1. CIA World Factbook
The Factbook contains an encyclopedia’s worth of information and statistics on 267 countries, regions and territories laid out for quick perusal. It includes not just history but also current events that are impacting the area, cultural information, and economics. The maps and flags are just cool.
2. Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages
The Newseum is a 250,000-square-foot museum of news on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC that you can visit on your next trip, but its website features the front pages of 800 newspapers worldwide which you can visit any time. The front pages give you a peak into real life at your next destination.
3. Google Translate
Learn to say please, thank you, hello and goodbye in the local dialect before you go and you’ll be surprised how far that will take you. Test out some key phrases you might need like “where’s the bathroom?” or “do you have wine?”
Shoutcast lets you listen to local talk, music, sports and community radio stations around the world. It’s a great way to experience the local flavor before you even pull out your passport. It’s also a great way to bring back some of the excitement from your last trip when you’re having a less than stellar day.
A little wiki-surfing will give you some key conversation starters at your destination and will help make your wanderings more enlightening.