Holiday like a local with these interesting apps

We look at some apps that can help give you specialist local knowledge and experience.

Pretty Streets: Free
The goal of Pretty Streets is to create an itinerary for city explorers who are on the lookout for beautiful walks. This app is for people who like to enjoy the journey before they get to the destination.

Instead of giving you the shortest possible route, Pretty Streets creates the most enjoyable path through the city, meaning you can soak up the sights on the way. For those visiting Paris, the app also provides 60 free audio stories that can be discovered at certain locations on the map.

Download Pretty Streets for iPhone or Android.

Spotted by Locals: Free
Spotted by Locals is a free app that offers city guides (at a price) that are created by local ‘Spotters’. Unlike apps like TripAdvisor and Triposo, the content on Spotted by Locals only contains local favourites with no tourist highlights.

Each Spotter lives in the city they write about, speaks the local language and regularly updates their tips. This ensures that you will have access to the newest restaurant and the most popular bars in the palm of your hand. Furthermore, the various maps and city tips are all available offline.

Download Spotted by Locals for iPhone or Android.

VizEat: Free
VizEat is the global social eating app. After entering your destination, you will be given dozens of various eating experiences that are available to you. The immersive experiences are all hosted by locals and include cheese and wine evenings, culinary classes such as pasta making, and rooftop dining.

The 20,000 accommodating hosts from all over the world are ready and willing to show you their local delicacies and traditional recipes. With an average rating of 4.9/5, this is one of the best ways of discovering new cities in a unique and exciting way.

Download VizEat for iPhone or Android.

Citymapper: Free
Citymapper is an app that will help you get from A to B via your chosen form of transport. The app uses live and real-time routing that updates every minute to give you a constant update of the quickest way to get to your destination.

You will be given information such as price, departure times, time taken and calories burnt, allowing you to decide how and when you’ll arrive. After being included in Apple’s ‘Apps of the Year’ in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, it is clear to see that this is an essential holiday app.

Download Citymapper for iPhone or Android.

Tips to make the most of a European cruise holiday

Cruise holidays in Europe are becoming more popular by the year. If you’ve never been on a cruise, they are a great alternative to hotels. You’d be surprised how much variety a cruise can offer, and we’re sure you’ll find some helpful tips here.

Not all cruises are specific to a particular country        
Many cruise operators have European region-specific cruises that offer you a real variety of culture and sightseeing. There are a lot of cruise routes, so it’s worth you coming up with a list of countries you would like to explore. You should then be able to find a route that fits with the countries that you’d like to see.

However, if you want a longer holiday then you can take a 15-day cruise through most of central Europe. These cruises offer great value, allowing you to disembark to explore key landmarks and indulge in the local cuisine. Many cruise holidays can provide shuttle transport to these areas, so you don’t need to worry about taxis or using local transport.

Short river cruises 
River cruises offer you a way to see the waterways inside a country. They give you the inland cruise experience, getting into the heart of the country that you are sailing through. If you are looking for a shorter cruise but still want to see a large region of Europe, then taking a river cruise would be well worth considering.

A cruise along the River Danube can be between five days to two weeks, depending on how far you want to go and where you want to visit. The Danube can take you through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary in just one week!

If you just wanted to stick to Germany, you could take a five-day river cruise through cities like Nuremberg and Cologne. The beauty is that you can find a lot of different options and pick the one that suits you best.

Guided excursions to organise your sightseeing
Many cruise operators have a tour manager who can arrange outings to local areas you might be interested in. Cruises are quite flexible: you can choose whether to take the excursions or, if you prefer, have a rest with a drink on the deck and take in the view.

Most people who take a cruise tend to get off and explore, taking advantage of these outings. The tour manager is usually someone who knows the area very well, and there’s the bonus of being able to explore an area without having to worry about arranging travel back to your ship.

Cruise companies offer paid incentives for longer cruises
Operators have all types of offers available when you are booking. Be sure to check for inclusive meals and drinks: many cruises have this as standard, but not all.

Specialist travel insurance for cruises
Most travel insurance policies don’t cover you for a cruise without taking out the Cruise Cover option. Be sure to choose Cruise Cover when you are buying travel insurance for your cruise. All our travel insurance policies offer Cruise Cover as an option.

First Time Cruising?
If you are a first-time cruiser, or are considering a cruise, then there is a huge amount of information on the website Cruise Critic, which can help you to make the right choice.

A summer city break in Basel, Switzerland

Despite many people thinking of Switzerland as a winter destination, there are many merits to visiting the country in the warm summer.

Basel is an elegant and beautiful medieval city in the north-west of Switzerland, close to the borders of Germany and France. Visitors will be surprised by the depth of culture on offer, and soothed by its predictable and safe efficiency.

The excellent transport makes the many places of interest within the city easy to reach and offers the opportunity to make day trips into the surrounding areas.

Basel is well-built, well maintained, and readily accessible for anyone with mobility challenges to consider.

Attractive historical buildings and cobbled streets are features of the old city. The industrial and new areas boast modern architecture and innovation. The river Rhine runs through the city, and along the banks you will find comfortable places to sit and relax. Stylish cafés overlook the Rhine, and a little wooden ferry boat can be used to cross the river in a novel way.

Culture vultures
If you enjoy culture, a visit to the city of Basel will offer you a multitude of museums and art galleries to explore. Interesting picks for culture are Museum TinguelyKunstmuseum, and Fondation Beyler.

The city is sprinkled with sculptures and beautiful drinking-water fountains. A walk around the city will reward you with unexpected visual surprises at every turn. Basel also has many green spaces to enjoy: perfect for picnics in the sun.

If you’re thinking of booking for next year, every spring the Fasnacht festival is a mind-boggling three-day event. The festival starts early morning on the Monday after Ash Wednesday. Brightly-dressed masked people parade around the city playing fluting pipes and drums. Confetti is thrown around, and “Fasnacht” is the only time of year you will see any kind of “litter” on the streets.

A number of cinemas in Basel show mainstream movies and some show arty, cultural films. The bonus of going to the cinema is that many screenings are shown in English with French and German subtitles. Even people who are not good at languages can find a film to enjoy. Most cinemas will have a break during the film, so you can head off to the loo or buy drinks and snacks.

The Musik-Akademie in the old city has a lively calendar of musical events, modern and classic.

Travelling around in Basel
Getting around the city is very easy. The comprehensive tram and bus system links everywhere together. Services are regular and are always on time. There is excellent transport from the airport into the city.

You can buy a bulk ticket which has a fixed number of journeys to use. You then stamp the ticket at the start of each journey. Or you can buy tickets for each journey as you go. You can also buy a travel pass, which is a good option for people planning to use the transport frequently.

The system is very easy to use, everything is clearly signposted, there are maps and ticket machines at each stop. You can also buy the “bulk” tickets at the newsstand kiosks located all around the city.

Basel SBB railway station is centrally located, very easy to navigate around, and can be reached easily using the trams and buses. The station has excellent connections to other places in Switzerland. Day trips to different towns, into the mountains, or even to France or Germany, are easily arranged from the station.

Getting to Basel
Basel Mulhouse Freiberg airport is easy and low cost, with regular easyJet flights from Gatwick, Luton, Bristol, Manchester, and Edinburgh. Ryanair flies to Basel from Stanstead Airport. Other airlines such as British Airways and Swiss also serve the city.

The airport straddles France and Switzerland; take care to exit from the Swiss side of the airport when you land! There are two exits from baggage claim, and both have signs in English.

Language – English is spoken
The language of Basel is Swiss German, a dialect of German. Most people will speak at least some English. More often than not they will speak excellent English. You can also use French, Italian and “high” German to get around. Museums and art galleries will usually supply information leaflets etc in English, German, French and Italian (at least).

Eating out
Eating out in Basel can be expensive, so it is well worth choosing accommodation that includes breakfast. For lunch, you can buy a picnic from one of the many shops and supermarkets, to enjoy by the river.

Beware of restricted shop opening hours: Basel does not do 24-hour shopping.

Delicious crusty loaves of bread and Swiss cheese can make a good picnic. Pretzel bread sandwiches can be found at various market stalls around the city and offer a tasty alternative to a sandwich. After saving for breakfast and lunch, treat yourself to eating out for dinner.

Self-catering accommodation can be found in the city which can help reduce the cost of meals.

Insider tip: watch out when ordering water, because they will always serve sparkling water. If you don’t like sparkling water you need to specify when you order that you would like “wasser ohne gaz” or “water without gas”.

Accommodation
Accommodation in Basel can be expensive, but for a very high quality service. Increasingly, there are low cost and mid-range options available. A comfortable hostel is located not too far from the SBB Station. There are also B&Bs catering to the lower end budget.

You can find holiday flats which can be rented for a week or more. Renting a flat can offer a good solution if you want to keep the cost of your hotel down.

An excellent website that provides information about available accommodation is Basel accommodation.