New wine and food apps for travellers

There are three brilliant apps for iPhone or Android that allow you to immerse yourself into the culture of a travel destination through the delicious means of food and drink. A major part of experiencing the culture in an unfamiliar place is to sample the fare.

The first app gives access to information about wine, the second, local restaurants, and if you happen to be vegan or vegetarian, this third app is specifically for you.

Each of these unique travel app tools will present you with possible cuisine and wine offerings in Spain, Greece, Italy, or wherever your destination may be. You’ll probably find that one or more of these apps becomes a staple in your smartphone travel routine.

WineGlass: translate wine menus and get reviews
Use WineGlass when you arrive at a new restaurant. While waiting for your meal, you may be inclined to sip on a glass or two, but sometimes you find yourself staring at the menu, completely confused as to what you’re ordering.

Most restaurants will have an English translation, but often these are oddly written and confusing to decipher. So, pay £4.99 for this app, and find the information you need. Act as if you were a sommelier, and order the perfect bottle!

Here’s how it works: 

First, download the app. At this point, you are only required to photograph the menu with your phone. Immediately, the picture is translated, and you receive the rankings, reviews, and costs of each wine, along with an interactive list of food pairings.

With WineGlass, it’s easy to find the bottle that will complete your meal.

WineGlass is available for download for both iPhone and Android devices through the official stores.

CultureTrip: find the best places to go
This free app is a great resource for hunting down the best restaurants, bars and activities in your location. It’s very simple to use, and it’s free!

Culture Trip says that it, “goes beyond the obvious and ordinary, exploring the new, the intriguing and the exciting in your neighbourhood and around the world.”

Here’s how it works: 

Once the app is downloaded, press the Explore button in the top right-hand corner. A list of cultural experiences is generated, and you can click on each article to read more. It’s also possible to use the search tool and research your destination in advance if you’re more of the plan-ahead type.

If you’re looking for new holiday spots, this app is convenient for inspiration, as well. You can be notified of new articles when they are posted, and bookmark anything that stands out to you for future journeys.

Culture Trip’s ratings show its user-friendliness and practicality. It will have you eating outside with a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower, or trying famous Portuguese pastries in the heart of Lisbon — whatever your heart desires.

Culture Trip is available for free download for both iPhone and Android devices through the official stores.

HappyCow: find vegetarian and vegan food

HappyCow does a stunning job of providing its users with healthy, easily accessible food. HappyCow holds almost 18,000 vegan and vegetarian restaurant listings in Europe alone, and covers over 180 countries, so you are bound to find places to go out and enjoy a meal in your destination. This app is priced at £3.99, a low price to pay for living a healthy life.

It can be hard as a vegan or vegetarian in a foreign country to ask for a tailored meal in a restaurant where you don’t speak the local language, so why not go to a restaurant that provides exactly what you need without the hassle or stress?

Here’s how it works: 

HappyCow will prompt you to allow access to your location. Once you have accepted, a list of local restaurants is produced.

HappyCow is available for download for both iPhone and Android devices through the official stores.

Regardless of where your journey takes you, rest assured that these apps will take the stress out of finding a stellar location to eat out or have a drink while enjoying your travel experience.

Beat stress with these holiday tips

The best thing about holidays is that they allow you to forget about the daily stresses at home. Make sure you plan ahead so everything runs smoothly and then you can focus on whatever holiday activity you’re looking forward to, whether it’s relaxing, sightseeing or eating and drinking.

Planning
Careful planning before you head off can save a huge amount of hassle later on and cut down on travel time. Think about avoiding the peak holiday periods as prices will be lower and everywhere is likely to be quieter.

You can use price as an indicator of how busy a place will be at a certain time – the more expensive the trip, the more packed with people it is likely to be! If you’re retired, you’ve got new-found flexibility, so use it!

Packing checklist
When packing, make a checklist of everything you need to take. If you keep it on your computer, or in an app like Evernote, or print it out, you can use it again the next time you travel. Here is an example packing checklist, for inspiration.

Ensure you’ve got copies of important documents such as passport and insurance details in your hand luggage just in case anything happens; it’s well worth leaving photocopies of these with family or friends at home in case of emergencies.

Hotel
Thanks to the internet, the days of arriving at an “idyllic” hotel, only to find a nasty surprise, should be coming to an end. It’s well worth spending time reading recent reviews, both good and bad, on sites such as booking.com, TripAdvisor and Expedia so there is less chance of a nasty surprise waiting for you. No one wants to go on holiday to find out their hotel is next to a building site!

You can ask questions on the TripAdvisor forum to get answers to specific questions you might have, or you can ask the hotel directly. There can be a language barrier with hotels, and sometimes it’s easier to email them, and other times it’s easier to phone them. If you don’t have luck with one method of contact, try another!

Notifying your service providers
If you think you may be withdrawing cash from your bank account while abroad, make sure you let them know where you’ll be on which dates so there are no issues with security. There would be few things worse than the cash machine keeping your card and having to liaise with both your bank and the local one to retrieve it!

Similarly, you might need to notify your credit card issuer to tell them that you will be using the card abroad. This especially applies if your card issuer is particularly sensitive to fraud, and tends to block your card quite often as a precaution.

Mobile phone roaming
Everyone wants to be able to keep in touch with family and friends when away so consider downloading an app such as WhatsApp or Skype which lets you speak over an internet connection. It can be hugely expensive to make calls from your mobile and to browse the internet without using a wifi network, so it’s always best to turn off the “Roaming data” setting on your phone to avoid charges.

Although you don’t want your phone to be using roaming data, it’s useful if it can connect to the local mobile network to receive calls and text messages, just in case of emergency. To do this, you might need to ask your mobile network provider to switch on roaming for you.

If you have just got a new phone, or switched your mobile phone contract, roaming is likely to be turned off. Contact your mobile network, or log into their website, to make sure roaming is on. While you’re doing it, make sure you are aware of the fees for roaming, so you don’t get caught paying high charges for calls!

Internet calls from wifi are often your best option when phoning home from your holiday, using Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.

If you’re planning on being away for a bit longer or you’re a regular visitor to the country, it may be worth buying a local SIM card so you can make calls when abroad.

Travelling
The most stressful part of a holiday is often the travelling. When all you want to do is get to the pool, faffing around at the airport for taxis or currency can be a real hassle. When booking your hotel ask whether they offer a shuttle service: this is sometimes free, and even if there’s a cost involved, it can be worth it to avoid having to negotiate a taxi or work out which bus to catch.

If you’ve exchanged your money at home you will often get a better rate than at a kiosk in the arrival lounge, plus you won’t have to queue. Double-check the currency of your destination before you go – not everywhere uses the Euro!

Remember to keep a bottle of water handy (after you’ve gone through airport security) and any medications you might need in your hand luggage, just in case! It’s often worth keeping a day’s worth of clothing, especially underwear, in your hand luggage, just in case your suitcase goes missing.

Finally, don’t try to squeeze too much into your holiday. It’s often far more relaxing to pick a few places to visit so you don’t spend all your time on transport, letting you enjoy your holiday! It can feel like anything but a holiday if you’re rushing to fit everything in, so allow yourself time just to relax, and realise you’re probably not going to be able to fit absolutely everything into just a week.

Something different: exploring Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

We’re already into May, and summer will be with us faster than you think, so now is an exciting time to start making plans for the months ahead.

If you have considered visiting Ireland, there has never been a better time to go. The Irish Tourist Board has mapped out an easy-to-follow coastal drive called the Wild Atlantic Way, with the best sights the Atlantic (west) coast of Ireland has to offer.

Book a short flight or ferry. Grab a map, download the app and you are on your way!

Planning your route
‘The Wild Atlantic Way’ stretches from Donegal in the north-west to Cork on the south-west coast. Whether you have two days or two weeks, with 157 discovery points and over 1,000 attractions, you will be spoilt for choice.

The route is well signposted, with a wave symbol indicating frequent points of interest, and is quite an easy drive. However, to discover the truly remarkable points of interest, the signposts will often lead you down narrow country roads. It’s not uncommon for cars to be held up by a tractor or a wandering sheep! Enjoy it. After all, when holiday memories begin to fade, it is these experiences you will always remember as the ‘Only in Ireland’ moments.

When planning your journey, try to include some of the lesser known sights as well as the well-known locations. By contrast, popular locations such as the Cliffs of Moher, picturesque Kinsale Harbour, Bunratty Castle and the gorgeous Dingle Peninsula will always attract large numbers of people.

However, the beauty of this route is that it offers access to other hidden gems along the way: you may choose to take a guided boat tour out to see dolphins, whales, puffins, and the numerous other breeding seabirds; or you could watch the sun set on a deserted beach along this rugged coastline.

There are plenty of opportunities to get active, with popular activities such as angling or golfing. For the brave at heart, experience the exhilaration of swimming in the Atlantic Ocean on any of the blue flag beaches scattered along the coast, such as Lahinch. The northern edge of the Loop Head Peninsula also has great cliffs and a lighthouse.

Whatever your preference, The Wild Atlantic Way route will ensure your trip to Ireland is one that you will remember for a lifetime.

When to go 
May to September are the most popular months to travel around Ireland. The month of May is arguably the most colourful. As summer arrives, the landscape is awash with wild flowers blossoming, green fields against an Atlantic Ocean backdrop.

In the months of May and September, you are most likely to find you are the only person on a secluded beach or cliff walk. From June to August, the towns and villages buzz with activity, and you might be lucky enough to happen upon one of the many food or traditional music festivals held across rural towns and villages in the summer months.

Experience the culture, gourmet food and drink 
Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with a local. You will often find they are fiercely proud of their local area and will enjoy sharing their knowledge on its history, hidden sightseeing gems, or the best restaurants.

From gourmet bistros to artisan food markets, there are plenty of pit stops along the way to tickle your taste buds, and you will find the locals are the best guides for advice. Spend an evening sipping on an Irish coffee or a cold pint of Guinness while enjoying a traditional music session in a pub. You will find trad sessions in most rural villages and towns each night. Again, the locals will be happy to point you in the right direction. If you really want to immerse yourself in the culture, it is worth booking into a B&B to truly experience an Irish homestead at its best.

What to pack
Although Ireland has relatively mild summers, the Atlantic coast can bring in sweeping brisk winds that are sure to make you feel alive! Be prepared for warm sunshine, rain, and hail all in one day. It’s easiest to wear layers, with cosy knits and raincoats. Comfortable walking shoes are also a must.

Finally, don’t forget your camera. There are photo opportunities around every corner of the Wild Atlantic Way! Consider whether the camera on your smartphone is really up to the task, and perhaps treat yourself to a new compact camera to capture the stunning views.

Bord Failte, the Irish tourist board, offers an informative website and smartphone application to help you plan and navigate your trip. See http://www.wildatlanticway.com