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.

Great travel apps to help you plan your holiday

Here are three lesser-known apps that will help you plan your next trip, from finding the cheapest and fastest transport and organising your suitcase, to communicating in different languages.

Packpoint – Your packing assistant
If you always realise that you forgot your pyjamas or toothbrush when you arrive at the destination, this app will help you remember everything you need to take.

There are various apps to help with packing for your holiday, but we chose this one because of its multiple options. PackPoint is like your butler: you indicate whether you are male or female, where you are going, days of stay, whether it is a business or pleasure trip, and what activities you want, and the app gives you a listing of things to pack.

Once the list of luggage is created and organised, you can share it with family, friends or colleagues so that they can also help.

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

Duolingo – Quickly learn the basics of a new language
There are many reasons why Duolingo is one of the most widely-used applications for learning languages. Duolingo is 100% free, well-designed, with no extra charges, no subscriptions, no commercials, and offers a high-quality education at no cost.

Each lesson includes different exercises for speaking, listening, and translating, and feels like you are playing, which makes learning fun. The application divides the languages into different themes, from food to business, so you can practice the type of language you need most. You can also choose to improve grammar using the adverbs and pronouns option.

The method is based on developing a knowledge tree in which the user goes from one challenge to the next. This app has won thousands of fans because the strategy used for learning is not memorising but practice. This makes it easier to learn a language.

In addition, this application adds a social component which can help you compete with your friends to see who advances more.

Duolingo works for both Apple iOS and Android and you can also use it from your computer.

Currently, you can learn English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Russian, Esperanto, Polish and Turkish, and can also learn pronunciation. This makes Duolingo a great app to get a basic grasp of a new language quickly if you are travelling to a foreign country.

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

GoEuro – Easily find the cheapest and fastest means to travel in Europe
Traveling Europe from end to end, either by train, bus, or plane, is quite possible but not always easy to figure out.

GoEuro is an app that helps you travel in Europe in the fastest and cheapest way, not only from the airport to the city and back, but also to cities and towns that can only be reached by trains or buses. This is what makes it different from other search engines and travel comparison apps.

When you want to use the GoEuro search engine, you have buses, trains, and flights in a single search, so you only have to enter your intended start and end locations. You can filter the results by your schedule, and order them by the fastest and cheapest options.

Not only will this app allow you to see the prices offered by different companies and different means of transport, but also book directly without leaving the app. This means you will no longer have to pay attention to the different websites of many transport companies, but in just a few clicks, you will have everything planned and booked.

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

Make your smartphone a travel force to be reckoned with!

Whether you’re a late adopter of 21st-century tech or a keen lover of the latest apps, your smartphone is one tool you don’t want to leave at home on vacation. Harness its power with the sleekest and most practical travel apps to make your next trip run smoothly.

We’ve covered a lot of apps over the last few months, so we thought it would be useful to give you a quick roundup of everything you should be considering on your phone for your next trip, including some new goodies we haven’t mentioned before. There’s bound to be something here that you’ll find useful.

You can easily find any of these apps for iPhone or Android – just search for them on your app store.

Booking your holiday
Staying connected while travelling can be a lifesaver – literally – but your smartphone can be an important resource even before you’ve left home. Use a flight aggregator like Kayak or Skyscanner to search for plane tickets.

Search for a room on Hotels.com or get a cosier, more residential space with Airbnb.

If you’re comfortable winging it, wait until arrival and get deep discounts on your accommodations with Hotel Tonight.

TripIt will forward all your confirmation emails to a single custom itinerary, to help you stay organised.

When you travel
Skip the jet lag with JetLag Genie, which helps you adjust your sleep schedule before departure.

Generate a packing list with PackPoint to ensure you don’t leave anything behind, and prepare to hit the road!

In the airport, GateGuru can show you a map of the terminal, reviews of onsite restaurants, and even estimated wait times for the security line.

Find a prime spot to wait for your flight using Lounge Buddy.

Stock up on reading material for the flight by saving articles to Pocket for offline use.

When you’re on holiday
Once you’re back on solid ground, you may be used to using Google Maps to get around town. If you don’t have internet access in your new destination, try MapsMe instead, or Tripadvisor offline maps (you can download a whole city guide on TripAdvisor).

HopStop and AllSubway can help you navigate even the most mind-boggling public transport system.

If you’re renting a car, download GasBuddy to help you find the nearest fill-up station.

Are you hopping from city to city by bus or train? Rome2Rio (called FetchMyWay on Android), compiles a seemingly endless number of overland routes to any destination you can imagine.

Uber operates in many cities, and can be a quick and easy way to get a taxi. In some cities Uber is cheap, but in some cities like Dublin it’s very expensive, so keep an eye on costs.

Expensify can help you document expenses, but for keeping better track of your travel budget, install a more comprehensive finance app like Mint.

You’ll never be strapped for cash with the PinPin ATM Finder, and you can be sure you’re leaving the right tip with Tipulator.

Finding things to do
When the dinner bell rings, you may be tempted to rely on TripAdvisor and Yelp for restaurant reviews. These are good resources, but you can get specific dish recommendations on Tastespotting.

For a unique take on sightseeing, you can find locals’ favourite hotspots on Localeur and upcoming events on Goby.

Invite a local friend to join you on the WithLocals app.

Need help with a language barrier? Rely on Google Translate or hire an interpreter via Whym.

Safety
No matter where your travels take you, put safety first. TravelSafe hosts a database of emergency phone numbers around the world. You can even pin your destination’s police and ambulance contacts to your phone’s home screen.

So no matter which of our travel hotspots this month takes your fancy, keeping your journey in the 21st century is a snap with the right app!

Maps for your smartphone that work without wifi

While on holiday, many of us don’t have a mobile phone data plan that covers data while we’re out and about, and it’s not always possible to connect your phone to wifi. This can make finding your way around town difficult.

The solution is to download a map or guide before starting your European adventure.

If you know you’re going to be spending some time in Vienna, Siena, or thousands of other cities and towns, the following apps for both iOS and Android will allow you to expertly navigate like a pro, without needing an internet connection.

Additionally, assuming you have a sufficient battery charge, these apps allow you to plan your trip while you are still travelling, on your flight or train ride before arrival.

MAPS.ME has much better offline maps than Google Maps
Maps.me is very impressive in its scope, and covers nearly the entire world. The level of detail includes every statue in a park and allows for flawless navigation to your next destination, wherever that may be.

Additionally, pharmacies, supermarkets hospitals, and public transport options are all clearly listed and marked. The app allows for fantastic zooming in and out, as well as rotation of the map, on any device without ever freezing up in front of your eyes. You simply need to download your destination when you have a data connection, either before you go on holiday or using the wifi in your hotel.

Download MAPS.ME for iPhone
Download MAPS.ME for Android

izi.TRAVEL: offline maps and audio guides for museums and cities
Increasingly, museums are giving visitors access to high-speed internet, which lets you use GPS location and QR code scanning to provide information about specific exhibits. This makes for a more interactive experience to museum goers.

However, even if this is not available to you, izi.TRAVEL allows you to download these audio guides before your visit to make the most of Europe’s finest museums in nearly every country.

While the app also provides city maps, Maps.ME is considerably better for that; the real treat is the audio guides, which are made by travel professionals, art history professors and a community of over six million users.

Download izi.TRAVEL for iPhone
Download izi.TRAVEL for Android

Both apps offer a lot with no price tag

Just because you don’t have a mobile internet connection when you’re in Europe, either due to cost or wanting to get away from your phone for a while, these two apps give you a sense of direction and “being in the know” before your arrival.

Preparing your phone for your holiday

Before you go on your next trip, taking some time to prepare your smartphone will help you to get the most out of it while you are on holiday. Here’s what you need to do:

Synchronise and delete unwanted data
Synchronise your phone with your computer before your trip. This will back up all your photos and other data, in case your phone is lost or stolen. (Your travel insurance or gadget insurance can never replace the magic moments stored on your phone.)

Once you’ve backed up, you can delete some things from your phone, to make sure there is lots of memory left for the photos and videos you will take on your holiday. As well as deleting unwanted apps that you no longer use, consider deleting photos and especially videos, because these take a lot of memory. You can also trim videos, just keeping the best bits, to reduce their size.

Roaming
Check that you have roaming turned on for your phone. This will allow you to use calls, text, and data while you are on holiday. You will often need to phone your network operator to arrange for roaming to be turned on. If you have recently changed your phone or your network, roaming will probably be turned off.

Be aware that charges apply for roaming, and it can be expensive. Fortunately, new EU legislation means that your network operator is now more limited in how much they can charge you, and from 15th June 2017 roaming charges in the EU will be abolished. (More information here.) You are best to use wifi abroad whenever you can, rather than your phone’s data connection, to be on the safe side.

It is most useful to turn data roaming off, but leave call and text roaming on. This means that your phone will not be able to keep using data to connect in the background, to retrieve emails etc, unless you are connected to wifi.

Apple roaming information is useful, and Google will give you Android roaming information too.

Know how to work your phone
Two very useful features are Flight Mode and the torch. (The torch illuminates the LED flash on your phone.) Make sure you know how to find these quickly. Search Google if you’re not sure.

Load up with travel apps
In previous newsletters we have covered some of the most useful apps. As a reminder:

  • Download TripAdvisor, open it, then download the offline city guide for the place you are visiting, if one is available. It’s free of charge. Then you can still read TripAdvisor when you don’t have an internet connection.
  • Download some kind of communication app to stay in touch with folks back home. Skype, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger would be useful. Make sure you add your family and friends to the app before you go, so that you can actually contact them!
  • Download a currency converter app such as XE. Load it up before you go away to get the latest exchange rates into the app before you travel.
  • Put a couple of games on your phone to pass the time. Go to your phone’s app store and you will quickly see the latest trending games. Many are free. Make sure the games don’t need the internet in order to work (test it before you go by turning on Flight Mode then playing the game).
  • Use the Sky TV app to record any TV programmes that you might miss while you’re away. (You can often use iPlayer to catch up when you get home, anyway.)

Social media
Just a word of caution: don’t write about your holiday publicly on social media until you get home. Otherwise you are advertising to the world that your house is unoccupied, and you might be in for a nasty surprise when you get home!

Reading material
Put the Kindle app onto your phone. It’s free, and you can get some free and very low cost books, including travel guides to the place you are visiting. This lets you save weight when packing, by leaving your books at home.

If you use Dropbox for storing your files, the Dropbox app has an offline mode, where you can download files for reading without an internet connection. This can be useful if you have newsletters or other files in PDF format that you wish to read.

Pack your charger, adapter and battery pack
Don’t forget to take your phone charger and its cable. You will also need a plug adapter for EU power sockets (check it fits the exact country you’re visiting).

You should also consider a spare external battery pack. These are quite cheap, and are readily available for iPhone and Android phones. The higher the capacity (measured in mAh), the more charge the battery pack will give you. Don’t forget to charge up the battery pack before you go away, because most do not come pre-charged.

Using mobile apps to find holiday entertainment

The happy holiday memories that you look back on with fondness often come from the events and entertainment that you have experienced.

Whether it’s local musicians playing guitars in a restaurant in Kefalonia, eating and drinking in the beer halls of Munich during Oktoberfest, or listening to a Mozart concert in Vienna, these are memories to last a lifetime.

But how do you find the perfect event suited to you?

Find events and discounts with the Time Out app
One way is to use the Time Out app, which is free for iPhone or Android.  Time Out, as you may know if you live in London, is a respected entertainment listings magazine, first published in 1968: it has a long and distinguished pedigree of highlighting fun things to do.

The app covers the European cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Madrid, and Paris. The country of Croatia is also covered, as are the UK cities of London, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, and Manchester. This makes the app worth downloading for use at home as well as abroad.

Categories that you can explore include Things to do this week, Free events this week, Art this week, and Upcoming gigs. You can also book a theatre show, and find restaurants, bars, and pubs nearby.

Each event has a short write-up by Time Out staff, explaining what’s going on and what you can expect. The app gives dates and times for the event. There are also links to event websites, to give you more information. Usefully, there are user reviews, comments, and star ratings, so you can learn what to expect from others who have been to the event.

The app has “Exclusive Offers” too, which sometimes get updated every day. This is well worth a look.

The content changes often, so you can look at the app before you go, to get an idea of things you might like to do, and then check again while you’re on holiday to see if any last minute activities or offers have been added.

Overall, this is a very polished and useful app. If you are visiting any of the places its covers, it’s well worth downloading it, especially since it is free!

TripAdvisor app
While many people associate TripAdvisor more with hotel and restaurant reviews, it also has a good selection of what it calls “Things to Do”.

It has vast coverage, so most places in Europe will have listings. TripAdvisor mostly covers ongoing activities, such as museums, sights, theatres, bike tours, and spas, rather than short-term events such as festivals and carnivals.

Uber: a taxi service on your smartphone

If you’re looking for a cheap alternative to a hire car on your holidays, especially for city breaks, then Uber could be just what you need. It’s effectively a taxi service that you order directly from an app on your phone.

You’ve probably heard about Uber, because it’s become incredibly popular, and is often in the news. There’s no more trying to find a taxi rank, looking up the phone number of a minicab firm, or waiting outside in long queues.

Uber serves many cities within Europe, including the UK, so you can use Uber at home and abroad. Here is the full list of European cities supported by Uber.

Download Uber for iPhone
Download Uber for Android from the Google Play store

How Uber works
You download the Uber app onto your smartphone, which knows your location. Then you ask the app for a car to pick you up, and tell the app where you want to go.

The price of the journey is calculated within the app, so you know how much you’re going to pay before you get in the car. At peak times prices get more expensive, but off-peak you can get a real bargain.

Payment is also handled within the app (linked to your credit card), so you don’t have to mess around trying to pay the driver in an unfamiliar foreign currency.

The app shows you a map so you can see how far away your car is from you, and when it is likely to arrive.

Uber is very popular, and in our experience in several cities, it works well.

Staying safe
While millions of trips have been successfully completed on Uber, you should take the same sensible precautions as you would when getting into any cab.

Take a look at the Uber trip safety page for more info.

Uber promotional code for a free ride
There are almost always lots of promotional codes for free Uber rides or discounts, because Uber as a company is trying to expand rapidly. The codes change quite often, so just do a Google search for Uber promo codes when you download the app.

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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 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.

Be safe – insure your gadgets
Get 90 days Worldwide cover for your gadgets with Premier Gadget Insurance, and save 10% with code LAUNCH10.

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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