Once upon a time, travelers would bring a bible when they hit the road. The thick tomes contained secrets about the places they are visiting, and tips on how to survive.
The travelers used the tomes to trek into unfamiliar territories.
As the age of the internet arrives, such tomes moved online but still kept their physical flesh.
But are they still useful when their knowledge lacks far behind those in the fortresses of the internet?
Our high priestess of travelling deciphers this question.
Are travel guides still worth it?
Personally, I still use travel guides, though only copies I can get from the library. I still love travel guides for their compact information.
Pros of travel guides
- Convenient: Most of the information you want about a location is gathered in one volume.
- Easy to access offline: Unless you have really powerful search function on your mobile device, it’s easier to flip to a particular page in a guidebook than finding it on the phone.
PS If you find guidebooks too heavy, you can copy some pages from the places you are visiting.
Cons of travel guides
- Takes up space: Some travel guides are really thick and heavy so they will weigh you down.
- Not very up-to-date: The publishing process takes a long time so information that’s printed might even be a year older than the published date.
- Jacked up prices: Because of the publicity of the guidebooks, some of the shops or restaurants would increase their prices. I don’t blame them but it sucks as a traveller.
- Too many tourists: Many people (such as myself) would visit a spot because of recommendations. You’ll likely see more foreigners than local.
- You’re telling everyone you’re a tourist: If you’re trying to find a place in the guidebook while standing at the junction of a busy street during your travels, everyone would know you’re not local.
And travel guides publishers such as Lonely Planet know they have to have a comprehensive website to accompany their books.
Pros of internet research
- So much information: Besides “professional content”, you can read personal travel journals too.
- Up-to-date information: Information posted on the internet can be edited as often as the publisher likes.
Cons of internet research
- So much information: Yep, same as the benefit, having too much information can lead to info overload. And you don’t know which sites to trust more.
- Everything is everywhere: You have to know where to look for the right info.
The best balance for me is to read about it in a guidebook to see which are the top spots. Then I include the location in my Google Maps so I can access it easier when I’m travelling.
I also gather information in my Evernote so I don’t have a bajillion bookmarks scattered around.
I’m running a workshop about travel planning using Evernote. Sign up to get updates about it.
Verdict: Are travel guides still worth it?
Travel guides are still useful, but there’s no real need to buy them.
I get mine from the library or browse the copy that’s left at the hostel I’m staying.