Most of us have safely arrived in 2010. With the holidays behind us, it’s time to look forward to the upcoming highlights of 2010: the Winter Olympics in Canada, the Soccer World Championships in South Africa, and of course your individual vacation wherever.
No matter where you want to travel in 2010, preparation is key. You should know what is expecting you, pack the right gear, and bring enough funds to spend an enjoyable vacation. On Amazon or your local book store, you’ll find a huge selection of international travel guides.
To save some money for your trip, skip the expensive guides and begin to research online, where most material is available for free. I have compiled the best free online international travel guides that will provide inspiration and comprehensive information to prepare your trip.
Lonely Planet is the biggest commercial online travel websites. Pick a region from the Destinations tab and dive into the introduction. The sidebar on the left provides a menu, the top picks, eventually fast facts, related groups, and possibly blogs.
The menu leads to in-depth information about places in the area, its history, the climate, getting around, and much more. The map opens from the top and all other destinations are marked with a little flag.
If you have found an interesting place that you would like to keep in mind, you can save the destination, provided you are logged in.
Lonely Planet makes it to the top of the list because not only does it cover a vast amount of destinations with comprehensive articles, it’s also easy to navigate, contains stunning pictures, lets users save their personal highlights and they can contribute to the site through participating in various groups, blogs, and more.
Lonely Planet was also mentioned in my article Cool Online Resources to Plan Your Next Vacation, along with Spotted by Locals, InfoHub, and World Travel Guide.
If you enjoy interactive websites that let you compile information your way, and play with the content, don’t miss out on NileGuide!
To “Get Started”, search for your desired destination. The first thing you’ll see is a “Snapshot“. You’ll notice that the “Overview” provides guides to download. All available guides are listed under the respective tab.
To start customizing your own guide, head over to “Things To Do”, “Restaurants“, or “Bars, Clubs & Nightlife” and play with the filters for the types of things you want to see or do. For example you could set your personal preferences, such as outdoors, off the beaten path, or must-see. You can also select neighborhoods and types of activities. If there is something you must do or see, click “Add To List” and it will appear in a little list in the sidebar on the left.
You can organize your trip and produce your own custom guide. Create a schedule, attach items from your list to each day, and share the result with your friends or other users. The most popular guides appear in the Snapshot Overview. However, the best is, you can print your personalized Guide-to-Go or create a PDF from it. Simply click the “Print My Guide To Go” button on the top right, while in the customize section.
A major draw of the site is its speed. It’s rather laggy and thus requires a bit of patience. Also, at this point the destination archive isn’t very big compared to other free online guides. Nevertheless, the flexibility and interactivity it offers is a killer argument in its favor.
These free travel guides are maintained by professional journalists. All information is available online, but each guide can be downloaded as a PDF for free. Some guides are available in several different languages, which is a huge plus of this site.
This page lists the continents and the countries featured on the site. When you click on “View destinations >>” next to a country, you will reach a page that lists its destinations and the available guide languages.
Curiously, there are three different download buttons: one for girls, one for boys traveling with girls, and one for boys. I compared a few of them and wasn’t able to spot a difference. Maybe it depends on the destination or it’s for statistical purposes.
Wikitravel is a user-driven project. At this point the site comprises over 22,000 destination guides and articles maintained by Wikitravellers from all over the world. If you feel inspired, you yourself can update articles and help keep Wikitravel the most complete and reliable worldwide travel guide.
Wikitravel resembles the structure of the well-known Wikipedia, as it is also powered by MediaWiki. From the Main Page you can search for your travel destination, select a region, discover one of the featured destinations, or load a random page from the navigation menu on the lefthand side. In the toolbox, found at the bottom of the sidebar, you can open a printable version for each page.
The basic organization of the articles is similar to what you will find in commercial guide books. Wikitravel’s edge is the wealth of information, the amount of small places covered, and of course the chance to add your own experience and instantly correct mistakes. All for free!
Wikitravel was featured together within an article by Anthony on 3 Must-Check Traveller Websites Before Your Next Trip.
In Your Pocket
In Your Pocket focuses on destinations throughout Europe. Besides providing free online city guides, the site features articles that highlight various topics of interest to travelers, for example where to ski in Eastern Europe, what souvenirs to bring from Slovenia, or a guide to the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece.
While all of the information is available online, buttons in the upper right corner of a destination indicate other means of access. Over 50 comprehensive city guides can be downloaded as PDF’s for free. Many of them can also be viewed as iPaper or you can download an Instant (brief overview) PDF.
MakeUseOf has previously published travel information and advice.
If you’re planning a lengthy trip, check out my article on How To Stay Digitally Charged and Connected On The Road. Before you go, also be sure the Create A Free Travel Packing Checklist With Packwhiz. Hello Backpacker introduces a website with travel information tailored to backpackers and Dean wrote A Quick Road Trip Planning Guide For Techno Geeks.
Aibek’s post on 10 Travel Websites That Should Be Bookmarked includes a travel itinerary planner, a global ATM locator, a guide for camping at an airport, and a website concerned with clean bathrooms. Guy wrote about TripSay, a social travel guide that connects you to people that share your interests, in order to find travel recommendations that match your taste.
Are you searching for great deals? James explained on How To Find The Best Hotel Deals Online. David introduced 6 Useful Last-Minute Booking Sites, and John covered Top 5 Sites To Search For Cheap Online Car Rentals.
Are you going to use public transport? Karl wrote about MetrO, the ultimate public transport guide for your phone. Ellie compiled 6 Subway Map Tools To Navigate Your Way Through NYC.
What did we miss?
Image Credits: rolve