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.