The ultimate travel guide isn’t a Blackberry, iPhone or even a guidebook; it’s the people you meet

When you hit the road these days are you still using a guidebook? Or have you moved on to smartphones, netbooks and mobile guides/applications? I’m still touting a guidebook myself, but I’m wondering how much longer that will last.

Conde Nast recently sent three writers off to Moscow in the dead of winter — one armed with an iPhone, another with a BlackBerry Bold, and the third with only a guidebook. The magazine then gave them a series of tasks — like booking a last minute hotel or finding a pharmacy at midnight — to see how the latest technology stacked up against the tried-and-true guidebook.

The hands down winner is the guidebook, but the tech tools actually did better than I would have expected.

For example they proved invaluable in navigating the complexities of the Kremlin, but both the iPhone and the Blackberry suffered from slow network connections, drained batteries and other tech-related woes.

Of course the whole setup is a little bit rigged, the success of the gadgets would probably have been much greater in the more tech-friendly environment like western Europe, Japan, etc. As with just about anything in your bag, whether or not a smartphone makes sense depends entirely on where you’re headed.

But perhaps the most revealing part of the article is that no guide is as good as the locals. It’s worth noting that much of the success the writer had using the traditional guidebook was in fact actually the result of helpful locals and some universal sign language.

Books — apparently moreso than smartphones — are a great way to get started in discovering a new place, but the locals you meet on the road are, and always will be, the best travel guides you’ll ever find.

[Photo from Conde Nast]

Posted by | Comments (3)  | May 27, 2009
Category: General

3 Responses to “The ultimate travel guide isn’t a Blackberry, iPhone or even a guidebook; it’s the people you meet”

  1. Chase Says:

    Technology ceases to be a helpful connection the moment it obstructs real people-to-people connection.

    Never turn down the chance to interact with someone new over a piece of dialed-in, dialed-up plastic.

    Great advice! Thanks for posting 🙂