I’ve tried Rough Guides, National Geographic Traveler, and Time Out guides and nothing stands up to Lonely Planet. For completely independent travel, I won’t go to a country without the Lonely Planet country guide in my pack. The Pocket and Encounter series are both great to keep in your daypack to help you navigate a city. I haven’t tried their Discover series because it’s more loaded with pictures than the regular country guide, and I don’t need to carry around pictures of beautiful places in my pack when I’m seeing the beautiful places for myself.
Another plus about Lonely Planet guides is that they’re the easiest to find abroad. Many travelers sell their copies to used book stores near the end of their time in a country to lighten their load. New book stores are more likely to have Lonely Planet than any other major guidebook. If you decide to change your itinerary while abroad or you lose your copy, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a Lonely Planet (don’t expect the newest version, but it’ll work).
Other travel books:
In addition to Lonely Planet guidebooks, I use other travel books to help plan and get inspiration for my trips, but leave them at home.
1,000 Places to See Before You Die – There are different versions and editions of this book, the first one was fairly Euro-centric and featured no color pages. However, I still check it to see what highlights of the world I might be wandering near. Many of its suggestions are out of normal people’s budgets, but once you know what areas or sites are of interest you can often find cheaper alternatives.
The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World (Lonely Planet)
– This is more of a collector’s coffee table type book. It’s very large and useless for planning purposes (even though it’s from Lonely Planet), but the big, beautiful pictures can help inspire a trip at the beginning.
The 10 Best of Everything National Parks: 800 Top Picks From Parks Coast to Coast (National Geographic the 10 Best of Everything)
– Once I know what parks I’ll be visiting I always consult the index of the book to find out what highlights each park has to offer. Whether it’s a hike, a cocktail, or a picnic spot, this book will let you know where to find the best of everything in the US National Park system.
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter
– If you want to plan a longer or cheaper journey, this book is a great resource. Much of the content can be found through internet searches, but the book pulls everything together into one place with great personal tips and a very readable format. This book will more than pay for itself in the hundreds of dollars it can help you save on travel.
Lonely Planet’s for this trip:
Lonely Planet Philippines (Travel Guide)