Going travelling unaided is an option that few people would choose to take, particularly in an age in which there is such an abundance of different resources now available. One resource that has existed the longest is the travel guidebook, a trusty companion for every type of trip, offering an array of tips, advice and recommendations wherever you go. Nevertheless, with the arrival of technology, specifically smartphones, the traditional guidebook has seen its role diminished in place of online travel guides that come in the form of websites, blogs and mobile applications. Not only are they more convenient to carry around, they are often cheaper, update regularly to changes in locations and can all be accessed in one place. Furthermore, new innovations in technology bring new innovations in the resources that use that technology, meaning travel guides are evolving to include fresh features that were previously not possible.
Hence, we have compiled a short list of the top five travel guides, including blogs, websites and smartphone apps to make travelling as easy and hassle-free as possible. Each one was thoroughly assessed to ensure that only the best platforms were selected, with each review containing a brief summary of the service, its highlights, what makes it unique and its potential drawbacks. There are thousands of services all promising to improve your travelling experience, however we’ve chosen only the greatest ones that will prove to be the best companions for your trip, in order to save you time spending hours looking for them yourself. They are by no means there to replace traditional guides, rather be used alongside other resources to allow you to take full advantage of travelling to destinations around the world. Each one has been thoroughly vetted, with all aspects of its functionality and features assessed, while the pros and cons of each one are listed in an easy-to-read set of bullet points below each review.
One of the first features that was considered when reviewing the travel guides was a simple, yet, ultimately, essential aspect of any website: the user-friendliness. With the rapidly changing nature of technology and the internet, previously modern aesthetics and functionality quickly look and feel outdated, take an age to load each page and become confusing as they fail to adapt to the latest way of working. As with other websites, such as those to book flights or rental cars, even if the service that is being offered is second to none, a lack of a modern, user-friendly platform can be an instant put off, causing customers to look elsewhere to find their travel guides. The short term travel blog, 48 Hour Adventure, for example, contains great range of content offering information on where to visit, where to eat, and how much to budget across an array of cities worldwide, however their guides are slow to navigate and lack the slick feel of other similar websites. The smart travel content app Triposo, on the other hand, has a brilliant user interface and simple aesthetic, making viewing items like restaurants, nightlife, shopping and cultural attractions far easier than 48 Hour Adventure. For this reason, when reviewing the sites we first considered the aesthetic and functionality before moving onto anything else to ensure that the recommendations were the best available.
Next we looked at price and whether the cost matched the service being offered. Budget-conscious backpackers are always on the look out for value for money during their travels, while the majority of people in general don’t like to feel as though they are being ripped off, particularly in a foreign currency where they may not fully understand the currency. However, that does not necessarily mean that the free services are superior, as this can also signal of lack of quality or the presence of lots of advert banners that can be distracting and make viewing the content difficult. Apps that are free to download with in-app purchases can also be annoying as you can find yourself quickly hitting a paywall when, initially, you thought you were getting something for free. Travel Noire was one website we reviewed that offered great travel guides containing information on everything from flights and lodging to hidden spots and curated itineraries across a range of locations. However, for your 25 US dollars per guide, they were only available to download as PDFs rather than in a book you could carry around with you, and were each just 30 pages in length. This meant that despite the unique content, they could not be classed as great value for money, particularly when compared with the traditional Lonely Planet guidebooks that are cheaper, longer and come in both digital and print format. Therefore, value for money and general cost was a factor that was taken in to account when reviewing the travel guides.
Another characteristic of each platform that was looked at was the range of locations offered and, in turn, the depth of knowledge for each one. A problem, albeit a small one, that travellers often encounter is that they are forced to download a separate app for everything they do, be it for flights, trains, hotels or even food delivery services. Therefore, an app that only offers a handful of destinations, no matter how good, may be avoided by travellers who will be visiting a number of cities in a short space of time. This isn’t to say that quantity should be favoured over quality as, in many cases, the best platforms are indeed the ones with fewer locations due to the fact that each city can be honed in on more than a website that simply churns them out without thought. Nevertheless, on a platform such as Detour, each guided walking tour has to be carefully researched, recorded and uploaded, meaning their selection is very limited in comparison to Triposo, which offers more than 50,000 destinations. Consequently, given a choice, travellers on multi-city trips, such as those interrailing around Europe, will most likely opt for the app that covers more destinations so that they do not have to worry about downloading multiple apps and using up valuable storage space on their phones.
Last but not least, we considered whether the guides were available to view in an offline mode. Again, travellers do not like to feel as though they are getting ripped off when they are away, however data roaming fees can be extortionate at the best of times, meaning the ability to download content that can be accessed without connection to the internet is an invaluable feature to any platform. Many countries do not have Wi-Fi as readily available as others, which means that anything that can be acquired at home before setting off is likely to come out on top of one that requires internet connection.
Overall, this list provides the best selection of online travel guides amongst thousands, combining all of the above features to single out only the top five. Whether it’s a short trip to the neighbouring country or a great trip of a lifetime to the other side of the world, these guides are the perfect companion and will ensure that you get the most out of your well-earned travels. Knowing what to see, do, and eat can all be difficult things to work out when arriving in a new place, yet with these five platforms you won’t have to worry about looking like every other lost tourist, instead you will equipped with the best knowledge possible. Get off the beaten track and find hidden gems, discover great food, immerse yourself in the culture and find out a bit more about the history, all with these fantastic travel guides, right at your fingertips.