San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

‘Just Go’ With Free Travel Guides

Leaving paperback guidebooks in the past, Just Go Travel Guides is part of a growing cadre of online travel information Web sites. Catering to an international, tech-savvy generation of “new travelers,” Just Go delivers free, downloadable travel information from Internet to iPod, iPod touch, iPhone or cell phones, as well as slim, printable PDF guides in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

While combining several common features of travel Web sites, including regionspecific listings and searchable country maps, Just Go distinguishes itself with its unique, free and downloadable approach.

Launched in January 2008, Just Go was founded by Lagos, Portugal-based Belgian entrepreneur Peter Huyse, 40, who was repeatedly disappointed by out-of-date guidebook information on a three-month trip through Asia. He decided to create an online alternative to the inconsistent information found in print. In just over a year, Just Go has grown to employ workers in Portugal, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Australia, France, the United Kingdom and India.

Just Go challenges travelers to eschew the travel agency in favor of a flexible and self-sufficient style of trip planning. The site provides contact information for thousands of hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, spas and attractions, which are monitored and updated by Just Go’s call center in Bolivia.

Any traveler with a do-it-yourself mentality and an Internet connection can search for places to eat, sleep, drink or play in 14 Latin American countries. So far, the guides cover Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Just Go’s next frontier is Asia, Huyse says.

The Web site can be browsed by country or city, but lacks the kind of interactive maps with the specificity of Yahoo or Google. Each section opens with a brief description of the region and directions on how to get there. A range of regions and cities are covered in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

The one- to four-star listing appears far too generous in doling out stars. Because Just Go doesn’t discriminate on any grounds in its listings, including businesses big and small, it is up to the traveler to determine whether the attraction lives up to its stars.

The descriptions, through often repetitive and generic, provide basic contact information, prices and links to Web sites so users can book their own reservations.

Although Just Go is still working out the kinks in its system, the Web site and guides are evolving to fit users’ needs while they continue to expand their listings. Huyse is producing the first of a series of Just Go video travel guides, which will eventually be downloadable from the site as well. Just Go is currently looking for local partners in Costa Rica and Nicaragua for their listings, especially businesses that publish their services online.

With airline baggage restrictions on the rise, online travel guide users can save precious packing space, avoiding the conspicuous appendage of the traditional bulky guidebook. Although there may be no such thing as a free lunch, there does appear to be such a thing as a free digital travel guide.

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