Travel apps: weather and travel guides

Modern technology can give us a wealth of up-to-date information about our holiday destination. As Samuel Johnson said, when two English people meet, their first talk is of the weather, so let’s start there. 

WeatherPro covers weather for Europe

Having tried out a few weather apps, the best seems to be WeatherPro. It covers weather for the whole of Europe (and beyond), and gives forecasts for individual towns and cities, or sometimes even different places within the city. Of course, this means it will work at home as well as when you’re on holiday.

You get clear forecasts, broken down hour-by-hour, showing amounts of sun and rain forecast during the hour, which is very useful to plan when you want to do your outdoor activities like going to the beach, and when you want to be inside to avoid the rain.

You also get satellite and radar images, so you can see cloud and rain as they move across the skies, and see whether you think you’re going to avoid the showers!

Forecasts with WeatherPro are usually quite accurate for today and tomorrow, but science hasn’t yet really mastered making predictions beyond this, so no app will be particularly accurate once you get to three days out or more.

WeatherPro costs a few pounds for a yearly subscription, but in our experience it’s an app you will use every day, whether at home or on holiday.

See WeatherPro for iPhone or WeatherPro for Android

Travel guides on Kindle, written by locals

Traditional guidebooks still have their place, and at least the battery can’t run out with a book! But Amazon Kindle (and other similar eReaders) has opened up the world of travel writing to a much wider range of people. 

This means that locals who live in a town or city have started to write their own guidebooks, and sell them through Amazon quite cheaply. Often, you will see the publisher listed as “CreateSpace”, which is an Amazon-owned tool allowing people to publish their own books. This ability to sell their work means that the best writing is often on Amazon through these guides, rather than on free websites. 

The Kindle editions are often quite cheap, and you can keep them on the free Kindle app on your phone, to save them from bulking out your bag.

The self-published guides are often quite different to the Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, and Dorling Kindersley books. They tend to be shorter, and they often focus on some of the less touristy activities that you wouldn’t otherwise find out about. It’s also an interesting window into the culture of the locals, to see how they view the place they call home. 

Amazon tends to hide these guides that are written by locals, preferring to push the books by the big travel publishers, so you have to search around a bit. A search such as “Vienna by local” or “Paris by local” can get some good results though.

A few example guides written by locals: ViennaParisMilan.

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Travel tips: Preparing for an autumn trip to Europe

The autumn months are a good time to visit Europe: queues are shorter, cities are less crowded, and the scenery can be spectacular in its coat of gold and red foliage. Here are a few tips to prepare for travel in autumn:

Check opening times

Outside of larger cities, some tourist destinations either close or reduce their opening hours during the low season. 

Museums, parks, thermal baths and other attractions may not be open all day every day. The same is true for businesses: for instance, many shops and public services in Cyprus and the Greek islands reduce their opening hours from early to mid-October onwards, depending on how busy the resort is.

If you have a particular sight you can’t miss, make sure you check its low season opening hours when planning your trip. Monday seems to be a common day for attractions to be closed.

Take clothes with layers

Even on warm days, evenings can get a little chilly, so layered outfits are a good idea. A light cardigan or jumper doesn’t take up much room and will come in handy when night-time temperatures set in. Since the weather can vary a lot at this time of year, take a mix of lighter and heavier clothing, so you can be prepared.

Preparing for rain

To prepare for rain in advance, look on the internet before you travel, and plan a few activities and places you could go to if it’s raining. Then when you wake up and things look bleak, you won’t have to struggle to find something to do! This is a time of year when a guidebook can be handy. You can download a Kindle version onto your phone if you think you might need it when you’re out and about, or check travel apps like TripAdvisor.

Europe’s hot summer destinations stay mild throughout the autumn, but the weather can be a little unpredictable. For instance, Dubrovnik stays in the high teens and low twenties throughout much of the autumn, but rain showers are common, particularly in November. A light rain jacket or a travel umbrella will take care of any unexpected showers. 

Staying hydrated

Hike through Malta’s hilly countryside in July, and you’ll be very conscious of the bright sun. Walk the same terrain in October, and it won’t be as noticeable, but you’ll still be facing temperatures into the mid-twenties. In milder weather, we can sometimes forget that we still need to remain hydrated. Be sure to take a bottle of water with you when you go out.

Think about the sun

Even though the sun isn’t as strong, if you’re out in it for a long time you can still burn, so be sure to take some suncream with you, just in case.

With the sun being lower in the sky during autumn, you are still likely to need sunglasses, so don’t forget them.

Lower prices, smaller crowds and mild weather make autumn a great time to get away from the grey and visit Europe. With the right preparations, you’ll be enjoying the post-summer sun in no time.

Bavaria beyond the beer: visit Munich for Oktoberfest

As summer draws to a close, many travellers will be looking to snap up a low-season bargain, or make the most of the quieter destinations on the continent, with an early autumn getaway. While a secluded spot can be the perfect tonic for some, others are keen to keep the fun of the summer alive for just a little while longer.

For those firmly in the second camp, there is one attraction that beats them all. It is one of Europe’s most famous cultural attractions. It is – of course – the Oktoberfest.

The Oktoberfest is a month-long celebration of wine, beer, carnival attractions and music held annually in the Bavarian state capital of Munich. The festivities draw visitors from all across the globe and, with more than five million revellers expected to attend in 2016, it is the largest Volksfest in the world. 

But there is more to the Bavarian capital than just the beer and the schweinbraten (Bavarian roast pork). And, while the prices might be a little higher while the festival is running, and the streets a little busier, there really is no better time to visit Munich. There are city-wide amusements to bring in the tourists, and the competition for visitors means there are still plenty of special offers on attractions, accommodation, and dining to provide value for money throughout the month. 

A modern centre for European arts, culture, and sports, Munich is a fascinating city break for visitors wanting to experience the German way of life, and it has something for every taste – from the Deutsches Museum, to the huge ‘BMW World’, to the breathtakingly futuristic Allianz Arena: home to FC Bayern München. If you are planning on taking in several of the city’s cultural landmarks, then a combination pass is available, providing you with access to multiple attractions at a reduced rate.

But Munich is not only a thriving modern metropolis: it is also a city of great history and ancient architecture too. The Munich coat of arms pays tribute to the Benedictine monks who officially established the city in 1158, but Munich has been inhabited for much longer than that. 

A trip into the Old Town district in the centre of modern Munich is your gateway into the town’s long and illustrious history. Marienplatz is a perfect place to begin your journey back in time, with many noteworthy sites found close by. The Gothic splendour of the old town hall, and the imposing presence of its successor – the Neues Rathaus – are nearby tourist favourites, as is Peterskirche, the oldest building in the area, with a magnificent interior.

The good news is that travel to Munich could not be more straightforward for British tourists, even during the festival month. The city’s airport is Germany’s second largest – and one of the busiest in Europe – meaning direct flights are available from a number of cities across the UK. For example, easyJet flies to Munich from Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Manchester, and Edinburgh.

The Bavarian climate will seem incredibly familiar for British tourists, too – meaning hope for an Indian summer, but pack in preparation for a European autumn! Temperatures can reach unseasonable highs of the low to mid 20C (68F), but will typically be far cooler come October. Yet with so many festivities and cultural attractions to enjoy, Munich is one city break that can bring joy all year round.

Staying safe in the sun

Many of us a fully aware that our skin can suffer if it is exposed to excessive amounts of sunshine, something that we often go on holiday in order to find.

Applying sun cream and wearing a sun hat are obvious measures that we can all take when heading to sunnier destinations, but these are not the only things that you should do. The heat from the sun can have more debilitating effects than simply causing sunburn.

Here, we’ll take a look at some points you may not have considered. For more advice, see the NHS Sunscreen and Sun Safety page.

For some, the only measure they take against the harmful UV rays that the sun throws out is to use a sunscreen, typically when they hit the beach. However, you should try to get into the habit of applying a sun cream before you head out, so that you can make sure your body is fully covered, particularly if you intend getting down to your swimsuit at some point.

Medical advice states that you should apply sunscreen half an hour before going out into the sun. The NHS recommends choosing a sun cream that is rated with at least SPF of 15 and at least four-star UVA rating (five-star cream is available too). Other creams might help, but not provide such strong protection. You should frequently reapply the protection, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Don’t forget that you can also get sunburn when it is cloudy!

If you don’t get on well with sun creams – perhaps you find them sticky or unpleasant – then you can now also get sprays that spray a liquid sunscreen. This can be more pleasant for some people than a cream, but sometimes the sprays are alcohol-based and can dry the skin a little.

Protect your eyes
As well as protecting your skin, it is important to make sure that your eyes are fully safe. Exposure to bright sunshine can lead to problems with your eyes such as cataracts. Therefore, invest in a good pair of sunglasses. Adequate ones will have a CE mark or a UV400 label on them. This way, you can be assured that they offer full UV protection. If you find that you are still squinting, then seek some shade or wear a brimmed hat to help offer your eyes more shelter.

Taking medicines? Take extra care in the sun!
Fair-skinned people, those with freckles or lots of moles, and children need to consider sun protection more than other groups.

However, some routinely taken medicines can also put you at risk. If you are taking a tetracycline, an oral hypoglycaemic drug or a diuretic, for example, take additional care or seek specific medical advice.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke
To avoid these unpleasant and potentially serious conditions, drink plenty of water and avoid excessive activity in the heat of the midday sun.

For first aid if you suspect these conditions:

  • Lie down in a cool place
  • Remove any unnecessary clothing
  • Cool your skin with wet towels or wet sheets
  • Drink fluids, including water and a rehydration drink
  • Consider getting professional medical attention

It’s useful to take rehydration sachets on holiday: not only will they help if you get heat exhaustion or heatstroke, but if you get a dodgy tummy they can also be useful!

For more detailed advice, see the NHS advice on heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Travel apps: currency conversion and language translation

Let’s start this month with an essential type of app when you’re travelling abroad: a currency converter.

One of the most popular is XE Currency, which is free, and available for iPhone and Android. It gets live exchange rates from the internet when it can, or it uses the last rate it was able to get if you’re offline.

XE Currency for iPhone
XE Currency for Android

Unfortunately, most currency apps give you the exchange rates that banks themselves use, rather than the actual rates you’ll get as a tourist, so after you’ve done the conversion it’s best to think of everything as actually a little bit more expensive than the app is showing you.

The XE Currency app isn’t the easiest app in the world to use when you first get it, but it’s straightforward once you’ve figured it out. (It tries to get you to sign up for an account, but you can click a No Thanks link at the bottom to get rid of that!)

You can then convert euros to pounds, pounds to euros, or whatever else you fancy.

The app can also show you a currency chart of the pound vs. the euro, so you can guess whether the exchange rate is about to get better or worse! (Let’s not kid ourselves here, it’s a guess!)

When you’re abroad, here’s a tip to avoid extortionate data roaming fees. Load up your currency converter app when you’re in your hotel on wi-fi, let it get the latest exchange rates, then set your phone to aeroplane mode and use those exchange rates while you’re out and about for the day.

If you’re on the iPhone and you want a slightly simpler and easier to use currency converter app, try Currency.

Google Translate – foreign language translation
Moving on to look at another essential app, you don’t want to be without Google Translate. It’s free for iPhone or Android, and covers all the European languages you are likely to encounter.

Google Translate for iPhone
Google Translate for Android

The most common and useful way to use the app is to type in a word or a short phrase in the foreign language and have it converted to English. This is useful for reading signs and menus.

If you click the speaker icon, the app will pronounce foreign words to you, which can be very useful. Although it uses a computer-generated voice rather than recordings of real people, it’s still quite an accurate guide.

You can even hover your camera over a word, and the app will read the foreign text and translate it to English. At least, in theory you can do that – in practice this doesn’t usually work very reliably! But give it time, and it will get better; when it does work it’s pretty impressive though.

Since you will probably need to use Google Translate in places where you don’t have internet signal, you can go to the settings in the app and download a language. So if you’re going to Germany you can download the German language when you’ve got wi-fi, and then the app will still work when your phone isn’t connected to the internet.

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Granada: a city overflowing with history

If Spain means more to you than just sun-soaked beaches, don’t miss the chance to visit the beautiful inland city of Granada. Nestling at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada makes a superb centre for a city break.

What to see in Granada
Everyone will tell you that you must visit the Alhambra – and everyone is absolutely right. You can spend hours at this astonishing medieval palace complex without seeing everything.

Built by the Moors in the early 14th century, the UNESCO World Heritage Site contains both extraordinarily intricate architecture, and stunning gardens added by later Christian rulers.

The city’s Moorish heritage is also on display in the Albayzin quarter, a short taxi ride from the Alhambra and among the oldest parts of Granada. The magnificent Renaissance cathedral was added after southern Spain’s return to Christian rule in 1492, and it towers over the winding lanes that thread their way through this intriguing district.

Culture and cuisine
Granada’s patron saint is celebrated on the last Sunday in September. Processions and festivals abound, while churches are decorated with large displays of flowers brought by the faithful.

On a different note, the Casa del Arte Flamenco regularly hosts superb performances by this traditional Spanish dance’s finest exponents.

If all that makes you hungry, enjoy Andalusian dishes such as gazpacho soup, enlivened by the use of garlic, pepper and other spices befitting the city’s Arab heritage. Alternatively, visit a Moorish-style tea room such as Teteria y Restaurante Marrakech and relax in splendour while tea is served from silver pots.

Where to stay
Despite Granada’s wealth of attractions, there are bargains to be found. The Palacio de Santa Ines, as palatial as its name suggests and a stone’s throw from the Alhambra, charges around £90 a night in mid-October.

Slightly further out, the Room Mate Leo costs around £80 a night and is renowned for its helpful staff; some rooms have private terraces, from which there are breathtaking views across the city.

Discover the hidden treasures of Majorca

With its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, and an agreeable year-round climate, it should come as no surprise that Majorca is Spain’s most popular island destination for tourists and sightseers of all ages.

Yet, over the years, this paradise in the Mediterranean gained a reputation for hosting some of the more raucous holidaymakers that head to the Med for a fortnight of sun, sea and sangria within the confines of the island’s many resorts.

But beneath the popular image of party towns and package holidays, there is another side to Majorca that is waiting to be discovered by the more adventurous visitor.

Natural beauty
It is an island of extreme natural beauty, ancient culture and monuments, and a calm, peaceful approach to life. It is, for this reason, that one of Europe’s top destinations is also something of a hidden treasure: Majorca is the perfect tonic for holidaymakers seeking relaxation by the sea.

The island has no shortage of spectacular sites and memorable landmarks to make this a holiday of a lifetime. The 550km of coastline is punctuated at regular intervals by rustic fishing villages and picturesque coves.

Three places worth a visit
To the very north of the island lies Alcudia, one of the island’s most attractive stretches of water. With its broad beach and clean, shallow waters, the bay makes for one of Majorca’s most popular seaside destinations. The area provides typical resort facilities, as well as water sports for those seeking an action-packed holiday experience.

However, the coastline is most popular for its tranquillity. Inland, you will take a trip back in time, walking among the ruins of ancient Pollentia, once the Roman capital city of the Balearics. This uniquely atmospheric location is irresistible for any visitor seeking an insight into the island’s long and distinguished history.

In the south, a short journey along the coastline from the famous resort town of Magaluf brings the promise of another of the island’s great cultural destinations: Palma de Mallorca. The gothic cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma (known locally as La Seu) dominates the skyline, and is a beautiful attraction both during the day and at night.

Great value for money
More than four decades ago, it was the affordable luxury of this island economy which helped to establish Majorca as a tourism hotspot. Today, while the costs are generally above the average of mainland Spain, the island continues to represent fantastic value for money, thanks to the high quality of services.

Look beyond the resort towns and the primary attractions, and the intrepid explorer will discover hospitality, accommodation, and local cuisine that all rank among the best in Europe.

Discover beautiful Bruges

The Belgian city of Bruges is an interesting destination for a city break. It is within easy distance of Calais, being under an hour and a half by car, or you can get a Eurostar train from London St Pancras International station.

Historic buildings
Bruges, or Brugge, is Belgium’s, and perhaps Europe’s, most well-preserved medieval city. Almost every street consists of pristine and attractive houses built in the distinct Flemish style with ornate gables. Popular destinations in the historic city centre are the Markt (Market Square), and the Stadhuis (City Hall).

Ponies, waffles, chocolate, and canals
The city centre is a good place to sample the sugary waffles for which Bruges is renowned, or take a drive through the city streets in one of the many horse-drawn carriages that are for hire.

There are numerous gift shops where you can buy Belgian lace and chocolates. The best chocolate shop we have found, from personal experience on repeated trips, is Dumon, located in a very quaint building on a street called Eiermarkt. We managed to smuggle out a huge 1 kilogram block of pure chocolate from there, but they seemed a little reluctant to sell it, it was an under-the-counter job! Fellow gluttons who knew we were visiting Bruges asked us to bring back chocolates from Dumon too, so that’s a high recommendation! If you like your chocolate, that’s the place!

Bruges is also famous for its maze of canals – in fact, it has often been referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’ and a boat ride is an enjoyable and relaxing way of viewing the architecture from a different perspective. As with Venice, the houses look their best when viewed from the water, and it’s a good chance to escape the crowds of tourists.

Bruges is also a city that is extremely bicycle-friendly, and it is easier to cycle the streets than it is to drive. Hiring a bicycle is another good way of escaping the crowds and getting to experience the real Bruges.

Some rainy days
The weather in Bruges is mild, but it does attract more rain and cold weather than other North European cities of a similar latitude. In the summer months, the weather rarely exceeds 21C/70F. You can expect cloudy skies and damp drizzle.

You might be lucky and experience some sunshine, but visitors to Bruges would be well-advised to pack plenty of waterproofs and warm clothing. On a positive note, the cooler climate is ideal for walking around the city on foot.

Summer Events in Bruges
There are many interesting events happening this summer, such as the free summer festival in Benenwerk, 13 August, with music and dancing.

The KookEet food festival on 24th September 2016, which showcases the work of the best chefs in Belgium, is a great way to get to know the country’s cuisine.

Those interested in history might be fascinated by a two-hour guided walk through Bruges’ inner town, which offers the chance to learn what life was like in Bruges during World War One when the city was occupied. From 1st August to end of December 2016, leaving from Belfort (the 12th century Belfry), Markt.

TripAdvisor and travel guide apps

In the last issue of this newsletter we started a new series looking at travel gadgets and travel apps. Last time we looked at airline apps, and this month, Ian from our technical team takes a look at TripAdvisor and some of its lesser-known features, and sees if it can replace a traditional guide book.

Tripadvisor is one of the biggest apps out there, and you’ve probably used it, or at least heard of it. The basic premise is that people review places they’ve been to, including restaurants and hotels, both here in the UK and worldwide.

Here’s how to find TripAdvisor:
TripAdvisor Website
TripAdvisor app for iPhone
TripAdvisor app for Android

What’s wrong with review sites?
This approach of what’s known as “crowd-sourced” reviews has a few flaws. Firstly, someone else’s taste might not be the same as yours. They might prefer different things to you, or have a different opinion to you as to what constitutes high or low quality.

Secondly, there is the issue of fraudulent reviews. TripAdvisor acknowledges this phenomenon, attempts to take action to prevent it, and even publishes a Fraud Detection policy on its website.

Fraudulent reviews can include people reviewing their own restaurants and hotels (presumably favourably!), submitting artificially negative review of a competitor’s business, and incentivising customers to write overly-glowing reviews. There are even companies that try to boost an establishment up the TripAdvisor rankings for a fee!

How to avoid fraudulent reviews
The best thing you can do to avoid falling foul of this is to look for places that have lots of reviews. The more reviews a place has, the more likely most reviews are to be genuine, and the more likely that people with similar tastes to yours will have left a review.

From my own experience, if a place is ranked bad it usually is pretty bad, but if it’s ranked very good you’ve got a 50/50 chance of it being worth a visit. Having said this, some of my favourite restaurants are indeed ranked as Excellent by TripAdvisor reviews, so it almost feels like pot luck!

Careful of the location of places you visit!
Also, reviews don’t tend to focus on where the place is located, so you need to be careful. I once went to what TripAdvisor claimed was a great American barbecue restaurant in Las Vegas, which involved us walking down a very poorly lit, seedy back street, with no proper pavement, and ending up outside a neon-lit horror of a place! We pretty much fled for our lives!

I had another faux pax on a trip to Bath, where we ended up walking miles out of our way to a place that was apparently great, but was like some kind of crazy uncontrolled riot when we got through the doors! And the menu was rubbish too!

Fortunately, TripAdvisor gives you the website for many restaurants and hotels, and many places publish their menu on the web. So you can either research some places before you go on holiday, or use your phone or iPad with the wifi in your hotel or in a coffee shop to figure out where to eat next.

A great TripAdvisor feature: downloadable city guides
One of the lesser-known features of the TripAdvisor app is probably more useful than the reviews: you can download an entire city guide. This puts all the information directly onto your phone, so you don’t need to be connected to the internet in order to read it. This is great because quite often when you’re overseas you can’t use the data connection on your phone for fear of racking up a huge bill!

I usually just put my phone into flight mode when I’m away, unless I’m using the wifi. Bonus tip: don’t forget to turn off data roaming on your phone. This means that when you’re away from the UK, your phone will not use the internet unless you’re on a wifi network, so you won’t get charged for it (overseas data charges can be extortionate!).

If you’re not sure how to turn off data roaming for your phone, just search Google for “turn off data roaming on iPhone“, or “turn off data roaming on Android“.

We’ve just come back from a few days in Vienna, and the downloadable city guide proved to be very useful. Here’s why:

Your download includes a map, and your phone can show you where you are. You can then find a place you want to go to, read a review, then see where the place is on the map compared to where you are right now. The little blue dot that represents you will start to move as you walk, so you can check you’re heading in the right direction.

Does this replace a traditional guide book?
In my opinion, no, you still need a traditional guide book (or its modern digital equivalent). I personally find the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel books very good, with lots of illustrations (although they are printed on high-quality heavy paper, which makes them quite weighty to tuck in your bag).

A good guide book will give the historical context of the place you are visiting, and will give you a much better understanding of what you are looking at, which routes to take, how to use public transport, etc.

Of course, in this modern age, you can download many travel guides onto your phone or iPad too. Amazon Kindle is particularly good for this.

Alongside the standard publishers, such as Dorling Kindersley, Rough Guide, Time Out, and Lonely Planet, there is a rising trend of non-professional publishing on Kindle, where short travel guides are written by people who live in the city they are writing about. These are often surprisingly good, and often very cheap, costing only a pound or two. I like to read them before I go on holiday, or on the plane, so I don’t waste time when I arrive.

Something a lot of people don’t realise is that you can also download travel guides for a specific city directly from your phone’s app store. For example, bringing up the Apple app store on my iPhone and searching for “Vienna travel” brings up several guides, including audio and video, and detailed transport maps. Some of these are free to download too.

Foreign Office Travel Advice
With the recent security alerts and fears in some destinations, the UK government’sForeign Office travel advice has information for every country you’re ever likely to visit. It’s kept up to date, and it is always a useful guide to check before you travel.

For example, the page on Turkey contains sections on terrorism, safety and security, local laws and customs, entry requirements, health, natural disasters, and money.

Without wishing to sound too grim, if you are ever overseas and find yourself in an unstable situation, you should check the Foreign Office website first, and then check with your airline, who will also publish advice on what to do.

Airlines often have problems contacting passengers who are overseas on holiday, because the passengers’ mobile phones either don’t work, or they don’t have your correct number, and they may be laying on emergency flights for you to return home.

Don’t forget YouTube
I don’t want to end on a downbeat note, so let’s take a look at one last thing this month! A useful source of information for your trip can also be YouTube.

Just search for the place you’re visiting, or a landmark within that city that you want to visit, and you can often find lots of interesting videos. Some videos will be from other travellers, some from professional publishers, and others from official sources such as the tourist board or the owner of the attraction.

Videos can give you a good feeling for whether or not something will appeal to you, how crowded a place can be, and any particular things to see or avoid.

Hopefully that’s given you a few new ideas to get the best out of your next holiday. Oh, and if you’re going to Vienna, go to Figlmüller and order the Schnitzel!

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The Big Beach of Ulcinj is Montenegro’s hidden treasure

Although its near neighbour Croatia attracts the lion’s share of attention when it comes to resorts facing the blue Adriatic, the more modest coastline of Montenegro, to the south, should not be overlooked. One of the most stunning beaches in this part of Europe can be found in this former Yugoslav state.

Montenegro is a delightful destination for British tourists with easy access to euros from cash machines and most restaurant meals costing somewhere between £15 and £20 before drinks. In the predominantly Albanian area of Ulcinj, prices can be even more competitive for accommodation and dining out, although tourism is picking up led, in the main part, by German and Italian visitors.

Ulcinj – An Overview
Ulcinj is pronounced “Ult-SING”. What marks Ulcinj out from some of the other municipalities of Montenegro is the high quality of its beaches. There is a small pebble beach near to the town which is said to possess fertility qualities.

Then there is the so-called Small Beach, which is more diminutive in size, but is situated close to the town centre, making it popular among visitors and locals alike. The Old Town is full of restaurants and bars with an impressive fort overlooking the sea.

The Big Beach
Nevertheless, it is the Big Beach of Ulcinj which is most likely to attract visitors with a serious hunger for top-quality sand. The longest stretch of sand to be found anywhere on the Adriatic, Ulcinj’s Big Beach, or Velika Plaza as it is known locally, offers around 8 miles of soft, flour-like sand. It is around 60 metres (196 feet) wide and it sits on a shallow south-west facing bay that is easy to reach from Uclinj via the R17 coast road.

There are a couple of beach bars and eateries at the most westerly end of the beach, but the further east you progress the less developed it becomes. The beach continues all the way to Bojana Island where the R17 ends, and which itself has a further stretch of beach facing the Adriatic.

When to Travel
July and August are the hottest months with average highs of 29ºC (84F). For holidaymakers considering Montenegro as a destination outside of the school holidays, when it is generally more peaceful, then September is the best month to opt for. September has 252 hours of sunshine on average, and a very respectable mean temperature of 26C (79F).

Podgorica airport, in Montenegro, is the nearest airport with direct services to the UK, served by Ryanair.