9.6 Online Discussion Groups

Usenet News

Newsgroups are great sources of information, but please do the basic research online or at the library. Posting vague requests may reveal interesting and unique information found nowhere else, but quite often you will not receive any response. Supply enough information to make an accurate answer possible (such as age, citizenship, whether you are travelling with children etc). If you request visa advice, post your citizenship.

"When posting questions or offering information, it is best to use a specific country-subject or city-subject as the first word in your title. This may mean multiple postings to cover your itinerary, but postings with general subjects, such as "Advice Wanted" or "Eurasia Travel" may get overlooked by most readers, and you will get few if any responses. And keep your geography straight when choosing which subtopic of a board to use: Istanbul is not in Asia, but Turkey is." <Larry Cotter>

Many enjoy the discussions, some of them about places they have never been and probably will never visit. Sometimes an answer to someone else's post answers a question that others either cannot quite formulate, or did not think important enough to post. Many questions are answered by e-mail, even though this is a general discussion forum. You may have to send a request to the original poster for a collection or summary of responses, but don't be surprised if they don't manage to send it.

People on the net, especially in popular tourist areas, may help you, but try not to use them as your personal travel agent. Some people will spend hours researching and answering. They appreciate and deserve a brief note to acknowledge that the information was received, and a thank you (which they rarely receive). If you really want to make them happy, let them know if you used their information, or what your experiences were. They have a genuine interest.

The newsgroups for discussing regional travel are:


The rec.travel.air newsgroup includes topics regarding the various airlines, special deals, and advice on travel routes. The rec.travel.marketplace newsgroup includes offers for airplane tickets, timeshares, and other travel-related items. The alt.travel.road-trip newsgroup generally discusses travel routes on the road. The newsgroup rec.travel.budget.backpack is the newest of groups and is one of the best places to meet RTW travellers. In the US and Canada, "backpacking" means hiking, trekking, and camping in the wilderness. In rest of the world, "backpacking" means long-term low-budget travelling using public transit (trains and buses) and staying in cheap accommodations such as hostels and guesthouses. This newsgroup allows us long-term travelers to help one another, sharing experiences and ideas much like we do on the road. It is not a forum for advertising and commercial interests.

The other category of newsgroups which may be beneficial in planning a trip are the soc.culture groups. This is not necessarily for travel, but can be used in acquiring knowledge about the culture of one's destination. Please restrain yourself from posting a request for information to the newsgroup before having read the FAQ and having spent a few days at least reading the traffic on the newsgroup to get a feel for appropriate topics. There is a great deal of information regarding opinions on current news items.

My favorite way to read newsgroups is to search for my subject of interest at Google Groups. It has archived most of the newsgroups on the net since 1994.

Don't forget to look at major travel company sites, such as Lonely Planet and Moon Handbooks listed in Online Travel Sites. They aren't that good unless they have a large readership. You also have to find one with readers that have a similar travel philosophy. Basically, they have co-opted the newsgroup concept, but the upside is that they are moderated. Many Usenet newsgroups suffer from flame wars and inappropriate posts such as commercial or off-topic posts, multiple posts, cross-posting to multiple newsgroups, spamming, and unsolicited advertisements are prohibited.

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