Travel Advice - Buying the right guidebook for you
Guidebooks help the traveler solve three fundamental problems. First, a
good guidebook acts as a travel advisor, helping to categorize the
attractions and point out the unique aspects of the travel destination.
Second, the guidebook serves to help you understand the "cultural,
social, and historical" environments in which your vacation will take
place. Finally, most guidebooks provide recommendations on lodging and
A good guidebook is one that will serve as a guide during your vacation.
You will find yourself reading it at night to prepare for the next day's
touring. You will use it to get a bird's-eye view of each
destination and plan out your itinerary. So, examine guidebooks to
make sure they contain the information of interest to you, presented in
a manner that is easily found, informative, and concise.
Travelers differ in their perspective on travel and so do the authors or
editorial teams who create guidebooks. In the following article, we
present information on how to choose and use a guidebook to your best
In order to buy the right guidebook for you, become familiar with the
editorial viewpoints of the guidebooks publishers. Some guides are
written with the purpose of providing clues to "budget travel"; others
provide the "insiders view", “adventure travel”, or a number of diverse
perspectives. Try to find a guide series that is a good match for
what you like to do and how you want to focus your attention during your
vacation. The only way you can do that is to take some time and examine
the guidebooks available for your destination.
Why are prices so different?
Publishing books that contain illustrations, color photography, and
detailed maps on quality paper is a high cost business. Publishing books
without photos or illustrations allows publishers to use lower quality
paper, which decreases production costs. Many low price guidebooks skimp
on photographs and detailed, illustrations.
Which one for you?
So how do you choose? Well, vacations are important, so do a little
- Head to the library or bookstore and look over the crop at your
- Take the time to read some of the text and see if what is offered
meets your needs.
- If you like to take walking tours, does the guide provide maps,
suggest walks, and provide detailed descriptions of the route and
attractions along the way?
- If your persuasion is the arts, does the guide provide detailed
coverage of noted galleries and museums?
- You know what is important to you, so look for a guidebook whose
authors share your values.
- Most stores or online booksellers do not offer the entire range of
products that guide publishers provide. You may want to visit the
publisher's website to see if they offer a guidebook focused on
the area you hope to explore.
- Another source of information is to ask knowledgeable, store
personnel to make a recommendation.
- Although book superstores offer great prices, it is hard to find
personnel familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of various
- Travel stores that sell guidebooks, generally, have a
knowledgeable sales staff and carry the most popular guides.
- Another good source of how satisfied guidebook users are with the
product can be found by reading reviews of the various guidebooks
that are contributed by fellow travelers and published at
Barnes and Noble
Important Guidebook features
If the trip you are planning will be your first one to the destination,
you should choose a guidebook that has photos, drawings, and detailed
area maps, as these will help preview the destination for you. We think
having detailed maps of city centers or tourist areas is a must, as
these help you plan your itinerary and walks around the city.
Recommended guidebook publishers
- Insight Guides offers well written, lavishly illustrated,
encyclopedic, guidebooks that cover every tourist destination
conceivable in a particular country.
- As a general rule of thumb, we find that guides that are published
by the Insight Guides or the
Automobile Association of the United Kingdom" (for guidebooks of the
UK or Europe) are generally excellent choices for the first time
- Both guides are aimed at independent travelers and combine
practical information, points of view, great illustrations, and
detailed maps into concise, yet comprehensive publications.
- One ideal feature of the Automobile Association guides is that
most include detailed walking tours in major tourist cities. The AA
guides are often co-published outside of the United Kingdom by other
major travel publishers.
has published many of the AA guides in the Fodor’s "Exploring"
- Dorling Kindersley’s Eyewitness Guides are richly illustrated
with detailed artwork indicating the important aspects of site
architecture and serve as a good primer for understanding the importance
of major attractions before you visit. The DK Guides are more expensive
than other guidebooks due to their lavish use of illustrations and high
quality paper and binding.
- Rick Steves
(published by John Muir Publications) has attained a cult-like status
due to his successful PBS show; his line of travel guidebooks is
extremely popular with members of the “Boomer” market and those who
aspire to traveling inexpensively.
- The Steves’ guides are focused on presenting ways that you can
“…experience culture like a local”. The books feature few
photographs or illustrations but include numerous maps that provided
detailed paths to many of the attractions he features.
- Rough Guides forgoes illustrations and, instead, provides
detailed information about destinations and budget travel. Rough Guides
cover many out-of-the-way destinations and appeal to backpackers and
other footloose travelers.
- Lonely Planet, generally, produces exhaustive, detailed
guidebooks of high quality. The editorial viewpoint of Lonely Planet
appears to be heavily weighted to favoring those locations offering
quality nightlife, entertainment and alternative lifestyles.
- Lonely Planet has an excellent website used to support its products.
- If you are a seasoned traveler and headed to Europe or the UK, you
may find the
Michelin Tourist Guides (recognized by the green cover),
good travel companions.
- The "green guides" read as if you were in the presence of a
knowledgeable tour guide, who is able to intertwining history
and detailed information about the attractions covered.
- The Green Guides provide detailed descriptions of attractions but
a lack much of the supporting material offered by other publishers.
- Fodor's Guides
are widely available and provide a no-nonsense, comprehensive approach
to the countries they cover (and they cover more than most).
Fodor's appears aimed at a mature audience and those with a comfortable
- Frommer's Guides
are one of the mainstays of the travel world: recently, the the line has
been undergoing a facelift to make the product appeal to younger users.
- Frommer's provides an excellent Internet site supporting its
Many guidebooks are repackaged publications that were originally
prepared by another publisher. If you are interested in
determining the owner of the material included in the guide, look at the
page containing the copyright information.
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