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National Geographic Traveler  World The New York Time Web travel

Travel Sites

BBC Online's web producer, Rob Freeman, takes us on a tour of the web. Each week he gives us his tips on the top sites worth watching.

FodorsThis week I'm going to take a look at the web's best Travel Sites, and I thought I'd being with the online versions of some of the major travel guidebooks. Fodors one of the Grandfathers of travel writing, having been around for 60 years. The Rants and Raves section is a new addition, though it doesn’t really have enough feedback yet for you to make a good judgement on the various hotels and restaurants listed. Some people really stick the boot in. This writer, from Belgium, details his stay at a London hotel: 'I've never seen a worser (sic) hotel than this one. the breakfast was horrible and the room was just big enough for 2 beds. It was awful'.

Let's GoLet’s Go is staffed and run by students and the website needs some time to mature I think since of all these sites it's probably the least easy to navigate around in. The divisions all have confusing names, like Yellow Jacket, Thumb and Series. If you’re not familiar with the books already, and I wasn’t, this doesn’t make it any easier. The site’s also rather too quick to get you to buy a copy of a book online rather than give you travel information. A case of Let’s Go... to a better web site.

Rough GuidesRough Guides claim to put the entire text of their publications on the web so you can read it for free. If so, they don’t make it terribly easy to find. Lots of countries, like Pakistan for instance, are missing from the drop down menu and if you try to find New Zealand in the search box it’s as if it never existed. However once you do find what you want it is well indexed, there just doesn’t always seem to be a lot there.

Lonely PlanetThere seems to be an awful lot at Lonely Planet it just isn’t very well indexed. It is however, the easiest to move around in - you're presented with a big colour atlas of the globe which you click to zoom in on an area, then select the country. By far the most useful application of these websites, as this goes for all of them, not just Lonely Planet, is once you’ve bought the book, the website and other travellers can keep you up to date with conditions in every country. If you visit somewhere and it wasn’t like they said in the book, you can let everyone else know. For example, let’s look at Travellers Reports on India: there are lots of good tips here, including how to extend visitors visas and avoiding some of the more inventive scams, but there’s just too much information on this page. If you can struggle through it you
’ll find it very worthwhile.

DejaUnless you're a fan of the more quirky writing style as exhibited by Rough Guide, or Lonely Planet, for the most part I've found these web sites to give pretty much the same information. For a more esoteric information source you can try Internet newsgroups. There are several groups dedicated to travel, and they're all in the recreation or rec areas. If you don't have newsgroups on a mail reading programme or your browser, you can log into Deja news and read them there; if you type travel into the search window, that should get you started (although for some reason it also gives you Alt.freeemansonrt!) On the main homepage of deja, there's another travel section, now these aren't newsgroups, but they are a way of finding more about cities and attractions all over the world.

There are many other major guidebook site online, notably Fielding, Frommers, Intrepid and Moon Travel.

If you'd like to order a guide or map online you'll also find plenty of opportunities from online bookshops or from travel bookshops such as Adventurous Traveller, Literate Traveler, Stanfords and Travel Books & Maps.

Many online travel agents also provide destination guides, which might include exclusive editorial peppered with chunks licensed from guidebooks linked to further material on the Web. For example, Escaperoutes or Travel Vision.

If you've got a Palm Pilot you might want to check out Vindigo's downloadable City Guides. If you want more information why not try theCIA World Factbook, although it can be a little dry.

Before you go abroad, especially if you're travelling somewhat off the beaten track, it wouldn't hurt to check the British Foreign Office's Travel Advice.

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This page was last updated on 10/21/01.