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London Travel Guides

As a frequent traveler myself, one of the things that I always pack before embarking on a trip and going to a new city is to pick up a travel guide for the place I am going to. There is nothing more frustrating than wasting valuable holiday time queueing up at the local tourist information center/booth and trying to use an often inaccurate free map to navigate around.

However, how does one actually choose a good travel guidebook? You could go with a brand you trust, like The Lonely Planet, or DK Eyewitness series, but as each book in the series is written by a different author, what might be a well-written guide for one city can be hopeless for another. As someone who has been living in London for quite some time and an avid traveler, I have thumbed through the range of London guidebooks and come up with my personal top selections:

London – DK Eyewitness Travel Guide

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The DK Eyewitness series is one of my favourites. It is not just a guide with a list of places to see, it also has a section with a bit of history for each place, as well as visual diagrams and pictures to help you get the most out of visiting historical sites. In addition, I find their maps to be one of the most accurate out of all the travel guides, and the text easier to read too than the Lonely Planet series. Although their restaurant and hotel recommendations are rather hit and miss, this London edition in their series seems to cover everything you need for a trip to London, without overloading you with information.

(Amazon allows you to preview the inside pages of the book before buying. Click the book image to be directed to Amazon)

London – Lonely Planet City Guide

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I have many friends who swear by the Lonely Planet Guide series, and it is easy to see why. Chock full with any information that you think you can possibly need, this is great for those who like to have all the information at their finger tips. However, it makes dry reading compared to the DK Eyewitness Series, and is more focused on the quantity of listings rather than quality (which is not a bad thing; it depends on how much you want to see in London). It has a much more extensive hotel and restaurant section, but has much fewer pictures and is mainly in black and white (with some blue) compared to the all-color of the London DK Eyewitness guidebook.

(Amazon allows you to preview the inside pages of the book before buying. Click the book image to be directed to Amazon)

1000 Things to Do in London for Under £10 – Time Out Guide

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I recommend this book for those who are going to be in London for a long time, but on a budget (e.g. exchange students, backpackers, etc), or for those who visit London on a regular basis and have covered all the major touristy places and needs some inspiration off the beaten path and not wanting to spend an arm and a leg too. The title is somewhat deceptive though; having thumbed through the book many of the “1,000” things are not substantial, and for example a list of 10 cheap restaurants count as 10 things, rather than just one. However, the book is rather cheap, and even Londoners can benefit by having something to thumb through on those nights lacking inspiration.

London All-In-One Folded Map

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I myself am automatically suspicious of paying for a foldout map that you can get for free at tourist information centers, but this one really impressed me and has been very well done. Anyone who has lived in London quickly learns that the standard Tube map is highly out of scale, and what might seem like a really short journey ends up taking twice as long. This map overlays the London street map with the “real” tube map, showing actual distances between tube stops, as well as offering overlays of bus networks and good walks. It identifies all the major tourist spots, and I think a small investment in this map will pay huge dividends in terms of time and energy saved getting from place to place.

The above travel guides should be available at all major bookstores, such as Amazon.co.uk, WH Smith, Waterstones, and Play.com.

Over the next few weeks I will be perusing through more London guide books at my local bookstore and posting my thoughts on this page, so check back often for updates!

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