TO TRAVEL IS TO DISCOVER THAT EVERYONE IS WRONG ABOUT OTHER COUNTRIES
A L D O U S H U X L E Y
There is a lot of disagreement about the necessity of reading guide books before going on a trip. Many say that the true nature of travel is the coincidental discovery, stumbling on hidden jewels, and that essentially travel is a purely personal experience and no-one can tell you what the best of anything is because of the pure subjectivity of what constitutes "the best". I completely understand and agree with these opinions, however I don't think it's quite so clear cut. Reading about the basics of a country will help you ease into a new culture more easily and get around easily avoidable faux-pas.
Doing some leg-work before your trip will also help you narrow down the things you think you may enjoy or not, what experiences you want to prioritize during your visit. This is especially true when we don't have the luxury of spending weeks, months, or years in a place, or having the assistance of an insider. I am in no means saying that you need to plan your exact itinerary day by day or minute by minute, but having the heads up will help you notice things, and appreciate what you see. Make a list of things you have to do, but leave flexibility to stray and lose yourself.
Regardless of how little or how much preparation you put into your trips before leaving, there are some things that you just need to know. Things pertaining to health, safety, money, documentation and electrical requirements are essential to know in advance.
These are by no means itineraries that you should follow to a T, or a checklist of all the things you "have to" do, they are just suggestions, tips and recommendations from personal experiences (mine or others'). As they say, "learn from other people's mistakes".
Reading guide after guide is definitely not everyone's cup of tea, and often, it can take away some of the romance of traveling. It's not all about knowledge, but also a state of mind and, many times, novels, movies and music can inspire you more than hard facts.