National Geographic Traveler is revising all of the travel guides in their library and adding some new ones. Vera got hold of a revision of the guide to Vietnam and a brand-new book about Argentina to share with us.
Taking advantage of their vast library of photographs, National Geographic has lavishly illustrated their guidebooks. They start with a full-color cover and continue with photos that capture a sense of the culture throughout the book.
The text of these guides reflects the style of the National Geographic Traveler magazines. The writing is personal, friendly and helpful. Short descriptions of highlights squeeze in facts about history, geography and local life, while marginal notes provide practical info like addresses, phone numbers and prices. One thing that’s unique to National Geographic Traveler books are their Insider tips. These are short blurbs written by seasoned travel writers.
One of the first things I look at in a travel guide is the index. You need to be able to find what you need without wandering through the book. These indexes look very thorough, although I would want to road-test them to be sure they covered all needs. They highlight pages with pictures by setting them in bold type, which makes sense, since these are such visual books.
Action-oriented books, they put a boxed explanation of one or more culturally appropriate “experiences” in each geographic section. For Argentina that includes such things as learning to tango in Buenos Aires, catching dorado near Corrientes, and riding the rapids in Mendoza province. In Vietnam, they suggest kayaking in Ha Long Bay, visiting Hill Tribe Markets, and riding the Ho Chi Minh Trail on a motorbike. Additionally the book covers appropriate driving or walking tours, along with detailed maps and suggests scenic train rides.
Hotel and restaurant recommendations are limited to a section in the back of the book, and only one or two hotels are listed in each price range. Very few restaurants make the book, and confusingly, sometimes they are separated from the hotels section, and sometimes are part of the same list.Obviously focused more on understanding and experiencing the culture than finding places to stay and eat, the books include a very good list of further reading that will serve the traveler well. On the other hand, you could hardly ask for a more practical guide when it comes to transportation and the maps provided. Overall, I believe I would be very happy to use these new National Geographic Traveler Guidebooks to plan a trip to Vietnam or Argentina, and will be looking for the NGT guides to other countries I visit in the future.
All uncredited images courtesy of Stock.XCHNG