How to write travel guides

Bec EvansBec Evans is co-founder of and author of How to Have a Happy Hustle. She has spent her life writing và working with writers - from her first job in a book cửa hàng, to lớn a career in publishing, và now coaches, supports & inspires writers of all kinds.

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With over 50 travel guides under his belt Julius Honnor knows a thing or two about writing nhận xét. His advice sends travellers rushing khổng lồ towns, hotels và sites of exceptional interest in all corners of the globe. He shares his advice on the skills you need khổng lồ succeed, and offers a glimpse of the glamour, danger và mundanity of fact-checking in this fiercely competitive field.

For 15 years Julius Honnor travelled the world writing & updating travel guides. It’s a much-envied job. Most of us can only imagine the delight of seeing our Reviews printed on place mats in Bolivia or stuck in café windows the world over.

He experienced the highs of sunset over Lake Titicaca & a five-star, rum-drenched helicopter tour of Guatemala, & he’s a veteran of challenges including a shooting outside his about-to-be-rented flat in Naples, bus crashes, car crashes, getting stranded in the Amazon và driving across the Sahara in the dark. He shares his hard-won advice on how to write travel guides.

1. A writer first, a traveller second

Travel publishers want people who can write, which sounds obvious, but a lot of people who want to be travel writers are really travellers rather than writers. But you also need expertise & experience in a country or a city.

2. Differentiate yourself

For certain places there’s a lot of competition. If you want to be an expert on Paris or London or Thành Phố New York, then it’s a pretty crowded market. If you can become an expert on somewhere much less visited, or you have a particular angle, then you’ve sầu got much more chance of opening doors. Then if you’re lucky, once you’ve sầu got something good under your belt, you get sent to lớn other places to write about those.


Pesaro seafront, Marbít, Italy

3. Be confident

You need a lot of confidence to lớn ask questions & find people who already know a place really well.

I learned that the key thing was khổng lồ make friends with people & make use of their experience. A couple of times I lived with someone who had good local connections, which was invaluable.

Otherwise, you go & find the cafés that people hang out in and talk to lớn people there. If you find a bar or café with a nice owner, who’s happy khổng lồ sit & chat with you for a while, that’s often a really good way in.

4. Work fast

If you’re writing a city guide, you can build those things up over time và you can make your own connections but it’s harder if you have sầu an area or a country to lớn cover, because you often only have sầu a day or two in each place. You’ve sầu got khổng lồ absorb an awful lot of stuff & make judgements very quickly.

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5. Dig for gems

A lot of the work is critical exploration, trying lớn get under the skin of a place.

You want to unearth things that other travel books haven’t already got. There’s no point writing a travel book which is exactly the same as another travel book, or just listing a top site and the three restaurants that everyone already goes to. What you really want is khổng lồ uncover the places that aren’t so well known.


Rue Riad Zitoun El Jedid, Marrakech

6. Empathy for the uninitiated

One of the key skills of a travel writer is the ability khổng lồ put yourself in people’s shoes & see it with their eyes.

You turn up at an airport, it’s your first time in the country, you don’t know to lớn go & buy a ticket at the café around the corner, and then stamp it before you get on the bus. Travel guides are sometimes not very good at balancing expertise with empathy.

7. Chechồng the facts

Travel writing is less creative than people imagine it khổng lồ be.

A lot of the work is going around hotels và visiting cafés và restaurants khổng lồ kiểm tra basic facts & write a line or two about what they’re like. Getting a phone number or an address wrong would be a big problem. In some ways that discipline is quite good – it helped my writing khổng lồ have sầu to go & review things within tight constraints – but it’s mostly not the experience of free-wheeling travelling & free-flowing prose that people imagine it to be.

8. Be succinct

You need a good eye: the ability khổng lồ notice things & give sầu people a flavour of somewhere – often in very few words. There’s not very much scope for waxing lyrical! Sometimes you might only have sầu a sentence or two khổng lồ talk about somewhere, và you have khổng lồ explain lớn people why they might want khổng lồ go, or why they might not want lớn. There’s a lot khổng lồ convey in few words.


Greeting khổng lồ the Sun, Zadar, Croatia

9. Do it for love

There are no rich guidebook writers. There’s nobody doing it for the money. And there’s not much fame and influence either. At first I thought everyone would want my time and would be trying khổng lồ get me lớn go to lớn their café or stay at their hotel.

Actually, most of the time people don’t really care very much. Even if they vì find out who you are, locals usually aren’t particularly interested. Other travellers always have lots of questions for you though.

“Whatever your approach, you should always leave time for wandering!” Julius Honnor

10. Wander inquisitively

By the time I was on my 30th or 40th guide book I’d worked out some more methodical systems, but when I first started I was mostly feeling my way through the dark.

I would wander around the city, struggling under the weight of all the leaflets and flyers I’d picked up, trying khổng lồ work out what there was to go và see và where the good places khổng lồ eat were. But sometimes I’d stumble on something amazing & completely unexpected. Whatever your systematic approach, you should always leave sầu time for random wandering!