Indeed, in the age of Trip Advisor, is there even a need for travel guides? While it could be argued that most of us go online for hotel and restaurant reviews, there’s still a massive demand for travel guides, a fact borne out by the fact that they are among the most borrowed non-fiction books from libraries (and probably among the most travelled books too, come to think of it).
Of the general guides, the two big beasts are Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. Both have their champions and detractors. We wouldn’t recommend one over the other but would offer these three pieces of advice.
- Don’t take anyone’s word about what’s ‘best’. Take a look at both to see which you prefer.
- Don’t be blindly loyal to one brand. Just as every holiday is different so is every guidebook.
- Finally, and most importantly: other guide books are available! So let’s look at some of them.
Many people prefer foregoing pages of closely typed text for the colourful Eyewitness Guides. Marketed as the ‘guide that shows you what others only tell you’, page after page of glossy colour photographs and three-dimensional cutaways give you a sense of exactly what to expect when you get there.
One potential drawback to the Eyewitness books (and the similar Insight Guides) is weight. These can be fairly hefty, so if you’re not keen on lugging one of these round a historic city centre you might be better with their smaller sibling, the pocket-sized Top 10 series.
(Or, lighter still, you could of course download your travel guide from OverDrive)
For the more adventurous, Footprint guides are aimed at ‘independent travellers looking to get off the beaten track’ and Bradt champion more unusual destinations such as Suriname, Malawi and Kyrgyzstan. They also have a different take on some more familiar locations so you’ll also find guides to areas such as Suffolk or Dumfries and Galloway.
In conclusion then, the guidebook you choose should reflect what you want out of your holiday – whether your emphasis is on activities, sightseeing, budget backpacking, getting to grips with the language or enjoying the nightlife.
Borrow a selection from the library to find the one that best suits your needs.Then, enjoy your trip!