Newest Review: ... country/countries to visit, and even goes right down to giving information about (fairly big) towns. So you can find out the best places... more
Wikiwikiwhich way shall we go?
Member Name: jamesontheroad
Advantages: Free, easy to use and with vast number of pages
Disadvantages: Patchy information, some blank pages and occasional vandalism
When Wikipedia hit the world headlines as the newest internet sensation, a traditional conception of knowledge was being challenged. The term 'wiki' entered the internet language as a prefix for something created, updated, edited and moderated by users. And Wikipedia became the first of many.
Wikitravel is, therefore, almost self explanatory. Tagged as 'The Free Travel Guide' it is to guidebooks what Wikipedia is to encyclopaedias, although depending on your opinion of 'wikis' that could mean either a seismic threat or amusing distraction. Wikitravel is an attempt to build a free global travel guide that is always up to date. It uses a Creative Commons license to make its content publicly available, and everything is written by volunteer members. Wikitravel received a Webby Award for Best Travel Website in 2007.
If you're familiar with Wikipedia, you'll have no trouble navigating Wikitravel. The interface is almost identical, and the structure of the website is logically arranged with continents, countries, regions, cities, towns etc. In addition are a number of Travel Topics that cover subjects that aren't limited to a geographic area.
However, Wikitravel's strength (its ground-up user-created content) is obviously also its weakness. While large cities and popular destinations are well covered, you shouldn't be surprised to discover a remoter or small destination to have either a blank or non-existent page. And as with Wikipedia, vandalism is not uncommon, corrected only when another user spots it, and in my experience this can be depressing page attacks or subtle alterations written by homopbic, racist or sexist users.
And while Wikitravel seeks to be the most up to date guide available, some of its information is out of date and hard to verify. You can easily check the history of each page and enter into the discussion about each and every topic, but as with all travel guides, in some cases you won't know the availability of something until you contact the proprietors directly or show up yourself.
Somewhat confusingly, Wikitravel does not see itself as a threat to published guidebooks. There are numerous references on the site to printing off pages to take with you, which I personally would imagine to be less convenient than just buying a professionally edited and produced guidebook. Secondly, Wikitravel also seeks to make its own books. In 2007, Wikitravel's founders created the Wikitravel Press to publish printed travel guides based on the Web site's content. The first print guides were released in 2008. As an occasional contributor and reader of Wikitravel, I'm unsure that I'm happy for my content to be used in a book sold out under the same Creative Commons license that applies to the website.
Regardless of these concerns, if you enjoy travel and are passionate about the places you live in or know well, make a visit to Wikitravel. You can make plans for future trips or help enhance the pages on your home town or region, or even share your top tips and expert knowledge in the travel topics.
Summary: The future of travel guides? Perhaps!