Lucky enough to be off travelling this summer? Be it Europe, the Americas, Asia or Africa you are probably in search of some guidance.
I must just say that generally the gems of the world and almost certainly the highlights of your travels will be hidden away. They will not appear in any guidebook; neatly in print with an entry in the index and an X on the map, so do not cling to your guidebook as if it was a travel bible. It is a guide book not a rule book.
Regularly updated and colourful, with great maps and detailed information on transportation, accommodation and food, Lonely Planet have done it all right. Right from page one I am hooked by inspiring photos in their “top experiences” section. The history section in the back is also a nice touch and a great feature to read on the plane to get you in the mood. Some books contain great fold out maps of capital cities. The included “survival guide” gives great advice on day to day necessities, from acquiring VISAs to language basics, local taboo topics and avoiding landmine sights. Overall, these books are a pleasure to use in their shear ease and quality.
Probably the best maps of the lot, they are clear and simple in blue and white. The books include more specific maps of cities and sights of interest (such as castle ruins and mayan temples) than most. The “basics” section at the front gives a great run down of the “dos and don’ts” in the country. The books are very well written, however, when you just want to know the most straight forward route back to your hotel, you can find yourself becoming irritated with the flowery language. Additionally, the paragraph layout can sometimes leave you trawling through beautiful descriptions of seaside resorts whilst straining to find the actual name of your next destination. All in all, wonderfully written accounts with great maps and images, but not concise or particularly easy to use.
These books are annually updated, so you always know where you stand with the constantly changing world of tourism. There is a great “planning your trip” section towards the front which summarises some of the best experiences: spas, festivals, cities, beaches or treks. Also towards the front of the book is “how big is your footprint?” which with the current issue of global warming and with the impacts of tourism becoming more apparent in some places, attempts to promote responsible and sustainable tourism. Accomodation and dining information is great, however the price key is confusing. There are great sections on the history of cities, political issues and cultural highlights scattered through the book, but not too much to get bogged down in. All in all, these are great books, however the fact that it is a hardback and considering the space in my airline restricted luggage, would make me pause before buying it.
Let’s Go travel guides are designed specifically for the budget traveller. They focus on travelling with the tightest of budgets and give much more basic travel information to enable easy travelling for those with less experience. The layout is unlike all other guidebooks I have seen: clearly divided into sections “getting there,” “accommodation,” “nightlife” and then within these divided again into the different geographical areas, which appear in the same order each time. Although this might be helpful for some, I found it confusing and time wasting, having to flick from back to front in the book to find all the information I needed for staying in one city. Let’s Go guides are great for the first time traveller, but for someone who has only ever used other travel guides they can be confusing.
The first thing that strikes me about Fodors guides are the amazing photographs. From the first page to the last you are inspired by big, glossy images. There is lots of information on tour packages and activities to get you excited as well, although most suggested activities seem to be through tour guides and are not cheap. For the more well off traveller this is a great guide book, but straight away you notice that it is severely lacking in budget options for accommodation and travel. Overall a very well put together guide, but is not aimed at the budget traveller.
Time Out specialise in city specific guides and themed books (“Top 100 Cheap Eats in London”) so they are great books if you are planning on spending a lot of time in one city. The “itineraries” help you get the most out of your time away, whether it’s just a weekend or a fortnight. Time Out books are also some of the cheapest coming in at sometimes half the price of other city guides.
Each guide book will have points that you like and points that you dislike, however having looked at all of them, I would have to say that personally the best all rounder would have to be the Lonely Planet guides. They are clearly the easiest to use and still contain sufficient background information, top tips and recommendations. What’s more, with 127 country guides and 53 multi-country guides, you’re bound to find a Lonely Planet guide to accompany you to the obscurest corners of the Earth.