The Basics of Travel Writing
a) City magazines (for example in-madrid.com)
b) Websites (selection): esmadrid.com/ and gomadrid.com/ and aboutmadrid.com/
c) Word of mouth
d) Walking around (for bars, shops etc.)
If you need to use public transportation, you can use the journey planner on metromadrid.es
Take a notebook with you wherever you go and use it to make notes about the things you are
reviewing. When reviewing a restaurant, for example, write down its name and the foods you tried, as
well as details about its location, opening times, interior, service, price range, the dishes, whether you
liked the food you had, and if you enjoyed the experience as a whole. This information will help you
formulate a review. Your notes do not have to be complete sentences. A few words on everything is
often enough to help you recall the experience later.
If you can’t take notes during your trip, write them down as soon as you can afterwards. Otherwise
you will have forgotten everything a couple of hours later, even though this will seem highly unlikely
to you while you are still at the sight/restaurant etc.
What is a travel review/guidebook article?
A travel review should do four things:
1. Give the reader all essential facts, i.e. tell them everything they need to know and would want
to know about the place you are reviewing (e.g. what is it? What does it have to offer?)
2. Describe the experience (sight etc.) further and capture it vividly and in an engaging manner.
(Ask yourself what it is like and convey your own observations and impressions as engagingly
and vividly as you can.)
3. Evaluate the experience. Examples: Is the museum worth visiting or not? Is the restaurant
equipped to deal with large families? Don’t forget to always give a reason for your verdict.
4. Include all the relevant practical information that the reader needs to visit the reviewed place
(address, public transport, opening times etc.)
And never forget: A review should as a bare minimum be informative. But a good review will also be
entertaining and engaging.
Tips on style
(NB: Please note that the following article deals with travel writing in general and not just with
guidebooks and reviews. Consequently not everything is necessarily applicable to your project)
How To Write the Perfect Travel Article
By Martin Li
Travel writing is part reporting, part diary and part providing traveler information. Travel writers
create their art using a multitude of different styles and techniques but the best stories generally share
certain characteristics, notably:
1) Clear writing style, without affectation, used by a writer who knows the point of the story, gets to it
quickly and gets it across to the reader strongly and with brevity and clarity.
2) Strong sense of the writer’s personality, ideally demonstrating intelligence, wit and style.
3) Use of the writer’s personal experiences, other anecdotes and quotations to add life to the piece.
4) Vivid reporting - the ability of the writer to convey to readers, using as many of the senses as
possible, the travel experience through the use of words alone.
5) High literary quality and the accurate use of grammar and syntax.
6) Meaty, practical and accurate information that is useful to the reader.
Give your story a fresh point of view and, if at all possible, cover some out-of-the-ordinary subject
matter. Be creative in your writing. Strive for the best and strongest use of English and the most
original and powerful metaphors and similes.
Travel writing should mostly have a light, bright, lively and fun tone. Travel, the process of leaving
the familiar to go to the foreign and unfamiliar, is often rich in comedy and comical events.
Incorporate comedy into your writing where appropriate and don’t be afraid to make your readers
laugh. Also, don’t be afraid to incorporate mishaps into your pieces. These can be just as worth
reading about, maybe more so, particularly if they also incorporate an element of comedy or humor.
Travel writing must blend your personal observations, descriptions and commentary with practical
information that is useful to your readers. The precise balance depends on the outlet you are aiming
your story at but rarely should a good travel piece comprise more facts than description. Two-thirds or
even three-quarters colorful description to one-third or one-quarter facts would be a reasonable
guideline to start from.
Think Like Your Reader
You need to develop as clear an impression as possible of what readers of the publications you are
targeting want to read, their travel aspirations, how they like articles written and what information they
want to know. You want to be able to think like your reader. Only then will you be able to identify
how you can help your reader. Only then should you start writing your article.
How to structure a review
You can structure your review/article as a narrative or in a non-narrative way.
Example of a narrative structure: Write about a restaurant by describing your experiences
chronologically from the time you entered it until the moment you left.
Example of a non-narrative structure: Brief introduction (what, where etc.); description of content
(what do you get to see) - organized by topic (e.g. 1st
floor, etc.); assessment of value;
comparison with other similar places; conclusion.
Some Do’s and Don’ts
Give examples! When reviewing a museum, for example, you should list, and maybe even describe,
some of the items on display (at least one or two).
Don’t go on for too long: Reviews that are short and to-the-point are more effective than long ones.
Don’t be too negative! If you don’t like something, just make clear that it’s not worth visiting.
Don’t write in the first person. Generalize if you want to include personal observations or experiences
(example: “the waiting staff can seem a bit stressed at times”).
If you are writing for the Web, write in shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs than you would for a
print publication. Reading extended prose on a computer screen is not easy.
Provide only accurate and up-to-date information in your review. Double-check your facts, names,
dates and any other relevant information before writing your piece.
Don’t review ‘one-offs’ – i.e. events that will never be repeated, or will reappear only very
sporadically such as a particular party or pop-concert.
Add pictures to your review (ideally submit two for each review that you write.) But make sure they
are your own and you are not violating any copyright laws.
Don’t use clichés or journalese (e.g. East meets West, German efficiency, etc.)
Do some background research about everything you review.
The Washington Post: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW, Washington, DC 20024 | 202-488-0400,202-488-0427
Neighborhood: The Mall Metro: Smithsonian (Blue, Orange lines) Type: History Museum Hours:
Daily 10 am-5:20 pm Admission: Free
While other museums celebrate the best of the past, the Holocaust Museum memorializes one of
humanity's worst atrocities. The museum, located a short walk from the Washington Monument, is
dedicated to informing Americans about the history of the persecution and murder of six million Jews,
and millions of other victims, by the Nazis from 1933 to 1945.
It is a memorable confrontation with one of history's most gruesome chapters. Built in 1993, the
Holocaust Memorial has dramatic exhibitions and a beautiful space for telling its appalling story.
The museum's permanent exhibition spans three floors and recounts the rise of Nazism and the stories
of millions of Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals killed by the Nazis. Passes to enter this exhibition are
required and are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis; there may be a short wait for entry.
The New York Times: Zafra
At Maricel Presilla’s ultra-casual pan-Latin restaurant, foodies over from Manhattan sit elbow-to-
elbow with workers from the hospital down the street and dig into stellar versions of homey dishes
like Cuban-style roast pork, featherlight empanadas, and shrimp in a complex red mole sauce. It’s
never even close to expensive, but if you’re looking for one of the best bargains in this part of the
country, show up during the week before 6 p.m. and get a three-course dinner, complete with rice and
black bean soup, for $18. 301 Willow Ave., Hoboken, NJ (201-610-980)
Example for a walking tour review on Berlin-Neukölln (excerpt): “Taking a gentle stroll along Karl
Marx Strasse, there are a selection of shops and then you come to the cultural centre of Neukölln. The
old cinema 'Passage Kino' and the Neukölln Theatre have adjoining cafes- Hofperle and Cafe Rix
respectively. The clientele is arty, with local artists' paintings adorning the walls. Both cafes have
plentiful breakfasts plus Hofperledoes a bargain business lunch around 5.50 Euro- 3 freshly made
courses, a different option every day. If you slip out of the back of Hofperle, you find yourself on
Richardstrasse, home to a 70s style Italian called Pulcinella. The prices are unbelievably cheap, main
courses only 4 euro and the coffee potent.”