How often do you see young backpackers travelling around with a lonely planet guidebook in their hands? How often do you see young backpackers reading a few excerpts and extracts from the book whilst enjoying a cup of coffee or beer at a restaurant?… and actually follow all the recommendations of Lonely planet? How many times can you spot couples or singles taking a stroll down Khao San road, Bangkok with a lonely planet book in their hands whilst haggling for a good price to the tuk-tuk driver? The answer is far too many….
It is a general belief that for the convenience and safety of young travellers abroad to each carry a lonely planet guidebook to their destinations. Whether this eases the stress of arrival at the new foreign airport and to seek sight-seeing places or it’s just another cool toy to possess just like you see with other backpackers – more of a trend, the question rises as to whether this ‘Mainstream’ guide-book is a necessity in our travels.
Whilst we are off and abroad in a different country, Lonely planet books not only puts our mind at ease but also offers us that sense of security; that we will for sure find a hotel/motel/guest-house at any given destination. What it doesn’t tell you is that not all the information contained within is accurate.
As a primary example, Lonely planet guidebooks are aimed for the budget backpackers. But with recommended hotels listed and written within the pages, we are looking at figures at least four or five times higher than the average backpacker price budget. Tim, one of my travelling companions for 3 months had just about had it with the Lonely planet guidebook itself. The scenario came as follows:
Tim wanted to visit Bali, Indonesia but wasn’t too sure of where to find budget guesthouses and hotels. So he resorted to the Lonely planet guidebook. He had his eyes set on one budget hotel in Bali for about $6 USD a night. He was determined to stay at this hotel for the duration of his time in Bali. 2 days later, he caught the plane to Bali, haggled down a taxi driver to take him to this address. At the reception, he kindly asked how much for 1 night stay at this hotel.
Reception: $12 USD a night sir.
Tim: Uh, I thought it was only $6 USD a night.
Reception: No sir, it is $12 USD a night.
Tim: But it is advertised on the Lonely planet guidebook… actually it says here… only $6 USD a night.
*Points to the page*
Reception: Sir, I’m sorry to inform you but that is incorrect. We here charge $12 USD.
Tim: But this Lonely planet book is 2010! It is the latest. It’s not high season right now?
Reception: Not high season but it has always been this price. $12 USD.
Reception: $12 USD for everyone. No special price, no promotion.
Tim: Okay. Thank you very much.
In this scenario, we have just witnessed the epitome of false inaccurate information. I have a feeling that some of these recommendations and guides are poorly researched, probably given by a person driving their cars along rather than actually taking the ‘hard yard’ by walking to each hotel and inquiring about pricing.
To me the Lonely planet guidebook is like a bible. You either believe in it or you don’t. Having witnessed this scenario and a few others (mind you…), I’ve already made my decision as to whether this book is a necessity for young travellers. I hold much respect for backpackers who use only a rough guide book and actually sort these places out themselves by doing the extra mile in ‘real’ backpacking style. That is, with a backpack on their back, spend at least a few hours going from hotel to hotel in finding a hotel/hostel/guesthouse that offers value for money or anything within their budget and location.
What are your thoughts? Is lonely planet guidebook a requirement for travelling?