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Old 06-23-2004, 01:05 PM
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Atlanta, Georgia - Female
Posts: 5,308
Frommer's, Lonely Planet, Let's Go: Travel Guides Compared

I'm going to the Bahamas next month, so I went to Borders to buy a guidebook. I got Frommer's Bahamas 2004 because it seemed to be the most up-to-date one on the shelf.

I'm booked in a low-rent hotel on Grand Bahama that I found by googling "Bahamas Hostel." This hotel is not mentioned anywhere in my Frommer's guide.

Also, I'm taking a direct flight from Atlanta to Freeport on AirTran. AirTran is not listed in my guide as one of the airlines that goes to the Bahamas, nor is the AirTran website (where I bought my ticket) mentioned in the guide along with, and under "Planning your trip online."

I'm the sort who likes to travel on the cheap, to allow more cash for SCUBA diving, excursions, and gifts and such. Frommer's Bahamas guide doesn't seem inclined to help me with that.

Are Frommer's guides aimed at a more upscale traveler, or are they just not very good?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the various brands in the travel-guide industry?
Old 06-23-2004, 01:21 PM
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 10,547
I really like Lonely Planet, I find their guides are aimed at younger travelers who are more likely to want to save some money and who also want to get off the beaten path. I also like the layout of Lonely Planet guides. Let's Go always seemed to be even more budget conscious and aimed at younger travelers than Lonely Planet.

I alwayst thought Frommes was more upscale guides, but I that could be a misconception on my part.

DK guides are really nice for walking tours of interesting neighborhoods and guides to hitorical sites.

Have a great trip.
Old 06-23-2004, 01:31 PM
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Baile Átha Cliath
Posts: 7,646
Frommers is definitely aiming at a wealthier class of traveller. Lonely Planet and Let's Go are much better for the budget tourist - I generally find Lonely Planet to have better detail, as well. Rough Guides also have lots of budget info.
Old 06-23-2004, 02:14 PM
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: America's Dairyland
Posts: 12,780
It's funny that Frommer's would be thought of as aiming for a "wealthier class of traveller", as Frommer's originated in 1957 as a guide to budget travel (Frommer's Europe on $5 a Day), and that was its specialty in the travel guide market for several decades.

Frommer's in fact publishes an array of travel guides aimed at different types of travelers. For example:

Bahamas for Dummies, a hand-holding reference guide for the novice traveler
Frommer's Bahamas 2005, their general guide, it includes all price ranges, but is centered on mid-range.
Frommer's Portable Bahamas, condensed from the above into a pocket-size guide.

I don't see any Frommer's budget guide for the Caribbean, but they certainly publish the budget guides for European destinations, including Frommer's Europe from $85 a Day, and individual budget guides to Paris, London, Italy, England, and Ireland.
Old 06-23-2004, 02:37 PM
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Baile Átha Cliath
Posts: 7,646
$85 a day is "budget"? I rest my case.
Old 06-23-2004, 02:49 PM
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: America's Dairyland
Posts: 12,780
The $85 per day includes accomodations and meals. The Euro has been advancing against the dollar for some time now — $85 is budget-priced.
Old 06-23-2004, 03:22 PM
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Baile Átha Cliath
Posts: 7,646
Originally Posted by Walloon
The $85 per day includes accomodations and meals.
I was assuming it did.

The Euro has been advancing against the dollar for some time now — $85 is budget-priced.
Not the way I travel
Old 06-23-2004, 03:41 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: La Vernia
Posts: 241
Let's Go is designed for the college-age crowd and is written by Harvard grads exclusively. People who tend to use Let's Go are more of a party crowd and you can see that in the guidebooks. It is a good info source and is budget oriented.

Lonely Planet is one of my favorites. It's well written and gives a lot of historical background. It's aimed at the younger set, but more for those wanting off the beaten path. BUT lots of people carry and use them so off the beaten path isn't always. It's very budget oriented.

Frommer's is ok. I haven't used it but I think it's a pretty decent guide. I will say my opinion of them was lowered when they hired the Real World Paris kids to write things for them. They seem less budget oriented than the others.

Another guidebook series you might want to take a look at is Rough Guides. They get rave reviews usually.

In the past I have combined guidebooks and made my own. A little bit of Let's Go, Lonely Planet, and Rick Steves. (but Rick is Europe.) Check out your local library too. They usually have guidebooks in the travel section.
Old 06-23-2004, 07:55 PM
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: NW5
Posts: 3,038
Don't know about the Bahamas, but in general I flip-flop between Rough Guide and Lonely Planet. I tend to prefer Rough Guide when it comes to mapping, clarity and general culture - but then I'm the sort who'll turn to their "Contexts" section at the back first. By contrast, Lonely Planet is usually better for the nuts-and-bolts info about managing in a very alien culture.
Truth be told, recently I've tended to go for whatever of the two happens to be most suitable for the trip - when it comes to their guides to specific cities or other fairly narrow destinations, there actually doesn't appear to be a great deal of overlap.

As a Brit, Let's Go isn't that obvious a choice. I have used them in the past, but was left pretty neutral.

One exception is France: there's that, well, authenticity about the Michelin Green Guides. At least before the recent horrible redesign.
Old 06-23-2004, 08:52 PM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: California
Posts: 4,301
Whenever I go anywhere, I use both the Rough Guides series and the Dorling Kindersley "Eyewitness Travel" series.

The Rough Guides have the most history and depth in their descriptions, and are generally the most no-nonsense and straightforward guides I can find. Their recommendations for lodging and restaurants are adequate, but not spectacular. Their recommendations for sites to see and places to visit are awesome; they often recommend out-of-the-way things that can totally make a trip.

The Eyewitness books are somewhat shallow in comparison, but I think they're invaluable. They have tons of pictures and purely practical information that other travel guides just assume you know. There's a guide in the back with pictures of everything you can expect and step-by-step guides on how to use stuff like public transportation and local currency.
Old 06-24-2004, 02:38 AM
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Foxbase Alpha
Posts: 999
Well, as others have said, Lets' Go and Lonely Planet are good for college-age and\or budget travellers. Frommer's is for adults, especially adults on a "standard" budget or higher.

Lonely Planet series is OK, but Let's Go has never let me down in several trips to Europe. I also like their organization better than any other series, but that's just me. Rick Steves (as others have said, he's pretty much Europe-only) has some great information, but I don't care for the layout at all. Let's Go is divided into predictible sections - "Getting There", "Accomidations", "Food", "Nightlife", etc - and then breaks down each section into neighborhoods that appear in the same order in every section. Rick Steves is more of a narrative kind of guy, and you have to actually read most of his guides - instead of using them like a sort of phone book.

I guess my point is, choose one based on organization as much as the contents. If you have to dig and dig to find stuff - like you do with Rick Steves - it's not really worth it. Especially if it's 10:30pm and you need to know which restaurants are open until 11 in your proximity. Having said that, THANK YOU Rick Steves for the tip about The Stockpot in London - the best cheap food EVER!
Old 07-03-2004, 01:41 PM
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Atlanta, Georgia - Female
Posts: 5,308
I bought the Rough Guide to the Bahamas a few days ago, and it is MUCH more user-friendly (and budget-friendly) than the Frommer's guide! I should've got it in the first place.
Old 07-03-2004, 06:04 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Bohemia. A seacoast.
Posts: 6,217
I haven't used Frommer's, as most places they recommend are way out of my price range, but I've used Let's Go and Lonely Planet extensively.

As a general rule, I'd say that Let's Go is stronger on budget-oriented information (they're updated every year, which helps a lot) and on practicalities such as public transportation, but tends to be weak on cultural and sightseeing information. Lonely Planet is written for a slightly wealthier audience and tends to have better information about destinations and sights, but often skimps on the practical stuff. However, there's often a lot more variation among guidebooks by the same publisher than there is between different publishers; ultimately, what matters is how good the researchers and writers for a particular book are.

If you've got time to shop around before buying, I'd suggest getting several guidebooks about your destination of choice out of the library, using them to do some preliminary research, and seeing which one seems to be most helpful for the type of trip you're planning.
Old 07-03-2004, 07:52 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 12,666
Frankly I'm partial to the Moon Handbooks I've seen, but unfortunately they don't seem to cover the Bahamas:

- Tamerlane
Old 07-03-2004, 09:03 PM
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Elsewhere
Posts: 2,956
I'm fond of Jetlag Travel Guides. "For the undiscerning traveller."
Old 07-03-2004, 09:34 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: noitacol
Posts: 4,562
For Hawaii, I just want to give a special mention to The Ulimate Kauai Guidebook and its companion books for Maui and the Big Island. These guidebooks seriously enhanced the enjoyment of our trips.

I just picked up a National Geographic Traveler guidebook and was pretty impressed. I don't think it's what the OP was looking for, but I really liked the in depth information with lots of good photos of attractions. I think it will be very helpful in terms of deciding what I really want to see based on historical and cultural significance. I don't plan on using to locate a hotel, and most restaurants listed are quite upscale also.
Old 07-03-2004, 10:16 PM
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 13,191
I went to Bavaria with Let's Go Germany and Lonely Planet Bavaria, but when it came to areas covered by both books I often found the Bavaria section of Let's Go more useful than the whole Lonely Planet guide. It definitely had better practical info for the budget traveller. Lonely Planet seemed more accurate in terms of historic info (I don't remember noticing any mistakes, but there were a couple in Let's Go), but didn't always provide clear descriptions of exactly where things were or how to get there.

Some girls I met in a hostel in Munich told me that they found Let's Go more helpful when they went to Paris for a day, and using its information were able to pack a lot of sightseeing, shopping, and eating into that day for a reasonable price.
Old 07-03-2004, 11:48 PM
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Coastal USA
Posts: 8,483
Part of the question is, What do you want your guidebook to cover? If I want to be sure I've considered the big tourist spots, I look at Frommer's. For food that's safe and reasonably inexpensive, I use Rough, Moon, and Lonely Planet. They're also good for less-well-known places and events. If I'm going to be taking the bus or train a lot, I look at Let's Go. Frommer's is the weakest on indigenous culture and activities that are not big tourist draws. So if I wanted to know where to golf and eat steak in the Bahamas, I'd look at Frommer's. If I wanted to visit something like an old Dutch synagogue or eat a good local meal, Rough, Moon, and Lonely Planet. If I wanted a cheap hotel and cheap alcoholic beverages, Let's Go. Rough, Moon, and Lonely Planet also are all better on overall history than the other two--they try to give a socioeconomic and political context to the people and places you'll be visiting.

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