Lonely Planet Fabrications?

There is an Associated press report out that could potentially damage the global reputation and world dominance of the Lonely Planet travel guidebooks. A former Lonely Planet author who contributed to over a dozen LP books claims, “They didn’t pay me enough to go to Colombia (referring to LP),” Thomas Kohnstamm was quoted Sunday as saying. “I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating who was an intern in the Colombian consulate.”

Piers Pickard, Lonely Planet’s guide book publisher, said the company was reviewing the content of the books that author Thomas Kohnstamm had contributed but had so far found nothing inaccurate. He said Lonely Planet’s global reputation was built on the integrity of its books, and that any inaccuracies found would be quickly fixed.

Pickard also states Kohnstamm’s claim about the book on Colombia were “disingenuous” because he was hired to write about the country’s history, not to travel there to review accommodation and restaurants. That work was done by two other authors. “Thomas’ claims are not an accurate reflection of how our authors work,” Pickard told The Associated Press.

Now I have always been a big fan of guidebooks and probably have over 30 LP’s on my bookshelf but I have a lot of issues with them as I am sure a lot of travelers do. I also find that for certain things I like Lets Go better and for certain things I like Frommers better. However, the reason I and so many extreme travelers have all these Lonely Planets is because they publish guides on everywhere. The aforementioned guidebooks only cover certain countries or regions. They don’t cover most third world countries and certainly not Africa or much of Asia and the Middle East.

Lonely Planets are easy to follow and in my opinion give the best detail about border crossings via land, sea, etc. They also cover a variety of classes of hotels and restaurants. However, their detail is very sketchy and they rarely give advice as to say-eat here or stay here, you can’t miss this, etc.

As my friend Mike just emailed to me as we were talking about this article, if you’ve used LP a lot then you do get the feeling that the person who wrote it hasn’t always been to these places. I am not accusing them of anything but it has come up several times where a new updated version of LP was inaccurate and it seemed as though the person didn’t really do the research-they were just relying on the old stuff. Particularly on hotels, costs of entry to attractions and especially visas-which is another big thing that travelers like me use the LP for.

Anyway, to be honest this doesn’t really effect me because even though this author was talking about the Colombia guidebook in his accusation of fabrication-I am still going to buy the LP for Colombia this week as I am scheduled to go there in May and need to plan out my trip details. So fabricated or not-they pretty much have a monopoly on less developed countries and I shall take them at their word but use discretion as always. It is important to remember that these guidebooks are just that-guide-books, they aren’t necessary always right.

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  1. I have also had several times where LP was inaccurate, mainly on restaurants. Also, their hotel recs are very short and don’t really give enough detail as you mentioned. Lets Go gives the thumbs up to say-stay here! They should also include more pictures!

  2. The guys job is to travel to South America and just say whats good and whats not and he couldn’t even do that–what a loser.

  3. I always thought they did that!

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