The BBC Panorama programme came to the same conclusions in August. The UK government has urged, if not virtually forced, their citizens to stay in the UK and not holiday abroad, but at what a cost! The simple law of supply and demand resulted in some staggering price increases for popular UK holiday destinations, and none could offer the superb weather we enjoy in Southern Europe.

Which? did some extensive research, looking at the average cost of private villa rentals, hotels and of taking a holiday in various popular UK destinations and comparing with popular European resorts. They found that in almost every case, taking a holiday in the UK was more expensive.

Which? looked at several holidays, both in the country and on the coast. They compared the cost of seven nights this August in a good hotel in Lake Garda, Italy, and compared it with the Lake District. Seven nights’ accommodation in Lake Garda cost £631, while the seven nights’ accommodation for two people in Lake Windermere would cost £2,381.

Which? also reported that a beach holiday in Nice, France, was cheaper than an equivalent holiday to Brighton. Which? found that seven night’s accommodation in a top rated hotel in Nice would cost £679, while the same seven nights in Brighton would cost £1,088.

Flights have to be factored in but as we all know, prices are keenly competitive these days. A quick search on Google gave flights from Heathrow to Nice for as little as £68. Fly from Gatwick and that could be even less expensive.

You may feel that this is all due to Covid-19, but Which? found that even before Covid-19 the UK was already among the most expensive holiday destinations in Europe. I struggle to understand why, when the sunshine is far from regular or reliable in the UK, even in the South. As the old saying goes, ‘The UK doesn’t have a climate, it just has weather’. In other words, anything could happen, but it probably won’t feature much sun, even in August.

Which? also reported that according to data from Kayak, the average nightly rate of three-star and four-star hotels in the UK in 2019 was £109 – 21 percent more expensive than Spain, 35 percent more than Portugal and 79 percent more than Malta, on average.

Algarve, great value holidays

In popular Portuguese resorts, such as Alvor the price of private accommodation increased by 22 per cent and 33 per cent respectively. These increases were significantly smaller than in popular UK seaside destinations, like St Ives, Sidmouth, Lyme Regis and Brighton.

A few minutes spent on Google, and it’s easy to find great value holidays in the Algarve. I looked at comparisons with Brighton, a popular UK holiday location in the South of the UK. Brighton has a beach, but nothing compared with the internationally acclaimed Algarve beaches. Brighton Beach is what is known as a shingle beach, no sand! If sitting on a shingle beach in the rain is your thing, enjoy, but the Algarve offers sun soaked beautiful beaches almost every day. I know people will quickly point out that Brighton has many excellent facilities and attractions, and that’s certainly true, but the beach isn’t one of them.

Algarve, at least 300 days of sunshine annually

Portugal's Algarve region sees at least 300 days of sunshine per year, meaning that there's an approximately 80 percent chance that visitors here will be basking in the warm sun all holiday long. The UK South coast averages about 175 hours of sunshine (2020) annually. That’s about 25 days a year according to the weather experts.

I looked at availability in September for four nights on the UK South coast. If you are looking for a good quality hotel, don’t expect to find much for less than £1,000 and that doesn’t include breakfast.

I searched Tui who offer a large selection of Algarve hotels and apartments, they were offering four nights, breakfast included, from just over £200, and that included flights from Gatwick. It’s easy to see why both Which? and BBC’s Panorama programme called staycations in the UK a ‘rip off’. Harsh words but difficult to argue with.

Do it yourself or package holiday

Tui are one the largest package holiday operators with an extensive range of all types of holiday accommodation. They supplied me with two sample prices from their offers in August. ‘TUI offered package holidays to the 5T RIU Guarana from £879 per person in August on an all-inclusive basis with flights and transfers included’. They also offered package holidays to the 4T Cerro Mar Garden from £500 per person in August on a self-catering basis with flights and transfers included’. Both prices are for one week.

If you are one of the people who prefers to make their own arrangements, a return flight to Faro from a wide choice of UK airports is well under £100, quite often less than £25. Villas and hotels are making some great offers. Spend a while on Google and there are plentiful deals available.

Last week Portugal made entry into the country even simpler, UK visitors, aged 12 and over, will only need to show proof of a negative PCR or rapid antigen coronavirus test result to enter the country.

It’s difficult to argue with BBC Panorama or Which? Magazine, even if you avoid what Which? says, UK staycations are a ‘rip off’, the simple reality is that’s its far cheaper to holiday in Europe than it is to take a staycation in the UK. Add to that almost guaranteed sunshine, superb beaches not to mention a far less expensive cost of eating out or self-catering, it’s a no brainer. It’s your choice.


Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy. 

Paul Luckman