Why Does WikiTravel Fail As a Travel Guide

While researching Travel Guides on Amazon  – I came across a number of publishers that are using the content from WikiTravel. Now there is nothing wrong with that – its not illegal as the Wikitravel content is covered by a share and share alike copyright – which allows anyone to reproduce it so long as the source is acknowledged.

The issue I have with WikiTravel, and with guide books in particular, is that they lack opinions.  WikiTravel is written by many anonymous writers, and the end result, is that its bland, probably fairly factually correct, but bland.  Guide books have become  very much the same. I have been buying Lonely Planet guides since the 1970’s and they used to be really, really opinionated. Written by one author – you knew after a few pages if he (almost always male) – was into beaches or villages, whether he liked good food or just booze and probably which drugs he preferred.  Knew whether he would seek out any crappy vegetarian restaurant he could find, or only review places that served Western food.

Rain on the beach in Langkawi, Malaysia - still warm enough to swim though!

I don’t know why most guide books read more like a brochure from a tourist office than an actual opinion on a place, that the actual marketing bumph. Maybe they are worried about being sued by sights, areas, or businesses that they claim are less than perfect. Or maybe they just don’t have the balls to have an opinion these days.

I don’t mean that I want to read guidebooks which call a town a complete non-event and then move on. However I do want to know whether its safe to walk down the street at night – and if its not bloody well tell me. Similarily if  Ican’t walk more than 10m before having a vendor hanging off each arm offering me the deal of the century – tell me! Then I can make my own choices.

Oh and give me the odd picture on a less than perfect day OK!

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