Why I Boycott Lonely Planet, and You Should Too
Millions of travelers see Lonely Planet as their bible…
I have never used Lonely Planet or any other guide books during my five years of traveling the world. And, I have never regretted it. Ever. Here’s why.
You have probably seen them. They are everywhere. The Lonely Planet Zombies. They walk around in the touristy streets all around the world. They are almost hit by cars. They run over people. They are travelers so obsessed with this guide book that they do not want to sleep or eat anywhere that is not mentioned in it.
I was sitting eating a delicious lunch in the main square, Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakech. Then, two young women walked by, and one of them was pointing at the restaurant where we were eating suggesting to the other to go in for a treat. The other girl opened her Lonely Planet, saying “No way! This restaurant isn’t in Lonely Planet, I don’t want to get sick”.
This is not the only obsessed Lonely Planet zombie I have seen on my trips. In Bangkok, I witnessed a backpacker that was screaming “The price should be 8 USD per night!” while pointing at her Lonely Planet book, at the poor receptionist in a hostel. The female receptionist was trying to explain that the prices had been 10 USD for almost a year. However, the Lonely Planet zombie was so upset that she did not want listen. Because it said 8 USD in Lonely Planet; The Bible.
It is very normal that the prices listed in Lonely Planet are not up-to-date. This is because, when a hotel or a restaurant gets listed in a guide book, they often raise the prices. This is not just limited to price. Finding an up-to-date guidebook is impossible. Just look at the date on yours. If you’re lucky, it is only a year or two old. Or is it, really? Find a copy from 10 years prior and you will probably find the book has not been re-written, just edited, with some fancy new photos.
That being said, the case in Bangkok is not the first time I’ve seen people haggling based on what is written in an outdated Lonely Planet book. It is a little bit ironic, when these travelers use thousands of USD on flights to get to distant lands. They spread Western culture without sharing their wealth among people who could benefit from it the most. Often they take too much and give too little and leave the places they visit only worse for wear, by making problems for having to pay 1 or 2 USD more.
For me traveling is about discovering things on my own and forming my own opinions from the experiences I create. However, if you would have liked to do the exact same tour as the Lonely Planet author, then this book is perfect for you. And there are millions out there, which do the exact same trip as the authors of this guidebook.
When I arrive to a new place, I usually do so without having any bookings. I ask the local people or the taxi driver about a good and affordable place. It is always exciting to see if it is clean? Will the staff be helpful? I have to admit that every time I have stayed at a Lonely Planet recommendation, actually without knowing it at first, the hotels have been good. However, the best experiences I have had have been when I have been walking in to a random hotel.
The same applies for restaurants. I have seen restaurants that are full every night, due to that it is mentioned in Lonely Planet. It is crazy, the amount of money one business gets based on one person or an authors experience. I usually look for the places where locals are eating, and walk in. They are usually better (and cheaper).
After visiting over fifty countries, I have learned that the locals know best.
This is why I usually rely on local people when I travel. Because who knows the country better than the people living there? I believe they are better at knowing what is worth seeing, and also giving advice about security or where to sleep. I have never been disappointed following the tips of locals when traveling. And I believe you will never be so either.