The best tourism guidebooks for France are the ones that help you get the most out of your vacation. One of the first things that many travelers do before venturing to a new destination is study a guidebook. When consulting a bookstore's travel section before a trip to France, however, vacationers are likely to be overwhelmed by the wide selection. To choose the best tourism guidebooks for France, travelers should consider not only where they are going in France, but also which style of guidebook meets their needs.
Do I Need More Than One Guidebook?
With such a selection - easily more than fifty titles - the first question to ask is whether you need more than one guidebook. While some books are more comprehensive than others, it is wise to get at least one book of each general type, including a phrasebook, guidebook (both for the entire country and the local region you will spend most of your time in), and a detailed map. Some guidebooks are better organized than others and may include all the necessary features in one convenient volume.
Types of Tourism Guidebooks for France
There are several types of tourism guidebooks for France. They come in a variety of sizes with a number of features, including cultural tips, language pronunciation keys, detailed maps, and suggested tours. Before choosing a specific guidebook, travelers should examine different types to determine which books meet their travel needs.
When most people are confronted with a foreign language, their first instinct is to open a translation dictionary. While that provides basic vocabulary, a phrasebook is a better option because it also translates simple questions and is divided into convenient categories such as numbers, dining, shopping, and transportation. Phrasebooks may offer online support for correct pronunciation, cassettes or CDs to emulate, or other resources to aid communication. Some of the most comprehensive French phrasebooks available are:
- Langenscheitt's Jiffy Phrasebook: French: This volume retails for less than $10 and is a mere 256 pages, but covers many topics and offers sample sentences and a basic English-French dictionary for convenience. It can fit perfectly in a purse or pocket. The book can be ordered with audio cassettes or the tapes can be ordered separately.
- Fodor's Living Language Series: French for Travelers: Slightly larger than the Langenscheitt's phrasebook and slightly more expensive, this volume still fits in a purse or large pocket and includes a general map of France along with a detailed Paris map. In addition to phrase categories and a limited English-French dictionary, it also includes a French-English dictionary for translation convenience.
There are two types of guidebooks: comprehensive volumes covering the entire country and region-specific volumes focusing exclusively on one state (Normandy, for example), or on Paris. The larger, more comprehensive volumes are best for travelers planning to sightsee throughout the country, but they lack the finer details and more intimate reviews of region-specific volumes. The most trusted names in guidebooks are Fodor's and Frommer's, and both companies offer extensive collections of comprehensive and regional guidebooks. General tourism guidebooks for France range from $12-25 depending on their publisher, comprehensiveness, and features. Some sample titles include:
- Frommer's Irreverent Guide to Paris: This 270-page volume is too big to fit in a pocket, but would fit nicely in a bag or purse. It includes extensive, detailed maps including Notre Dame, city neighborhoods, and streets. The conversational tone makes it a pleasure to read, and quirky trivia such as "what to do with a bidet" livens up the book while enlightening travelers about a different culture. For ease and convenience, each section of the book includes a detailed index.
- Insight City Guide: Paris: Provided by the Discovery Channel, this purse-sized volume has a sturdy cover and features full-color photographs throughout. A history section, travel tips, and practical information on hospitals, money, climate, postal services, embassies and more make it a good overall choice for travelers. The pull-out restaurant guide is particularly useful.
- Paris for Dummies: With an easy-to-read format and post-it flags for quick reference, this largish volume includes necessary details such as the specific metro stops for Paris attractions, multiple maps, top 10 lists, and cultural tips such as tipping practices and seasonal concerns. At 360 pages it is a larger volume and less convenient for carrying around the city, but still more manageable than full-country comprehensive guidebooks.
- Let's Go: France on a Budget: At 810 pages, this unwieldy volume is too thick for frequent use or carrying all day, but it is very comprehensive with brief details about nearly any imaginable attraction. The book is organized by provinces and cities for quick reference, and includes planning information and non-tourism travel options such as working, volunteering, and studying trips that can be far more cost-effective than straight tourism.
- Lonely Planet: France: A whopping 964 pages, this comprehensive guidebook includes several sections of color photographs, itinerary route suggestions for a variety of tours, annotated history and cultural sections, site reviews, and basic vocabulary.
In addition to general France and Paris guidebooks, most travel guidebook publishers offer a selection of regional guidebooks with similar formats to their larger books. These specialized volumes focus on distinct regions ( Lyon, Normandy, Brittany, etc.) and offer the same features as larger volumes at a better size and price for travelers who plan to stay in one vicinity throughout their trip.
For travelers with specific plans for their trip to France, there is a wide variety of specialized guidebooks that focus on distinct topics. Too many to name, specialty guidebooks focus on topics such as:
- Walking or driving tours
- Visiting France on a certain budget ($50 a day, for example)
- Going green and exploring natural wonders rather than cities
- Visiting France or Paris with children or teenagers
- Romantic getaways for couples or honeymooners
- Adventure travel such as hiking or mountain climbing
- Wine-tasting journeys
- Cruising to France
These specialty tourism guidebooks for France have features similar to general guidebooks, including destination information (addresses, hours of operation, etc.), maps, and cultural tips, but they are naturally geared toward specific interests.
No traveler's library is complete without a map. Bookstores often offer street maps for major destinations such as Paris, and many guidebooks offer a limited selection of regional and city maps. The best tourism guidebooks for France include detailed attraction maps, such as maps for extensive parks, shopping districts, major museums, and so forth. Visitors to Paris should also look for city metro maps that can facilitate transportation.
Choosing the Best Tourism Guidebooks for France
The best guidebook is one that can aid you on your vacation without making it seem like a research trip. After your basic itinerary is planned, you can investigate a specialized selection of guidebooks, but always consider basic features to find the best tourism guidebook for France - readability, portability, maps, language assistance, contact information, etc. By carefully examining different guidebooks available and how they apply to your specific trip, you can find a handy reference and an invaluable tool to make your vacation to France enjoyable, convenient, and ultimately memorable.