Lonely Planeteers?

  • Has anybody ever taken off on an epic trek with only these books as their guide? Where did you go? Was the book generally accurate?

I know someone who works for Lonely Planet, it’s a Melbourne based company.

They bring out new updated guides for most countries every three or four years, so it’s as accurate as it can be all things considered. Most are compiled by a single seasoned traveller, too.

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Pro: they’re generally accurate, only ex-pats and Peace Corps volunteers have any problems with 'em…

Con: they encourage the McDonalds-ization of remote, pristine places they oughtn’t to be reporting on without attempting to impress on their readers the realization that they’re overseas: “…for really good pizza available in BugaBuga…” “…this is a place run by two Swiss leather aficionados who also speak English…” etc, etc ad nauseam. You can’t go anywhere on the LP trail that hasn’t been infected with locals trying to cater to your foreign desires.

One more “Grand Opening: Ugluk’s Western stile fud”, or one more freaking Eurotrash tourist saying “Ya, you must have yoghurt, I am a vegetarian ! [in highland Vietnam” - or worse, “the book sez five pesos and fifty centavos… I vill not be ripped off at six” and somebody oughta hold LP responsible.

For those who don’t bother with LP, the publication within of some locale or other is a death knell.

O le mea a tamaali’i fa’asala, a o le mea a tufanua fa’alumaina.

My complaint: it’s a fact of life that if you want to enjoy the best that a country has to offer, you have to be willing to fork over a bit of cash. LP promotes a backpacker’s eye of the world, and neglects (or belittles) any experience in a country that would cost over US$20 a day. In terms of information, LP is pretty good, but I have a problem with the underlying philosophy sometimes.

Hong Kong, for example–in that city, you GOTTA have cash to have a good time; otherwise, there’s hardly any reason to go. Unless you’re there for the first time and the Chungking-Mansions-hostel-from-hell experience still counts as a novel adventure for you. You’ll want to spend a bit of dough, however, once you’ve been to the Peak and to Aberdeen and have ridden the Star Ferry for the 200th freaking time.


Correct, Reilly… sorta the LP philosophy appears to be visit an exotic place with the least impact on your wallet, but go ahead and impact their culture, sensibilities, stiff the natives, etc…

(although they would claim to be neutral, much the way Rush Limbaugh claims to be an entertainer, not a politico…)

Does the book have a United States version? Maybe it would be cool to check into for my Road Trip coming up…

Yer pal,

      • I don’t mean to focus on this particular series of book. I’m just wonderng if anyone here has taken such a trip. - MC

I took the LP guide and another one with me to tour SE Asia, and got good info. from them. BTW, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in 89-91 and I knew all the great, out-of-the- way places that tourists don’t find in Jamaica. If you are planning to visit a country that has Peace Corps there, get in touch with the PC office (you can call the 800 number in Wash. D.C. to find out the address of the main office in country). Write a letter about your vacation plans to be printed in the in-country volunteer newsletter. Many volunteers in remote areas would probably be happy to put you up, show you around, etc., especially in return for things like chocolate, etc. Ask em what they want you to bring for them.

The LP people wrote guidebooks to backward places around the world. By bringing in tourists, they were the first to bring much of the outside world to these backwaters, thereby destroying anything that was unique.

I’ve used/seen Lonely Planet guides for most of the world. I’m sure there are many, many guides for the US (as they produce city guides too).

Ones I’ve seen recently (i.e. 97/98/99 editions)…

London (as a Brit I found this quite funny)
UK (ditto)
Western Europe
Prague (just got back from the Czech Republic last week - the guide was pretty accurate)
Australia (I lived off this guide for a year or so as I backpacked my way round the country - and it was pretty damn handy)

As for the charges of exploiting the countries/cultures, I think that’s not entirely unjustified - although in fairness they do point out things you might be wise not to do (such as buying booze for Northern Territory aborigines or climbing Uluru) in order to respect local customs.

You can check them out at http://www.lonelyplanet.com

The logistics of getting from point A to point B are accurate enough, and the places-to-stay info is usually reasonable, but:

Just to be clear, not nearly enuff’. The occasional mention (half a sentence in the third chapter about appropriate dress ?, that type of thing…) is trivial. Besides, revising, year after year, the “places to eat” list & accentuating the Western food establishments is propelling the issue, not helping things any.

The “We just report what’s there” b.s. just doesn’t wash (like most LP users), and is as facile and irresponsible an excuse as them Idaho printshops showing how to make fertilizer bombs “for informational purposes only”.

O le mea a tamaali’i fa’asala, a o le mea a tufanua fa’alumaina.


I think I agree in general with what you say but - what do you expect? Maybe I’m just cynical, but I reckon that a travel guide that tells you where to find the familiar things (or compromises on the minimum you have to do not to offend locals) will sell more than an honest travel guide that truthfully lets you know what’s good and what’s not. If Lonely Planet is aimed (primarily) at Western English-speaking backpackers, and aims to make a profit from its books, then it’s hardly surprising that it says what it does.

To a certain degree, surely all travelling to a different culture involves influencing it/affecting it in one way or another? I’m not saying that that’s right or good, just that to expect any different from a profit-making venture is a bit unrealistic. If you’re trying to sell to a particular market of traveller then you have to appeal to the common denominators that they understand.

In the end, I don’t disagree with the accusation, but I think that expecting anything more from a large publishing organisation isn’t going to happen.

[ X marks the spot ]

True enough, Matt. My fear & loathing is directed at’em because they claim to be ethical about the whole thing. Frommer’s (or whatever) makes no such claim, si I guess I’m reacting to their opprobrious, abysmal hypocrisy.

No more ranting. As to the OP, sorry I went off track if indeed you were curious about epic voyages travelling with such books - but that would probably be a question better put in MPSIMS ? For the record, yeah, done it alot - but the books I’d brought along had to do with the culture, language, etc… when I bothered to bring a tour book, it was secondary. I would rather plan a trip to the Amazon reading Chico Mendes’ biography and a good nature book than trust LP to tell me where to go. Maybe “how to”, in a limited fashion.

'Nuff said [apologetically stepping off soapbox].

Well I spent last summer doing the backpacker thing in Europe with my handy rick Steves best of Europe and my not-quite-so-handy Let’s Go Europe. It’s the best (the only?) way to travel…while the tour buses of Americans let the tourists out for their fifteen minutes of the Eiffel Tower we were picnicing on the Champs Du Mars playing frisbee with the locals…If anyone is planning on doing the backpack thing talk to me…some people don’t quite get it (I saw a sign on a train compartment once that said “under 35 year old English speaking Eurailers only”…but for the most part it is the way…so many people (read: Americans) see the world as their own personal Disneyland…how can they call that traveling…enough ranting for now

IMO, all the guides tend to be pretty much the same. They all have similar information. I had a Let’s Go guide to Israel when I was living there, and it was pretty handy, but I would check out other guides when I happened to be in the bookstore, and they all said the same sort of things. (I liked the Let’s Go best for personal reasons, like that it wasn’t written in this “Christians, this is what JEWS are like!” way that other guides, ESPECIALLY Lonely Planet were.)

My recommendation would be to just go with the guide that has the writing style you most prefer reading.

BTW, Satan, there are definitely guides for the U.S. When I would get homesick in Israel, I would often go to bookshops and read the U.S. or California guides and cheer myself up with descriptions of home. Now I read my Israel guide sadly.


“You couldn’t fool your mother on the foolingest day of your life if you had an electrified fooling machine.”

Did two trips with Lonely Planet as my guide, Chile and Europe. They’re more useful for the nuts-and-bolts info needed for traveling, such as where to stay cheaply, health, food, etc. Their info on obvious tourist sites is no better or worse than you’d find elsewhere, though they do point out some things off the beaten path. One problem with these books, however, is that when they mention something–a clean, inexpensive hotel, a bizarre attraction, a cheap ferry–those same hotels, attractions, and ferries are overrun with other travelers bearing the same book you have.

I traveled Europe by myself for a month and though I didn’t have a Lonely Planet Guide almost every American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealander did. (and I’m not calling them ozzi’s or kiwi’s and I don’t care what you do to me)
Still…in the end I should have forked over the quid.