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Bali (Lonely Planet Travel Guides) Paperback – 21 Mar 2003
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With practical advice on a ranges of accommodation and the lowdown on all historical, religious and cultural details, this edition of the book comes with special colour sections on the islands' arts and culinary delights.
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But the rest of the island was very well covered and gave some great detail on the main attractions.
The Island guide was very useful giving details of local customs and amenities.
Would make sure this is in your pocket when you go.
A few tips
1. Watch the "helpers" at the airport, they will swamp you at the conveyor and fleece you for the pleasure of carrying your bag. Just say no.
2. If you are at one of the big resorts/ hotel complexes, hire you first taxi through the hotel. Then get talking to the driver who will happily pick you up outside the gates for 1/3 of the price. Full day tour was £20. Not bad for 14 hours out and about.
3. The guide will take you to places where he gets a cut, but they are still cheap places to go and you would never find them normally.
4. Get to the North of the Island, rainforest, monkeys and some amazing view
5. Save your money for a trip to the Ubud "Art Market". It is not an art market but a great place to pick up absolutely everything.
6. If you ask a guide he will take you to the outskirts of Ubud where the small workshops back onto shop front. Prepare for some major bargains.
7. Haggle Haggle Haggle, then Haggle some more. Always ask for an afternoon price then the ultimate walk way price! But don't start bantering if you ain't buying.
Additionally, this is a 'new style' Lonely Planet with a more modern layout (which I think is much clearer and easier to browse, although my partner hates it). It's filled with excellent quality maps and nice touches, such as two mapped half-day walks around Ubud, which were really fun to do.
The only problems we encountered with this book were out of the hands of the authors.
Problem 1: It's a victim of its own success. During Summer 2011, literally 95% of all visitors on the island had this guide due to a lack of competition from other publishers. This meant that listed spots could get lazy - or getaway with astronomical prices.
Problem 2: The authors may love Bali a little too much. They tend to gloss over some of the islands weak-points (in high season, at least): the almost-total gridlock on the roads of South Bali; Costa-del-Sol style overdevelopment in Kuta and south of the island; the fact that public transport is a nightmare. Additionally, there are environmental time-bombs ticking on the Rinjani trek on Lombok (see TripAdvisor for some depressing commentary on the conservation of the site), which the guide entirely glosses over.
Despite this, I was really impressed with this guide and would heartily recommend - until other competing publishers choose to publish something on the island.
I bought this guide ahead of a 2 week solo trip around Bali in February. These are my major criticisms:
1. It fails to mention that much of the Balinese tourism ideas are built around Australian tourists - with Australian budgets. I like to travel with Aussies very much, but there was no mention that they are the dominant tourists to the island and costs are targeted to what they can afford.
2. Nowhere was it mentioned that travel around Bali can be challenging. There is no public bus, train or any form of transportation. The main mode of transportation is taxi, and for a single British (ie not Australian tourist with Aussie dollars) tourist, this can start to become rather pricey.
3. Day trips are an alien concept. As a backpacker, I often go on day trips to meet other like-minded travellers. In Bali, you are actively encouraged to hire a driver and get them to take you to the sights. Alone, this is both expensive and awkward - being a single girl and having to make small talk about football teams and weather in the UK all day rather than meeting like-minded travellers is anything but fun.
4. The book did nothing but bang on about how busy it is in Bali - I was expecting the throng to almost carry me along the pavements! Though my experience was the complete opposite - I was wondering where all the holiday makers were! I was advised that I was travelling in low season (I knew this - I figured I may just escape without being actually crushed to death by the masses!) and that the level of occupancy was usual. Many businesses close altogether in January and February because it is so quiet - yet the LP made no mention of it at all.
5. Pricing in hotels was off by quite some margin - around 1/3. Advised by many hoteliers that they were old prices (1-2 years ago) There are so few low budget recommendations and generally, without a reservation (even in low season) were full. Surely those with higher budgets don't waste their time with guide books - that's the travel agent's job??
6. My gripe with all LP hotel choices: too few hotels/guesthouses/hostels listed for each location, generally not as clean as mentioned, and honestly, the budget ones are not that nice (yet the reviews imply that they are). I've often found much nicer accomodation myself without doing much legwork. Surely the guide is supposed to find the best?!
7. The guide painted an overly rosey impression of Bali - it was alright, but it definitely got oversold in this guide.
Lonely Planet really do need to raise their game. I've taken to using websites like Seat 61, Trip Advisor, LP's own Thorntree Forum and Wikitravel to do my research as I have found them less biased, more up to date and bursting with 10 times the info that is given in the book. Yes, it either requires the free wifi that abounds in SE Asia, or a bit of time before travelling, but what's the alternative? Standing in the street in the rain, looking for somewhere of either acceptable standard or within your budget as the guidebook had got it wrong again?
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