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Don't buy! Very weak travel guide.
am 15. April 2013
We have bought and used this travel guide for our recent trip to Vietnam (roughly: Hanoi & Halong Bay - Hué - Hoi An - Hoh Chi Minh). Despite favoring the Rough Guide series (see e.g the Rough Guide to Vietnam) and the German Thomas Lose, we thought we might give the Lonely Planet another shot - the other ones were simply sold out when we decided to plan our trip.
Now having used the guide I would advise to look elsewhere for better travelguide options. This one certainly did not meet our expectations to the extent that I wanted to throw it away or burn it during our trip! Maybe you are more moderate than me when it comes to guidebooks, but let me elaborate:
1) Directions / finding our way around town(s)
The maps and hints for directions e.g. in the city walks in this book are a big joke. The pull-out map of Ho-Chi-Minh City, even in combination with the smaller maps of a neighborhood are certainly not comprehensive, I suppose you would have to buy a decent map for this cause or google your way through it. However, the maps do not cover enough of a city to find your way and leave out important street names. I also note that "getting there" just does not seem to get as much attention and priority as in other guide books.
2) Ideas for travel / preparation
Alright, this book gives you a few hints of where to go and what to do. However, it rather seems to be written on the bright side of things, rarely mentioning a few downsides or when a widely advertised attraction may just be a bit overrated. Prepare to be disappointed every once-in-a-while. Just look up the section on Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi (a concrete-lined lake within the city) or tell me what you thought about the Japanese Covered bridge in Hoi An. I suppose this is a question of taste, but again: For preparation, you could alternatively study one of the many excellent websites for this topic.
3) Hotel accomodation
I thought that the accomodation reviews where rather weak and do not reflect at all the huge selections available in Vietnam. Perhaps this reflects my preference for websites such as tripadvisor, but do you really need a guidebook to pick your accomodation in a country with an abundance of a hotels and co. and literally dozens of online reviews?
The pages on food, language and history are - like in other guides - good, but never comprehensive. A good first point of orientation, but certainly not the reason to buy this book.
Anyway: Maybe most of my critique reflects my preference for web resources and I suppose that many of the points made here also apply to other guidebooks. However, consider this: You get WiFi just about everywhere in Vietnam, so using an online resource is not a problem if you travel like most people do these days, e.g. with some sort of internet-enabled phone or tablet computer. For orientation - seriouly, don't use this guide, it will drive you mad while you still have to carry it around. Finally, if you just want a copy to place it on display in your living room bookshelf, I can tell you that you can buy a cheap copy while you are in Vietnam.