In the "old days," people bought travel guides that were much the same for every country. They listed the historical points of interest, churches and accommodations. There were some written especially for young ladies or young men, with particular emphasis on "appropriate" accommodations and activities, suitable for the innocent and pure-hearted. Nowadays, a travel guide may feature almost any aspect of traveling in a particular region or country.
When choosing a travel guide, the traveler should first consider whether he is looking for generalities or specifics. If he just wants an all-around travel guide that covers the main points of interest, restaurants and accommodations, perhaps with suggestions for day trips, he can pick up a guide from Fodor's or Frommer's that will hit most of the high points of his visit. These companies publish guides for individual world cities, such as London or Paris, as well as for countries. They are established guides and usually offer a good value. Travel guides are widely available in book stores, or from the Internet.
Some travelers may have special interests. They may want to hike the Alps, bike through Tuscany or cruise the Greek Islands. They can find a travel guide that will assist them in planning any of these adventures.
Guides are available for singles, couples, gay travelers, the physically challenged -- almost anyone. The Lonely Planet folks specialize in publishing travel guides that take a person far off the beaten path, into the cultural interior of a place. If a person is budget-conscious, he can find a travel guide to suit his needs there, as well.
A traveler should look for a travel guide that meets his or her particular needs, but the publication should also provide crucial information -- such as customs regulations, applying for visas, airline information, language, currency and advice on culture -- to assist a traveler in getting from point A to point B. A travel guide should also provide a good overview of the country or city, along with maps and helpful phone numbers or Web sites a traveler can access for more information. A good travel guide should help a person have a memorable trip. It should be a help, not a hindrance.