Travel guide books: good or bad?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Yesterday we told you how glossy travel brochures could soon be consigned to the bin (see

But if my experience today is anything to go by, it is not brochures but travel guides by the like of Lonely Planet at al that could be on their way out. Case in point? Two friends – one from Germany and one from Singapore – have both descended on my doorstep this week to “do London”.

Both have packed their party dresses, walking shoes, sunglasses, sweaters and rain jackets but neither had thought to pack a guidebook. This I can understand: the average travel guide is big and heavy, so it’s not surprising that many travellers are put off packing them in their backpack/suitcase (delete as appropriate).

So, in my role as host, I hastily handed over my trusty Time Out London guidebook, only to be told that I could keep it?! And then the guidebook bashing began… Clearly in 2012, it is not cool to slavishly follow a guide. Again I get this: guides can only show you so much and it would be foolish to confine yourself solely to what’s written on a page: those travellers that are able to go beyond the guides and interact with people on the street or stay with locals, will have a more authentic experience.

But the fact remains that guidebooks can be pretty useful and I know that I would have been lost without mine during all my expat postings. My guidebooks (or bibles as I was wont to call them) provided interesting, invaluable information on each and every destination’s history and culture as well as highlighting the top sites – and bites.

There might be a backlash against guidebooks right now, but I’d still say that it is definitely worth dipping into a travel guide from time to time. If nothing else, they can help travellers navigate a new country/city with a little more confidence and in a little more comfort.

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