Travel Unravelled Q&A Series: GUIDEBOOKS
Wed 27 Apr 11
Welcome again to the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series. I am dispensing with the numbering system for these topics. Yes, there is a reason. Previously, particular questions did not receive enough replies to post a blog entry. This was due to having a set time limit and members having to send PMs instead of posting in the Q&A threads posted in the General Talk Forum. The rules of the game have changed. (For more details, please check the above link or the revised General Talk thread.)
These particular TU questions address the issues of guidebooks. So, without further ado:
Frequently, people ask how travelers research their trips. Do they use a guidebook? If so, which one is the most preferred? Or, is the internet a better way to go about things? Is it a mix of both? Do they use a guidebook while traveling?
Michael Burm (Utrecht)
While doing research for a trip, it surely is not guidebook versus internet. They can be used pretty nicely together. For some issues, the internet of course is the best way to go. Booking the best plane tickets or car rental deals is definately something you should do online. If you want to book accommodation before travelling (or even during travelling), websites like Trip Advisor or specific hotel booking sites have far more better deals and more choice compared to what you find in guidebooks. I still use a guidebook to read a bit about interesting routes, cities, places, parks and other sights. But purely as a way to decide which route I want to do and what I want to (and can!) do and see in a certain amount of time. But then again, I also use Google (Earth and Maps) to see what I can expect somewhere. On the other hand, during travelling I only use a guidebook and/or road atlas (in case of travelling by car), and internet (besides maybe booking a hotel during very busy periods) is mostly a no-go! After all, I am not at home or work, but on the road!
Heather Robb (Purdy)
After reading through a guidebook, l can feel the excitement of visiting a new city or country mounting!
Guidebooks l have found essential in the past - they are a great way of preparing prior to a trip and making a note of the key sights you want to visit - some that are not always on the beaten track. They also help build anticipation. After reading through a guidebook, l can feel the excitement of visiting a new city or country mounting!
As to a preferance for which, generally for a country where l will be visiting more than one area, Rough Guides & Lonely Planet are ususally the ones l pick off the shelf in the book shop. However, if its a city break and time is limited, l like to use DK Top Ten Guides. They often have maps and transport guides included which have been essential.
Whilst in the country/city - again the guidebook becomes a bible - great for tracking down accomodation that has been pre booked - honest opinions of where to stay, great for tours to book onto or where to go and eat.
So - guidebooks love them - and l will be buying a Berlin Top Ten guide pretty soon because we are going on an adventure for the first time in a very long time!
Scott Knudsen (ScottK)
For researching on what Hostels to stay at, what restaurants to eat at, and what tour operators to use I mainly use the Trip Advisor website. If the ratings are poor on this site, check to see what dates they where rated at. Sometimes the companies make improvements and all the latest ratings will be positive. There is also lots of good information on the Lonely Planet website.
There are of course websites dedicated to each country, that can give lots of good information on what to see, but their opinions are not un-biased.
Guidebooks can also be helpful, but are quickly dated. I still like reading them, and it is much easier to get an idea on what to see in the country from a book, rather than having to navigate through countless webpages. I bring the book with me, in case I need any last minute info. To choose a guidebook (or any book) I read the book reviews on the Amazon website.
Before I go, I print out a list for each area of places to stay, where to eat, and what to see. That way I am not fumbling around with guidebooks and brochures when I get there.
A bit off the original question, but in Peru the iPeru tourist bureau was extremely friendly and helpful. You could leave your luggage at their offices while you walked around checking out where to stay and what to do, and then come back and ask for reports on those companies. it would be great if every country had people this helpful.
If you research your lodgings beforehand you can find some that are extremely helpful with telling you what to do and where to go.
A guidebook such as Lonely Planet is great for people who don't have the time or energy to do independent research, but the fact is that the info on the printed page is considerably out of date (even if hot off the press). For those of us with plenty of energy and time, the internet is a far more accurate way to go. From my experience, these two sources are outstanding:
SE Asia - Travelfish
Turkey - Turkey Travel Planner
Each guidebook has it's own feel to it, and as a traveller, it's a good idea to find something that works for you.
The internet provides more accurate and up-to-date information, and can provide information about more off-the-beaten track destinations much more readily than guidebooks. It's also a way of obtaining direct feedback from fellow travellers that can be critical in the planning process. That being said, when you're on the road, it's much easier to get quick information from a book, and saves a lot of aggravation in a pinch. They often also include maps and phrases in the local language, which, while not ideal, are better than nothing at all when first arriving in a new destination (and don't change much over time!). For these reasons, I prefer to combine the two approaches.
As far as which guidebook is "best" I would say it's an individual choice. I've used the LP guides and I know others who have used the Let's Go guides. I think it's less about which is better and more about what books target what you want to do/see. Each guidebook has it's own feel to it, and as a traveller, it's a good idea to find something that works for you.
Gretchen Wilson-Kalav (Isadora)
When we travel, we use the internet as our main research tool. We definitely use it for booking flights, accommodations and renting vehicles. If we are traveling to a new destination out of country, then we try to take a guidebook along too. As mentioned by others, the guides are rarely up to date so they definitely are not accurate on several levels. But, as also mentioned, most do include maps and we use those to mark our routes as we go exploring. We'll discuss where we have been each day while having our nightly dinners. Then - with trusty highlighters in hand - we gleefully retrace our 'steps' on the maps. (In assorted colors to denote different days.) So far, the Lonely Planet guides have been our preferred option.
We do take along a spiral notebook to use as a journal for recording our thoughts, destination descriptions and just general comments. We have found having a small guidebook in hand allows us to jot down notes in the margins, which inevitably help to jog our memories at the end of each day or every few days for use in the journal. I have also found the guides (containing the notes in the margins and highlighted routes) to be quite useful when answering inquiries as we've updated the information through our own personal experiences. Though, being absolute book junkies - we just like having the guides we've used on our journeys to add to our collection. (Those and any stray seashells that follow us home.)
Editor's Comment: All links made to the various (outside) guidebooks and websites have been done solely for informational purposes as they were part of the participant's responses to the questions. No promotional considerations have been given.
For more information about the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series, please see: Travel Unravelled Q&A Sessions Unleashed. Please join in on the discussions!
ps: When planning your next big adventure, or even a short weekend get-away, please consider using the Travellerspoint Travel Guide as part of your research too. It is written by TP members and the information is updated continuously. It's just one more tool that may help expand your horizons. Happy Travels!