Which Are the Best Mobile Phone Companies for Customer Service and Coverage?

The latest generation of phones is causing customers to queue around the block. Tech programs are going into overdrive talking about features, edgeless screens, biometrics and front-facing cameras.

While the tech may be ticking boxes, what about the providers? Mobile phone service providers may offer you the latest handset upgrades and plenty of free texts, but if you have a problem then who answers the phone quickest, who has the best call centre and who gives you that extra special customer service experience? Time to find out.

Somethings really are too good to be true

Rule number one is to avoid tempting adverts. Every carrier is very good at promotion. It’s whether they’re any good at the aftercare and service that really matters. Those fantastic deals carriers offer in slick advertisements may look seriously tempting, but you’ll also notice a sea of small print at the bottom of the screen. That’s just the contractual obligations they’re required to tell you about up front (such as contract length, monthly fees and charges, roaming costs etc), and once you look at your contract you’ll see that it’s the tip of a very big iceberg floating on a sea of get-out clauses.

It’s important to do your homework thoroughly before you pick a carrier, not just with regard to the latest model of phone and how much data allowance you get every month, but to find out about how they look after their customers, whether that hefty allowance is rolled over, or if there’s a more suitable deal for your particular level of usage.

Contact-NumbersUK-phone-companies-customer-service

The Market Players

Putting aside the handset issue for the moment (where carriers are pretty much on a level playing field), let’s have a quick look at the major players in the UK market.

1. O2

Probably the largest and best-known of the carriers, they have a good track record when it comes to customer service quality, and put loyalty rewards at the top of their list of customer perks. Inclusive roaming in 47 European destinations also makes them popular with travellers who don’t want to get stung with high roaming charges abroad.

2. Vodafone

The granddaddy of the bunch, Vodafone is still going strong and has excellent coverage in both the UK and Europe. They too have introduced inclusive roaming, and have a good choice of tariffs. Vodafone’s customer service number is good, but it can take a while to get through to a real person on their support lines.

3. EE

Slick, trendy, and with the emphasis on providing superfast 4G speeds up to five times faster than 3G, they’re let down a little bit by their patchy coverage, even in city centres.

Contact-NumbersUK-best-phone-companies

4. Plusnet

This popular provider piggybacks off the EE 4G network, so it’s technical specs are good. It’s also keen to emphasise that the company has UK-based customer care centres, and have really put the onus on providing a friendly, trustworthy service.

5. Giffgaff

Cheap, cheerful, and very popular among younger users, this contract-free service was recently voted uSwitch Network of the Year 2017. Its tagline – ‘The mobile network run by you’ – makes it feel friendly, with a real community spirit. Consequently, it has a very good reputation when it comes to their customer services. With no contractual obligations to tie customers to the brand, Giffgaff has to work harder to keep their customers from jumping to other providers.

6. BT Mobile

Mobile contracts are a very small part of the BT operation, despite being the main provider of communication infrastructure across the UK. BT still has a bit of a struggle when it comes to its customer care reputation, but does offer packages that bundle everything from mobile contracts through to TV and broadband into one easy-to-manage contract.

There are plenty of other providers such as Virgin Mobile, Three Mobile, and even Tesco, so the best option is to use a comparison site to get the lowdown on deals, offers, and rates.

Go for the smaller carriers for a personalised service

Picking the most popular carrier isn’t always the right decision, and you’ll need to think about what exactly you want from your provider. If you’re a frequent traveller then Three Mobile’s excellent overseas service would be a good choice. However, Lebara Mobile, a very small company that piggybacks off Vodafone’s network, delivers some of the cheapest international call rates on offer.

Smaller providers also have to work harder to build their customer base, so you’ll usually find that their customer service is far friendlier, more personal, and deliver a better customer experience.

Everything Worth Knowing About Apple’s New iPhone X

It’s the most expensive smartphone Apple has ever made, marking the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, and you can soon pre-order one in space grey or silver…

With the Roman numeral 10 in its name, Apple’s iPhone X is radically different to all that came before it. It’s the first iPhone without a Home button, for starters, it’s made of glass and unlocks when you look at it. But as ever, it doesn’t come cheap – on Wednesday 27th October 2017, you can pre-order the 64GB iPhone X for a cool £999 or the 256GB version for a whopping £1,149, getting it shipped straight to you from Tuesday 3rd November 2017. You’ll have to move fast, because they’ll be snapped up in no time at all.

Alternatively, upgrade your current phone without breaking the bank when you get a deal from your current network:

Call EE, Vodafone, Three or O2 to register your interest in the iPhone X now.

Get an iPhone made of glass

Soak it in water or cover it in dust, the new iPhone X is as durable as it is elegant. Both the front and back is made of glass that Apple claims is the strongest ever used in a smartphone, complete with a band of highly-polished surgical grade stainless steel around the edge. That gives you a phone that’s all screen, with 5.8 inch Super Retina Display following the curves of your device.

Look at your iPhone X to unlock it

apple-iphone-x-cover

Forget Touch ID. When it comes to unlocking your new iPhone X, Face ID will project more than 30,000 invisible IR dots onto your face to create a mathematical model – unlocking your iPhone when you look straight at it, even when you wear glasses and look different with time. Not even a photograph will get you in, and your identity is protected because your image is securely processed on your iPhone X, not in the iCloud.

Apple Face ID is powered by the world’s most powerful smartphone chip – the A11 Bionic with Neural Engine performs a whopping 600 billion operations per second.

Swipe up to get to your Home screen

Say goodbye to the Home button that iPhones have had since 2007, because you now swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone X to go Home from anywhere – thanks to the on-screen buttons and gestures that Apple’s iOS 11 software supports.

Capture the highest quality videos on a smartphone ever

Film clearer videos with Apple’s new True Depth camera on your iPhone X thanks to the automatic stabilisation – whether you’re creating a 4k video up to 60 frames per second or a 1080 slo-mo up to 240 frames per second. The video encoder gives you real-time image and motion analysis.

Blend the real world with augmented reality

apple-iphone-x-2

You don’t need a virtual reality headset to make digital images appear on top of real-life images. Create your own world using ARKit on your iPhone X to make dinosaurs appear on basketball courts, for example.

Snap oh-so professional selfies

Shoot stunning selfies with both the front and rear cameras on your iPhone X, by experimenting with the five styles on Portrait Lighting. Use the shallow depth of field effect to keep your face in sharp focus and blur the background in natural light, for example. Alternatively, brighten your face with Studio Light, create dramatic shadows with Contour Light or spotlight your face against a deep black background with Stage Light – you can create a classic black and white version of this with Stage Light Mono.

Better yet, your iPhone X can store up to twice as many photos and videos, so you can keep snapping until you get that perfect shot – without mass-deleting.

Shoot better photos than on any other iPhone

Create better high dynamic range (HDR) images. Flip your iPhone X over and you’ll spot two individually calibrated cameras – the new and improved dual 12-megapixel wide angle camera and a telephoto camera, complete with a new colour filter, deeper pixels and faster auto-focus in low light, so you never miss the action.

Feel like a professional photographer by snapping photos that have uniformly lit backgrounds and foregrounds, thanks to iPhone X’s Slow Sync and new quad LED True Tone Flash that adjusts the white balance to match the surrounding light for you.

Charge your iPhone X wirelessly, fast

apple-iphone-x-2

You don’t need to plug it in when your iPhone X needs more juice – stick it alongside your Apple Watch and AirPods on the Apple AirPower mat, coming in 2018 – your battery will be 50% charged in as little as 30 minutes. Better yet, you can stay in touch with your mates for longer on your iPhone X, because its battery life lasts two hours longer than 2016’s iPhone 7.

Turn yourself into an emoji

Bring emojis to life by making them smile or frown as you do. The expressions you record on iPhone X’s True Depth camera can be animated onto 12 Animojis, including the panda and poo, unicorn, robot and more, ready to message to your mates on the pre-installed iMessage app.

Call EE, Vodafone, Three or O2 to register your interest in the iPhone X now.

All images and video copyright Apple via YouTube.com.

The 5 Best Last Minute Breaks in Europe

Planning a last minute summer getaway? Here’s where some of our favourite travel bloggers recommend you jet off to…

If you still don’t have plans for the summer, fear not, because you could still bag a cheap last minute deal with travel agents like Thomson Holidays – but time is of the essence so get booking. Here’s a dose of holiday inspiration, helping you to whittle down your options, whether you’re a party animal or history buff, beach goer or culture vulture.

1. Dubrovnik, Croatia

The 5 Best Last Minute Breaks in Europe

So much more than a filming location for Star Wars: Episode VIII and Game of Thrones, where the King’s Landing scenes unfolded and dung was thrown at King Joffrey. Dubrovnik is a UNESCO world heritage site, famed for its seafood, freshly plucked from the Adriatic Sea. From September to October, you can expect sunny skies, warm sea and fewer crowds, so why not catch the cable car up to Mt Srđ for a bird’s eye view of the Baroque churches in the medieval walled city?

Travel blogger Natalie Redman from Up Your Vlog is planning a trip, telling us, “Known for it’s distinctive old town and gorgeous views, this city is fast becoming a popular tourist spot. I think this is also a place I’ve been looking at for mine and Sam’s holiday so keep your eyes peeled for a holiday post to find out where we decided to go!”

2. Budapest, Hungary

The 5 Best Last Minute Breaks in Europe

How about a trip to the Hungarian capital, Budapest? The city’s bursting with neo-graphic and art nouveau architecture, from Roman ruins to the Jewish District. And there’s plenty to keep you entertained, whether you feast on fresh goulash soups and Palinka fruit brandy at The Great Market or catch the river cruise past Parliament, cross the iconic Chain Bridge over the Danube River or watch a fountain light show on Margret Island in the middle of the water.

There’s no better place for a spot of rest and relaxation, enjoy the massages and wellness treatments on offer at the famous thermal baths, such as Szechenyi. Rhian Westbury has visited Budapest twice in September, saying, “There’s plenty to explore in the city, but with so many natural hot springs, you can spend a day relaxing in the warm waters and getting a massage.”

3. Barcelona, Spain

The 5 Best Last Minute Breaks in Europe

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without one of the oldest cities in the world. Barcelona has it all, from tapas bars and white sand beaches to one of Spain’s most iconic shopping streets, Las Ramblas. Take in the sites, like La Sagrada Família, Park Güell and iconic Gaudí landmarks on a bike tour through the narrow streets or climb hilltop Montjuïc for panoramic views, sculpture gardens and a trip to the castle.

Emily Ray, The Cosy Traveller, couldn’t imagine a better last minute holiday hot spot than Barcelona. “Colourful, world-famous art, delicious food on every corner – and when you get tired of that, just head to the beach! I’ve never visited a city that’s offered so much. It’s great for those who want to sunbathe, for those who want to shop, and for those who want to sightsee.”

4. Ibiza, Spain

The 5 Best Last Minute Breaks in Europe

If your idea of a good time involves a whole lot of sun and partying, Ibiza is your rite of passage this summer. Imagine dancing the nights away with a Pina Colada in hand at Club Pacha, throwing shapes at the Bora Bora parties on Playa D’en Bossa or tucking into Spanish Paella on Sunset Strip in San Antonio. And if you need to recharge, hop across for a mud bath on the neighbouring island, Es Palmador.

Travel blogger Rachel Nicole visited Ibiza a few times, seeing every side of the Spanish island, “From the insane superclubs, incredible sunsets, picturesque beaches and charming capital city, there’s something for everyone…  Aside from pushing myself out of my comfort zone to go parasailing, experiencing the beautiful sunset at Cafe Mambo and seeing David Guetta at Ushuia were highlights of the trip. I do have to admit, it’s quite an expensive island but it’s well worth it!”

5. Naples, Italy

The 5 Best Last Minute Breaks in Europe

Naples boasts three castles and a plethora of world class museums, such as the Museo Archeologico Nazionale showcasing frescoes, sculptures and mosaics from excavations in Pompeii. And it’s also home to the best pizza in the world, so venture down to Naples Harbour and wrap your lips around a slice.

Travel blogger Oana Roua has been to Italy more than 15 times, from Alpine top to volcanic bottom, but it’s Italy’s third largest city that keeps her coming back. She explained, “Love food? Then head down to Napoli and enjoy the city which gave pizza to the world: a stone oven baked dough topped with tomatoes which grow on the volcanic soils at the base of Mount Vesuvius, mozzarella di Bufala Campana, basil and olive oil. So simple but so delicious!”

Cover image of Barcelona copyright Rceluch, licensed for use under Creative Commons. Dubrovnik image copyright Jorge Franganillo, licensed for use under Creative Commons. Budapest image copyright ParisSharing, licensed for use under Creative Commons. Barcelona image copyright Umberto Nicoletti, licensed for use under Creative Commons. Ibiza copyright Michela Simoncini, licensed for use under Creative Commons. Napoli image copyright NWojtowicz, licensed for use under Creative Commons.

Awesome Things to do with the Kids During the Summer Holidays

Wondering what to do in the summer holidays? Well, look no further than these summer activities for the kids…

If you have little ones in tow, family days out don’t come much better than these, so make the most of the school holidays this summer and get stuck in. From dinosaur safaris to mind-boggling Lego creations and a trip to the theatre, here’s how to keep the kids thoroughly entertained from Saturday 22nd July to Sunday 3rd September 2017.

1. Dinosaurs in the Wild

Convince the kids they travelled back in time to 67 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the planet. Dinosaurs in the Wild is a mind-boggling immersive experience, perfect for budding palaeontologists, that sees your family touring the laboratories at TimeBase67, where scientists are studying living dinosaurs. And it’s one of the coolest things to do in the summer.

Watch an autopsy on a Pachycephalosaurus and see dino eggs in incubators, baby Triceratops running around, plus the iconic T-Rex and Ankylosaurus, one of the largest ever dinosaurs. This dinosaur safari is just the right about of scary for young children.

Call to book your tickets with SeeTickets

Dinosaurs in the Wild is at NEC Birmingham until Wednesday 23rd August 2017. Fantastic for children aged 6 to 12. Experiences last 70 minutes.

2. Art of the Brick: DC Super Heroes

Whether you’re a fan of Batman or Superman, a visit to Art of the Brick should come top of your list of things to do with the kids this summer – it’s the world’s biggest collection of superhero-inspired Lego artwork, made up of nearly 2 million Lego bricks.

All the coolest superheroes and villains from the DC Comics universe will be there, from Wonder Woman and The Joker to Harley Quinn and even a life-size Lego model of the Batmobile. There’s so much, in fact, it’ll take you an hour just to explore the entire exhibition, and when you’ve seen it all, you can build your own Lego sculptures at the end. How about that for a creative summer holidays with the kids?

Call to pre-book your tickets with SeeTickets and skip the queue.

3. Paw Patrol Live! Race to the Rescue

Do one better than sticking Paw Patrol on the tellie. Round up the kids for a trip to the theatre this summer, to see their favourite cartoon dogs on stage for an action-packed 75 minutes. Adventure Bay’s Mayor Goodway is due to race Foggy Bottom’s Mayor Humdinger in the Great Adventure Bay Race, but she’s missing. Can Paw Patrol find her in time? Watch Marshall and Chase, Skye and Rubble, Rocky and Zuma as they become the dream team and race to the rescue. 

Call to book your tickets with SeeTickets.

Paw Patrol is on stage at various theatres from Saturday 29th July to Sunday 27th August 2017. Great for children aged 1 to 6.

How to Have the Ultimate Sports Night In

From food to face paint and fancy dress, follow these tips from our favourite bloggers if you want to host the sports party of the summer…

1. Get your TV sorted

how-to-have-sports-night-in-contact-numbers-uk-sky-sport

“Make sure you’re subscribed to a sports channel which is showing the sport you intend to watch – Sky is a great service for this,” Jacintaz Three reminded us.

Need to watch Sky Sports 2, Sky Sports Live Stream or BT Sport on Sky? Check the Sky Sports schedule and call to watch the big match. SkyTV and BT Sport customers have the biggest selection of live sport at their fingertips, including most of this summer’s best sport

On the big day, just position your TV so everyone can see it, crank the volume up loud and make sure everyone’s sitting comfortably – do a head count and order cheap beanbags from Amazon or eBay if your sofa isn’t big enough for everyone.

2. Plan a feast fit for sports fans

how-to-have-sports-night-in-contact-numbers-uk-sky-sport

Don’t fancy takeaway? Prepare your eats in advance.

Blogger Gemma from Life is Knutts recommends, “A one pot meal – such as chilli, bolognese or lasagne, which you can just serve up with some rice, pasta or garlic bread and salad. Or buffet food – such as Bread, Quiche, Pizza, Meats, Cheese, Salads, Arancini and nibbles. Oh, and don’t forget the sausage rolls! Puddings – such as Profiteroles, Pavolva or some nice homemade scones with Jam and Clotted Cream.”

how-to-have-sports-night-in-contact-numbers-uk-sky-sport

Alternatively, take Raising the Rings’ health conscious advice, “The ‘men’ who come round here like the gym, they watch their macros and they weigh their food… It doesn’t stop them having a fabulous curry, chilli or spread by the way! Trust me when I say we don’t scrimp on the desserts either.”

3. Drink to your team’s success

how-to-have-sports-night-in-contact-numbers-uk-sky-sport

Keep an eye out for bargain drinks offers at your local ASDA, Morrisons or Tesco. “There most certainly will have to be a copious selection of beverages – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic – to ensure every sporting fan is catered for,” Simone from Married to a Geek explained.

4. Dress the part

how-to-have-sports-night-in-contact-numbers-uk-sky-sport

“Yes, what you wear for a viewing party is important. Personally, I love getting into the team spirit and wearing my All Blacks rugby shirt, although my current one doesn’t fit so I need to buy a new one sharpish,” From Fiona enthused. “If you don’t have the relevant team strip why not wear their colours instead? Find a red jumper to wear instead of a Lions jersey or top to toe black if you’re supporting the other team. In case you’re wondering I actually support both teams, it’s a long story but either way, it means I’m happy with the result.”

Want more? “Get some face paint out and colour your cheeks / forehead with the colours of the flag of your supporting team,”Jacintaz Three recommended.

See what you can get on Amazon or eBay and order in advance.

5. Round up your mates for a few half time games

how-to-have-sports-night-in-contact-numbers-uk-sky-sport

Keep your mates excited during half time or help calm those pre-match jitters with a game or two.

“Whilst you’re waiting for the main event of the sport to start, why not have some garden games setup such as giant jenga, boules, football or darts? These are great ways to keep people entertained whilst you finish off any last minute preparations,” said Gemma from Life is Knutts. “Alternatively, just stick your fave music playlist on, turn the speakers up, sort out the garden furniture, and sit and chat with a drink and some nibbles. That would be my preference!”

Football Fan image copyright Rafiq Sarlie, licensed for use under Creative Commons.

Everything Worth Knowing About the New Quid on the Block

Check your change for the ‘most secure coin in the world’, the new 12-sided £1 coin…

With 45 million fake £1 coins out there, the humble ‘round pound’ was due a makeover to give forgers a run for their money – and you can get your hands on the new quid from Tuesday 28th March 2017. But are we ready for it, with its 12 sides, hologram and top secret security feature?

You May Struggle to Spend Them

Travel by train? Brace yourself for long queues at the ticket machines, because 11 of the UK’s 18 rail companies didn’t update them in time for the new £1 coins, say The Telegraph. That includes Southern Rail, Transport for London and Virgin East Coast, who’ll trade your new £1 coins for usable old ones.

The Automatic Vending Association reckons it’ll cost £100 million to convert every vending machine, parking meter, gym locker and supermarket trolley in Britain. But not every business has done it on time – 10% of car parking meters can’t accept the new coins yet and shoppers could have a problem at some self-service checkouts.

Tesco even hit the headlines for unlocking hundreds of thousands of coin operated trolleys, because they couldn’t take the new £1. But everyone from Sainsbury’s and Asda, to Morrisons, Lidl and Aldi say they’re ready.

But Don’t Run to Your Panic Stations Yet

MasterCard say that £1.1billion of loose change will become worthless. But only because 87% of people they surveyed didn’t know one crucial fact. Get spending or trading in your old ‘round pounds’ before Sunday 15th October 2017, when they become worthless. Until autumn, both £1 coins are accepted, although it’s worth checking the stash in your penny jars or piggy banks.

Missed the deadline? Deposit your old coins at The Post Office or most high street banks, who’ll also accept them. Call your bank to find out more, whether that’s HSBC or Nationwide, Santander, Royal Bank of Scotland or another.

Not Just a Pretty Pound

Looks like the old threepenny bit from the 1970s, doesn’t it? Well, it’s a whole lot more sophisticated. You get two different coloured metals, white and brass, there’s grooves on alternate edges and a semi-hologram image on the front that changes from a ‘£’ symbol to the number ‘1’. Not only does it also weigh less than half of the old £1 coin that replaced the note in 1983, but your old ‘round pounds’ will be melted to make the new ones.

The design, a Welsh leek, English rose, Scottish thistle and Northern Irish shamrock emerging from a royal coronet, was conjured up by 15 year old David Pearce – symbolising all four corners of the UK.

If the people who responded to Poundland’s survey had their way, your coin would have looked a whole lot different – 1,200 people wanted Winston Churchill on it, while 200 opted for Star Man David Bowie or classic fish and chips.

But if you’re feeling nostalgic, you can buy a commemorative ‘last round pound’ for a tenner, from The Royal Mint which features Gregory Cameron’s original design – the heraldic beasts representing each of the UK’s home nations.

Expect more to come

It’s all change. Literally. 2017 will also see a new £2 coin, freshly designed 50p and a new plastic £10 note. Your old £5 notes need to be spent before Monday 5th May 2017 – after this, you’ll have to exchange them with the Bank of England in London, by post or in person.

Cover image copyright The Royal Mint, second image copyright George Osborne.

Why You Need to Look at Your Car Insurance Policy Now

Brace yourself, car insurance premiums could soar by up to £1,000 for drivers under 25, £300 for older motorists and £75 for the average car owner…

You could petition your local MP to stop it, but unless the Government does a major U-turn before Monday 20th March 2017, you’ll pay a higher premium – because of changes to the way that compensation is calculated for injury claims. Victims will get more money in a move that the Association of British Insurers called the decision ‘crazy’ and ‘reckless in the extreme’.

The new ruling from the Lord Chancellor Elizabeth Truss affects up to 36 million people and businesses, you included, plus Aviva will take a £385 million hit and Admiral Insurance will see a £100 million dent in profits. Call your insurance provider to find out exactly how this changes your insurance policy.

But the bad news doesn’t stop there. Remember, the DVLA’s expensive new car tax rules come into effect from Saturday 1st April 2017 – giving your wallet a double whammy of expenses to pay this spring.

How to minimise the damage

Car insurance premiums have never been so high in the UK. Driving without car insurance is a crime, but paying as little as possible isn’t – here’s how to get the cheapest rate…

car-insurance-contact-numbers-uk

Shop around

Let price comparison websites like ‘moneysupermarket.com’,  ‘gocompare.com’ or ‘biba.org.uk’ do the maths for you, showing you which insurer is cheapest at a glance – the latter belongs to the British Insurance Brokers’ Association. It’s worth going directly to the insurers that aren’t listed as well, to make sure you don’t miss out on a good deal.

Pay up front

Those of you who can afford to buy your car insurance cover up front, should, because it works out cheaper than paying monthly by direct debit – without those pesky insurance charges.

Install a black box

So you’re a safe driver? Prove it to your insurer and pay less car insurance, if you’re under 26, by installing a black box system – to monitor your speed, acceleration, breaking and whether you’re driving at high risk times, like early morning. Churchill, for example, will offer you a car insurance premium based on how you behave behind the wheel, without stereotyping young drivers.

Stop pimping your ride

Those spoilers, huge exhausts and LED lights that boy racers are oh-so fond of will only increase your car insurance. Especially in the first few years after passing your test. So steer clear of car modifications.

Consider pay-as-you-go car insurance

Not getting the most out of your car insurance? Only pay for the miles you drive with polices from the likes of Cuvva.

Opt for a pension with Aviva

Aviva say that people who regularly save for retirement are less likely to have an accident or claim for a stolen vehicle – so they’re putting their money where their mouth is and offering you cheaper insurance. Saving with another pension provider? You won’t get the discount, but call Aviva Insurance’s customer service team today to see if they can work a deal out for you.

The 5 Best Winter Sun Destinations

Feeling sun-starved? Here’s where’s hot right now…

Winter doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom if you fly out to one of these sun spots with easyJet or Thomson Holidays, Emirates Airways or Thomas Cook. Not only are these places still positively tropical this time of year, but winter breaks can be dramatically cheaper than summer, leaving you more money for day trips or cocktails on the beach. Go on, put your sun cream, not scarf on during our sub-zero British months.

1. Malta – October average 25°c

winter-sun-contact-numbers-2

One of the world’s smallest, but perfectly formed countries, Malta’s sunny for at least 300 days a year, guaranteeing you a toasty winter break. Run riot in Qawra and Bugibba’s waterparks or head down south to Mellieha Bay to relax on one of the island’s few sandy beaches. Fancy sightseeing? Here, you could explore everything from prehistoric temples to the oldest stone building in the world.

Fly to Malta with easyJet or Thomson Holidays.

2. Tenerife – December average 21°c

winter-sun-contact-numbers-3

After the dry season, the Canary Islands come alive with plants during the milder winter months, making Tenerife’s Teide National Park especially beautiful. Climb Spain’s highest mountain there or soak up the winter rays on Playa del Duque beach, lined as it is with cafes and high end shops. Those of you with kids in tow can let them loose on the Thai-themed Siam Park, Tenerife’s largest waterpark. This time of year, your all-inclusive resorts are far quieter, calming and more relaxing, whether you stay at Los Cristianos, Puerto de Santiago or somewhere else.

Fly to Tenerife with easyJet or Thomson Holidays.

3. Kerala, India – December average 27°c

winter-sun-contact-numbers-4

Feeling adventurous? Winter is the best time to visit Kerala, India, where you could canoe down the backwaters, trek tea-covered hills or find your personal paradise somewhere along the 600km stretch the Arabian Sea coast. You wildlife lovers will also be in your element, as the Western Ghats, one of the world’s most biodiverse places, are famously known as the ‘Elephant Hills’ and you could come face-to-face with a big cat in Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary tiger reserve.

Fly to Kerala with Thomson Holidays.

4. Morocco – October average 21°C

winter-sun-contact-numbers-5

Swap your hot chocolate for mint tea this winter. Morocco has you covered, whether you fancy camel trekking in the Saharan desert, hiking through forests potted with waterfalls and caves or relaxing on 9km of sandy beaches in Agadir – a bustling city, packed with European style cafes, that gets 300 days of sunshine a year.

Fly to Morocco with easyJet or Thomson Holidays.

5. Gambia – November average 27°C

winter-sun-contact-numbers-6

Just six jet-lag-free hours from the UK, Gambia offers an incredibly laid back sub-tropical winter break where you could sunbathe on the incredible Bijilo or Cape Point beaches by day, and party in Kotu or Kololi when the sun goes down. Of course, the wildlife here is a major attraction, you could find anything from leopards and hyena in the Kiang West National Park, to monkeys and crocodiles in the Abuko Nature Reserve. Just don’t expect the traditional African safari experience, this is far more unique.

Fly to Gambia with Thomas Cook.

To speak to some about your holiday booking or to ask about winter discounts, phone easyJet or Thomson Holidays, Emirates Airways or Thomas Cook direct.

 

Malta copyright Flavio Ensiki licensed for use under Creative Commons. Tenerife copyright Javier Losa licensed under Creative Commons. Kerala copyright Mehul Antani licensed under Creative Commons. Morocco copyright Mycroyance licensed under Creative Commons. Gambia copyright Forbes Johnston licensed under Creative Commons.

4 Times Ikea Surprised the World This Summer

Europe’s favourite flat-pack furniture store, Ikea has had an adventurous summer, how does yours compare?

From teaching foodies to whip up Scandinavian delicacies with top chefs in a London pop-up restaurant and exhibiting their 70 year history in a dedicated museum in Älmhult, Sweden, to refusing to collaborate with Kanye West – Ikea’s summer has been anything but ordinary for a furniture store….

1. Ikea Launched their New Catalogue

contact-numbers-uk-ikea

Ikea’s annual catalogue lands every August, but what’s so surprising about the 2017 edition released last month, is how hard it tries to convince you that having a small home is trendy – critics have even (unfairly) called it a dystopian view of the future.

From wall holders for your chairs and sofa-beds that you, not your guests, should use every night, to a standing mini-kitchen for homes too cosy to have a fitted kitchen. The new catalogue is packed with well-designed, functional and affordable furniture as ever, ideal if you’re also obsessed with space-saving.

2. Ikea Opened a Pop-Up Restaurant in London

contact-numbers-uk-ikea

It’s called The Dining Club and from 10th September to 25th September 2016, you and up to 19 mates can reserve your space and seek it out in Shoreditch – where you’ll celebrate the joy of cooking and learn traditional Swedish recipes under the watchful eye of head chef Fred Bolin, without spending a single penny. It’s free.

And it’s not about Ikea’s famous meatballs either, think salmon tartar with beetroot, capers, cucumber, chives and crème or pan-fried pollock, with Swedish roly poly for afters. You’ll have your very own sous chef and maître de, with all of your ingredients (and booze to wash dishes down with) provided for you.

Listen to special talks on everything from creative cooking for kids and reducing food waste, delicious Scandi food to the future of food, at Ikea’s temporary pop-up restaurant.

N&C Showrooms, 3-10 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6PG.

3. Ikea created a Swedish Ikea Museum

contact-numbers-uk-ikea

The world’s first Ikea store in Älmhult, Sweden recently transformed into the first ever Ikea museum, with four floors of exhibitions, from fully furnished rooms, old catalogues, Klippan Sofas, Billy Bookcases and founder Ingvar Kampra’s modest office. There’s even a fully fitted Ikea bedroom above your head on the ceiling.

How many shops cram over 70 years of their history, customer stories and products in a public museum? It’s bizarre. And while you can peruse 20,000 items, spanning the decades, you can’t take them home with you, which is bound to feel weird – since the museum looks a lot like a classic Ikea megastore.

4. Ikea Rejected Kanye West

contact-numbers-uk-ikea

From March to August 2016, Kanye West kept badgering Ikea for a collaboration project through Twitter, even telling BBC Radio 1 ‘I’d love to work with Ikea – make furniture or interior design or architecture’. While tweeting random sketches of beds, he made it pretty clear that he wanted to create a minimalist apartment inside of a college dorm for his fans.

Surprisingly, Ikea turned him down last month – sending a diagram of a ‘Yeezy’ bed and nothing more. It’s a dig at the huge bed in his viral ‘Famous’ music video, and unfortunately, it seems they’ll never actually make one.  

To speak to someone in Ikea’s customer service team, call this direct number.

Cover image copyright IKEA. Kanye West image copyright IKEA Australia. All images copyright IKEA press office.

How to fix mistakes on your tax return

Tax returns are a nightmare for freelancers and bloggers alike, it’s easy to get confused and make a mistake, but here’s how you fix it…

It’s that time of year again, the months when the tax man brings you pain. Whether you’ve fluffed your figures, claimed for the wrong deductions, forgotten to report income or to even sign your tax return form, you’re not alone.

1. Get it together

Panic is completely understandable, but freaking out won’t fix this little mess, so crack on. You have 12 months to amend your HMRC tax return, which should help you calm down a bit, but don’t wait –tackle the problem the minute you spot it.

2. Check everything twice, and then do it again

Resist the urge to throw your calculator at the wall or punch your laptop screen into next week. When your numbers don’t add up, re-read your tax return, and then ask someone to run a fresh pair of eyes over it. Putting your figures through Which? tax calculator may point out where you’ve gone wrong.

The devil’s in the details, so give the taxman as much information as possible – your tax return should give them a complete overview of your situation, complete with precise and exact numbers. Estimates and guesses won’t cut the mustard.

Don’t forget to also check your tax code and your Unique Tax Payer Reference number.

3. Speak to an accountant

If you’re up the creek with your accounts, call in the professionals. There’s nothing accountants don’t know about tax, in all its nightmarish intricacies, so ask for members of the Chartered (ICAEW) or Certified (ACCA) bodies for a hand. While you’ll find plenty of ‘professionals’ or ‘tax experts’ out there, you’re better off with someone who’s qualified.

contact numbers uk hmrc

4. Call HMRC

It’s impossible to recommend this enough. These taxmen aren’t as scary as you’re imagining, so dial this number and have a chat. HMRC’s lines are quietest from Tuesday to Thursday, between 8.30am – 10am, 11.30am – 1pm and 2pm-4pm, so with any luck you won’t be on hold for too long. However, lines open at 8am Monday – Friday, so you can try to join the front of the queue to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.

5. Set up a payment plan

If you’ve underpaid your tax, and you’re sent a bill that you can’t settle when they ask, arrange a payment plan with HMRC to split it into more manageable sums. It’s best to keep them in the loop and show that you’re trying to pay, than stew alone in your own panic.

6. Forget about the slammer

Tax is serious business, mistakes may land you a fine if HMRC think you’ve been careless or deliberately misled them, but don’t fret, you’re not winging your way to prison. It’s going to be okay.

7. Reward yourself

Go on, treat yourself when you’ve weathered the annual tax return storm, especially if you had to fix a few mistakes along the way. Surely you deserve it.

And even if you don’t need to fix a mistake on your tax return, HMRC are just a phone call away when you need to talk anything tax.

Deadlines:

  • By paper: Return tax for year 2015-2016 due by 31st October 2016
  • Online: Return tax for year 2015-2016 due by 31st January 2017