Why Travel Guidebooks are Better than the Internet

In an age where gadgets are getting smaller by the second, and people are becoming more inclined to find answers on their computer screen, guidebooks are becoming less and less appreciated in the world of travel.

Why on earth would you want to spend £10-20 on a something which contains ‘limited information’ about one place, when you could find absolutely everything you could ever need to know with the click of a mouse?

It’s a fair question, really.

The Internet has become an invaluable resource in planning trips, from booking hotels and excursions to deciding what to eat and what to wear. Want to know how vegetarian-friendly Kathmandu is? Google will tell you. Need to find out exactly how to get from Panama to Colombia? Search online.

Guidebooks have some major downsides – for one, they’re bulky, especially for people who like to travel light. They also can become outdated extremely quickly, what with businesses and hotels closing and new ones opening, prices changing and restaurants changing ownership. Especially as new guides are only released every couple of years.

But at the end of the day, I stand by my feelings that nothing beats a good book. No matter what the subject. So many people have said to me that, with the Internet, they no longer see the point in guidebooks even existing anymore. I can’t help but disagree, and here’s why.

They are concise and exact.

If you search online for the best luxury spa in Koh Phangan online, it’ll start off fantastically. You’ll find the perfect website with a comprehensive list of all spas in Thailand and what they have to offer. You’ll begin planning out all the procedures you want to have done, calculating the costs and finding out exactly how to get there from your accommodation. However, before long you’ll have only clicked on two links and suddenly find yourself booking a place at a yoga retreat in Aruba. The Internet is a marvellous invention, but it is also oh-so distracting. With a guidebook you have absolutely everything you would ever need to know right in your hands, but in a concise, shorter version of what’s online. Perfect.

They are written by people like you, for people like you.

I use the term ‘like you’ loosely, of course. These authors, who have spent decades travelling the world trying out hotels and restaurants in order to do a write-up on them obviously lead far different lives than you and your 9-5 office job, and part-time travelling for leisure. However, they are like you in the way that they were looking for exactly what you are looking for when they wrote the book. Cheap accommodation, gluten-free restaurants, the safest route to get from A to B – you name it, at some point they were out in search of the exact same thing, purely with the purpose of writing about it for your reference. Online resources could be written by absolutely anyone, and there’s no way you can check the credibility of the source either.

They fit in your bag/pocket/purse.

The obvious comeback to this would be – so what if it fits in your bag? So does a laptop.
And yes, laptops, phones and tablets do fit in bags, and they can be transported around the world with you. The thing with laptops, and electronics in general, is that they rely on electricity. Which, even in 2016, is hard to come by in a lot of the corners of the world. You could be trying to find out exactly where your bus station is to get back to Kathmandu from Chitwan, Nepal, a region which often only has electricity for 6-8 hours a day. The Internet signal is also extremely limited – so what do you do? You could ask a local, but there’s a language barrier and you can’t seem to understand each other. If only you had a nice, informative book in your backpack, with a handy little map and detailed instructions on where to go…

They provide you with more than just travel advice.

There’s always a few sections in guides that I flip to straight away – Women Travellers, Health and Safety. As much as I appreciate the advice and opinions of people online – authors, journalists, bloggers and simply people who post on forums – when it comes to my own personal health and safety, I would much rather take the advice from people who’s job it is to know what they’re talking about. Obviously this point is a little contradictory as the best place to find out up-to-date information about no-travel zones and vaccinations is the FCO website (online), or your local doctor, but guidebooks for me always prove to be the best starting point!
Take the Yellow Fever vaccination, for example. It is a pre-requisite to travel to certain parts of Peru, and whereas you can get it done in the UK for a small price, the price is even smaller if you get it done in-country. According to a select few people online. According to a guidebook I read, getting such injection done in some of the places advised online by fellow travellers poses a massive risk of exposing yourself to other, much more serious diseases as the result of contaminated needles and unclean environments etc.

They are fantastic souvenirs.

I have bought a guidebook for almost every country I’ve ever been to, and they look absolutely great all lined up together on my bookshelf. Looking at them and flipping through them just makes me think about all the great trips and experiences I’ve had. They’re a lot more personal than the Internet in this respect.

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5 Comments

  1. 7th February 2016 / 4:27 pm

    I still like the good old-fashioned heft of a guidebook, too. For me it’s also about having everything right there, not – as you kind of said – all spread out all over the internet and mixed in with a million other things you have to weed through. Of course, I still rely heavily on the internet in my travel planning, but there’s something about a guidebook that feels more focused and helpful at times.

    • 12th February 2016 / 11:15 pm

      Absolutely! I find myself reading things in guidebooks and then backing up the facts using Google, and vice versa. Two sources are always better than one!

  2. 11th February 2016 / 11:57 am

    Totally agree nothing is the same as reading out of a book.

  3. 10th August 2016 / 1:05 am

    I couldn’t agree more. Having the guidebook doesn’t mean you can’t use the internet as well, anyway. There’s nothing like keeping the book after your trip; I love how our copy of South America on a Shoestring is so beat up and scribbled on and highlighted, it’s such a good reminder of the trip! Great post!!

    • 10th August 2016 / 4:21 am

      Absolutely! I have the same battered old Lonely Planet Peru that I’ve used for 3 visits in the space of 5 years. It’s funny to read the scribbles I made on my first trip about prices and how to get to places etc, and compare them to what it’s like now. Thank you so much for reading!

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