Guides and Books
While it would be nice to think you could just wander off to a new country or city without knowing a thing, it’s not how we approach our travels. We like to prepare at least a little before we hit an unknown destination.
Pre-internet, we used mainly guidebooks to plan and execute our adventures. Nowadays, we use a mix of guides, online resources, and specialty publications. The trick is to find the best and most up-to-date information for your style of travel and budget without being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it.
The goal of this page is to point you in the right direction.
Section 1 – Highlights a selection of resources, including physical guidebooks, online guides, specialty publications, websites, and a selection of travel classics to help whet your appetite.
Section 2 – Has links to our other posts and pages relevant to guides and books.
Of course, resources such as websites, apps, and content change constantly.
We try to keep up, but please tell us if you know of products, websites, and publications you think are superior to those mentioned. We’re always excited to learn about and test new things.
Section 1 – Travel Guides and Books
I’ve lost count of how many guidebooks we purchased in the past. We’ve tried digital versions but prefer having the hard copy unless we only need one or two chapters. I guess we are still old school.
Over the years, we’ve used Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Bradts, and several specialty guides to help us plan and execute our trips.
So without further ado, here’s a list of the leading players in the Guide Book space:
Amazon Travel Guides – If you’re unsure what guide you want or need, Amazon is a good place to start, with over 60 000 to browse!!!! Take a look at the whole range of Travel Guides on Amazon. And, if you don’t want to read the rest of this page or search through 60 000 products, I’ve done the searches for you.
If you want to know more about each publisher, read on.
Rough Guides – These guys have been around since 1982. The same company publishes Rough Guides and Insight Guides. The range includes guides covering regions, countries, and languages. And they now have a podcast, run tailor-made trips, and have lots of helpful info on their website.
We are currently traveling through India with a Rough Guide. We’ve used local intel for the day-to-day logistics as things change quickly, but the book was an excellent planning tool. It’s BIG and heavy but comprehensive. And we have access to the digital version as part of the purchase price. We just prefer to use the hard copy.
Lonely Planet – Our favorite guidebooks in the 90’s were the Lonely Planet ‘On a Shoestring’ series. Sadly, this series is discontinued.
South East Asia on a Shoestring was our first, closely followed by The Middle East, Africa, and South America.
In pre-internet days, budget travelers often called LP ‘The Bible.’ I’m not sure that’s the case these days with the plethora of info online.
In addition to their Travel Guides, they also have Experience, City, Language Guides, and general guides like their Where to Go and When guides.
Bradt Guides – Bradts is a leading independent travel publisher. They produce a lot of niche guides with information you won’t find elsewhere. They are a good choice for travelers who are interested in less-obvious experiences and less-visited places. They also publish travelogues by some incredible writers.
We used their Madagascar guide back in 2013, and it was excellent.
We have not used any of the following guides on our travels, although I used to borrow some from the library in the early 90s when imagining our first 3-year round-the-world trip. However, they are all solid publications that have been around for decades.
Frommers – These guys published some of the earliest budget guidebooks. Europe on $5 a day came out in the 1950s. I think it was up to about $20 a day when I started to borrow them from the local library and devour their content. They are still producing excellent guides to this day.
Fodors – Fodors have been around for over 80 years and publish guides covering over 7500 destinations. We’ve never used them, but plenty of people swear by them.
Conde Naste – Publishes content in the luxury travel space. A bit out of our price range until we win the lottery. But their recommendations seem superb for those of you with cash to spare.
Rick Steves Guidebooks – Rick Steves, famous for his travel series, also has a range of destination, pocket, and ‘best-of’ guides. The books focus mainly on European destinations. We’ve never used one, but he obviously has a lot of expertise to offer.
Eye Witness Guides – are published by DK (Dorling Kindersley), which is part of Penguin House. These guides stand out because of the incredible graphics and maps.
Marco Polo Guides – Along with their compact guidebooks, they offer itinerary-based guides, phrasebooks, folding maps, travel handbooks, travel journals, city maps, and road atlases.
Have we missed any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll add them to the list.
All of the companies mentioned in the Guide Book section have comprehensive websites with a bucket of information about specific destinations, along with stories and blogs to inspire your planning.
In addition to those websites, check out:
WikiTravel – This site, modeled on Wikipedia, aims to be “a free, complete, up-to-date, and reliable worldwide travel guide.” Its database has tens of thousands of destinations with general information and details like getting to and around the destination, languages and currency, tourist destinations, food and drink, and culture.
Atlas Obscura – I quite often check out this site to find “quirky” things to do and see in a particular destination. Excellent for getting off the usual tourist trail.
World Travel Guide – A cruise around their website reveals guidance on everything from cities to airports and attractions to events. You’ll also find many off-beat stories and guides.
Let us know what online guides you use and recommend so we can check them out and add them to the list.
When bicycle touring, we research destinations using the usual resources discussed in the previous two sections. But we also utilize guides and maps produced specifically for bicycle touring:
Adventure Cycling Association – produces excellent maps and guides for North America. We’ve used the northern tier maps for our trips in 2018 and 2019. You can buy individual sections of longer trails or the whole thing.
Eurovelo produces similar resources for Europe; only the individual countries produce many of the maps and guides available. Eurovelo routes cover 42 countries and over 80 000 Km of cycling routes. We were gifted a guide for the German part of Eurovelo 2 in 2022. It was great, but all in German, which was a bit challenging.
Let us know what other specialty publications we should list here.
I’m still trying to decide what to put here, So watch this space.
Let us know what books you believe belong in a travel classics list.
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