Shop around before wining and dining your loved one

MONEY can’t buy you love, but shopping around before pampering a loved one with a romantic weekend break might get you more for your euro — and earn you some brownie points into the bargain.

It would be cheaper for aspiring Romeos or Juliets to whisk their beloved away to London for a St Valentine's weekend treat than Cork, a survey by the Dublin European Consumer Centre (ECC) has revealed.

Taking into account flights, accommodation, all taxes and charges, a meal in a top restaurant, the obligatory bouquet of 12 red roses, and even the sterling difference, it would be €25.50 cheaper to fly to London from Dublin for two nights than fly to Cork.

Even if you took the train to Cork instead of flying, the weekend would still be more than €8 dearer than travelling to London. The ECC used the internet to search for flights from Dublin on Friday February 13 to 15 to Paris, Brussels, London and Cork. It also looked for three-star hotels near the city centre, dinner at a two-star Michelin restaurant and a dozen red roses.

It found that the average cost of a two-night stay in a three-star hotel in Paris at 205 was the same as Cork, whereas the average price for similar accommodation in London and Brussels was €160. The survey, carried out on January 19, found the average cost of eating in a two-star Michelin restaurant was €100 per person.

Looking at the cheapest combination of flights, accommodation and meals, the cost of the breaks away were:

Paris €1,207.08.

Brussels €610.68.

Cork €541.96.

London €516.46.

Excluding flights, it was cheaper to stay, eat and dazzle your lover with roses in all of the foreign cities than wine and dine them in Cork. Without flights, the cost of the two-night break in Brussels was €374, Paris €383, London €397, and €422 in Cork.

"Everyone knows the cost of everything here is expensive.

"This survey shows that if you shop around abroad, you can get value for money. While flights might be expensive, you can get great deals. Once you get there, you can really see the difference in value for money in food and accommodation, without scrimping on the quality," ECC spokesperson Mary Denise Fitzgerald said. "Going online means it is easy to find out about the cost of everything and even check out the menus. The internet has opened up the European market and makes it easy to compare the cost of things. People don't just have to complain anymore, they can actually do something about it and shop around," she said. Even in the Cork survey of accommodation, prices ranged from €162 for the Rochestown Park Hotel, to €204 for Isaac's Hotel, and €251.72 for Jurys Inn a difference of up to €89.72.

"What this survey reveals is that by shopping around consumers can save money," said ECC manager Tina Leonard.

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