England football fans face losing more than £1 million in Ukraine this summer, according to leading foreign exchange specialists Travelex.
While the tournament is being staged across both Poland and Ukraine, all three England group matches are to be played in Ukraine.
Supporters are being warned they could pay up to 7 percent more by using local banks compared to prepaid cards when exchanging their Pounds for Hryvnya abroad. It could mean that a fan exchanging £500 could pay up to £35 in extra charges.
Between 10,000-30,000 fans are expected to travel abroad and the foreign exchange provider has already been inundated with calls from fans questioning what currency they should take with them.
Travelex is urging football fans to be well-prepared as getting hold of the local currency in Ukraine could be confusing and prove expensive.
Hryvnya, Euros and US Dollars are all legal tender in Ukraine, but some local shops will only take local currency, while others will only accept Dollars.
Further still, research by Travelex has revealed that many banks and hotel bureaux will only let fans exchange Pounds into Euros or Dollars by first exchanging into the local currency.
While this is often standard practice for those exchanging outside of the ‘home’ currency, this could mean that fans will get stung for exchange rates twice.
For example, Sterling would first need to be exchanged into Hryvnya (approx £1: 12 Hryvnya) and then into Dollars (approx 1 H: $0.10).
It means that fans effectively get a rate of just £1 = $1.20. Compare this to the Travelex rate on the same day of £1 = $1.57 and it is clear that fans risk losing out, being 31 percent (37 Cents) worse off on each Pound exchanged.
Travelex will be stocking Hryvnya ahead of the tournament, and it will be available at most bureaux locations for collection. However, the advice from Travelex is to also take a prepaid card, which lets travellers pay for purchases directly but also enables them to use ATMs to withdraw cash in the local currency, with fees far less than that of exchanging in a hotel bureau or bank.
The Foreign Office has recommended that if fans do need to change currency while they are abroad, they use banks rather than bureaux, and suggest fans do not carry too much cash around due to the risk of crime.
The US Department of State go one step further, instructing travellers to the Ukraine not to declare they have cash on their person.
Fans already face hugely inflated hotel, drink and food costs. Drinks prices are usually among the cheapest in Europe, but reports have shown that a half-litre of lager is set to soar from 65p to £1.95 over the period of the Euros – an increase of 300 percent.
Hotel owners in the capital Kiev have also been charging extortionate fees for basic rooms – up to £1,000 a night – leading even UEFA to comment on the situation.
"With so many mixed messages it is clear that many fans are walking into the unknown," said Elvin Eldić of Travelex.
"Travelex is calling on all football fans to take care and protect themselves as far as possible from the currency risks whilst abroad. By taking a mixed wallet of a prepaid card and currency, ordering online before leaving, and having an idea of exchange rates before they go, fans can avoid being ripped off and importantly get on with enjoying the matches and supporting their team."
There is better news for fans also travelling to matches in Poland. The Polish Zloty is readily available online and the Pound is very strong against the Zloty at the moment, up more than 16 percent year on year and being worth £70 more on every £500 exchanged.
Travelex’s Globe Prepaid card can be used in both the Ukraine and Poland, meaning that repeated exchanges are unnecessary.
To help fans avoid currency pitfalls, Travelex have put together the top five tips for Brits heading abroad for the Euros:
- Take a prepaid card as well as cash – the Globe card provides the cheapest exchange rates and can be used in both the Ukraine and Poland and withdrawals of local currency can be made without ATM fees.
- Ask for price up front and calculate value.
- Keep the receipts when abroad.
- Buy currency online before you go from Travelex. As supply of the Hryvnya may be limited Travelex advise fans to purchase a combination of local Ukrainian currency (if available), and Euros – this means that fans will be well prepared for most eventualities.
- Avoid making numerous exchanges abroad.