What's a hit with hip young travelers? Fold-up maps

Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:04am EST
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By Teddy Nykiel

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - In a world of iPads, GPS and digital technology at your fingertips, one international tourism organization has discovered that few things beat the traditional fold-up map.

USE-IT, a non-profit group that traces its roots back to 1970s Denmark, is an independent maker of free and funky city guides aimed at students and other young travelers, and it's developing a cult following.

Designed and written by local artists and contributors, the colorful, individual maps are now produced in 23 cities across 14 European countries, with another two dozen cities lining up to take part in coming months.

The guides, covered in sharp commentary and doodle-like markings, scream youth and endeavor to point users to the hidden treats of otherwise familiar cities.

"It shows places you don't see in the city guides you can buy," said Olivier Bourdon, a 23-year-old exchange student from Montreal visiting Brussels with his girlfriend, Raphaelle Paquette. "When you travel, you want to see what is local."

At the USE-IT office in Brussels, where maps can be picked up free of charge, Bourdon and Paquette spent 20 minutes chatting to a young volunteer who circled their map with a string of extra destinations to explore.

The couple, bundled up in heavy coats against the cold and wearing near-matching thick-rimmed glasses, have plans to travel throughout Europe during their exchange. Guides for cities from Vienna to Porto are scattered around the USE-IT office.

The maps are pre-marked with the locations of hostels, restaurants, bars and other unique attractions. On the map for Bruges, in northern Belgium, there are "places to kiss" and on the Ghent one, all of the graffiti-ed walls are marked.   Continued...

A woman covers her face with a city map in reaction to the photographer, in the central Andalusian capital of Seville January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo