Most libraries in the USA and other parts of the world allow users to check out books for at least a month at a time. One month is generally longer than 99% of vacations or other incidences of travel. In point, there is absolutely no reason for any person with access to a well stocked library to purchase a travel guidebook. In my experience, even the libraries in small towns in the USA have a selection of Lonely Planet guides to the popular destinations of the world — the places where most tourists go — and if they don’t have the guide you need stocked they can often order it from another library. So why drop $20 to $30 on something that you can get for free? Check travel guides out of your local library, travel with them, and then return them when finished.
I walked into a cafe in Villa de Leyva this morning and found a tourist sitting at a table looking through her Lonely Planet Colombia. I burst out laughing when I saw the Dewy Decimal tag that was stuck to the book’s spine.
“Are you going to be able to return that guidebook on time?” I joked.
“Yes, it’s not due until the 14th, and I will be back to Spain before then.”
A seriously intelligent move.
Tips for checking out a guidebook from a library
Reserve the book for your dates of travel or sign the book out a couple of weeks in advance.
- If your library does not stock the guidebook title you want, have then order it from a library that does.
- If your duration of travel is going to be longer than the amount of time that you can sign a book out from your library, just renew it online from the road. If this doesn’t work out, keep in mind that the late return charges of most libraries are often pretty low and, unless traveling or many months, will generally not come close to adding up to the cost of a new guidebook.
- If the travel guides in your library are reference material and can’t be checked out, then make photocopies of the pages you want. This can also easily be done from the road by borrowing a guidebook from a fellow traveler and taking it over to the nearest business that advertises photocopying services (not difficult to find in most countries).
In all, unless you want to keep your travel guides forever, are in a hurry, or fear traveling without one, there is generally never a reason to purchase a new guidebook. Look for other means to get the travel information you want, use your public library.