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Which Guidebook When?

Traveling with the “right” guidebook can be a real asset to your trip. But when you’re standing in the bookstore gazing at the wealth of choices, how do you know which is best to choose when?

The following overview is based on this traveler’s experiences for the past 20+ years. The books listed here are really best for general trip planning as well as everyday touring. (In my next post, I’ll focus on the specialized — like City Walks, the Wallpaper and LUXE City guides, teNeuesCool Restaurants” and “Cool Shops” series, Style City, Art/Shop/Eat city guides as well as those gorgeous guides and maps put out by Knopf.)

One recommendation that applies to all: take more than one — it’s always really important to cross reference information.

Note from snoety: click the colored headings below to link to Amazon.

Frommer’s and Fodor’s: the mainstay guides with solid information, available by country, region and city
Great to get you started almost anywhere in the world (with Frommers a bit more “with it”).

Time Out Guides: Worldwide city guides (my current all around favorite)
Hippest of the lot. Spot-on hotel, restaurant and trendy nightspot recommendations, with excellent historical writing, and good walking tours to boot. Not pocket size, but small enough to take along.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: Country, city and area guides worldwide
Fabulous illustrations & photos with focus on history, culture, architecture — great for trip planning, but of minimal use for hotels/restaurants.
Too large to carry. Tip: Think ahead and photocopy walking tours and museum guides to take along.

Lonely Planet: Country and city guides worldwide
A must for Asia – the more remote the area, the more they excel. Typically geared to the independent wanderer vs. mainstream tourist.
City guides (reasonably portable) have maps that work – you can actually find a restaurant down an alley in Tokyo or Shanghai – a triumph. Good city walking tours.

Rough Guides
: Worldwide guides
Britain’s answer to Lonely Planet; extremely well written – and especially useful for less traveled areas of Europe like Croatia.

Rick Steves: Europe Country and City Guides
Excellent city orientations, good walking tours, over-the-top self guided museum tours and excellent tips (like how to avoid the long lines to see the Reichstag in Berlin). Good information on travel routes between cities via train and how best to use public transportation once you have arrived in a city.
Hotel and dining recommendations are geared to those on a budget, making it a good family-friendly series.XXXX

POCKET GUIDES YOU CAN CARRY:

DK TOP 10 Guides
mainly to cities and also some regions worldwide. Literally organized by the 10 best everything, providing a good overview of the most important sights to see, with useful recommendations by area.

A new contender: Frommer’s Day by Day – 22 Smart Ways to See the City series with excellent walking tours.

Knopf City Map Guides: What to see, where to eat — all organized by area with fold-out maps for each.

teNeues Architecture & Design and:guides:Pocket-sized survey of architecture and design by category – hotel, retail, restaurant, etc.

Buying guidebooks is always a great excuse to go to the local bookstore where you can browse among the choices. New guides are coming out constantly, each with their own take on what’s new and different. It’s a personal matter in the end, so you should also tell us what guide books you’ve had success with and why. We’ll pass it on to other snoety travelers!

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3 Comments
Teresa Youtz says: December 1st, 2007 at 1:56 pm

Susan,
Lovely column! As well organized as the guidebooks you recommend. I look forward to reading your future columns.

One cannot have too many SNOETYs.

Patty Mattson says: December 1st, 2007 at 9:06 pm

I am delighted to get this info on guide books as I am never quite sure my research is correct! Had not heard of Time Out Guides and never checked out Rick Steves. Given Susan’s strong recommendations, they are going on my Amazon list. Susan, you sound well traveled and know your field. Can’t wait for your next column!

Mary Williams says: December 2nd, 2007 at 3:40 pm

Susan- you are the travel maven! Especially love the architecture/design and walking tour recommendations. When available in English, we also really like the Michelin guides.

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