The Great Guidebook Debacle

My next big trip, my Eastern Europe Extravaganza, is now just over a year away – I think.  The trouble is, I haven’t really begun any research yet into this trip.  I finally decided on the general area, but I’m not sure when or what countries or for exactly how long.  And while being spontaneous is fun and all, as detailed in my last post, a trip of this magnitude really needs some planning.

It was high time to get a guide book.  My approach with travel planning is to get a guidebook, read it cover to cover with highlighter in hand, and then start planning from there.  I don’t like to use the internet as a primary travel resource.  I get a little too overwhelmed with the amount of information available and get annoyed at the idiots in the travel website forums.

I knew I needed travel information in a tangible, book form.  There are also a lot of travel publications out there, and everybody has their own favorite.  The ones I’ve used are:

Rick Steves – Hands down my favorite travel writer ever.  A self-made travel entrepreneur and writer for over 30 years, Rick’s “back door” philosophy of traveling off the tourist path has been a huge influence on me as a traveler.  While his books are geared towards a somewhat older, wealthier demographic than myself, he still has boundless wisdom and tips to share.  I love his books for the culture and history he imparts, but I usually cannot afford his lodging and sometimes his food recommendations.  I also found an incredible interview with him on that you can read here.


Let’s Go! –  A travel guide series written, edited and run by Harvard students.  Let’s Go! was the guidebook first suggested to me by my high school economics teacher, Mr. Levering, who was an early influence on my traveling ways.  The series is over 50 years old and renowned for being budget and student friendly.  I also have a certain fondness for the series as it was a Let’s Go! Europe book that I bought and read with my friends when planning our 7 week backpacking trip years ago.


Lonely Planet – definitely the largest guidebook publication, with over 500 titles and the widest selection anywhere.  Lonely Planet was formed in Australia in the 1970’s by a husband and wife team and is also geared at students and individuals who want to travel the world “on a shoestring”.  Lonely Planet is very similar to Let’s Go! in terms of being budget friendly, but is sometimes more “party party”.


Even just choosing a guidebook from these three publications was a big choice. I’d had Rick Steves’ Europe guidebook before, and was ecstatic when I found an Eastern Europe one on Amazon for only $16.  The downside is that his book only covers 4 or 5 of the countries I’m thinking of going to.  Lonely Planet’s Eastern Europe was much more extensive, but a little more expensive and didn’t include Turkey, which will probably be a big focus of my trip.  And Let’s Go! hasn’t done an Eastern Europe book since 2005, so the information would probably be way too out of date.  Their regular Europe book, however, is really extensive and includes most of Eastern Europe, including Turkey.  It’s ginormous though.

In the end, I got the Rick Steves’ book because I know it will be amazing and found a Let’s Go! Europe 2010 edition for $8 as well.  Even though it’s a little out of date, the only things that will be different are the prices of things, and now I know I am getting information on every country possible to plan my trip.

Fellow travelers, do you use a guidebook?  Which ones do you like or not like?

Good Luck and Happy Travels,