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The Best Travel Guidebooks for Every Journey

Everybody needs help when in a foreign place. And there’s no shame in owning a travel guide.


Our recurring jab at travel guidebooks is that they’re all too predictable (and bland). They’re top-drawer at cajoling people to beaten paths and over-photographed vistas, but not every traveler wants to take selfies with the Queen’s Guard or stand atop the Empire State Building. Point is: everybody has a different itinerary. Whether it’s the pursuit of underground cuisine, cycling rider-friendly roads, backpacking off the grid or an amalgamation of all wanderlusting pursuits, there’s a guidebook to accompany your travels. So grab the passport, not the smartphone — data roaming will bleed you dry — figure out where you’re going, and pick up one of the books below.

Wallpaper Travel Books

Best City Guide: Pocket sized with striking images, these little booklets cover content from popular museums to lesser-visited restaurants and hidden haunts. Wallpaper’s in most cities, and their minimalist covers help camouflage you as a non-tourist.

Buy Now: $12

Rough Guides

Best Narrative Guide: There’s a reason why people fall asleep reading history books, and Rough Guides knows it. So they capitalize on keeping your attention captive by making their guides more narrative focused. Their descriptions are vivid and the travel writers’ experiences are personal and opinionated. Yet because it’s so detailed, it may deter those who value brevity. On the whole, though, it’s worth it for the historical perspective, and it’ll get you through the city without reading like a paperbound Lunesta. Additionally, all of the guides are smartphone and tablet compatible, if you’re into that.

Buy Now: $14

Time Out City Guides

Best Guide for Young Travelers: Time Out is geared toward younger travelers who are landing and departing within a matter of days. Each guide hits a little bit of everything: encouraging readers to try alternative grub, taste local brews and see the highlights that those travelers who came before you would implore you not to miss. The series covers 24 countries, which is not quite as far reaching as others, so check beforehand to make sure they have your location.

Buy Now: $12

Moon Travel Guides

Best Budget-Conscious Travel Guide: Far from narrow minded, each Moon travel guide gives itinerary options for a variety of travelers’ budgets — from frugal to lavish. They make books catering to those who love the outdoors, those who have limited time, those staying exclusively in cities and those who’ve fully committed to living abroad. In all, they have hundreds of titles, ranging Bermuda to Budapest, that’ll teach you to embrace a new culture.

Buy Now: $10

Rapha City Guides

Best Guide for Cyclists : If it’s cycling you’re after, there are a few options — but Rapha’s guides are by far the best. Rapha‘s pocket-sized companions provide detailed biking routes in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Milan and more. It’s a great way to explore a major city, and the guides inform you on not just routes, but also what to see and where to stop.

Buy Now: $5

Insight Guides

Best Guidebook for First-Time Travelers: Insight Travel guides are ideal for those who want to attain a solid base layer of knowledge. They showcase vivid photography while giving readers a solid introduction to a place — hitting its history, culture, landmarks and hotspots that you have to see at least once (yes, you should do La Sagrada Familia, just one time).

Buy Now: $10

Whereabouts Press

Best Guidebook for Writers: For travelers fortunate enough to spend a chunk of time in one country, here’s the guidebook to accompany your long stay. Yes, these books are dense, but they’re also refreshingly unique. Each guide features chapters written by different literary writers about a given area. It gives the reader the feeling of reading a novel, while also learning about an area. Two birds, one stone.

Buy Now: $14

Cadogan Guides

Best Traveler’s Travel Book: When on the road, some people hardly have enough time to take off their boots. They’re always looking to explore, even if there isn’t always an end destination. For such travelers, Cadogan guides offer opinionated, humorous and highly knowledgeable information about the area’s people, culture and history, and they’re quickly digestible for those on the move.

Buy Now: $14

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