Different guidebooks are intended for different audiences, so you should decide what kind of information you want before buying one. For most countries, you can find a number of specific guidebooks, such as Hostels in France and Italy, backpacking books, city-specific books, books on restaurants or nightlife, etc. Study Abroad staff recommend the following guidebooks for students:
This highly recommended guidebook is written with students and limited budgets in mind and also contains useful maps of cities and countries, metros, trains, etc. It includes practical information (documents, money, packing, phone numbers, etc.), sights, museums, entertainment, and places to stay.
This book is meant for adventurous people who want to seek out “beyond the obvious” types of places. It has practical information, some history, and includes special sections for singles and young people. Funny and brutally honest.
Lonely Planet gets mixed reviews from students in the Study Abroad office. On one hand, it has practical info, low-budget considerations, historical and cultural sections, and basic information on main sights and some out-of-the-way places. On the other hand, it contains little information on accommodations, restaurants, etc. and is intended for a more adult audience.
A student traveling in Israel/ Palestinian territories said, “I was disappointed with Lonely Planet because it had little information on the Palestinian territories, even though they were included in the book’s title.”
A student in Venezuela noted, “In general, I found the book helpful, though outdated in many respects. Prices were inflated, of course, and many locations had either closed or had been relocated. There was not a lot of emphasis placed on the country’s night life, nor on shopping or dining out, but the historical and cultural information was helpful to read before going and while there.”
These books are for learning about and adjusting to another country’s culture. They do not contain information on sights, accommodations, etc., though they do have valuable information on a country’s history, its customs, and interesting facts the average tourist or traveler may not be aware of. The Peer Advising staff in our office and many other students have found them helpful in preparing to enter a new culture.
This book is put out by Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), which is one of the consortiums for study abroad, so it is directly tailored for study abroad students and independent travelers. It includes both practical and fun material on beaches, clubs, sites, and culture. You can find it on www.roughguides.com.