settle your stomach and settle your head.
But whilst some of the remedies out there cost absolutely nothing,
or just a few pence,
there are others that mean forking out quite a lot of money.
And figuring out which are worth it and, indeed, which even work
can be very tricky indeed.
So we've got some very brave volunteers
to do the hard work for you
and all you've got to do is come along for the ride.
Travel sickness is a lot more common than you might think.
In fact, it's reckoned that as many as 20 million people in the UK
will suffer that nauseous feeling while making a long journey.
And come the summer holidays, those affected will spend a lot of money
on all sorts of remedies claiming they can stop you from feeling ill.
So it's no surprise that a lot of work and research
is being carried out to find the best way to tackle the problem.
And at the University of Westminster,
Professor John Golding is quite an expert on the subject.
Motion sickness is like any other type of sickness,
except it's elicited by motion,
and that motion can be anything as diverse as sea motion, air motion,
or car sickness.
Even astronauts get sick.
And you can also have, nowadays,
virtual reality sickness where there may be no physical motion,
but the motion is implied.
Professor Golding has carried out extensive work
to test the effectiveness of all of those remedies on the market,
and there really are quite a few.
In any high street pharmacy or supermarket,
you'll find an array of pills and wristbands sold in the hope
that they'll prove the best at tackling that horrible sickness
that so many of you feel in a car, plane, boat or train,
because if you're one of the people who suffers from travel sickness,
then you'll probably try anything to help you avoid it.
Motion sickness is very, very unpleasant.
It's not life-threatening, as such. People don't die of motion sickness,
but it's extremely unpleasant.
These three students at Professor Golding's university
know only too well how grim travel sickness can be.
Zoe Smith says it's ruined many of her family holidays.
I tend to get motion sickness on longer car journeys
and especially bad on boats.
I went to Amsterdam recently and we got the ferry over to France,
and the whole way there I was just sitting there
with my head in my hands trying to combat the motion sickness.
Photography student Michael Naylor has suffered motion sickness
since he was a young boy.
I've suffered from motion sickness since I was young,
since I was going on fairground rides when I was a kid.
I always found it really difficult and I'd always get nauseous,
and then I'd throw up.
And also as a teenager, I couldn't go on long car journeys
without feeling sick.
Like, five minutes to Morrisons would literally destroy me.
And for biomedical sciences student Shar Taysir, it's a similar story.
I always get these hot flushes where I feel like I have to sit down,
and I get dizzy, and I feel like I'm going to throw up.
I get really nauseous.
But that only happens in cars and trains.
Today Shar, Michael and Zoe are going to put to the test
some of the travel sickness remedies on offer, and to help them do it,
Professor Golding will be relying on this incredible
and rather terrifying piece of kit.
The rotating chair works by spinning people around,
which if you superimpose head movements,
cause what's called a cross coupling effect,
in other words, apart from feeling dizzy,
you have this very unpleasant tumbling sensation.
And to begin with, you just get a feeling of dizziness.
Gradually, if you just keep on doing that,
you will start to get some initial symptoms of motion sickness.
And then if you carry it on long enough, most people would get quite
severely motion sick.
The spinning chair would test the mettle
of those with even the strongest constitution.
All three candidates will be spun around,
and as they go, they'll be asked to move left,
right and backwards and forwards, and every 30 seconds they'll be
asked to rate how they feel on a scale of one to four -
one being no symptoms at all and four feeling moderate nausea.
You can go as high as six, which is vomiting.
But don't worry, Professor Golding would stop the test
way before that happens.
The idea here is to help them feel better.
If all else fails, we have the trusty sick bag.
But this is almost a historical object.
It's never been used in 15, 20 years,
which is because we're very careful how we make people motion sick.
First, our volunteers will all have a go on the chair
without any travel sickness remedy,
just to see how long they can last before reaching level four.
First up is Zoe.
Zoe, keep your head upright, still as possible.
And after seven and a half minutes of spinning around,
she starts feeling moderate nausea.
Next, Michael, without any anti-nausea medication.
-Er... I'd say four.
OK, four, we're stopping there.
He lasts just under five minutes before feeling sick.
Finally, Shar had a go,
and she started feeling nauseous after 11 minutes,
at which point she came off the spinning chair.
-Four, OK, keep your head as still as possible.
Next, after a break of a few hours to let their spinning heads settle,
we can start testing the effectiveness
of a couple of the anti-sickness treatments on the market.
Again, it's Zoe who goes first.
She's trying these wristbands, which,
by applying pressure to a single part of the wrist,
it's thought can help reduce sickness symptoms.
The acupressure bands rely on pressure on what's called,
in acupressure terminology, the Nei Guan points,
which are about three finger lengths up from the wrist creases
on your hands.
And it is said that pressure or activation of those points
will relieve nausea, not just for motion sickness,
but from pregnancy sickness or all sorts of types of sickness.
These types of anti-motion sickness bracelets are relatively inexpensive
at around £5 each and can be used over and over again.
But the question is, do they work?
The evidence for that is mixed.
There have been some controlled published trials,
which show it is effective.
There have been other controlled trials,
which have failed to show effectiveness.
Last time, Zoe lasted seven and a half minutes
on the spinning chair before feeling sick.
-Four, OK, keep your head upright, as still as possible, Zoe.
With the wristband, it's only eight minutes 20,
which, while a slight improvement, isn't a huge difference.
Although she tolerated the acupressure bands very well -
in other words, no side effects -
it really had little or no effect.
However, her reaction probably fits in with the bulk of research,
which would show that, if there is an effect of acupressure bands,
it's probably overall rather small.
A 50-second improvement using the wristband may not be the level of
relief many would want from an anti-sickness device.
So, let's try medication -
the type of travel sickness pills you can buy on the high street
for around £3 a packet.
Michael is taking a tablet 20 minutes
before having another go on the spinning chair.
Anti-motion sickness medications,
there are quite a few different types of drugs that can be used.
The one we're going to use today is called hyoscine hydrobromide.
In the USA it's called scopolamine, just different terminology.
These are standard over-the-counter preparations.
They're very well, er, tested.
They're very reliable.
Without medication, Michael lasted just under
five minutes on the chair,
but now, after six minutes, he's still going strong.
But for some, these pills can come with side-effects.
A minority of people, especially with repeated dosing,
can get blurred vision, which, if you're driving, is not a good idea.
Equally, that drug, in common with most,
but not all other anti-motion sickness drugs,
can make some people feel rather drowsy.
-After nine minutes and 44 seconds,
Michael has had enough and starts to feel sick.
-I'd say four.
-OK, it's a four. OK, we'll stop there.
Keep your head nice and still.
But he's lasted nearly twice as long as he did without medication.
In terms of how that would fit in with general research,
that would be probably quite a good effect
for an anti-motion sickness drug.
Now, these results can't really be regarded as scientifically sound,
as a proper test would take much longer,
and involve many more subjects over a longer period of time.
Even so, they do broadly match the findings of wider studies
into the effectiveness of motion sickness remedies.
But Professor Golding has a technique
that he believes tops them all.
It's one that's free and it's all to do with breathing.
Regulate your own breathing and this could do away with motion sickness
for much longer.
And to prove it, the professor has asked Shar to try it.
Spend at least five or ten minutes trying to see if you can,
in a very systematic fashion, pay very close attention
to your breathing and maintain your respiration rate
at a rate which seems very natural and comfortable to you.
not over breathing, not stopping your breathing.
Shar has been practising the breathing techniques
that she's going to use once she's back in the chair,
and now she thinks that she's mastered them,
she's going to put them to the test.
In the first round, Shar lasted 11 minutes in the spinning chair
before feeling sick.
But now, keeping up her breathing technique,
at 19 minutes, she was still going strong
and was only a three on the scale, which is mild nausea.
Wider research into the breathing technique suggests it can be about
half as effective as medication, but that's not been the case with Shar,
for whom it appears to be far more successful,
and clearly without any of the side effects.
-Three? OK. We've reached the mandatory stop point.
So keep your head as still as possible.
I'm just slowing you down, Shar.
The test doesn't go beyond 20 minutes,
so Professor Golding stops the chair with Shar still at level three,
but he's delighted with how well she responded to this technique.
So, nice and still, keep your head nice and still.
I was pleasantly surprised at how long Shar actually lasted.
For her, obviously, the controlled breathing technique
was a massive success.
She didn't actually reach a motion sickness end point,
so she could have probably carried on further.
This is a very big, strong result.
On the whole, if we relate that to the literature,
she'd be at the high-end of positive outcome for controlled breathing
as a technique.
For Shar, who's always suffered motion sickness,
this feels like a real breakthrough
and something she certainly plans to try the future.
Personally, I do not like to take any drugs.
I always like natural remedies.
So I'd definitely go with controlled breathing.
Professor Golding is keen to emphasise that all the remedies
for travel sickness can work for different people at different times
and there's no single treatment that works for everyone,
but there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the risk
of feeling sick in the first place.
If you're on a coach or a car or on board a ship,
if you can get a stable horizon view, that's very good.
Of course, that's not always possible.
If you're in a vehicle of any sort,
try to avoid actually reading text or looking at your phone
or anything like that, because that's certainly a way of
aggravating motion sickness.
And, finally, if you can be the person in control of the vehicle,
such as the driver or pilot, that certainly helps.
Still to come on Rip-Off Britain,
as we debunk the dangers of drinking tap water on holiday,
could it be time to stop splashing out
on all that bottled water when we're away?
I don't drink the tap water.
I make tea with it, as long as it's boiled.
Our travel expert, Simon Calder, is full of tips to save you money
on your travels. He's got lots of advice on everything,
from how to avoid the crowds to the best way to steer clear
of those tourist traps.
This time he's heading west.
From beaches to mountains, forests to desert,
California is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery
in the world.
And now the Golden State is more accessible than ever from the UK,
thanks to extra flights from Manchester and Gatwick.
To fully appreciate what the state has to offer,
you have to travel around it and here's how to do it the Simon way.
So you want to visit San Francisco and Los Angeles,
and drive between them -
good idea, but don't simply buy a return ticket to one or other city.
Instead get a so-called open jaw deal.
Fly out to one, back from the other.
It shouldn't cost any more
and it will save you time and money involved in doubling back.
Just talk to a travel agent or search online
using the multi-city function.
If you want to visit San Francisco and LA,
then why not take a drive along the Pacific coast
on State Route number one?
It's a fantastic way to get from A to B,
while taking in the stunning and varied scenery all around.
Renting a car, I always book a deal from the UK that includes everything
I need and that means unlimited mileage, collision damage waiver,
supplementary liability insurance, rental tax, tourism tax, sales tax.
Just give me an all-inclusive price, please.
What's more, if you book both car and flights
with the same travel company,
your whole holiday will be ATOL protected.
Meaning, should the airline go bust while you're out there,
you at least know your return journey to the UK
will be taken care of.
And if you decide a car isn't for you, then public transport in
the big cities like LA is top notch.
And if you invest a couple of dollars in a transit access pass
or Tap card, then you can travel anywhere you like in the city
for just 5 a day.
Now, something I always remember my parents telling me
when I started to go abroad was not under any circumstances
to drink the local tap water.
Even brushing your teeth with it was out of the question, but times have
changed and now tap water in most European countries,
and indeed further afield, is completely clean and safe to drink.
However, for some of us, a few of those doubts linger on,
meaning that every trip abroad involves splashing out on plenty of
bottled water and avoiding putting ice in drinks.
So is all that really necessary
or should we be spending our money on rather more exciting instead?
Well, we're about to find out.
Wherever they're going, many holiday-makers travelling abroad
still assume that the local tap water isn't fit for drinking.
Some will have been brought up on the fear that you can't even
brush your teeth with foreign tap water - let alone drink it.
So they'll buy bottles and bottles of the stuff
just to be on the safe side and reduce the chance of getting ill.
I don't drink the tap water.
I make tea with it, as long as it's boiled.
No, we buy bottled water.
Although I clean my teeth with the tap water, but that's about it.
I would never drink it.
-Well, you're advised not to.
-Well, we were years ago,
-so we've always bought it.
-So it's never altered, you see.
For drinking purposes alone, we buy the bottled water.
Cooking, sometimes tend to use the ordinary water.
-Clean my teeth with the tap water.
-We haven't had any complaints...
-And rinse my mouth out,
I don't bother about that. But I wouldn't drink it.
I don't want to be ill or anything like that.
I just bought four bottles this morning.
They were only 30 cents a bottle, you know, so why would you?
So I just pick up a bottle of water for next to nothing.
Well, those widely held views that we heard in Tenerife
stem from the old-fashioned belief
that the tap water abroad isn't up to the same standards
as it is in the UK.
It's something that certainly stuck in Karen's mind
since she first started travelling overseas as a child.
I think I was about nine when I went on one of the first package holidays
in the '70s to Majorca with my parents and my sister.
And I'm sure then that my parents did tell me not to drink the water,
and to be careful when cleaning my teeth.
So now whenever Karen arrives on holiday, wherever she goes,
she follows the same routine.
When I get to my apartment or hotel, I'll always find a shop,
buy the big bottles of water.
If there's a fridge, keep them in the fridge,
and keep buying them until I leave.
So convinced is Karen that bottled is best that she uses it not
just to drink but to clean her teeth and she takes other precautions too.
When I'm showering abroad, I always make sure not to swallow any water.
So I tend to keep my mouth shut.
The water probably is coming out of the water tank,
so that's another reason not to swallow it.
Karen knows that some people might consider that extreme,
but she believes that a good many others will share her concerns.
I think a lot of people would agree with me and not drink the tap water
when they go abroad, but I would need a lot of convincing
that it would be OK to do that, and some concrete evidence.
So to do just that and potentially save Karen and others a fortune in
bottled water costs, we've brought her to this lab in Coventry
where samples of water
from many of our favourite holiday destinations
are carefully tested to see if they're safe to drink.
-Hi, Karen, welcome to the lab.
We've arranged for Karen to meet water analyst Chris Caird.
Well, this is our sample store.
This is just a small selection of the samples
that we test within the company.
We test samples all across the European Union.
We've got labs in several different countries.
Scientists here work to strict regulations set by
the European Union to make sure all water samples in Europe
are of the same quality.
What we're looking for, we're trying to filter out particular bacteria
that are indicative of potential contamination and health hazards.
In the 1970s, the European Drinking Water Group
put in place policies and legislation
to protect and keep our water clean,
bringing together all the drinking water standards throughout the EU.
That means that wherever you are in Europe, the water you drink will be
tested to the same standard and if testing companies like ALS
find any impurities which may pose a danger to public health
they'll report that back to the water company
in the relevant country.
So Chris is confident that the water
in all the most popular European destinations is safe to drink.
So when I travel on holiday to places like Portugal, Spain, Italy,
should I be worried about drinking the water?
I travel, like you do, on holiday to Spain, Italy, Portugal,
I'm quite happy to drink the water when I get there
and I'm quite happy to let my children do so, so I wouldn't worry.
But when it comes to destinations further afield,
it's a different story.
There are still plenty of popular locations where drinking
the water isn't recommended.
These maps give an overview of where in the world the water is safe,
and where it isn't.
Areas marked blue are ones
where you can drink it,
but in those marked brown,
you really shouldn't.
While all of western Europe is blue,
further afield, Russia,
Eastern Europe, Turkey,
Cyprus and Egypt are all brown
as the tap water isn't
always considered safe to drink.
In North America, all tap water is safe, as it is in Brunei,
but in Mexico, Cuba, the Bahamas and Caribbean,
bottled water is recommended.
Tap water in the whole of South America is unsafe to drink
and in Africa and Asia,
it's not considered safe to drink the tap water -
with the exception of Hong Kong, Israel, Singapore,
Japan and South Korea.
Back in the lab, Karen is so reassured
by everything Chris has shown her today that it may mean an end
to her spending lots of money
on unnecessary bottled water on her next trip.
Well, I've seen a lot today which actually has quite impressed me.
My thoughts have changed on drinking water when I'm abroad,
and perhaps I will give it a try.
It all probably depends where I'm going.
And if you're unsure about the quality of the tap water
in the destination you're going to this year,
you can find out more information on our website. That's...
Our annual pop-up shop is a perfect opportunity
to get your holiday problems and queries resolved.
A problem that a lot of you come and tell us about is lost luggage.
Martin and Siobhan are among the people who got to their destination
only to find their bags didn't arrive with them.
They say this ruined the majority of their cruise for them,
so they're meeting travel writer Emma Colthurst
to see what can be done.
Now, you've had a bit of a disaster,
so just tell me from the beginning what happened.
We flew from Manchester to Copenhagen via Amsterdam,
and when we got to get onto our cruise ship,
all three pieces of our luggage had been lost.
Martin and Siobhan were told
there'd been a baggage handler strike at Amsterdam airport,
so while they'd successfully boarded their transfer flight,
their bags had not.
Basically, the cruise line said that it was an airline issue and whilst
they would provide us with credit in their shop to buy toiletries etc,
there was nothing else that they could do
beyond offering to do our laundry every night.
We weren't able to enjoy the facilities,
because we didn't have appropriate clothing.
So there were three bags. Did they all arrive on the same day?
No, all of our cases had turned up by day six.
-It ruins your holiday, six days out of nine days.
-It does. Yes.
Once the couple were home, they wrote e-mails of complaint
about the way in which the situation had been handled
to both the travel company and the airline.
What did you get? Did you get any money and compensation?
-We got a very long and detailed apology
from the cruise line and a very curt sorry from the airline.
You can claim on your travel insurance.
It's normally a small amount, but did you try that?
We didn't, actually, because we thought, "Well, we've nothing to
-"actually physically claim for."
Some travel insurance policies will pay out for delayed luggage,
but make sure you check the terms and conditions
before submitting a claim.
And while they may not always like it, under the Montreal Convention,
airlines are obliged to take responsibility
for lost and delayed luggage -
although you'll need to keep receipts
for any essentials that you purchased in order to be reimbursed.
I'm really glad that the cruise ship allowed you to buy toiletries at
their expense, because ultimately it was the airline's responsibility.
Well, I hope it hasn't put you off holidays forever.
-No. That's brilliant, thank you.
-Thank you very much.
Well, Martin and Siobhan and checked the terms and conditions of their
travel insurance, but unfortunately their particular policy
isn't one that offers cover for delayed luggage.
However, in some good news, after visiting us,
the couple have now received £300 in vouchers from the airline
they flew with to spend on their next flight with them.
Meanwhile, Simon Calder was out and about in the shopping centre
with tips and advice on all things travel.
Let me introduce you to Mr Simon Calder,
who is THE travel guru, so if you've got any questions at all about
travel you want to ask, he's your man.
So we would like to go to New York this year, for Christmas,
-Oh, right, Christmas shopping. Ooh, OK.
-Yes, in New York. So any tips?
-So what you've got to do,
first of all, the flight -
if you're prepared to change planes in Dublin, in Reykjavik, in Canada,
you're going to get a much better deal on the flight.
-And, also, if you do that, you don't have to go through
immigration when you get to the other end.
Very good point. If you go through Dublin,
then you clear American immigration in Dublin.
That's a really good idea, that.
So nice to see you. Thank you very much indeed.
Rip-Off Britain wouldn't be here without your stories,
and we've got plenty of ways that you can get in touch with us.
You can send us an e-mail to...
Or you can write to us at...
But please don't send original copies of any documents.
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you can join in the conversation on our Facebook page.
Just search BBC Rip-Off Britain.
Well, that's just about where we have to leave it for today,
but if you're someone who insists on sticking with bottled water
whenever you go away,
hopefully you'll have been reassured to hear that,
in most parts of Europe at least, it isn't absolutely necessary.
Which I'm sure will be a relief for anyone
who hasn't quite shaken off old habits.
But as for those poor people
who were spun around in that chair to test how effective
that particular travel sickness remedy was...
Oh, it made me feel absolutely sick just looking at it.
Yeah, not just you,
I think just about everybody that was watching them,
but, I have to say, do remember if you have got a burning question
on any consumer topic at all that you would like us to investigate,
perhaps for our food series, which is returning very soon,
then we really would love to hear from you.
But, for now, though, that's it for today.
Thanks for joining us,
and we'll be back again with more of your stories very soon.
-Until then, from all of us, bye-bye.
Gloria Hunniford, Angela Rippon and Julia Somerville investigate problems viewers have experienced around some holiday essentials, getting to the bottom of which countries are ones where it is, or isn't, safe to drink the tap water, and testing out the most effective ways to beat travel sickness.
Also, as travellers reveal how they have ended up out of pocket thanks to pre-paid currency cards, there is advice on how to avoid ending up in the same position.
And Simon Calder has advice on visiting California.