It's not easy to write reviews of travel books- they don't lend themselves to the task as well as a good novel. I am not so much judging the quality of the writing as I am the quality of the research. It is doubly hard to write a review of a travel book that covers six different countries. It is hard to visit all the places- being that, with the possible exception of North Korea, some of these countries are the hardest ones in the world to visit. So I am of necessity limiting my review to those countries which I did visit, and thus the review will be unable to cover the entire book.
I found the information on Dubai extremely helpful. I was there for only one day, but was able to use the information provided to find a cheap place to stay ($35 in Dubai ) and make my way to that center of Emirati culture, the mall. The provided maps were accurate and extremely detailed, allowing me to make my way around the center of the city with ease, and stated distances precise. Prices after a year were still relatively the same as those quoted in the book.
Not so in Yemen, where I spent the bulk of my time. This is not due to any fault of Lonely Planet, but rather to the extreme rate of change in that country. At the time of printing in 2004 there were 185 Yemeni Riyal to the dollar; it's now closer to 195. Generally, for travel purposes I found that I needed to multiply amounts listed in Lonely Planet by 150% to get the going rate- and, living in Morocco, I know how to bargain for a good price. This was not trying to take advantage of a tourist, but simply the price of inflation. Bus fares, running at 20-40 Riyal, remained the same.
As Lonely Planet states, the way to get into the country has changed numerous times over the past few years, as have travel restrictions. So it is now possible for EU and American citizens to get Visas at the airport- though those at the local Yemeni embassy insisted I needed an engraved invitation from a resident of the country in order to enter Yemen. I repeatedly found knowledge of the more up to date laws lacking in different segments of the Yemeni authorities.
The police on one day told me it was no problem to travel to Shibam Hadremowt without a travel permit. A couple days later they had changed their minds, and not even chewing qat with the police chief for two hours could convince him otherwise. But he told me that I could fly there instead. I flew there, but the local airline neglected to mention that the airport there is closed indefinitely, and rerouted me without my permission to a different location, from where I had to pay for a taxi to travel 5 hours across the Hadremowt. For which I needed a travel permit, despite that the police in the capitol saying a permit is no longer necessary for that area. And, this is important, for Lonely Planet does not mention it, it turns out you need a travel permit in order to leave an area as well- the same travel permit you took to get there doesn't count. If you are without a travel agency, they can keep you in an area indefinitely without that travel permit.
Why all this fuss? A number of Westerners have been kidnapped in Yemen over the years, including seven while I was there. Thus Lonely Planet warns against travel to Yemen at this time on their website, and the government requires you hire an expensive travel agency for any travel to the most interesting places in Yemen, in the North. Do not be dissuaded- the kidnappings have only once ever resulted in the death of those kidnapped (among hundreds kidnapped), and that was because of a botched rescue attempt by the government. Generally, those kidnapped are treated very well by local tribes, given lots of food, and considered to be honored guests, in return for some concessions from the government like roads or a school that the government had previously promised. And though travel is difficult within the country, it is well worth it, and figuring out how to get from one place to another has always been part of the joy of travel for me.
Lonely Planet's guides on hotels were very helpful, helping me choose clean yet cheap accommodations in the different cities I visited in Sana'a, Shibam, Shibam Hadremowt, and Ta'izz. The gave me the lowdown on what significant areas to visit, how much to pay, and how to get there. Until there is a more updated version of Lonely Planet Yemen (now five years out of date), this is book is a must for travel in this amazing country of tradition and history.