Alternative Digital Substitutes To Heavy Travel Guide Books

For us, as for many other travelers, taking a travel guide book with us on trips is a thing of the past. We haven’t traveled with a proper guide book for years, the first reason is that they’re often really heavy, bulky and take up a lot of space in your bag.

Secondly, guide books give you so much information about each place, but for us MOST of that really isn’t needed.

I don’t want to know EVERYTHING about a place I’m visiting before I’ve even arrived – doesn’t that take away from the excitement?

Where is the fun in knowing everything before even arriving?!

Guidebooks are great tools to keep yourself updated about the places you’re visiting, and of course you want to know a little bit about the places and what attractions and sites you’ll find.

To get all that, you still don’t really need a proper paperback guide book. There are so many alternatives to these that will both save you money and back pain.

Here are a few ways to be able to travel without the guide book but still keep yourself updated with the right info:

Downloadable eBook Guides

These days traveling with a laptop is pretty much common place, and although it might seem like it adds on a lot more weight than a guide book does, you know you can store 500 of them and still keep the same weight (among all those other things you would use a laptop for).

When traveling, you won’t always have access to the internet to browse online, so guides you can download to your desktop and read whenever you want, are great.

You can get a whole guide for only a few bucks, and even the bigger guide book companies are starting to sell their guides in PDF format.

The Hostel and Local Tourist Center

Normally the owners at a hostel know everything there is to know about the city for a tourist, and can tell you what there is to see around the place, all from good eats to temples to clubs.

You can also take a visit to the information office, where they’ll be able to help you with all planning and information you need to know about the city – usually you’ll also get a free map which is very useful ;)

Smartphone Apps

I don’t actually have a smartphone myself, but I have an iPod Touch and that works great.

What’s great about these apps is that you can bring them with you onto the street, and many of them don’t even need an internet connection to work.

Just search for guides or the places you’ll be going and see what you can find. Many country tourism authorities have created great free apps for cities and places, this is becoming more and more common place.

The Internet

Just a click away, the internet is probably the easiest way to find out what you need about the city you’re visiting.

Websites like Travelfish are great for finding things to do, restaurants and places to stay – and finding out the truth about them by people who have actually been there.

There are also tons of travel blogs that have heaps of great guides and information about places.

Random Walks – Find Out Yourself.

Some days, it’s better to just take a look yourself on what there is to do and see around you. Take a walk down the street and you’ll most likely end up somewhere you haven’t been before, and see something new that you haven’t seen before, whether it’s a market, some shops, a river or a temple.

Sometimes the best attractions aren’t those mentioned in the guide books, but those experienced by a random moment on a random street in a random city – somewhere around the world.

How do you get around new cities? If you have any tips on places to get some good guides and information, we’d love to hear about it!

(photo credits: grandvelasrivieramaya)

15 Responses to Alternative Digital Substitutes To Heavy Travel Guide Books

  1. Erin January 25, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    We’ve just bought a Kindle so are going paperless. We’re hoping that a combination of digital guidebooks on that and on the ipod touch will be a great alternative to heavy guidebooks.

    • Nathan Schacherer January 26, 2011 at 8:36 am #

      Kindles are also an awesome option – one of my next things to buy, or maybe a ipad ;)

  2. Sandra January 26, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    some great idea there, it is hard sometimes since the books are SO big, but they also bring some certainty while traveling. I will test a few of these options as well :)

    • Nathan Schacherer January 26, 2011 at 8:38 am #

      yeah you are right, but normally things will always work out even without your guide book ;) so try it and see what happens – adventures normally follow!

  3. leslie January 26, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    When I traveled RTW I didn’t have a smartphone (or cell phone) but it would have come in handy! There are so many online guides and iPhone apps now to help travelers navigate new destinations.

    • Nathan Schacherer January 26, 2011 at 8:39 am #

      Yeah – we never realized the potential of bring an ipod touch – but now I really wouldn’t travel without one. music, videos, guides, email everything :)

  4. Theodora January 27, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    There’s a lot to be said for talking to locals, and asking what’s good, what they do, what’s amazing. We’ve been to plenty of places that aren’t in guidebooks. But I do find guidebooks really useful. For example, you’ll always find a cheap place to stay near any Lonely Planet top pick, often at a better price.

    • Sofia January 30, 2011 at 8:46 am #

      Hi Theodora! Locals is a great way to find out the best things to see and do in the city, and a nice excuse for a quick chat ;)

  5. Michelle January 27, 2011 at 5:57 am #

    Great article! I still like having a travel book with me…i’m so used to having one, i find it comforting in a way, haha.

    Lots of hostels have a book swap and you can usually find a travel guide of the city there. It’s good for reading for a few days, and returning when you move on!

    • Sofia January 30, 2011 at 8:49 am #

      Hey Michelle, yeah I know what you mean. A guide book gives you comfort, until you realize that many things are totally outdated..! :P

      Book swap is another great tip, thanks for adding.

  6. Lindsay Kaufhold January 28, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    We will definitely be using some of those smart phone apps! We have an ipod touch as well. Do you know anything about international smart phone plans? That would be an interesting blog post that I know we would be interested in!

    • Sofia January 30, 2011 at 8:52 am #

      I don’t know much about that yet, but after having been without internet access quite a bit lately, it’s something we definitely will look into when we have the time.

  7. Peter Cleon April 27, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    My iphone have good option to use these guide books, thanks for adding.

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