Ever since I started backpacking, I’ve never used the travel bible that most backpackers couldn’t live without.  For those who are not familiar with the travel bible, Lonely Planet is the so called travel bible of backpackers.  Lonely Planet is a book guide on travels giving tips from places to eat, where to hang out, visit, accommodations, maps, and a lot more.  My old friend and my first travel buddy Timon used to have one borrowed from his mate when we were traveling Southeast Asia, although I read it myself, we never get to end up eating, staying to the hostels recommended from the book.  Timon reads it a lot, I didn’t.

Not even when I started traveling solo, bunch of book sellers in Ho Chi Minh City gets a good sale from backpackers because they are selling the photocopied version in a very cheap price.  I saw them sell like hotcakes over there.  I don’t know why backpackers are so dependent on the “Travel Bible” and sometimes become stupid to actually start a debate with the owners about the price (when they should know that there is a process time between what is written on that book from when it was researched, edited, up until its publication), definitely the price from when it was researched ’til the present time he was inquiring in front of the actual place have changed.  It is called guide books to guide you and not a formula book that gives you a formula or specific voodoo spells that makes anything written on it NOT to change at all(I think guide books should have disclaimers that they don’t intend to produce stupid clients for the advertised businesses). I don’t see it practical… Why?  Here are my reasons…

  • Updated details aren’t really that updated.  Like I said, when the researcher traveled himself to get all those information and the whole process of publication, time is in between those processes.  Therefore, it is not as accurate as it is when it comes to pricing and probably even the address or name of the business.
  • Prices aren’t the same. You think the tourism entrepreneurs are dumb not to find out that they are being advertised on the travel bible? Hell no.  When they find out they are advertised, they can change prices knowing that they have a market coming brought to them by the guide book.  Prices will vary from there, believe me.
  • Crowded.  Because the place is advertised on that book, they are always packed (a little if its not peak) getting your relaxation moments spoiled because of the noise and the quality that due to the quantity of customers at the same time will suffer as they try hard to mass produce(profit reasons, of course).
  • It’s not practical. I always travel on a budget, the cheapest way possible and buying a book like that will take a chunk off my budget, that seems impractical to me.  Even if you say, you bought it so cheap in HCMC, I think I can have a more updated information online from social networks and blogs available for free.  Plus I don’t want to carry a huge book around and add weight to my backpack.
  • Best places are mostly aren’t advertised.  Most great hostels and food places I’ve been and ate in aren’t found in the guide books.  Businesses that are just starting are not on the book yet have competitive prices and services to compete for those who are published to spread the word.
  • Free alternatives.  I can search best places, maps, information from other resources like internet and asking fellow travelers or locals for suggestions or directions to where I need to go.  Of course, without carrying a bulky book and spending to buy it. I don’t even know if I’ll carry one even if it’s free.

I guess I am defying the travel bible while traveling but I am not closing my doors to it.  Maybe, I would need it when I am in a place where internet is not accessible or English is impossible to ask for directions or maybe I am in the middle of the desert.  My point is, we as travelers should not depend on it, use it as what it was made for, a guide and not embarrass yourself to be stupid enough debating on a slight price change (I could understand if it’s wayyy higher, go debate! but my stand is just to say no and walk away, there’s a lot of other places to go to).

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7 thoughts on “Defying Travel Bible When Traveling

  1. Of course I have heard of Lonely Planet, but not being a backpacker I wouldn’t know what good the book does or doesn’t. Of course, prices change faster than books can be updated and good recommendations can turn bad very quickly. Asking the locals and, where possible, perusing the internet is still the best. Add to its flexibility and intuition and never forget that travel is first and foremost an adventure.

  2. I usually just stick with internet research. If I was backpacking fulltime and didn’t have regular internet access, maybe I would try Lonely Planet, but I think these guidebooks are losing some influence.

  3. I also read the books of Lonely Planet esp sa Southeast Asia. But you are right, it is not that practical. I only read the history and the must-see places in that place. And the rest, its for me to explore… 🙂

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