Travel guides…once a must-have companion for globe-trotting now seem to have lost their way amid an endless sea of online content – whether just socials, videos, or even humble blogs like this here publication. Of course, these titles have also expanded online, but with patchy updates and content hidden for the paid-for editions, they don’t seem too dissimilar from any free content.
So, is there any need for paper travel guides in 2019/2020?
1. Authority and Trust.
The idea is that the person who’s been commissioned to do a travel guide is a respected, neutral and trustworthy source and so worth listening to. In theory that makes sense. However, when I read that a really big name publication wasn’t paying fair wages – which encouraged writers to not visit everywhere they wrote about and also try to get as many freebies to actually be able to afford to live – it got me wondering about how these people are any different from the millions of bloggers out there.
2. Maps and routes
One of the best things I used enjoyed about guide books was using their maps, they were well-designed and had all the places of interest cleverly pinned. Sadly with the introduction of online maps, complete with everything of interest labelled and transport and travel times, plus the ability to create your own maps has left these in the dust.
I would argue, despite online maps being incredible useful, that one of the strong suits of travel guide books is their suggested itineraries. If you’re planning a big trip across lots of places, they are extremely useful in their suggested routes and timings that will not always be easy to judge from online research. For example, the fact the ferry leaves only on the last Tuesday of the month, that once a week bus route is something you don’t wanna miss!
4. Out of date
As mentioned earlier, these publications do have online presences, but sadly the fast changing nature, particularly of out of the way places, means hotels, restaurants, and other sites they write about in their main editions are prone to close, move or suddenly be not worth visiting. So you will always end up online to find what you need.
5. When you just read them for fun
If you really want to visit somewhere but life gets in the way, they do feel like a guilty pleasure to read in lieu of not actually going there ‘yet’. If you get a good, well written one it can inspire you to actually get off your ass and make that trip finally happen. Also they make your bookcase look much more interesting.
6. Inside knowledge
While trust can be an issue, if you get a good recommendation on a travel guide, I think it can still be worth snapping up for some proper inside knowledge. There are a few authors at certain guides who have lived, worked and travelled in their countries, meaning they offer real proper local tips and tricks that can actually save you quite a bit of money and time as well embarrassment.
So are travel guide publications still worth your time? I’d say increasingly not, unless you need a good cross-country itinerary or get a recommendation for a really well written one from someone who’s lived and travelled there extensively.
Do you use travel books?