Fellow travelers, have you been paging through the budget hotel rankings of musty guidebooks when what you're really longing for is fabulous insider dish? Like this ooh-la-la tip from a Paris visitor:
Musée de l'Erotisme -- obviously located near Place Pigalle, and obviously over 18 only. This rule is not strict however: I managed to have some younger students go in, with the result that they came out shocked and might decide never to have a sex-life again. Moralist parents will surely thank me.
"Now that's a class trip," you're saying to yourself. "Tell me more!" Well, look no further than your Page Down button for an infinite stock of such straight-from-the-source natter on Paris's seamier sides . . . or the best beer halls in Bavaria . . . or the proper number of cups of tea to drink with an Istanbul rug dealer before you hit him with your final offer. Hundreds of thousands of world voyagers -- and a few folks in mud-spattered RVs -- are writing their hearts out on the Internet, creating an ever-growing library of travel reviews, anecdotes, tips and trash talk.
Guesthouse West, London. Leave your lingerie at home. At this Notting Hill newcomer, they'll deliver Agent Provocateur knickers (and anything else) to your door.
-- Daily Candy
Welcome to the blogosphere -- more specifically, the travel blogosphere. This virtual world is inhabited by earnestly helpful, sometimes suspicious, giddily ecstatic, rarely authoritative, relentlessly practical, gosh-darn funny, often boring, sensationally titillating, horrifyingly snobby, down-to-earth folks. In other words, it's just like the real world, except these people share their travel pontificating with the multitudes, not just their pals around the water cooler.
With Google listing 2,530,000 hits on a search of "travel blogs" (and that's 80,000 more than appeared just four days earlier), it's a given that their range of quality and organization is vast. Most are free-for-all group sites where thousands of users post their little rants from the road. The more organized group sites invite users to file under categories -- like restaurants, hotels, tourists traps, local customs -- that you can sort through using a search window. Others merely provide space for travelers to post any kind of rambles on their ambles. And some fall in the middle, letting you sort through long journal-style entries by destination.
You'll also run across individual sites built by tech-savvy, hard-core voyagers, typically posting updates from their long, multi-continent trips. Shopaholics can find their narrow interests catered to, as can gay tourists, architecture buffs, foodies, cruisers, ski nuts and others. Some pros are getting into the blog business, including a growing number of sites that run dispatches from guidebook writers and published by the likes of Lonely Planet and Fodor's.
But the great majority of bloggers are amateurs and, more often than not, training tells.