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One Guidebook or Multiple?

Travel Forums Europe One Guidebook or Multiple?

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1. Posted by npfet (Budding Member 9 posts) 6y

For those who have done a relatively short backpack through Europe... did you find one general-purpose europe guidebook helpful, or multiple city guidebooks better to take along?

My itinerary is:

London (3 days)
Paris (4)
Brussels (1)
Amsterdam (2)
Berlin (2)
Munich (2.5)

I'm deciding if I should take a sliced up (e.g. only take pages for where I'm visiting) of Let's Go Western Europe 2009, which seems fairly up-to-date, or instead pack Let's Go's individual city/country guides (London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Germany). Either I will check out lots of city guidebooks (LP, RGs, etc...) from the library and make note of any specific places I'd like to visit. Downsides of the individual city/country guides seem to be that they are less up-to-date (e.g. Let's Go Amsterdam is from 2007), take up more space, and I am only in each place for not more than 4 days.

Are the city guidebooks worth the weight and space (especially important since I'll be living out of a single carry-on) to pack along, or should only bring a general guidebook just to have the highlights with me, and augment it with some notes? And of course, get maps/public transit guides/etc... when I get there. I'm afraid I'll want a list of good restaurants/bars while I'm there, but then I could always look for a place that is crowded. Plus, it seems a waste of time to be reading guidebooks in-depth while I'm there instead of already having somewhat of an itinerary.

What do you think?

[ Edit: Edited on 31-Oct-2009, at 23:04 by npfet ]

2. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

Guide books, while great and handy, are just that - as guides. They're good when you're researching for information, to give you some idea on what to do etc, but to carry several of them when you're only there for a limited number of days, particularly while trying to travel light, it doesn't make sense.

Quite often, guides from year to year don't change much. My take is, check the guide (even if the single Europe one) and note down what you'd like to do and able to cover within the time of your travel. Draw up an itinerary in a small notebook (personally I love Moleskine). Then login to the internet and search for the info. This way, you're likely to get the most up to date information, even more so than the latest published guide book, and you're also not spending time conferring one guide to another etc. Note down anything of particular to the notebook. You'll now effectively have just created your own personalised guide.

By all mean, take slices of the pages that you think would be useful. Once you've travelled through those cities, you can put the papers into a recycling bin, and reduce the load that you're carrying.

Re list of restaurants/bars, there's only a limited number of them that you'll realistically be going to, so you can always list a few next to your itinerary that you're most interested in. Once there, you can either go there, or if there are other recommendations by fellow travellers or the receptions of the places you're staying, then you always have the option to check out something different too. That's the beauty of flexibility - things don't always have to go in the exact manner as a planned itinerary. ;)

3. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

With an initiary that tight I think you will be best off if you research the cities you plan to visit online before you go.

Then print your own personal guidebook from these pages and put it together into a file. (You take only what you need that way and any pages that you do not need anymore you can throw away after use. Very good method for travelling ultralight.)

I've taken a look at the Let's Go Western Europe guide - mostly useless for your trip, because even big cities like Berlin are covered in 2-4 pages. This is not enough detail if you ask me.

You should also check out the Lonely Planet country guides. Some of these can be bought chapter by chapter online at the Lonely Planet website. You could just buy the chapter that covers the city you want and then print the info you need. That combined with info you found on the internet should serve you very well. Check out the wikitravel sites and the Travel Guide pages on TP.

For London I can recommend this site:

http://www.londonforfree.net/

And for Munich check out www.muenchen.de .

4. Posted by npfet (Budding Member 9 posts) 6y

The Let's Go guides do interest me, since they are aimed at young college students oriented more for solo trips on a budget, which perfectly describes me. :)

That said: I'm debating whether it's worthwhile to purchase their individual city guides vs. just checking them out from the library and making notes (supplemented by notes from other guidebooks and online). Money for extra guidebooks isn't an issue, as it is small compared to the total trip cost, but it seems a little wasteful since I will be in each city for only a few days: thus I will likely only use a fraction of each guidebook, and I will need to summarize it anyway. The Let's Go Western Europe seems like it may be a good idea to keep since it is fairly condensed and only includes locations the editors think are worthwhile keeping.

I think my strategy will be:

1. Purchase Let's Go Western Europe to chop up and have as a general list of highlights, maps (before I purchase a map when I get there), phrases, etc...
2. Printed notes/itinerary summarized from recent city guidebooks from library (LG, LP, RG) and online reviews (tripadvisor).
3. Include a long list of recommended (guidebooks + online) of restaurants/pubs for locations I expect to be in.
4. Buy used editions of Rick Steve's city books, to chop up, for their walking/museum tours. I don't care as much for his recommendations for accommodations, nightlife, etc... since I'm not his target audience, but his self-guided tours seem decent if I feel like a more traditional historic tour while I'm there.
5. I will likely participate in guided tours popular at hostels (Terry's Berlin, Pub Crawl in Amsterdam, etc...)

I'll staple the above for each location I go to. Sounds pretty lightweight but fairly in-depth?

[ Edit: Edited on 01-Nov-2009, at 12:38 by npfet ]

5. Posted by david1982 (Budding Member 12 posts) 6y

i have always found lonely planet to be the best guidebooks, they do a western europe book which should meet your needs

6. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

Sounds like a bit too much work for relatively short trip, but if that's what you're most happy with, then run with it. Just to note that Lonely Planet is very much aimed at keeping travel costs low too, so really no harm in checking LP as alternative guides to LG. For more up to date events etc (including info on special exhibitions) you should try to utilise the wealth of information from the internet.

As for buying maps, seems a bit of a waste of money. The tourist information centre will provide you with one for free, and some hostels would even have them handy that you won't need to trot to the tourist information centres. Some (like the one from Amsterdam) will even post it to you for free. Some has downloadable versions so you can print the relevant maps out.

7. Posted by npfet (Budding Member 9 posts) 6y

Quoting lil_lil

Sounds like a bit too much work for relatively short trip, but if that's what you're most happy with, then run with it. Just to note that Lonely Planet is very much aimed at keeping travel costs low too, so really no harm in checking LP as alternative guides to LG. For more up to date events etc (including info on special exhibitions) you should try to utilise the wealth of information from the internet.

Short but busy trip. ;) I might get lazy and just get both LG and LP, rip out relevant cities, and be done with it.

As for buying maps, seems a bit of a waste of money. The tourist information centre will provide you with one for free, and some hostels would even have them handy that you won't need to trot to the tourist information centres. Some (like the one from Amsterdam) will even post it to you for free. Some has downloadable versions so you can print the relevant maps out.

Yes, I meant buy or get for free when I get there - e.g. not get any maps while in the U.S.

8. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

whether it's worthwhile to purchase their individual city guides

If money is not an issue I would definitely buy all the city guides and copy the relevant pages. Quite a lot can change during 2 years, I have had some unpleasant surprises when I travelled across the city to a business recommended in a guidebook only to find that it had closed over a year ago. If you rely on outdated guidebooks from the library be prepared for something like that.

But do not take the city guides with you, they were designed with somebody in mind who plans to stay 7-14 days in a city and thus can be quite heavy.

The Let's Go Western Europe seems like it may be a good idea to keep since it is fairly condensed and only includes locations the editors think are worthwhile keeping.

And it weighs a ton and it is totally useless on the road. It will include the name of a location and some description, but it will not tell you crucial practical information that you need to actually visit this destination.

I've travelled around Europe since I was 18 and in every hostel I stay in I find somebody with such a monster guide who is pestering locals and other travellers for information not contained in their guidebook. It is a good way to get in contact with other people, but it is not what I expect from a good guidebook. If you must get this guidebook rent it out from the local library and copy the pages you need.

2. Printed notes/itinerary summarized from recent city guidebooks from library (LG, LP, RG) and online reviews (tripadvisor).

Better check out the tourism websites of the cities you plan to visit. Pretty much each city that you plan to see has multiple websites dedictated to visitors. Some are run by the city itself, some are from dedictated locals or companies aimed to promote tourism-related industries.

Tripadvisor is not my favourite place to go for travel advice in Europe, I mainly use it for places like the Middle East where information is hard to find otherwise.

Google maps can be a great help too, if you already know where you are going it is a good idea to print a page with the area displayed in google maps. You might even be able to take a look at your hostel with google streetview, this way you will be able to find it faster.

3. Include a long list of recommended (guidebooks + online) of restaurants/pubs for locations I expect to be in.

Pick out online 3-10 places for a city and make a list complete with directions/maps on how to get there, if you are in a city for 2 days you won't be able to visit more than 2 or 3. (I'll congratulate you if you make it to one on your list.) Chances are high that with a super-tight initiary like yours you will most likely grab whatever food is available roadside, so unless you got some dietary restrictions don't pay too much attention to finding restaurants beforehand.

4. Buy used editions of Rick Steve's city books, to chop up, for their walking/museum tours.

If you get the city guidebooks you won't need Rick Steves' books. I admit I mainly use the LP city guides, but most city guides I found cover exactly that in far more detail than Rick Steves does in his country guides.

I'll staple the above for each location I go to. Sounds pretty lightweight but fairly in-depth?

Better use a file, it is easier to remove single pages from it.

9. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

As for buying maps, seems a bit of a waste of money. The tourist information centre will provide you with one for free, and some hostels would even have them handy that you won't need to trot to the tourist information centres.

Agree with that.

Aside from tourist information centres and hostels you can usually pick up maps in airports and trainstations too. Just ask around and keep your eyes peeled, some brochures might look like some sort of uninteresting advertising in the local language but they might have free maps and info on the city inside.

BTW, if your hostel or the train station cannot provide you with a map just waltz into the next hotel close to the train station and ask with a friendly smile if they have a free map. Works 90% of the time.

10. Posted by npfet (Budding Member 9 posts) 6y

Quoting t_maia

If you get the city guidebooks you won't need Rick Steves' books. I admit I mainly use the LP city guides, but most city guides I found cover exactly that in far more detail than Rick Steves does in his country guides.

True other city guides go into more detail and, again, I don't fit in with Rick Steves' demographics. But none of the city guides besides RS I've seen (LP, RG, TO) include relatively in-depth self-guided tours. I'm specifically referring to his London and Paris guidebooks, not his country guidebooks which are certainly lacking in depth vs other city ones. I think his is a good starting place for a itinerary of some of the more famous sites (e.g. his historic paris walk, champs-elysees, etc..), in lieu of a professional guide. Not saying I'll follow them word-for-word, but gives an idea of what is close together.