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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 18 December 2012
Set off with this book on Nov 1st 2012. Have used it so far in northern Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. I want to insert a caveat that I am unable to make a decent judgment on the whole contents of the book, which obviously covers far more countries. But nevertheless I feel we have been using it long enough to make a reasonable assessment.

LAYOUT AND DESIGN

Pros:

Overall well designed. The font type and colouring scheme - which differs from older Lonely Planet guidebooks - is easy to read. There is consistency in the layout for country chapters. The opening pages for each country, which give various useful stats, is nicely done. Maps not comprehensive but sufficient. The quality of the book (thickness of pages, binding, etc) is enough that it can take a bit of battering.

Cons:

The "getting there and away" has a major flaw. In a bizarre move, the section for Hanoi includes getting to and from the bus or train station and prices, but not the airport (so we would know a 'con' taxi price). It was only later we noticed that information was buried in a small box on the second page of the Vietnam section. This applies to Phnom Penh too, but - just to make it more confusing - not Vientiane.

CONTENT

Pros:

Detailed but concise. History and geography sections etc, have been trimmed back compared to other guides, but there is still enough to get you the background. Descriptions of sights, bars, etc, are short but to the point. So easy to digest. Also boxes with "splurge" ideas or "scam alerts!" are a nice touch. The price guides for the recommended restaurants and hotels have been pretty spot on so far.

Cons:

Entrance fees to sights are often wrong. For instance in Hue - the Imperial Palace; or in Hanoi - the Temple of Literature and the Prison Museum. They were all too low. Anticipate prices being 25-50% higher than stated. Note that this problem only seems to apply to the sights and not the restaurants, accommodation and transport.

The recommended accommodation are often not in line with reviews on Tripadvisor, Agoda, etc. Some recommended here have mediocre reviews at best on these sites. Our personal experience visiting some has also backed this up. I suggest researching elsewhere.

OVERALL

It's got its flaws, the inaccurate accommodation reviews and incorrect entrance fees being the prime ones, but this is outweighed by a well designed book with decent and largely up to date and accurate content. We've relied on it in many ways so far, and it has not really let us down.
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on 8 January 2015
A few years ago I toured around the Middle East and the Lonely Planet was a great comfort. Several years on, WIFI has gone mainstream and the travel books need to convince people they're still a useful companion.

This book isn't aimed at your average traveller. It somehow manages to be pretencious, opinionated, and very subjective for something which is supposed to act as an informative guide book.

The biggest problem is the endless obsession of saying EVERYTHING is great. Don't get me wrong, positivity is a good thing - but when you're frequently deciding where to go next this becomes a huge issue. For example instead of admitting: "Phuket town is a bland place, serving as little more than a stopover point for most." (an opinion the majority agree with from my experience), they write, "There's good food in Phuket town!"

It quickly becomes apparent some of the authors have forgotten they're writing a book to help the majority, and instead cram their 'alternative' perspectives all over the place. Why on earth is my travel guide telling me what my opinion on elephant treatment should be?! Are we young and ignorant travellers not able to form our own conclusion?

If one author takes her 1 year old to Thailand to successfully boost her 'cuteness factor', then how is this helpful to the 99.9% of us who DIDN'T do that? Take a kid with you and I'm sure just about every single restaurant will appear friendly. "Thailand gets richer and happier with every visit" - seriously? The country is great fun but many locals are quite clearly sick to death with the amount of tourists. Did you give a tuk tuk driver 1000B and then notice how happy and friendly he is?

Then there's the parts which are just downright lazy. "Laos VOA available for most countries", great thanks, how about a rough estimate of how much the visa actually costs? How about mentioning I'll need to pay in dollars or else I'll get slaughtered on the exchange rate? This is the information I need! If there's not enough room for that, then take out the opinionated rants to make room. The structure is poor at times, next destination information was rarely where I'd expect to find it.

It's an impressive amount of information for the size of the book, and there are still helpful parts here. The highlights for each country is a nice touch and useful for planning. The scam points are good but should be consistent. The section on The Phillipines is well written, honest, and avoids many pitfalls the others fall into:

"At first, the Philippines may likely disarm you more than charm you, but peel back the country's skin and there are treasures to be found - aplenty."

Excellently put, why can't the rest of the book be up front yet also encouraging like that?

I think it might be time to get some younger writers who can give information to at least suit the majority. The sleeping sections are completely useless, the best hostels are rarely listed. Not every page needs to tell you to "soak up the culture".

It's still worth a purchase for a long trip, but it's by absolutely no means necessary. Hopefully the Lonely Planet can get back to being a helpful guide in difficult times, and not a book where writers tell you how you can enjoy SEA, 'like an experienced traveller'.

(note that many reviews have been written before travelling)

You'll have a great time by the way, it's brilliant.
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This 976-page book - the 17th (print) edition of August 2014 - is an interesting and readable guide to the attractions of the countries of Southeast Asia. This is a well-designed and presented guide, with useful maps (which are keyed to the places mentioned in the guide - they are not detailed general-purpose maps). This is not a glossy guide with lots of colour pictures, but it is a well-designed and laid out guide, with colour used only sparingly, where there is a space to be filled or a section to be highlighted. It is intended to be a meaningful guide to things to see and do, and not just a list of things to see and do.

It is broken down into four major sections:

Page 6 - Plan Your Trip:
This section is a general introduction to Southeast Asia, what to look out for (Southeast Asia’s Top 20 experiences), what you need to know in advance, and important touristy stuff.

Page 49 - On the Road (“The Guide”, with Understand and Survival Guide sections for each country):
P050: Brunei Darussalam
P064: Cambodia (with 5 sub-sections)
P149: Indonesia (8)
P311: Laos (3)
P378: Malaysia (6)
P480: Myanmar (7)
P547: Philippines (7)
P613: Singapore
P643: Thailand (8)
P791: Timor-Leste (6)
P812: Vietnam (7)

Page 915 - Understand:
This section is a guide to local culture, with articles on history and people, etc.

Page 929 - Survival Guide:
This section contains the A-Z Directory, and information on transport, health, etc; plus -
P953: Language
P962: Index
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on 27 November 2015
Can't deny although I have travelled extensively throughout SEast Asia, I simply can't leave home without a lonely planet. Although I now use a number of online recommendations for where to go and stay, it still travels in my hand luggage. When you rock up in a brand new city and a taxi driver jumps on you and asks where you wanna go....I can just select the appropriate hostel / hotel and I'm all good. The only issue is many of the hostels / hotels tend to get good reviews and become so popular their prices go up and the quality drops significantly. Also I have found out the authors don't actually stay in all the accommodations they stay in so can't offer the complete picture. I have found that the title now '.....on a shoestring' is a bit far fetched...many of the places reviewed are far too expensive to consider 'shoestring'. But have used the Lonely Planets for years and will continue to do so.
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on 6 September 2016
Took this on a four month trip with me. Though it added extra weight to my backpack I never thought of dumping this book because it was SO valuable. It had in depth guides for areas of special interest such as angkor wat and had great sections on countries covering history and culture. More than just a travel guide.
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on 4 February 2015
This book is a really comprehensive guide to the SE Asian countries and is very well laid out, with all the useful information such as visa, local currency to dollar conversion, average prices for things such as food, drink and accommodation and of course where to visit!
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on 11 May 2015
I bought this Southeast Asia on a Shoestring will be travelling through several countries end May to mid July.
So far just glancing through this book it looks very detailed with lots of information which I am sure will help me
alot. On my return I will write a more detailed account
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on 20 November 2012
I borrowed the 1999 edition from a friend and decided to get the latest one. Very informative on all the countries in SE Asia, with accommodation, places to visit and things to do. I wouldn't get the individual country guides as this one is more than enough.
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on 20 February 2015
There was a time in my life that I thought Southeast Asia on a Shoestring was an essential to travel anywhere in the region. The internet has killed the old format with things like Trip Advisor making accommodation sections next to useless. Until Tony Wheeler et al find a way to work with the forces they don't control they will be fighting a losing battle. My suggestion, buy older versions of this book use them as a rough guide, the days of having this in your day pack and working your way through a cheap accommodation area is history. LP should focus its efforts on linking its readers in with internet based resources or risk losing their loyal customers. The tourist information, suggestions of itineraries etc are all areas where LP is missing its niche. It's kind of sad as it looks like the end of an era.
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on 3 May 2015
Can't rate this book highly enough! It's answered so many questions that I was unable to find straightforward answers for online. We haven't started our travels yet but this book has already become our bible!
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