We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

The first place to start for great information

Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
36,915 posts
11 reviews
Save Topic
The first place to start for great information

When you're looking for things to do and see in a town you've never visited before, your guidebook is, of course, a good starting point.

But a very under-utilized, and under-appreciated source is the town or region's office of tourism.

These little offices, located in nearly every town of any size, exist solely to help you enjoy visiting their town/region.

They'll have racks and racks of literature and information, where you can find restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions, historic sites, walking trails, bicycle or canoe rentals, movie theatres - a gold mine of local information.

There are always a few bad apples, but these offices are usually staffed by friendly people who *want* you to enjoy their town -- and a lot of them speak English - anywhere from enough to struggle through a conversation to downright fluent.

So how to find them?

They're usually in the centre of the town - look for a lower-case letter "i" -- it will usually say "office de tourisme" -- usually brown or blue.

Bigger towns and cities will have an office in the train station and possibly at the airport.

And on the web? Google "office de tourisme" and the name of the place -- it will be in the top results. Many will have an English-language option, or you can use Google Translate to get you through it.

MD
Level Contributor
724 posts
2 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: The first place to start for great information

Thanks for this, Sunshine. In your experience, how common is it for OTs to offer wifi these days?

Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
36,915 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: The first place to start for great information

I have no idea - I've never looked.

England, United...
Level Contributor
3,733 posts
23 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: The first place to start for great information

I too agree that the tourist offices, found even in some small villages, are a goldmine of information. In particular, they usually have really helpful local paper maps which show local gems that you wouldn't find in any guidebook, and which are often not even published on their websites. I have a pile of these which I treasure and take back on my next trips.

They are also very helpful with seemingly mundane but very necesssary information - like where are the nearest public toilets, when are the shops open, where is the nearest petrol station or picnic area, etc. I'm sure most of them would also know if and where you can get wifi.

London, UK
Level Contributor
7,040 posts
209 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: The first place to start for great information

Thanks for starting this Sunshine, and I hope it keeps well up the listing. I think 3 times in the last day or so I have referred enqirers to a Tourist Office.

Like Celestine, I usually make the OT almost my first port of call in a town in order to obtain a Plan de Ville. As well as providing information, they can often make bookings for events and accommodation and some arrange walking tours, etc which are very good value.

Bradford, Yorkshire
Level Contributor
575 posts
49 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: The first place to start for great information

The office of tourism is always my first call in a town (or maybe the second if a cafe or restaurant beckons). Masses of info about the town, local area, and the Region is available, plus of course the 'plan de la ville' town map.

Be aware though that these are french offices of tourism, so expect most to be closed for a couple of hours at lunchtime!

Loire Valley
Level Contributor
6,985 posts
7 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: The first place to start for great information

Tourism offices are very unlikely to offer any sort of wi-fi. I don't know of any that do.

Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
36,915 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: The first place to start for great information

That's okay, though -- gives you a chance to answer the call of the cafe across the square!

Paris, France
Level Contributor
11,994 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: The first place to start for great information

Excellent point Sunshine and one that I often repeat over and over. I think a large number of questions on the forum could be answered by visiting a tourist office website. I've lost count of how many times I've googled a tourist office website to answer someone's question. An additional point to make would be that each town's tourist office website often has info about all the attractions in the surrounding area. They are aware that visitors to their town are also visitors to the region so they try to have all the info you could use to plan a vacation in their environs. There are also the regional/departmental tourist office websites as well, not just the ones for individual towns.

And of course, visiting the tourist office in person is the first thing anyone should do when visiting a place. When I'm just cruising around exploring I look for the tourist office in every town I drive through and gather as much literature as possible. Celestina is absolutely right that a lot of the stuff you'll find in the tourist office isn't in a guidebook and often it's not on the internet either. I've got several shelves full of printed literature I've gathered from tourist offices that lie within about an hours train ride from Paris.

Paris, France
Level Contributor
11,994 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: The first place to start for great information

Bumping for a new day.

Berkshire, United...
Destination Expert
for Avignon
Level Contributor
13,239 posts
137 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: The first place to start for great information

I also frequent tourist offices in person and online - as some of you have already mentioned, i glean some info there for posters, and usually refer them to the TO link.

Re wifi, our small town TO offers wifi for free and it's also available free at the mediatheque, but that has more restricted opening hours.

An excellent thread, Sunshine.

Edited: 07 May 2012, 13:00