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Maps and Guidebooks

Buying the right guidebook improve your chances of having a great vacation.  The right guidebook can help you find the destinations and attractions interesting to you.  We provide recommendations on how to find a guide that suits your needs.


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Travel Advice - Buying the right guidebook for you

Guidebooks help the traveler solve three fundamental problems. First, a good guidebook acts as a travel advisor, helping to categorize the attractions and point out the unique aspects of the travel destination. Second, the guidebook serves to help you understand the "cultural, social, and historical" environments in which your vacation will take place. Finally, most guidebooks provide recommendations on lodging and restaurants.

A good guidebook is one that will serve as a guide during your vacation.  You will find yourself reading it at night to prepare for the next day's touring.  You will use it to get a bird's-eye view of each destination and plan out your itinerary.  So, examine guidebooks to make sure they contain the information of interest to you, presented in a manner that is easily found, informative, and concise.

Travelers differ in their perspective on travel and so do the authors or editorial teams who create guidebooks. In the following article, we present information on how to choose and use a guidebook to your best benefit.



Guide Basics

In order to buy the right guidebook for you, become familiar with the editorial viewpoints of the guidebooks publishers. Some guides are written with the purpose of providing clues to "budget travel"; others provide the "insiders view", “adventure travel”, or a number of diverse perspectives.  Try to find a guide series that is a good match for what you like to do and how you want to focus your attention during your  vacation. The only way you can do that is to take some time and examine the guidebooks available for your destination.

Why are prices so different?

Publishing books that contain illustrations, color photography, and detailed maps on quality paper is a high cost business. Publishing books without photos or illustrations allows publishers to use lower quality paper, which decreases production costs. Many low price guidebooks skimp on photographs and detailed, illustrations.

Which one for you?

So how do you choose? Well, vacations are important, so do a little research.

  • Head to the library or bookstore and look over the crop at your leisure.
    • Take the time to read some of the text and see if what is offered meets your needs.
    • If you like to take walking tours, does the guide provide maps, suggest walks, and provide detailed descriptions of the route and attractions along the way?
    •  If your persuasion is the arts, does the guide provide detailed coverage of noted galleries and museums?
    • You know what is important to you, so look for a guidebook whose authors share your values.



  • Most stores or online booksellers do not offer the entire range of products that guide publishers provide.  You may want to visit the publisher's website to see if they offer a guidebook  focused on the area you hope to explore.
  • Another source of information is to ask knowledgeable, store personnel to make a recommendation.
    • Although book superstores offer great prices, it is hard to find  personnel familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of various guidebooks.
    • Travel stores that sell guidebooks, generally, have a knowledgeable sales staff  and carry the most popular guides.
    • Another good source of how satisfied guidebook users are with the product can be found by reading reviews of the various guidebooks that are contributed by fellow travelers and published at Amazon  and Barnes and Noble

Important Guidebook features

If the trip you are planning will be your first one to the destination, you should choose a guidebook that has photos, drawings, and detailed area maps, as these will help preview the destination for you. We think having detailed maps of city centers or tourist areas is a must, as these help you plan your itinerary and walks around the city.

Recommended guidebook publishers

  • Insight Guides offers well written, lavishly illustrated, encyclopedic, guidebooks that cover every tourist destination conceivable in a particular country.
  • As a general rule of thumb, we find that guides that are published by the Insight Guides or the Automobile Association of the United Kingdom" (for guidebooks of the UK or Europe) are generally excellent choices for the first time traveler.
    • Both guides are aimed at independent travelers and combine practical information, points of view, great illustrations, and detailed maps into  concise, yet comprehensive publications.
    • One ideal feature of the Automobile Association guides is that most include detailed walking tours in major tourist cities. The AA guides are often co-published outside of the United Kingdom by other major travel publishers.
      • Fodor’s has published many of the AA guides in the Fodor’s "Exploring" series.
  • Dorling Kindersley’s Eyewitness Guides are richly illustrated with detailed artwork indicating the important aspects of site architecture and serve as a good primer for understanding the importance of major attractions before you visit. The DK Guides are more expensive than other guidebooks due to their lavish use of illustrations and high quality paper and binding.
  • Rick Steves (published by John Muir Publications) has attained a cult-like status due to his successful PBS show; his line of travel guidebooks is extremely popular with members of the “Boomer” market and those who aspire to traveling inexpensively.
    • The Steves’ guides  are focused on presenting ways that you can “…experience culture like a local”.  The books feature few photographs or illustrations but include numerous maps that provided detailed paths to many of the attractions he features.
  • Rough Guides forgoes illustrations and, instead, provides detailed information about destinations and budget travel. Rough Guides cover many out-of-the-way destinations and appeal to backpackers and other footloose travelers.
  • Lonely Planet, generally, produces exhaustive, detailed guidebooks of high quality. The editorial viewpoint of Lonely Planet appears to be heavily weighted to favoring those locations offering quality nightlife, entertainment and alternative lifestyles.
    • Lonely Planet has an excellent website used to support its products.
  • If you are a seasoned traveler and headed to Europe or the UK, you may find the Michelin Tourist Guides  (recognized by the green cover), good travel companions. 
    • The "green guides" read as if you were in the presence of a knowledgeable tour guide,  who is able to intertwining history and detailed information about the attractions covered.
    • The Green Guides provide detailed descriptions of attractions but a lack much of the supporting material offered by other publishers.
  • Fodor's Guides are widely available and provide a no-nonsense, comprehensive approach to the countries they cover (and they cover more than most).  Fodor's appears aimed at a mature audience and those with a comfortable travel budget.
  • Frommer's Guides are one of the mainstays of the travel world: recently, the the line has been undergoing a facelift to make the product appeal to younger users. 
    • Frommer's provides an excellent Internet site supporting its published guides.

Many guidebooks are repackaged publications that were originally prepared by another publisher.  If you are interested in determining the owner of the material included in the guide, look at the page containing the copyright information.

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