Now that the guidelines have been altered a bit, I'm going to repost question #4 in hopes of more responses. (Hey, we only received one and I know all of you will have some sort of opinion.) So, here goes:
Frequently, people ask how travelers research their trips. Do they use a guidebook? If so, which one is the most preferred? Or, is the internet a better way to go about things? Is it a mix of both? Do they use a guidebook while traveling?
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For researching on what Hostels to stay at, what restaurants to eat at, and what tour operators to use I mainly use the Trip Advisor web-site. If the ratings are poor on this site, check to see what dates they where rated at. Sometimes the companies make improvements and all the latest ratings will be positive.
There is also lots of good information on the Lonely Planet web-site.
There are of course web-sites dedicated to each country, that can give lots of good information on what to see, but their opinions are not un-biased.
Guidebooks can also be helpful, but are quickly dated. I still like reading them, and it is much easier to get an idea on what to see in the country from a book, rather than having to navigate through countless web-pages. I bring the book with me, in case I need any last minute info.
To choose a guidebook (or any book) I read the book reviews on the Amazon web-site.
Before I go, I print out a list for each area of places to stay, where to eat, and what to see. That way I am not fumbling around with guidebooks and brochures when I get there.
A bit off the original question, but in Peru the iPeru tourist bureau was extremely friendly and helpful. You could leave your luggage at their offices while you walked around checking out where to stay and what to do, and then come back and ask for reports on those companies. it would be great if every country had people this helpful.
If you research your lodgings beforehand you can find some that are extremely helpful with telling you what to do and where to go.
Hope this is helpful.
A guidebook such as Lonely Planet is great for people who don't have the time or energy to do independent research, but the fact is that the info on the printed page is considerably out of date (even if hot off the press). For those of us with plenty of energy and time, the internet is a far more accurate way to go. From my experience, these two sources are outstanding:
SE Asia - Travelfish
Turkey - Turkey Travel Planner
The internet provides more accurate and up-to-date information, and can provide information about more off-the-beaten track destinations much more readily than guidebooks. It's also a way of obtaining direct feedback from fellow travellers that can be critical in the planning process. That being said, when you're on the road, it's much easier to get quick information from a book, and saves a lot of aggravation in a pinch. They often also include maps and phrases in the local language, which, while not ideal, are better than nothing at all when first arriving in a new destination (and don't change much over time!). For these reasons, I prefer to combine the two approaches.
As far as which guidebook is "best" I would say it's an individual choice. I've used the LP guides and I know others who have used the Let's Go guides. I think it's less about which is better and more about what books target what you want to do/see. Each guidebook has it's own feel to it, and as a traveller, it's a good idea to find something that works for you.