With the advent of user-generated content and reviews it is now easier than ever to find information about where you want to travel without having to buy an expensive and clunky guidebook. Sites like Wikitravel.org and Lonely Planet’s Thorntree travel forum offer massive amounts of travel tips and advice for free, without you having to pay a dime.
Guidebooks are inherently behind the times. By the time they are published restaurants they recommend may have gone out of business, as has happened to me in South America over the last 9 months. A site like Wikitravel.org is updated by the users with new information whenever it comes available, meaning it is always up to date since it has no publication cycle to worry about. Forums like Lonely Planet’s Thorntree have thousands of users that live in the countries you want to visit, and are more than willing to give personal and tailored advice to you about your trip. When you can find all the information you need at your keyboard, why buy a clunky guidebook that pegs you as a tourist wherever you go?
Almost all sites now include user-generated reviews, especially on lodging sites like Hostel Bookers or Hostel World. Combine Wikitravel.org and Lonely Planet’s Thorntree travel forum with these user-generated reviews, and you can find the best places to visit, the best places to eat, the best places to party, and the best places to rest your head. I have not bought a guidebook for myself in over two years, just because I find printing only the information I need to be more economical and more effective besides. If I have a couple of pages of paper instead of a large, bound guidebook, I do not stand out as a tourist and potential mark for thieves.