Posted by: travelrat | February 15, 2008

Guide Books

What do you do with a guide book that’s so out of date, it isn’t funny? Usually, you’ll toss it, but, if you’re a really good person, you’ll give it to the Scouts or somebody next time they come around collecting for a jumble sale.

You’ll usually find me browsing the old books at local jumble sales, for I love old guide books. I like them for a reminder of a gentler age, when a night’s lodging could be had for sixpence, and you can get to your destination by the early-morning milk train … no matter that it last ran fifty years ago!

Also, I like the rotund, florid prose that would never get by an editor nowadays; I mean, why just ‘go’ when you can ‘proceed’ … or even ‘peregrinate’ or ‘pilgrimate’?

I wonder if Lonely Planet or Rough Guides will ever be treasured as much as those old Baddeleys or Baedeckers?

The problem with the modern guide book is that, no matter how well they’re researched, things move so fast these days that they’re obsolescent almost before they’ve hit the stalls. So, you need to remember, they’re GUIDES, not hard-and-fast gospel. You can update yourself by consulting the Web, but you need to ensure there’s a date on the page you’re interested in. There’s a lot of out-of-date info up there because the author has lost interest, or something.

Whether you buy a printed guide book or print out pages you downloaded from the Web, you’re still going to look a bit of a Griswald standing on a draughty street-corner with it flapping in the breeze. Many people try not to ‘look like a tourist’ … sometimes, it’s a wise safety precaution, sometimes it’s just to avoid ridicule. On way of doing this is the ‘audio guide’ which I’ve already mentioned. You buy a CD, or download a podcast, and use either a personal CD player or an iPod.

But, the other week, I came across the Schmap guides ( These are illustrated city guides, with maps and stuff you can download into your computer. And, presumably, transfer them to a PDA?? (I’m not sure about this, because I don’t have a PDA). I’ve downloaded guides for … so far … Madrid, Sydney and Adelaide. I know these cities, and the guides seem accurate enough to me.Best of all … they’re FREE!


  1. I always remember how they relied on the Baedecker in EM Forster’s ‘A Room With A View.’ It made me want one of my own.

  2. If you have a moment, could you possibly download the Sydney guide from Schmap, and let me know what you think of it?

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