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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Travel Tips: Using a Guidebook

The Guidebook Theorem, an observation-based set of laws I have gradually been formulating over the years, is as follows. Guidebooks are useful for telling you the following:

  1. Where all the western tourists will be heading to and when.

  2. In which hotels all the western tourists will be staying.

  3. Which sights will be full of tourists.

  4. What goes on in the mind of a guidebook writer.

From these four pieces of information we can logically make the following deductions:

  1. How to avoid western tourists, and how to get off-season prices and avoid peak-season rip-offs.

  2. How to avoid the Slack Hotel Syndrome, a disease that strikes hotels who are recommended in guidebooks, and who therefore do not have to make any effort to get customers, resulting in a lack of service and a corresponding drop in value for money (often nearby but less well-known hotels will improve because they have to work harder to attract travellers who treat their guidebook like the Bible).

  3. How to avoid sights and sites that are ruined by hordes of button-clicking tourists and the accompanying touts.

  4. How lucky I am to have realised that guidebook writers are guidebook writers rather than travellers: when you're writing and investigating you're not going to have the time to get too far off the beaten track, so those places that get nothing more than a paragraph are well worth visiting before things change too much.

And that's why I don't mind carrying the Lonely Planet if it's the only option, because it's the most popular guide and therefore helps me avoid the masses very effectively. Thanks LP, you're the greatest... almost.