I'm looking for those "white spots" on the maps of the backpacker's. The countries which are relatively open to travel but where there there is either no guidebook available or one that is practically useless (for various reasons, like aimed at business travellers or being very dated).
So, where have you been without Lonely Planet, The Rough Guide, etc?
Last year I went to Kiev - 3 months before the Lonely Planet guide for the Ukraine came out, and all I could get after three weeks of searching was a guidebook printed in the GDR for East German tourist. (=back in the eighties)
The city map was still accurate, but anything else I needed to know I had to dig up from Russian websites. That was a pain.
What about you?
I hate guide books. I tend to read history books about the area, and always pick up a free map at the tourist office.
For my trips in Germany I had no travel books. First thing I would do at the train station is ask for the Tourist Information Office and pick a free map.
Then I learn as I go: I read carefully the maps and the explanations that is given to me for free in the museums and Tourist Info. I'm the freak who actually reads all the panels in front of a historical building/statue/site.
(When I travel, I always want to be in total immersion with the language that I'm surrounded with. That's part of learning a different culture. So, no 'native language' translations for me )
I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I don't find most guidebooks all that interesting or useful. They don't give me enough depth to know the history and ambiance and are often not as up to date as the tourist office. Plus, they're really really dry....*yawn* But I guess different strokes for different folks.
I travelled from Granada (Nicaragua) to Ushuaia (Argentina) without the help of a guide book. Both Lonely Planet and Rough Guide tend to cater for the stereotypical backpackers - choosing only to advertise tours, hotels, restaurants etc that have been given the thumbs up in the past. There are countless alternatives - who are generally more appreciative of foreign visitors. I also found places of interest that no other traveller had heard of as it was not featured in guidebooks. I also found that factual information was only semi correct - you can learn more from the people of the country you are in.
guide books are not really updated on a yearly basis - the cover may be different but the general information is much the same.
i suppose it depends on what you want out of your trip - it is your own personal experiences that are important,not those held by the majority.
I always used a guide book when I was travelling but never to find a hotel or go on a tour, they were generally good for maps when you first get off you plane/bus/train, to even guide you to the tourist info place!
I always found a hotels that weren't in guidebooks, purely due to the face that they were cheaper and less crowded.
For knowledge of the local area I do speak to locals as they do have the best info but there is no harm in doing a little background research from a guidebook as well!!
Just did a week in Chile without a guidebook and a few days in Uruguay too. Might as well have done Argentina without one - the LP book was so badly out of date and full of bad info.
Tourist offices and free maps can really save your bacon.
AND the information in a guidebook can be out of date, which can be worse than no information at all.
Ihad a really cool guidebook when visiting Amsterdam, called, The Cool guide to Amsterdam. HOWEVER. The book recommended spending your last night in Amsterdam at Schipol Airport if you had an early-morning flight in order to save that nigfht's hostel fees, since Schipol Airport was supposed to be so comfy with bed-like couches etc. Well. This was not at ALL true and I ended up spending one of the most uncomrtable nights of my life. Plus everything closed except the McDonalds. Horrible.