How To Choose A Guidebook in 2 Minutes

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How To Choose A Guidebook in 2 Minutes, Phyllis Stoller, The Three Tomatoes

Choosing and buying a guidebook is key to your travel experience. And then adding a few literary guides, which are experiential will make your trip. Travelers Tales is a publisher with plenty of these and some editions are  geared to women.  Recently a long lost friend emailed me with the fact that she was still holding onto my first favorite literary guide by a woman. She found me on Facebook!  Dervla Murphy wrote this classic book and it is called Full Tilt. The book begins something like this: “When I was ten my parents gave me an atlas and a bicycle. Little did they know I would bicycle to Afghanistan.

In today’s world, you can also borrow books from your public library, and or buy them for your kindle. The caveat here is that the maps in Kindles are notoriously hard ot read and harder to find. Moreover, who wants to walk around with an electronic tablet all day.  But for general background in your hotel room these will work.

My preference when traveling is to buy the following: 1 Lonely Planet Guidebook, 1 other which has more chat, perhaps some information from literature or history on the area, and less facts and I will hunt around Amazon for ideas. And I usually read one history book or, in a pinch, the Wikipedia page on a country.

On line I use Tripadvisor for hotel reviews and general ideas of unusual sightseeing. And when traveling on the cheap, I buy Let’s Go from Harvard University and if available Time Out.  Other series to consider are Real Guides, Frommers, Fodors when on a specific city,  Footprint,  and Bradt (for odd places).

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Check the publication date; the information inside will be a year older than that date
  • See who wrote the book: some guides written by locals deliberately omit great places (we did when I worked on guides abroad, as who wants a bunch of tourists in their special restaurants.)
  • Check if the book has information on women travelers: Lonely Planet have a section on issues for women
  • What is the budget level of the restaurants and hotels? Are they all US chain hotels?
  • A reading list tells you the author is talking to smart travelers.
  • A fun inclusion is a list of movies shot in that location.
  • A grain of salt for Euro-centrics like Michelin. And another grain for US centrics, which might scare you off a great flea market because of pick pocketing.
  • Some local foods in their local language is an excellent idea if you are a foodie.
  • Last but not least, can you carry this book? Lighter and smaller is better

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