7 Best Travel Guide Books Update 05/2022

Best Travel Guide Books

Travel. I think it’s great. 🙂 I breathe it in. All of this starts when I pick the magical place I want to go on my next trip. Only to fall apart when I have to pick a travel guide to start my research. Because you don’t want to have to carry around all of the travel guides with you. You need to choose only the best travel guide books. And I mean, really narrow down the list.

Not the books that will make you want to go on a trip. We’re talking about the more practical side of planning a trip. And really, there are so many travel guides out there that it’s hard to pick just one. Add in how quickly information can go out of date, and you wonder if this is a good idea.

Things are, each travel guide has both good and bad things about it. The United States is a great place for some of us, but New Zealand’s winding roads are more familiar to us than the United States is. There are guides for people who want to see Rome’s architecture, and there are guides for people who want to eat their way through Paris. But unless you have nine months to read every travel guide, it’s hard to know which are the best.

So, I did the work for you. I came up with 11 of the best travel guide books and the reasons why. I didn’t just choose the book that was on the library shelf. How did I pick the best? Well, I read each of their editions for a city or country that I already know very well. When we read travel guides, we usually only read about places we want to learn more about, so that makes sense. It’s a great way to “test” a travel guide. You can see if they know it as well as someone who lives there.

A few things to keep in mind before you buy a lot of guides:

Every time you read something, make sure to look at the date it was written. It’s sad, but a lot of businesses can close in a short amount of time, and public transportation is always changing.

Consider buying both a hard copy and an ebook. To take notes, you can use a hard copy and an e-format while you’re on the road.

Think about both the character of the place you’re going and how you’re going to get there. There are different types of publications for different types of people. Some people will try to spread that net out to get more people to read it, but they can’t get rid of who they are. To read a few pages of each, go to the library. You’ll soon understand what I mean.

Check out the author bio on the book to learn more about them (e.g. Lonely Planet lists the contributors on the back page). Make sure at least half of them are from your area. It is too easy to “phone it in” without having been on the streets they are talking about. By supporting publications that have local writers, you are supporting responsible tourism and encouraging more #ownvoices in the publishing industry, which is good for both.

The Best Travel Guide Books

Lonely Planet Guide

Lonely Planet Guide

Up front: I always use Lonely Planet Guides when I go on trips. One of the few travel guides that remember how ridiculous it is to travel from Australia to any other country is this one (or New Zealand, for that matter). I think the LP guides are best when you’re going to a country or region, not a city or town. LP has a good sense of distance, travel, and all the little mysteries you can find in the middle of all of that. With the LP book, you can easily get around Italy by train and bus, but the specific information for Rome is limited and not as interesting as other parts of the country. Bonus: LP has a lot of other books, like The Not-For-Parents Travel Book and The Solo Travel Handbook, that you might not have heard of. If you want to read about that, you’ll have to go to another series.

It’s good for a big picture For most regions, you can travel across the whole country. Oceania, Asia, and the “Shoestring” range are the best places to start. In the best way possible, New Zealand is the best place ever.

South America isn’t so great. For the Galapagos Islands, the most recent edition didn’t have enough information about what to do and how to do it. I really thought that at least two of the white male writers who worked on the project from their home in New York had just called it in.

Fodor’s

Fodor’s guides are very well-known. If you want to know where to go, Fodor’s “Go List” is one of the most awaited travel lists each year. Fodor’s are great if you want to know the top 25 things to do in any place. Fodor’s, on the other hand, didn’t have a lot of little extras that were not on the main road. When you go to the Sydney Opera House, you see it. When you go around the corner, you see Lady Macquarie’s chair. Everything is in the view. During the European holidays, this style works best. People in their 50s and 60s and older retirees seem to like it the most.

Great for: The best things to do in any city, especially Europe (e.g.Paris).

If you want a personal touch from the locals, or if you plan to stay in one place for more than a week at a time, this isn’t for you.

Frommers

Frommer’s guides are very popular with people who want a little more comfort while they’re on vacation. They are great at recommending and prioritizing the best things to do and see in any place. It’s just that they don’t have the experience of someone who has recently had to wait in line for a lot of things for tourists. You can get a lot of good advice from Frommer’s, but it doesn’t tell you about the three-block-long line that goes down from the entrance doors.

People who write for them say that they have recently changed their focus to be more budget-friendly, but I don’t think that’s going over well.

Mainstream people will love this: Frommer’s Europe is a good book to read if you want to travel with an upmarket touch.

In general, “one block over” travel doesn’t work well. For example, the Melbourne guide did not make me want to go to all the city’s famous laneways of culture and coffee shops.

DK Eyewitness

DK Eyewitness

If you’re going on a trip to see museums, art galleries, and architecture, then the DK Eyewitness brand is the first guide you should buy. This guide puts its name on everything you want to see on a trip, but not everything you want to do. Before our trip to Italy, I used the DK Eyewitness Italy guide to find out about the best maps and layouts for all the big places. They are very detailed in the visuals, but I think they don’t have enough information on the side of the road (e.g. suggestions for food, parks to stop at, etc). Use them to build ideas before you go on a trip.

Great for: making your holidays look more beautiful. Rome and London are both beautiful places, and this would look great there. Great Italy guide.

I don’t think this is very useful. I don’t think this is very useful. After I left the Vatican Museum, it was pretty much useless to me.

Rick Steves

There are a lot of Rick Steves shows, but I didn’t know what they were about until now. The Rick Steves series is very good for people who have never been on a trip before, especially people from the United States. The guide’s style is very good at taking the “scary” out of travel and making people want to go on their first trip to a new country. There is an itinerary they give you when you first arrive to help you figure out where to go and how to get around. Anyone who goes outside their recommended zone is on their own, so don’t bother them.

First-timer tourists who want to see one of the world’s most famous cities, like London or Paris.

Do not use this if you want to get lost in Venice. That’s a city you need to get lost in at least once!

Rough Guides

These are the best guides for taking a break from the norm. We had a Rough Guide for Southeast Asia that I thought was great! As with Lonely Planet, Rough Guides tend to be in the same style. They offer you a jump to the left with more adventure. In fact, the Rough Guide is even better if you want to go bushwalking, go hiking, or have other “rough adventures.” They know a lot about responsible travel, and they’re great at highlighting the towns that are between the cities they go to. For people who want to learn more about the history of a place, this is the guide for them.

Great for: Historic or off-the-beaten-track trips, like in SE Asia, NZ, and South America, as well as other places.

It’s not very good to look at big cities or glossy photos for visual cues. It did not help in Kuala Lumpur.

Bradt Guides

The Bradt Guides were originally written for British people who wanted to go to Europe. In the years since, they’ve grown to cover the rest of the world, but they stay true to who they are: preparing you for the culture shock of travel. Bradt Guides have all of these great cultural insights mixed in with the important things. After reading them, some of the biggest cultural differences won’t seem so different to you. Even if Nonna comes to the restaurant and tempts your kids with some sweets, you won’t think twice about it! The chances are that you’ll just laugh and follow them.

Cultural highlights of countries and regions, especially Macedonia, are good for this.

Asia isn’t so great. The Borneo guide didn’t give enough information about the different cultures and land issues in the area.

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