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Travellers' questions that don't fit anywhere else This is an opportunity to ask any question, and post any notice you wish that doesn't fit into one of the other sections.
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  #1  
Old 11 Apr 2011
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Your opinions on travel guide books. Lonely Planer, Rough Guide, Footprint etc !!

I think they're mostly a load of poorly researched terd. Good for a general info and highlights and having all the info in one place, but just not worth the weight in my pannier....

Enlighten me !!
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  #2  
Old 11 Apr 2011
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Variable; some Lonely Planet very good but go out of date quickly, which is not their fault really. Less impressed with Rough Guide. LP has saved me several times with its info and tips. On balance, I would take with me, even if just for the list of cheap accommodation and info about the regions in which one is traveling.
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Old 11 Apr 2011
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I feel compelled to look at them but for overlanding they are not good. For our trip we spent weeks porring over loenly planet books for Arg and Chile. Within the first day on the road our trip plan was out of the window and a good part of our resarch with it.

OK. I can't say they were a dead weight in the tankbag, but it is far better to let local advice as well as places like th HUBB to provide places of interest to visit.

They are helpful for finding a place to stay relatively quickly in a new town and they give you an idea of some of the places to visit in a country.
However, countless others have done the same and you end up another sheep in a flock of tourists which is not what we wanted from our trip...

Double-edged sword: handy in some cases but shouldn't be used a blow-by-blow itinerary for one's trip: better to let the trip carry on a bit on its current.
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Old 11 Apr 2011
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I have found that some of the information from Lonely Planet is pretty useful. However, rather than carry dead weight around, I just download the relevant information directly from their website and store it on my laptop, or print out whatever chapters I might need. It also ends up being a lot cheaper

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  #5  
Old 11 Apr 2011
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Damn. I spent ages writing on the other thread and I can't be bothered again.
So I'll do what many guide books do, especially it seems now the LP, and cut and paste what I wrote before - even though it might now be old and out of date and inaccurate in the first place -


I appreciate very well the difficulty in keeping a guide book up to date. I also appreciate the hard work and conscientious efforts made by some of the authors.

But when vast tracts are repeated (and I don't just mean the history sections) from one issue to the next, where information in the first was out of date or inaccurate and this is compounded as the years and issues pass, that an updated version has less information than before, has maps worse than before and seems to move away from it's original core market of budget and middle budget travellers - then I began to have my doubts as to the worth of having one at all.

I spent many years leading overland expeditions to, through and around Africa and Asia and invariably on every trip I'd have more than one argument with a group member over the information about something that I knew about from a personal visit not many weeks before and they believing the info in a brand new guide book they'd bought specially for the trip.
If I said a place is crap and some author said it was good, it may have been when they visited anything up to years before, it isn't now but because the info was so far out of date - and the prices often no where near what they are now - I'd end up with more hassle than a little.

Lay me out in a guide book a history of the place, give me some decent maps and a few (but not many) photos for flavour, point me in the direction of what there might be to see and places of note in the city/area (Embassies, Bus station, railway station, government buildings etc ) - but keep your opinions and editors picks to yourself thankyouverymuch.
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Old 11 Apr 2011
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The final nail for me was when the address for a number of Embassy's were totally incorrect....

I mean.. They're embassy's ! Pretty important, not exactly subtle and their new address's were well documented. (once I went on the internet to find out after walking aimlessly around for a whole day with a LP book)

Any "researcher" could of gone on the internet and found about the change or maybe gone to see them on their "ground work" trips.

These are the details a traveller really needs.

Like said, not what the editor likes to do on his one week business class holiday.
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  #7  
Old 11 Apr 2011
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Numerous examples of inaccuracies can be documented, some easily accounted for, some making you wonder if the author ever went there in the first place. But, and I may be showing my age or at least conforming to a stereotype, but there doesn't seem to be the standard of care that made those like the LP as popular as they were.
Were they popular because they were at one time a new thing or were they because they actually were quite accurate?

I think that there are a combination of factors -
we may have changed in that now we are less accepting of mistakes and demand more and more accuracy.
As that has happened the scales have been tipping the other way in that there is less time and effort and more 'it'll do' type attitude in compiling them.
The companies are trying to make more and more money by appealing to different types of traveller, so that the guides are becoming jack of all trades and masters of none.
I hesitate to fork out serious money on a guide book and then have to fork out more money for an update. It makes me think I should just buy the update and not the book in the first place. If that's of any use.
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Old 11 Apr 2011
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They are like a spare gas can, the majority of the time a pain to carry around but on ocassion can save you a bit of grief.
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  #9  
Old 12 Apr 2011
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I posted my opinions on guide books a couple of years back and was met with a flame wall of "i use lonely planet so how dare you think they are crap! " responses.

Nothing has changed for me. I still think they are not only crap and heavy and bulky, but they significantly detract from the adventure and discovery elements of travel. On top of that, they cut down on your interactions with locals. They are a security blanket, that provides security at the expense of adventure. That is a fair tradeoff for many people but if you ask my opinion, they are a negative influence. Yes people can have great adventures with guide books but they probably would have had bigger better adventures without them.

So to answer your question Ted, you are not missing anything. . . You are spot on.
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  #10  
Old 12 Apr 2011
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The locals and touts are well aware of the contents of the guides and use that knowledge to subvert trip planning. eg. the duplication of hotel names that are recommended.
Some people just holiday, so these guides suffice as time constraints for many.
But guides do change the local landscape. We love popular destinations to death. I would rather be in a small quiet temple, remote and melancholy than many popular and impressive tourist attractions.
Guides are travellers training wheels scary when you fist leave them behind, but once off....
There have been times when I'd give my right arm for one, but that was when I backpacked. Since I started biking these times are rare, as any time I hit a major town I just drove around till the tourists got thicker and bobs your mothers brother. Biking also allows you to peruse many hotels at leisure so no need for a guide.
Local bikers , if you take the trouble to find them, will show you their country for the enjoyment of riding and your company.
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Old 12 Apr 2011
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I use guidebooks for one reason only--to figure out what towns I might like to visit; it is pretty hard to tell from a dot on map if a town is a soul-less industrial dump, an architectural gem, a cheesy tourist trap, etc. The trouble with asking locals about stuff like this is that we probably share different tastes in how to spend our time.

Once I'm in a town I usually pick the first decent hotel I find with parking, and walk around to find a place to eat.

I have to say that I've been using guidebooks a bit more now that they are published in Kindle format, as you can carry as many as you want without extra weight. That said, using them more has not really brought any extra benefit. I think guidebooks are probably more useful to backpackers, who have to schlep around town looking for hotels, etc., whereas on a motorcycle it is much easier to do this.
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Old 12 Apr 2011
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I use them.
Before I enter a country I check the highlights and mark some of them on my map. I also like to get some knowledge about the history and people of the countries I visit. The city-maps can be useful.

Some parts, like addresses places to sleep etc get outdated but (for me) the most important facts are usually more static.

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  #13  
Old 12 Apr 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by *Touring Ted* View Post
I think they're mostly a load of poorly researched terd. Good for a general info and highlights and having all the info in one place, but just not worth the weight in my pannier....

Enlighten me !!
Well, you said it yourself :-))) LP seems to get worse with every new edition. Yes, they are poorly researched, maps are often wrong, and they tend to lead you to places with mostly other travelers (which can be nice at times). Other guide books are not much better. Surprised? Don't be: Do Travel Writers Go To Hell? by Thomas Kohnstamm

With all that being said, they have a place to get some basic information and a feel for a country. Nowadays I just buy the chapters I need as PDF files. No need to buy the fluff chapters and it is easy to print a map. No weight to carry.
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  #14  
Old 12 Apr 2011
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Maybe the internet is sounding the death knell for an annually "updated" guide?

The most useful I've used is the DK range because of the pictures! Flick open at random page, find a nice pic of something you like, off you go!

As for the rest, the important stuff should be the first thing that should be correct, so the last thing to be checked before off to the printers. Mr Teds comment on Embassies is a bit shocking really! It is only a guide fair enough, but if it lists hospitals for instance would you bother to check the info yourself? If that sort of thing can't be kept current it shouldn't be in there.

Maybe there is a market for a thick guide to the country and all its aspects, in detail, for coffee table inspiration and reading once there, but then ALL changable stuff is from the net for a subscription perhaps? So there is loads more space for all of those good hotels and must sees, with user ratings?

That doesn't get the publisher £20 a year though.

The above may exist already, but so far I mostly buy the guide, cart it round for the trip, and read a bit 6 months later, so I'm not too fussed really

Jason

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Old 12 Apr 2011
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After picking up the LP guide to Vietnam at a local bookstore, it basically stated that the country is full of dodgy roads, corrupt police and brothels....and I need no more encouragement than that to go!!!
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