Bringing a travel guide on your trip: yes or no?

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travel guideSome guidebooks weigh at least a kilogram. Like this one on India. I bought it at the airport on my first trip there. You probably know or own some other dinosaurs like “Central America” or “Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia”. The question is: do you really need to bring a travel guide on your holiday? Many of them are so outdated – even the ones that claim that they have been re-edited.

Digital nomads

These days you can find anything on the internet, right? Wifi is everywhere (except in Belgian cafés) and most people have a smartphone. In most countries it’s fairly easy and cheap to get a local SIM card with 3G, so even if you don’t find Wifi easily, you can be fairly independent.

  • Review websites like Booking or Airbnb tell you where to sleep.
  • There is at least a Tripadvisor page about your destination that tells you what the highlights in your area are, or alternatively there are many travel bloggers who do the work for you: a quick browse on Bloglovin’ or Pinterest gives you a couple of “Best of xxx” or “10 things you have to see in xxx”.
  • Rome2Rio or Cleartrip give you options how to get from any place in the world to another one.
  • Navigation apps like Waze can guide you almost anywhere driving or walking.
  • When on a city trip, you can download a city map with an app like Citymaps2go so you can use it offline.
  • If you are more interested in a different experience, there are apps like Eatwith or Withlocals to meet people or try the local cuisine.
  • A currency exchange app or website does any calculation for you with the most up-to-date exchange rate.
  • You can also download an app to find the nearest ATM, like this one for iPhone, or with the ATM locator on the MasterCard website.
  • If you still really like the concept of a travel guide, to have everything in one place, you can buy an ebook from one of the major guidebook companies and read it offline on your device.

So are there any reasons to still buy a guidebook (or borrow it from the library)?

Bring the book
When should you consider bringing a travel guide?

  • When you’re on a very short trip (too short to buy a local SIM) and you didn’t do your research on the web beforehand…
  • When your device battery sucks which inevitably happens after about 6 months’ use (yay programmed aging).
  • When electricity at your destination is scarce and/or intermittent. Even with a power bank or solar charger it’s never enough…
  • When 3G is intermittent. Try downloading an ebook on a crappy signal: you get three attempts to download and then you’re done. (thanks Rough Guides for never getting to read the ebook that I bought while I was in India).
  • Also, if it’s difficult to top up your phone credit – you will see that you run out of credit when you need it most… and nowhere near a shop…

I didn’t bring my travel guide on my second India trip, and I am not sure I would bring one again. Do you bring a guidebook when you go on a trip? And which apps can’t you live without while travelling?

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