Lonely Planet – always a solid travel resource for study abroad students
I’ve heard from many people that it isn’t worth it, that it’s a waste of money: they’re out-dated, they’re heavy, they list sites that are closed, why a book when we have the internet, etc. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion and all of those things may be true, you won’t always have access to the internet, it’s paper i.e. not that heavy, and yes, it’s not updated every year which just means it should be used as a great reference book and not necessarily your sole travel bible. Here are 10 reasons why I think every study abroad student should get a Lonely Planet country guide.
1. Quality Content
Lonely Planet guide authors are professional writers and journalists who know all the practical info and insider knowledge about a destination as they actually live and work in the places they write about. They revisit the old, discover the new and aren’t afraid to share their thoughts and opinions in their writing. They visit points of interest, are friends with the locals, and apparently they don’t take freebies in exchange for good reviews (hopefully meaning impartial coverage!).
2. Helpful Language Phrases
While I can handle everyday life speaking in Chinese, I have what I call situational difficulties – basically I struggle if I haven’t learned the vocab or grammar for a particular situation – and on multiple occasions have actually consulted my Lonely Planet. The language phrases are easy to understand, and are broken up into useful sections like food, transportation, and medical emergencies. I can verify that at least the Lonely Planet China translations are very accurate, and are definitely worth looking over before you actually leave for your trip.
3. Sites & Attraction – Both Touristy And Non-Touristy
If there was a given in this post, site and attraction listings were probably it. While some people have a biased towards anything that they deem “touristy”, I’m a firm believer that you should experience as much of a culture as possible. Touristy doesn’t necessarily equate to “bad”, and Lonely Planet categorizes both touristy and off the beaten path attractions so you can at least prepare before stumbling into mass crowds of people. You name it, they include it: museums, markets, festivals, food, shopping, sites, and a lot more.
4. Restaurant Reviews And Suggestions
If you’re a student on a budget, Lonely Planet has you covered with their detailed restaurant descriptions and reviews. Restaurants are essentially broken down into inexpensive, moderately expensive, or expensive categories, with the average price of dishes also included. Just like with sites and attractions, they let you know when or how to avoid the crowds so you’re not unexpectedly waiting for a table. Listings indicate all historical/culturally significant restaurants, and the local specialty or best tasting dish on the menu.
5. Accurate Historical Information
Everyone can probably agree that the more culture and history you know about a place, the better you can appreciate it. The reality, however, is that most people including myself don’t necessarily have the time to read a textbook before we travel. Lonely Planet provides brief but accurate historical descriptions of all sites and attractions so you can at least have an appreciation for what you’re looking at beyond it’s photographic value.
6. Electronic Versions
While the paperback version is still my go-to, Lonely Planet has become much more convenient with enhanced mobile electronic guides. Lonely Planet apps for Apple, Android, and Nokia include city guides, language translators, audio walking tours and audio phrasebooks, and with no internet connection required, you don’t have to worry about roaming fees. Many guides are also now available as Lonely Planet eBook—digital versions for devices like iPad, Kindle, NOOK, and Kobo e-readers. It’s all of the awesome, quality content in a much smaller package.
7. Buy Individual Sections/Chapters Online
Lonely Planet has made it easier to narrow down your research, for example, when you don’t need the entire Russia guide when you’re only heading to Moscow. Guides are now available in a downloadable PDF format, and Lonely Planet gives you the option to select only the chapters you want to include in your download. You can view these chapters on your computer and either print them out, or use them on electronic devices like eReaders, Kindle, iPads, iPhones, laptops, PDAs or any device with a PDF reader.
8. Preplanned Trip Itineraries
If you’re looking to do any backpacking or bicycling trips while traveling, you can find detailed, preplanned trips right in the front of Lonely Planet guidebooks. Although you’ll want to do more research, they’re a great place to start with trip/activity itineraries, time-frames, transportation from city to city, the must-see-sites, and more. As a bonus, each country is mapped out by region and rated on aspects like cuisine, history, landscapes, museums, and shopping in the “regions at a glance” section.
9. Great For Emergencies Or When Plans Go Wrong
If nothing else, Lonely Planet Guides are a great backup resource. You can do all the planning and prep in the world, but if you end up having extra time on your hands, or you need to alter your day due to weather, a Lonely Planet Guide is pretty invaluable. Cities are big, and if you’re wandering aimlessly (or in a mad panic) looking for something to do, you could be wasting valuable travel time. Just open to a random page, point your finger at a site, find it on the map and start heading in that direction. I know that for my friends and I, Lonely Planet was clutch more than once when we needed to find things to do on the fly.
10. Semi-Comfortable Pillow
I won’t lie, this got on the list because I couldn’t think of a better number 10, but I will say that I have actually done this. We had an hour and a half train ride from Shanghai to Hangzhou, and while I usually like looking at the scenery while traveling from city to city, I gave my eyelids a break this time around. I nested myself near the window seat in our booth, rolled up my Lonely Planet in a sweatshirt, and had my own version of a Tempur-Pedic pillow. It obviously worked because there’s photographic evidence of me sleeping most of that ride.
In my opinion, Lonely Planet is still one of the most reliable travel resources out there, and if you’re looking for even more help, tips, and info you should check out the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Travel Forum.
If you have any other questions or comments please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!