Posted by: Ian Ross | May 5, 2008

Look out Lonely Planet, here comes WikiTravel

I have a passion for travel (backpacking to be more specific). For many years, my top resource has been Lonely Planet (LP). But I now see a contender on the horizon – Wikitravel.

LP built its success on the idea of community participation. They pay veteran travellers a few coins to do the heavy lifting, then update the information with contributions from thousands of loyal readers. These individuals normally get recognized on the back pages of the next updated book.

Now Wikitravel has hit the scene. It is also built, as wikis are, on the concept of community participation. The big difference is that the bias from LP’s paid contributors is removed, creating more collective reflections of destinations and transpiration options.

Another big different of course is the medium. LP charges me around $40 per book plus offers some okay free online resources. Its message board Thorn Tree is likely the best of the online tools. My LP book felt like gold when I arrived in Beijing the middle of the night, but more often it felt like 40 pounds hauling it around the streets of La Paz, Bolivia or Gracias, Honduras.

With Internet cafes popping up in every traveller town, I’m starting to think the online option is better. I can update a notebook every week during this summer’s journey in Africa, rather than cart around a 812-page Southern Africa LP book when I only need to reference a half dozen pages on any given day.

Another advantage for Wikitravel – I save $40. Yes, I’m cheap.

For all the potential, Wikitravel isn’t quite there yet. Information for some cities is excellent, while detail is lacking for others. But I see that it is up for a Webby award this year – a positive sign. And the site keeps growing.

I intent to add my own travel knowledge to this wiki. And if enough people do the same, it won’t be long until LP faces a serious threat to its travel guide dynasty.

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Responses

  1. I’ve found the forums on TripAdvisor.com and VirtualTourist.com indispensable for my own trips in recent years. I think it takes time to build up a community and I like these sites because they have a good balance of travelers who have been where I’m going and people who actually live in the country or city I’m traveling to.


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