Tue 24th September 2013
How much I welcome the recent European Commission's EU credit card cap proposal to cap in particular credit card fees forced upon retailers that tend to get passed onto the consumer.
I recently purchased 2 flight tickets from BA to South Africa and paid a 3% surcharge for using my MasterCard, and yes, I do sometimes go somewhere else other than Spain from time to time. Not only does the airline profit from the sale of the ticket, and yes I paid an extra £140 return for the privilege of choosing seat numbers, but they make at least a 100% mark-up on the card from the credit card issuers, since they would be paying about 1.5% in interchange fees to their bank . The new regulation will cap charges to 0.3% and discussions are currently underway. No doubt the banks will want to make up such a huge shortfall in income, but where I wonder? With just a 0.3% interchange rate then really no surcharges should apply on any transaction and retailers will have reduced their overhead.
If you know you're being surcharged unfairly or excessively then do take action and complain after reading this out-law.
If you use your credit card aboard you'll find that nowadays there's an annoying extra 2.5 to 2.75% charge against every transaction you make, so better to get a Euro card and charge up. Check out pre-paid currency cards from fairfx.com or caxtonfx.com
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Wed 08th May 2013
Recent media coverage by the Guardian Newspaper at http://bit.ly/159diiY about HomeAway, the US major accommodation listing company, reports on holidaymakers losing thousands of pounds because of fictitious listings, with no support or compensation.
Such unfortunate stories have been reported time and again by the media over the years, which serve to demonstrate that nothing can be done to stop this malicious practice. So how can you protect yourself?
It may be a bore for those that have read our financial security page about protecting yourself on page http://bit.ly/ZVDdWy , but to repeat the mantra: Paying by credit card is the only safeguard against any type of fraud. By paying a minimum of £100 gives you full protection under section 75 of the 1974 credit card act, for which you then get an immediate refund. Paying by cheque or making a bank transfer to any party offers no protection whatsoever should the advertiser disappear or the advert was found to be fraudulent.
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Wed 01st May 2013
The front page Guardian article 27-4-13 in the Money section at http://bit.ly/159diiY gives examples of consumers losing money when paying for accommodation on holiday website portals such as HomeAway.
To protect yourself only use a credit card. Further information and advice can be found on page http://bit.ly/ZVDdWy
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Wed 05th September 2012
That's the verdict of more than 14 million UK tourists who have forked out tens of millions of pounds for hidden extras on their holidays abroad.
The Post Office All-Inclusive Holiday ¬Report, released today, shows:
88% of travellers expected ALL meals to be supplied, but 16% (equivalent to three million people) had paid an estimated total of £76.8million extra for a la carte meals on their last trip.
Less than 50% said they actually saved money by going all-inclusive.
Wide variations in exclusions between European and long haul destinations.
We say, get privacy, space and better choice and quality of food in or out when on an independent villa holiday.
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Tue 07th August 2012
Cancelled accommodation more common today and why!
There has been a marked increase of telephone calls this year from holidaymakers that have been let down on their villa booking.
Various reasons are given and include suddenly unavailable, illness of owner or the villa is sold and even the odd repossession by the bank.
What is happening is that with some owners that advertise privately the property they may well be listed for sale too, and in these troubled economic times with villa sales flat in Spain, some owners sell the villa and renege on their letting commitments.
Booking with an agent ensures that another villa will be available to you if such a situation ever occurred, unlike a private owner advertiser that does not have other villas listed.
Should you book a weekday arrival and departures then it could be difficult to find alternative accommodation, particularly in summer when villas may be on a Saturday changeover.
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Fri 13th July 2012
Pound/Euro rates hit €1.27, best in nearly 4 years
The reasons for the gains were continuing doubts about the currency bloc's ability to activate bailout funds help bailout countries struggling to repay its debts. Investors worldwide have been dumping the single currency in favour of safer havens such as the US Dollar.
The reason people are shunning the Euro is due to the lack of progress towards solving the bloc's debt crisis. Adding to the overall bearish mood towards the euro, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said on Tuesday his country could be interested in tapping the euro zone's rescue fund for bond support. This came after Spain announced a further round of austerity measures following their €30bn bailout earlier in the week.
Will rates fall back away?
Possibly. We have already seen a decline since hitting a peak earlier this week. The deepening crisis in the euro zone is a huge risk to the UK economy because the region is Britain's largest trading partner. Bank of England governor Mervyn King on Tuesday warned the British economy was showing few signs of recovery and analysts predicted output would prove to have remained sluggish in June due to a double holiday.
The Government and Bank of England don't want a high GBP/EUR rate - it's hurting our exports and stalling our recovery. There is a good chance of an interest rate cut to try to pull the rate down to make the Pound more attractive.
Indeed we have seen several times in the last few years the BoE talking the Pound back down, and if this happens the rate may fall away.
The case for rates climbing further
Of course rates falling is not a given, and nobody can predict exactly what will happen. Should we see further weakness in the Eurozone then there is every chance rates could pull higher, assuming we don't see the UK powers try to weaken Sterling.
Many forecasts do suggest rates may climb, however we have seen such forecasts before only to see a drop.
Extract from information supplied by Foremost Currency Group.
We say - good to buy some Euros now and secure your spending money. Look at our Blog for currency card and lock in the rate.
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Mon 25th June 2012
The Observer letters section on 24th June 2012, highlights the lack of consumer protection for PayPal users.
Consumers are not protected under Section 75 of the 1974 consumer credit card act when using PayPal, unlike when you use a Visa or Mastercard credit card, as a means of payment. Click here
Does Paypal actually offer extra protection? Click here
If you pay for an item costing £100 or more using your credit card, you are protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. So if the retailer goes bust, fails to deliver the goods or the goods it supplies are not up to scratch, you have the statutory right to compensation from your credit card provider.
But this statutory right does NOT apply if you pay for something on your credit card via Paypal. In this case, the very safeguard you sought - having a middleman - means you no longer have a direct, legal contract with your credit card provider.
Inst Further article on PayPal's lack of consumer protection click here , you will have to make a claim for compensation with Paypal. And that means Paypal gets to decide whether your dispute is valid. You no longer have the protection of the law.
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Thu 24th May 2012
A holiday getaway, for say just a weekend trip in Brighton, can cost a lot more than a week in a luxury villa with its own private pool in Spain, even when you include all travel, food and associated costs of an independently-taken holiday, as opposed to the all-inclusive type packages that are available. I know Brighton very well as a great place to live and work, but looking at it from a visitor's perspective it is interesting to see a gaping disparity in the value for money it offers when compared to travelling abroad. This disparity is true of all popular tourist places in the UK.
The weekend getaway, and even the Staycation phenomenon, for a main holiday has been growing in popularity in the UK for a few years, particularly since the economic downturn in 2007, but what is the true cost of that weekend getaway to Brighton for example when compared to the cost of having your own luxury villa with a private pool in a quality resort such as Moraira or Javea on the Costa Blanca in Spain for say a party or family of 4.
Compare the costs:
Take a reasonably priced self catering apartment in Brighton and the cost per week is around £700 and little less for a weekend, or alternatively take a decent guesthouse (B&B) off the seafront with no pool or view for 2 nights and the cost is £150 per night per room including breakfast.
Taking the car can be a hassle when it comes to parking in Brighton, with the wardens and tow away teams being very active, let alone the cost of £3.50 per hour at the meter or £25 per day in the one of the car parks. Although at a hotel you should be able to obtain a 2.50 per day parking voucher, providing you can find a parking space. The most practical and cost effective route is to take the train at approximately £25 per head return from say London as an example.
Having a substantial breakfast at the guesthouse will give you the energy to forego any big lunch, so a simple lunch or sandwiches may well suffice until the evening, which will cost between £35 to £50 per head including wine at a local small restaurant such as Sams, or eat for less at pizza type places. Cote restaurant, located by the Dome, does excellent pre theatre meals at under £12 per head excluding wine, so eating early in some places can save money, though may be too early to eat for some.
Enjoy a drink or two before and after the meal at one of the many pubs or bars and the cost can easily rocket.
Visit a few interesting sites such as the must see Pavilion costing £8.00 per person or a family ticket can be had for £25.70 for 4 (tour takes 1-2 hours), as well as the big wheel at over £8 each for a 3 minute ride, not to mention the pier amusements and you'll find it's easy to let a few hundred pounds slip through your hands within a few hours.
A stroll around the North and South Lanes offers more interesting niche product shops and antiques than the regular shopping mall and high street, which is a welcome cost free exercise, providing you can resist the items on display.
Take the bus tour around Brighton and that is £10 each or £20 for a family ticket, or a sea life aquarium visit at £16.20 or £11.40 for a child each, so for a family of 4 the cost would be £55.20.
When you are in a B&B everything is extra, so taking that taxi or buying those ice creams add up. Taking an all-day bus pass is great value, providing it is used well.
Below is an example of costs that can be incurred on a London to Brighton weekend trip for 2 couples or a family of 4 with information from Visit Brighton's website for tourism and links, as well as local information from local guesthouses and self catering accommodation sites.
London Victoria to Brighton for 4 return £100.
Accommodation 2 nights inc breakfast in a B&B guesthouse or self catering £600- £700.
Two evening meals out at £35 each per night £280.
Sandwiches, snacks for 2 days for 4 £80
Drinks at £10 per head per night for 4 £80
Entertainment tickets £50 pp per day total £400
By comparison the cost shown, below, is an example of taking a week to a luxury villa with private pool and all associated costs in May.
Take 4 flights in May at £120 inc return each £480, via cheap flight options.
Travel to Gatwick airport from London and return £108
Take a villa in May say at £400 inclusive per week.
Car hire £150 inclusive of fully comprehensive insurance and an allowance of fuel at say £40, to enable you to sightsee and go to beaches, markets, historic towns and places of interest and have enough fuel to return the car to the airport.
Allow a full day and use all attractions at say Terra Mitica for £102 covering 2 adults and 2 children.
Kids will always be happy to spend all their time at the poolside, though the great local beaches with warm waters are a major draw and for free.
Allowing a week's luxury hamper of wine and food to cover breakfasts, lunches, BBQ's and evening meal at say 250 euro's for 4 and the total is £1,500, being £40 less than a weekend in Brighton.
Travel for 3 nights and the cost is less with those agents that rent villas for less than a week. Go as a larger group and the cost per person reduces more so.
No doubt, other tourist places in the UK are little different in their charges for accommodation and entertainment than Brighton, so I am just using it as an example to compare costs of a normal UK weekend stay with a week's luxury villa stay.
Compare the costs of both and take into account those little extra costs in the UK of a taxi, snacks or drinks and you can soon be heading for the ATM a few times.
We all need that short break to getaway and have some quality time with friends and loved ones, so taking a short haul trip to a luxury villa in wonderful locations such as Moraira http://bit.ly/I0Z843 , Javea http://bit.ly/IGLEuS , Denia http://bit.ly/IW8FbR or Calpe http://bit.ly/IGM1p8 along the Costa Blanca http://bit.ly/KccXk5 gives you more time for less cost than a weekend in Brighton, which really is a no brainer.
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Wed 28th March 2012
Most owners will choose a Spanish villa name to perhaps reflect the view from the villa, or a flower or their family name. Simple, memorable and innocent, but what do you conjure up when you hear the name villa Water Music: the sound of a nice bubbling brook or water fall perhaps.
I discovered such a villa in Moraira, that I came across, is privately advertised as Water Music at £1300 pw, although the water music happens to be the municipal open sewage treatment works immediately next to the villa, and caters for several hundred villas. Yes, you can hear the sound of water from the villa, but you can also smell it too.
Fine if this is explained in the villa description, but misleading and unfair when it's not advised of, as is the case here.
A pukka agent would ensure a full and proper description and that disclosure is made of anything untoward, particularly an open sewage treatment plant that is next door.
Private advertisers, as in this case, can understandably be more biased about their own property: after all, it is their investment, pride and joy. Perhaps the Spanish term 'villa Aguas Residuales' would be appropriate, meaning sewage works, but then in Spanish it would be misleading too if not mentioned in the details.
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Thu 09th February 2012
There is an increasing array of credit cards that now carry a much higher commission charge of over 3% to retailers than the normal personal credit card of 1.2-1.5%, since these premium/business/commerciall/fleet cards give added benefits to the card holder in various ways such as free points, cashback, free insurance, low credit or free credit for a period etc etc.
In 2010 Tesco converted their Finest Platinum MasterCard to their Finest World MasterCard. Tesco's marketing giveaway of 650 points on the change effectively nearly doubled the commission charge to retailers, so it's really the retailer who actually pays for the added benefits that the card issuer gives.
A case of give on the one hand and take from another. Tesco credit card FAQ page.
Cards that carry the higher commission are as follows but not limited to;
Mastercard or Visa World
Mastercard or Visa Corporate, Commercial, Fleet or Business.
VillaSpain makes no charge for personal credit card use, for which we encourage its use due to the financial protection it gives under the Consumer Credit Card Act of 1974, but we do charge 2% for those credit cards that are premium benefit cards, as displayed on the booking form.
There is no charge for Electron or debit cards.
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Mon 23rd January 2012
Can the ABTA, AITO and ATOL symbol be trusted?
Booking a holiday with any organisation where you see the ABTA, ATOL and AITO symbol is no guarantee that you're financially secure;
The Guardian's article End of Travel Protection expels that myth. In addition, ABTA was forced to withdraw from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) Consumer Code of Approval Scheme, as reported by Travel Weekly - ABTA Criticised for Code of Conduct Violation.
The full code of conduct OFT report can be viewed here. The holidaymaker's financial protection ceased back in 2006, but the holidaymaker still remains mostly unaware, according to last year's Which report which found that travellers were said to have an "unwarranted trust" in the level of protection they were offered from associations such as ABTA, AITO and ATOL. http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/articles/1/1/1/38343
They went onto report that more than two thirds (67%) wrongly assumed that if a travel company went into administration, and was a member of one of the associations, their money would be safe.
Financial protection :
We all know that sending a cheque or making a bank transfer to an individual or business for your holiday, or for anything else prepaid, offers you no security whatsoever: but when it comes to seeing well known association symbols such as ABTA and ATOL appended to brochures or websites, that have historically suggested financial protection, ones defences can be down.
There is only one way to have 100% financial protection for your holiday villa, and that comes from using your credit card, provided the sum paid is not less than £100 (not a debit or charge card like Amex or Diners Club).
Protection and full refund comes from the 1974 Consumer Credit Act (section 75), as advised here at http://www.villaspain.co.uk/aboutus.php#financialsecurity and by Which consumer magazine here
Not only that but you get credited immediately from your card issuer, whilst they make their refund claim against the company. A claim can be brought within 6 years (5 in Scotland), although ideally should be claimed as soon as you are aware of the company going bust.
Other European countries' banks that issue credit cards also include the same protection for the public, which means protection for all Europeans too.
Some companies make a charge for credit use, so given the straightened times we are currently in, and the more frauds and cons there are about, it is wise to pay it.
Debit and Chargeback cards:
You should also be protected even if you used a Visa debit card or Chargeback card under the Chargeback scheme, which offers similar protection to section 75.
To make a claim with any card, customers must contact their card issuer, who then contacts the company's payment-processing bank to reclaim the money. This means that even if a company goes into liquidation it is possible to reclaim money, as the claim is made against a bank, not the company.
Sometimes card issuers misunderstand section 75 and Chargeback rules and refuse a claim. Anyone in this situation should argue their case. If all else fails contact the Financial Ombudsman.
What about getting compensation for other costs or losses?
Can you claim for other losses you have incurred as a result of the failure of the company. Yes, under section 75 you must be put back in the same financial position you would have been in if the breach had not occurred. So should an airline go bust and you have to buy replacement flights that cost more than the original ones, you can also claim for the additional cost of those flights.
Now ATOL you can trust, but one must be aware that it applies to the flight element and not necessarily the rest of the holiday package, so you need to check that all aspects of the package are protected. Also, to be aware that it is not a fictitious company displaying the ATOL symbol fraudulently, so a quick check of the members' ATOL CAA registration number can be done on page http://bit.ly/wGxf3c for you peace of mind.
Do note that some holidays, where the flight and accommodation are arranged or sold separately, and that is termed Dynamically Packaged, may not be ATOL protected.
Note too that booking a flight directly with any airline does not give you ATOL protection. You would think that the £2.50 per passenger charge that is levied to the tour operator by the Air Travel Trust Fund, and administered by the CAA, in the event a tour operator goes bust, could be included on your overall flight cost when booked direct, but no it isn't. Such a nominal sum allows you to finish your holiday and get a flight home, assuming you are abroad in the first place.
Some UK airlines do offer package holidays or flight-plus-accommodation or car hire combinations that include package holiday protection, but do require checking as to what protection you have.
What about Travel Insurance?
Some policies cover airline failure, usually by including Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI). However, many policies don't include SAFI and some insurance providers exclude particular airlines, so you need to check what the policy does cover you for.
All in all, many holidaymakers believe they are financially protected in the event of insolvency, when they are not.
What to do?
Use a credit card in all holiday, flight or holiday accommodation cases (min £100), which guarantees that all the money you paid is refunded. Should the travel agent or airline go bust whist you are away the credit card firm will refund you too and are obliged to cover any loss you incur, as the contract has not been fulfilled.
In addition, do take out travel insurance that includes SAFI, which then covers you for a host of other situations.
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Tue 24th May 2011
During March we relocated to larger premises, within Benissa, of 115 sq mts.
A simple move from existing premises nearby, though we were completely unprepared for a very long delay on the electrical connection from Iberdrolla (Spain's monopoly utility firm on electric supply).
The previous owner had allowed his electrical supply to be disconnected, which ultimately meant having to arrange for drawing up a plan of the existing premises by an independent engineer, then submit to the Town Hall for approval of change of use from an ex furniture shop and office to an office with storage: to then submit the Town Hall document and plan to Iberdrolla for approval and connection. Basically, it required 3 documents from three officials, each costing between 300 and 400 Euros, to simply get a connection from an existing meter on a previously existing shop. Has bureaucracy gone too far or is it that certain bodies are in need of some additional fees, or a bit of both, I ask? Attempts to circumvent change of use proved fruitless.
Throw in a few fiestas over the period, including Easter, and all the wonderful parades going on locally, and you find Iberdrolla is in no particular rush. Ten weeks after taking possession we now have an electricity supply. It could have been longer if it had not been the persistence from our great team in Spain, to chase Iberdrolla. All very odd as the water and telephone utility services were connected on the first day of moving, with no paperwork required.
Even the solicitor that handled the tenancy agreement could only smile at the services of Iberdrolla, so only makes me think about how lucky we are in the UK not to have to have that anymore.
Fortunately, the premises are double fronted, with huge plate glass windows giving plenty of natural light, and the supervisors were able to connect to our database for instructions on bookings from their own home computers, so no panic existed.
Benissa is on the N332 road, being the centre of our servicing area between Calpe and Denia, with just a very short drive into Moraira, so is an excellent location.
No move planned for at least 5 years, so settling in is now complete!
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Mon 04th April 2011
Well, it all happened back in 1991 when an old friend recommended them to me. Attracted by interesting old buildings in the UK and abroad that were converted sympathetically into good quality accommodation with amenities was very much appealing, and as an advocate of self catering over hotels myself it made good sense. In fact, on many occasions I will drive and stay at their French establishments and then drive onto Spain.
Here was a professional company that knew what it was doing and was doing it very well. A wonderfully clever programme that allowed flexible use at any one of its property, regardless of location, size and time period.
HPB's attention to detail was an act I sought to achieve with VillaSpain when it started in 1994, and continue to do so.
I have only praise for HPB, though would like to explain some of the key pros and cons to people that may not be so familiar with them and the likes of similar organisations.
a) You could decide the size of the accommodation on every trip yourself, be it studio, one bed 2 bed 3 bed etc, for which you only paid a user charge and not an annual maintenance fee.
b) Choose any date you want.
c) Choice of location.
Not a package type complex, but well planned accommodation surrounding spacious grounds that are all well maintained.
On site amenities, including heated pools and tennis, and in some a club house with billiard rooms and other games rooms.
Offers some excellent historic buildings that have been converted.
You choose whether to socialise with other HPB holders or just do your own thing.
When you invest in HPB you basically lose 25% of the value of your investment, so it is not a property investment but a holiday entitlement, though in perpetuity and can be on in your will.
User charges (non profit) are considered high by users, though the level of service at each development is high and the properties well maintained too.
Trying to juggle your allocated annual points, in order to try to avoid them being placed on a 70 day account or lost altogether if not used by a certain date. Ideal if you have friends that you can share and swap with.
Now let's compare a bit with their non profit user charge on villa pricing when compared to VillaSpains listed property;
HPB have 2 x 4 bedroom villas in Javea, Spain that have a no profit user charge set at £650 per week, fixed all year around.
If you compare this with VillaSpain 4 bedroom villas then you can find several stunning villas at under £600 between 1st October and end of May. Therefore the saving would be to make use of HPB between June and September, though you need to use 16,000 points with HPB (£1 a point cost) for a week's stay in peak period. Compare HPB Villa Margarita http://www.hpb.co.uk/properties/ with VillaSpains Villa Nevette at page http://bit.ly/mRtQpV . The latter having a higher spec.
Now when you compare with HPB's tenancy properties (ones that are rented but not directly owned by HPB) the differences work more in favour of VillaSpain . Take Casa Buho (HPB), which is a nice standard 3 bed with pool that will set you back £1350 pw in peak season and £615 to £1,000 pw for all other periods. Compare to Villavista with air/con at http://bit.ly/iShuDQ at just £900 pw peak or Mirador al Sur at http://bit.ly/jg53s3 for £1,395 with air/con, WIFI and spectacular views you will realise there are great savings and far better offerings by being independent.
Compare this with a front line spectacular villa called Villa Galesa in Javea http://bit.ly/jw1yIM at just £1,538 peak period, or the outstanding luxurious 400 square metre 4 bedroom Finca Badowa at http://bit.ly/krKBj6 under the Montgo at £795 to £1,690 peak then you would see that there are more interesting superior properties with more amenities than with HPB tenancies.
Compare also HPB's new development at El Pueblito de Alfaix in Almeria, whereby a 3 bed villa with pool will cost £699 per week throughout the year and over 18,000 points peak time, against higher specked villas in the considerably more affluent Northern Costa Blanca that are nearly half that price between 1st October and end of May. The only benefit here would be to book a HPB villa in July and August. Alfaix is well inland and has no commercial centre, so a drive to the coast or Mojacar takes you over 17-20 mins ( 17 Kms).
Yes, there is a club house, communal heated pool, tennis, Jacuzzi, sauna and crazy golf.
In summary you are considerably better off financially to use a VillaSpain villa outside of peak summer than by taking HPB own property. You also get a greater choice of individually styled properties with Villaspain that in many cases offer a much higher spec than HPB, since air/con, SAT subscription TV and WIFI are more common.
Holidays are to enjoy and it's good to have the mix, so I will be keeping my HPB points.
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Sat 05th March 2011
Booking a Villa in Spain: Sunday Times Exposes Perils of DIY Portals highlighted the danger of fraud when booking villas directly with owners through DIY booking portals.
When you choose a reputable agent, you can rest assured that the villa actually exists. But what other benefits are there to having an agent on hand?
Suitable, safe villa
Why would you compromise your family's safety? Reputable agents will carry out professional inspections to check overall suitability and safety. They want you to make the right choice. That's why they're keen to point out accessibility issues and give honest appraisals of a villa's child-friendly credentials. Check that your agent insists on up-to-date gas certificates and only represents owners who comply with local and national safety regulations.
Spotlessly clean villa
Agents engage professionals for all-important changeover cleaning. You won't find friends of the owner wafting a feather duster about at the start of your holiday. It's also good to know that skilled, local help is a telephone call away in the event of a maintenance issue.
Safe, clean pool
Judging from our customer feedback, your pool will be an important feature of your holiday. Don't take chances on its upkeep. Agents use professional pool cleaners, not well-meaning, but ultimately untrained friends.
Getting pool chemicals right is critical. Get it wrong and at best, your pool will not be clean, at worst, it will have serious ramifications for your health.
Reliable support, 7 days a week
Look for agents offering support throughout your stay. You might have queries about your villa, a maintenance issue could arise or you might even need to complain.
Often, it helps to have the support of an agent, rather than having to approach the owner directly.
Access to alternative accommodation
Agents can respond to a crisis. No one wants their holiday blighted by a failure in essential services. So if your villa is plunged into darkness or cut off from the water or gas supply, you can rely on your agent to find you a comparable, alternative villa.
Equally, if the owner of an adjacent property picks the week of your holiday to start major building works, it's a comfort to know that an agent is on hand to help resolve the issue, and ultimately find you a new home, if required.
The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth
Owners tend to love their properties, often with good reason. But love can be blind and some owners unwittingly over-egg their descriptions.
Agents are more inclined to give an unbiased opinion and may use grading for greater transparency - some even evaluate the soft furnishings and quality of the kitchen contents. Look at villa descriptions closely and check that they reflect the photos and virtual tours accurately.
In addition, credit card bookings are widely accepted by agents, giving crucial protection and peace of mind. And if you thought that all this expert local support costs a premium, you'd be surprised. Check out our forthcoming blog to see price comparisons between agents and direct bookings. Discover deals that deliver all these benefits without costing a penny more than going direct.
Book your Moraira villa, Calpe apartment or villa in Javea with VillaSpain today. If you're spoilt for choice, call us on 01273 623723 and we'll help you find the safe, clean villa with pool of your dreams. And we'll be on hand throughout your stay.
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Mon 21st February 2011
The Costa Blanca has a mild year-round climate, described as one of the best in the world by the World Health Organisation, no less. You're practically guaranteed good weather with an average of 325 days of sunshine each year and temperatures around 20oC/ 68oF in late April and early May. Check this week's weather forecast.
Looking for clean, well-tended beaches sloping gently into the sea for safe family swimming? Look no further. Spain boasts the highest number of blue flag beaches in the world, picking up 520 awards in 2010. Explore the Javea peninsular for long, sandy expanses and rocky coves. Perfect for family picnics or snorkeling, scuba diving and water-ski-ing attempts.
Immerse yourself in Spanish Easter celebrations. Solemn processions and mournful trumpets accompany images of Christ and Virgin Mary being carried through the streets - but it's not all sombre reflection. Each town has its own way to mark the Semana Santa (Holy Week). Pick up information from local tourist offices and find out about parades in Moraira, the Palm Sunday procession in Elche, the artisan craft fair (22-25 April) and even bull running in Javea.
Whilst family walks at home might be met with groans, get the kids to charge around the Spanish countryside and you might unearth their inner explorer. Navigate your way through well-marked paths in the fragrant Montgo mountainside. Try the circular route in and through the Sierra de Bernia.
Traverse Calpe Rock or explore wine country in the Jalon Valley.
Terra Mitica Benidorm´s theme park serves up thrills, spills and shows in a fascinating journey through five ancient and legendary civilizations: Egypt, Greece, Rome, Iberia and The Islands. Fight side by side with Ulysses, face up to the Minotaur, and see a pirate vessel sinking. Situated on the outskirts of Benidorm, at Finestrat, it's well-signposted. www.terramiticapark.com
Terra Natura Benidorm. Close by to Terra Mitica, you'll find Terra Natura, a stunning wildlife park with 1,500 animals. Check out their night-time safaris. From late-May, take a dip in the water park, Aqua Natura, where you can plummet down water chutes or swim with sea lions. www.terranatura.com
Mundomar. This animal park reopens on 27 February 2011. You'll find flamingos, turtles, sea lions, penguins, parrots, a bat cave and much more. Don't miss the spectacular dolphin shows. http://www.mundomar.es/?lang=en
Safari Aitana, near Sella. Safari Park Vergel may have closed its doors, but you can still see animals roaming freely at the Aitana Safari Park near Sella, about 33km inland from Benidorm. Drive through and get the family to spot elephants, lions and tigers. Little ones love the children's zoo and the special nursery where they raise newborn animals. Open all year, every day from 11am. http://www.safariaitana.com
Cuevas del Canelobre, near Alicante. Stun the family with nature's handiwork with a visit to the breathtaking Canelobre caves at Busot near Alicante. Check local information for details about concerts that take full advantage of the acoustics and dramatic lighting at this year-round attraction. www.cuevasdecanelobre.com
Lemon Express. Take the train from Denia to Alicante. Sway and rattle through the countryside on the charming railway meandering down the coast, plunging through tunnels and over bridges. Kick back and tuck into a picnic en route before hitting the shops and sights of one of the coast's most sophisticated cities.
Keep in mind that under-3s often go free and attractions may offer cheaper entrance after 3pm. Check websites for the most up-to-date information on promotions and offers.
And remember, this area is chock-full of welcoming restaurants, cobbled towns, idyllic harbours, plentiful play areas and bustling marketplaces - just mooching about can provide endless entertainment for all the family.
Have you visited the Costa Blanca in Easter before? Where do you go for great family days out near Javea? Will you take a family holiday in Easter 2011? Let us know your top tips - email your photos and give us your top tips firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fri 14th January 2011
Not that any country wants to be regarded as the cheapest, but the Sunday Times article 9th January (Travel section) triple page spread places it above all other countries in the world as their top pick for being best holiday value. Not only that but it places the Costa Blanca top too of all Spain. Go to;
If you missed our Newsletter about a villa price comparison of one of our villas against the same one with Europe’s largest rental operator then (click here ). You will then know, having a holiday in one of our villas is the best value by far, leaving you lots more money to enjoy your holiday with. One of my joys is eating out in a lovely restaurant and enjoying some of the great boutique bodega wines of the region, which are modern and unlike the oaky Rioja wines altogether....simply delicious and well priced.
If you fancy a night in and do not want to BBQ or cook then a great alternative to home cooking and eating out is to go to the local rotisserie shops, which are located in every town. They sell the most delicious juicy chicken, rabbit, lamb or beef that is all well prepared with fresh herbs, and can be accompanied with cooked side dishes too, so a takeaway feast can be just the perfect inexpensive solution when compared to buying the meats uncooked from the supermarket.
I purchased some fresh squid from Mercadona’s (big supermarket chain) fish counter but found when grilling it that it would not singe and brown and released just clouded water content, so clearly impregnated with too much water. Having then on another day repeated the exercise but buying the squid from the local lovely fish market in Morraira it would singe and tasted wholly wonderful, just like they do at Pisces, my favourite fish restaurant. Going to the local fish market in any town is the best and most interesting option too.When you choose the fish just say Limpia, which means to clean and they clean it for you ready to cook. 2-3 mins on the BBQ or griddle and some oleoil (mayo and garlic) and one is well with the world, along with a nice rose wine
Posted by Bruce Gibson
Wed 05th January 2011
Although the Costa Blanca is best known as a “sun, sand and sangria” resort in the summer, the winter attracts the more energetic holidaymaker. The area has long been considered one of the best destinations anywhere in the world for winter rock climbing and nowadays it attracts visitors from all over the world. Forget the hot, sweaty, crowded, noisy, expensive summer and go for the cheap winter sun. The winter has the mild climate (still t-shirt and shorts weather) and you benefit from cheap flights (can be as little as £55 return from London airports), cheap accommodation (3 Bed villa with private pool from £170pw ) and cheap car hire from £50pw. More and more climbers leave the grey skies at home and head to Costa Blanca for a bit of winter sun and ideal climbing conditions. However it is not just the climate that draws them to the Costa Blanca but the quality climbing the area really excels in. No other winter rock climbing destination in Europe offers the combination of reliable weather in conjunction with the diversity of climbing on offer. This diversity covers virtually all climbers' needs ranging from low grade sport climbs, Via Ferattas and scrambling through to top grade sport climbs and long multi-pitch climbing routes both adjacent to the sea and high in the coastal mountain ranges.
Fri 19th November 2010
Be canny about Christmas gifts for your loved one. Book them a short break on the Costa Blanca – and they might take you too. With VillaSpain, you can rent a villa in Javea, a bolthole in Moraira or an apartment in Calpe for just three days between 1 October and the end of June. Combine it with a city break to max the fun.
Check out our villas in Javea, Moraira villas and apartments in Calpe.
Here are our top tips for an Alicante short break:
Sample the delights of this vibrant town before heading up the coast. With lush parks, golden beaches and pulse-racing retail therapy, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.
Don’t miss the stunning contemporary art gallery – the Museo de Arte De Siglo XX La Asegurada – for your fix of Picasso, Dali, Bacon and Miro. Hit the mountain-top for a glorious view of the city from the formidable Castillo de Santa Barbara.
Shop ‘til you drop for butter-soft leather bags, ceramics and wicker baskets. Kick back with cocktails and traditional tapas at city hotspot, the über-cool but relaxed Senzone Rooftop Terrace.
Had your fill of the fast life? Head up the coast to Denia. Drive by all means, but take the train if you want to up your eco-friendly credentials (and save money!). You’ll be rewarded by breathtaking scenery and a stress-free, leisurely journey.
Settle into your villa, plunge into the pool and relax. Indulge in watersports – the rocky coves to the south are ideal for scuba-diving – or head up the coast and take your pick from the best beaches on the Costa Blanca. Amble through the rainbow-coloured houses of the Old Quarter and tuck into paella by the port.
You’ll be surprised how much (or how little!) you can pack into a short break.
Remember. Book a short break with us in 2011 and get a £50 voucher towards your Summer 2011 holiday. Go on, get away more.
What are your top tips for short breaks on the Costa Blanca? Where do you go for sightseeing in Alicante? Which is your favourite beach near Denia?
Email stories and pictures of your favourite way to spend a Spanish long weekend to email@example.com
Posted by Bruce Gibson