Over the past two decades, the popularity of guidebooks has grown rapidly. There is likely to be several guidebooks to choose from no matter where you travel. Typically, popular guidebooks like Lonely Planet, Lets Go! and Rough Guides cover an overview of the history and statistics of the city or town your visiting, followed by suggestions for accommodations, restaurants, activities and transportation. The only way you will be able to find the right guidebook is to have a look for yourself. I suggest going to your local book store to check the formats of each and browse amazon.com for online reviews. The following points should be considered:
- How current is the book? Is it the most current addition? The accuracy of guidebooks begin to fade before their even printed, so you don’t want an old book which could have outdated addresses and contact information.
- Are you looking for more information about the history of a location, or the most popular bar to meet fellow backpackers? What does the writer emphasize?
- Look at the maps given in the guide. Are they detailed?
- If you choose the popular Lonely Planet as your guide, you can expect to see high demand for accommodations suggested in the book. Know that many other travelers will be reading exactly what you read, and as a result, competing for the same beds. During high season, consider contacting popular accommodations before arrival.
- If you’re visiting a few countries in a region, consider buying a guide which covers multiple countries. As I write this I am in Cambodia, but I have been carrying the same lonely planet guide that covered other destinations i have visited on this trip including Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. The book also covers Indonesia, which I wont be visiting, but it was worth not having to carry several book or purchasing one for each country. Consider cutting out the pages of the countries you wont be visiting.
- If you plan to carry a book for each country, buy one for your first stop and trade guide books with someone as you leave for your next country.
Once in a while, put your guidebook away and find something off the guides trail. Guidebooks are a great tool for reading about culture, history, language and suggestions, but its important to branch out from time to time if you find yourself sticking to a guidebook.