Simon Calder, travel editor of The Independent, gave TNT his best travel advice…
Your Sunday LBC Travel Show is moving to the new time of 7-9pm – why is that?
Because LBC wants to make the programme as accessible as possible for travellers. Research showed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that a significant number of prospective listeners were missing out because they were away, often on a weekend trip from London.
On the show you help travellers who phone in with their travel queries. What’s the most unusual question you’ve ever been asked?
Unbelievable but true: “Where can I go where I won’t meet any Australians?” I can only guess she had had an unhappy relationship with an Aussie, and didn’t want to be reminded of it when travelling. I told her that Australians were great travellers, and therefore it would be tricky to avoid them, but (and this was shortly before the current turmoil) she could try Libya.
What the most popular destinations amongst listeners?
Turkey and Egypt are firm favourites, mainly because they offer excellent deals. But they’re also a long way to fly, and with fuel prices rising, that’s increasingly significant. If you want exotic culture, then Morocco is much closer; for great beaches, Spain and France are brilliant. And if you’re seeking great value, then Portugal is difficult to beat.
What’s your top travel tip?
Don’t change money at a UK airport! The rates are so appalling that you’re giving money away. For euros and dollars, shop around at London bureaux de change; for any “exotic” currency, such as the Turkish lira or Egyptian pound, wait until you touch down in the destination.
You once said, “The thickness of the mattress is in inverse proportion to the proximity of the people”. Does that mean the less comfortable your travel the more interesting the experience?
It’s more that if you choose budget accommodation, especially backpacker hostels or a room in someone’s home, you are likely to have a much more enriching experience because of the people. In a faceless hotel or motel, you’re on your own.
Your top 11 destinations for 2011 were surprisingly unexotic (the Algarve, Tasmania, Anglesey)…
I dare you to suggest to a local in the Algarve, Tasmania or, indeed, Anglesey, that their location is “unexotic”. The world is full of fascinating corners with interesting people, and you need not travel far to find them. For example, I’ve been hitching around Atlantic France for the past few days, meeting salt farmers, clambering up ancient lighthouses and feasting on fruits de mer. That’s exotic enough for me.
Your policy has always been to “Pay your own way” so you’re not tempted by junkets with five-star hotels?
Gosh, what a terrifying prospect – I wouldn’t know where to start or how to behave in a five-star hotel. I started writing for The Independent in 1988, when it had a strict “no freebies” policy, and I have stuck doggedly to it ever since – which is why I’m talking to you from La Rochelle airport about to board a Ryanair flight that I hope will get me back in time to present next Sunday’s programme.
Tune in for top tips:
What: The LBC Travel Show with Simon Calder, a travel phone-in programme for listeners to call, text, email or tweet for travel advice, information and inspiration.
When: Every Sunday 7pm to 9pm
Where: LBC 97.3 FM, online, on digital, Sky 0112, Virgin Media 973.