Having a guide book to any area that you are travelling is essential. You can often save the cost of the guide book in your first weeks or even first days of travel. The guide book will save you many hours of time with opening hours and transfer information. The guide book will also save you a good deal of cash with budget accommodation and ticket information.
Travel destination guide books
There are several publishers of guide books. I have summarised the most popular.
The Lonely Planet guide books concentrate on budget travel, generally listing the cheapest options first. The Lonely Planet guides are more popular with backpackers and younger travelers. They are formatted in an informative style. The accommodation listings show when parking is available (with the P symbol) which can be very useful when visiting an urban area with a vehicle.
The Rough Guide guide books tend to have a broader scope than the Lonely Planet books. The Rough Guide guide books are preferred by more mature travelers. They tend to deliver more on history and have a more literal format.
Language guide books and CDs
Learning some of the local language in any country will help your time communicating with the local people. Learning any language takes time and is difficult. There are several guide books and learning CDs that can help.
Language phrase books
Phrase books are the best way to start to learn a language. A good phrase book will contain the phrases you need to deal with situations and also corresponding responses you can expect. A good phrase book will have a dictionary section that will help you with common words, avoiding the need for a language dictionary at first.
Language dictionaries are more suitable for people who have an understanding of a language and wish to increase their vocabulary. They will not help you if you know nothing of a language, you need a phrase book if starting out (see above).
CDs are an important and great way of learning a language. They are generally the best way to get started, as you will get exposure to the sounds of works which is vital when learning a language. If you are travelling by vehicle on a road trip or surf trip language CDs are great for everyone in the vehicle to get up to speed with the language.