On guidebooks – The Rough Guide and Rick Steves (and Lonely Planet… sort of)

On my most recent travels I’ve brought with me Lonely Planet’s city guides (Barcelona and Berlin). This time I decided to try out the city guide from Rough Guide. The decision really fell on which one was the latest update. So far I’m not sure if I like it compared to what Lonely Planet has to offer. Though there will always be a lot of listings in these books, this one seems a bit… impersonal, if that makes sense. It’s also a little bit taller than Lonely Planet’s city guides so it takes more space (roughly 150 pages).

During our stay in Sintra, we met an American couple, Pete and Mo, who became our regular partners for our breakfast conversations. They were great company, and also turned me on to Rick Steves’s guides, which apparently are quite popular among american travellers. I bought his guide for Portugal on Kindle, and have used it a bit, reading on my iPad. So far it seems pretty good. I’ve already had good use of it, finding some interesting spots to check out (The Design Museum in Baixa, for example), and I like the more personal touch in his writing. He also has a nice website, www.ricksteves.com where you’ll find videos from many destinations in Europe.

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Similar in The Rough Guide, Rick Steves and Lonely Planet (based on my other books) are itineraries for trips up to about 3-5 days, though Rick Steves also adds longer periods (remember this is a book for Portugal, not just Lisbon, so I expect that). Different from both the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are Steves’s city map drawings. Though it may sound less accurate, it actually works (see photo of places to eat in Bairro Alto from both Rick Steves and The Rough Guide). One problem I had was that a couple of spots we thought about visiting to eat had moved or were gone, and this was not updated in his book. He updates his website, but we forgot to check, so maybe it says so there.

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If you get your hands on one of Rick Steves’s guides, check it out. It stands a bit out from many of the other guides out there. If you’re between the Rough Guide and Lonely planet city guides, my vote is for Lonely Planet. Their style seem to work better for me. I might go for another guide from Rick Steves as well, but as kindle book. For carrying around I prefer a small guide at around a 150 pages max.

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