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The days of the guidebook, long a staple for the long term traveler, are numbered. Go grab that last old, beaten-up guidebook from your bookshelf and trade it in while you still can. The digital revolution may make it a thing of the past.
See, guidebooks have a few key flaws that really show in our new travel world.
- They are already outdated by the time you pick them up off the shelf. The research was done months or years ago, and in some places that time can make a world of difference.
- The ‘guidebook effect’ kills great picks. Meaning that often the places that were once “quiet little gems on the sea” are now inundated with tourists with prices through the roof and service in the toilet.
- There are never enough pages. How can you fit an entire region or country into a few hundred pages?
Admittedly, this goes double for the trip to Burma (Myanmar) I’m currently on. The country is changing, and FAST. After being told for years by the democratic movements inside the country to stay away, tourists are now being asked to come as the country prepares to open up.
There are some serious challenges for the purely digital traveler here. Internet is slow and flaky at best, and mobile data is virtually non-existent. It’s a serious challenge for a digital traveler. Can I do it?
Here is what I’m using to fill the gap while traveling sans traditional guidebook.
Doing for travel what Wikipedia has done for, well, information. Whether it is information about accommodation, the history of a location or plenty of outbound links for what you can’t find on the site, there plenty to see. Given it is a wiki, it is editable by anyone anytime, making Wikitravel a great starting point for doing your research.
On Burma: Though incomplete on Burma (especially as you drill down to smaller areas), it has information added daily regarding prices, fees, and visas. Other, more traveled countries are more thorough.
Tip: Save pages to your mobile device for offline reading later with an app like Pocket.
The kingpin of independent travel reviews on the web. If you’re looking for something to do, somewhere to eat, or somewhere to sleep, chances are you’ll find a review or 100 on Tripadvisor. Sort by the best rated, price, or even the closest to you.
On Burma: Likely the best place for accommodation information for a country like Burma. With new hotels, and prices doubling within the past few months, it is the best way to find a quality place from up-to-date reviews.
Tip: Using the mobile app, you can save hotel, restaurant, and cool attractions to refer to them later.
Long part of the travel blog community myself, it’s obviously one of my top places for finding information for future adventures. You get quality information, photos, and a personal take that you just can’t get anywhere else.
I’ve traveled to many places I’ve had no idea about until I happened upon a little blog entry. As a nice bonus, you might even get a personal contact from the author to help you with more details.
On Burma: With the lack of visitors until recently the past few years, quality information is hard to find. This is changing quickly with blogs such as A Little Adrift, Nomadic Notes posting from a month or so back and plenty of good information from Legal Nomads, Uncornered Market, and On Our Own Path. Still, it’s one of tougher destinations for blogs.
Tip: Save the best posts to your smartphone with something like or Pocket.
On Burma: Not much out there.
Tip: Make sure the app will work offline without the need for a data connection.
The same guidebook, just in a handy PDF to toss on your tablet, smartphone, or laptop. Might even be able to save a few bucks if you need just a chapter or two, and the digital download will cost you less than the paperback will new as well.
On Burma: This is my backup. I’m a little anti-guidebook, but Burma is just proving too tough for planning much in advance.
Tip: In some places, you might want to be careful waving your iPad out in public as you’re trying to read the address for the restaurant you want to eat at. It may become someone else’s.
Burma could be one of the toughest countries to tackle as a digital nomad. I’ll report how I do when I’m back on the world wide web.