Best guide books?

Old Jan 13th, 2007, 06:31 AM
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Best guide books?

We've become fans of the Rick Steves guidebooks for Europe because of his great walks, restaurant recommendations and his tidbits about "slightly off the tourist path" things to check out. Is there an equivalent guidebook for Australia (specifically Sydney, but could also use one for the Cairns/Daintree area)?
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Old Jan 13th, 2007, 02:03 PM
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Having just returned from a trip to Europe I appreciate this obsession with anything to do with Rick Steves. Every American tourist seem to have a Rick Steves book in their hands and in Florence we actually had a Rick Steves Tour party at the hotel. The man must be a multibillionaire by now. Fortunately ( or perhaps unfortunately) Rick Steves hasn't discovered Australia. It may be that the excellent Lonely Planet Guides are an Australian publication based in Melbourne and were published long before RS. I would recommend them. www.lonelyplanet.com.au
The D&K guide to Sydney and to Australia is also very good.
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Old Jan 13th, 2007, 03:05 PM
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Also Fodors; Frommers, which also does a separate book for Great Barrier Reef are widely used here by US tourists. The easy-to-carry spiral bound AAA book is often brought along too.
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Old Jan 13th, 2007, 03:14 PM
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While I love the pictures and maps in the DK Australia guidebook, I really feel that the Lonely Planet series gives more information on things to see and do "off the beaten track". I would recommend getting state-specific guides (e.g. New South Wales or Queensland) as opposed to the overall Australia guide. There will be more listings for things to see and do in that state. (When we lived there, we had a copy of the LP Australia guide for general information, but would get a state-specific guide when we traveled. We discovered some tour-on-your-own caves in central NSW through the NSW guidebook that weren't mentioned in the overall Australia book. They were fascinating and we were the only people there!)
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Old Jan 13th, 2007, 04:31 PM
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Another vote for Lonely Planet
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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 12:18 AM
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I'd never heard of Rick Steves until I started haunting the Europe forum, and quickly found that while he has his fans he also has many passionate critics. In fact there seems to be a school of thought that as a result of his recommendations many places that were once off the beaten track are no overrun by tourists, with the result that his books may now be most useful as a guide to where not to go. But there seems to be no equivalent for Australian travel purposes anyway.

Something else I on the Europe forum that there's a degree of snobbery about Lonely Planet on the part of some more well-heeled travellers, who see it as a publication for the Great Unwashed. Myself, I've found their guidebooks pretty well-balanced and not just aimed at the backpacker market.
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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 02:11 AM
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It's hard to beat Lonely Planet - but the Rough Guide give them a good run for the money. The RG is perhaps a little better on background info and the LP is a little better on public transport and has a wider selection of budget accommodation options.

Either would be excellent.
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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 02:28 AM
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Rough Guide is pretty good, fuzzy, but don't think have ever seen an American with one - usually English tourists. Americans seem to favour the ones I mentioned above plus LP.
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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 04:36 AM
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Huh, Rough Guide? Never heard of it. I will definitely look into it. We are not looking for advice on accomodations and such - more interested in walks and interesting tidbits to see (can't seem to find that in Fodor's or I would buy it).

We primarily like Rick Steves b/c his walks are very detailed. We also tend to like his restaurant recommendations.

We also had a Lonely Planet book for Venice - it worked well, but did not like it as much as RS. I've read some reviews of the LP Sydney book was not good at all, but right now it is the closest to what I am l
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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 09:48 AM
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We are Americans and use Rough Guides guidebooks. I enjoy the background information and walks they include. Liz
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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 03:12 PM
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Tim and Liz, haven't seen a copy of Rough Guide for a while; in FNQ section does it give information on the walks and hikes around Atherton Tableland and the World Heritage rainforest areas south of Cairns? Realise guide books can't cover everything but these areas seem to be rather neglected in the main and many tourists who totally rely on guides don't seem to know they exist.
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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 06:38 PM
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Pat,

We haven't been to FNQ yet (when we do get there, hope to stay with you) but we used the rough guides for Sydney and NZ.

Liz
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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 07:01 PM
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Another vote for Lonely Planet. And I agree with Neil about the Europe board - I once recommended LP and almost got banished from the board.

I like LP because their books are comprehensive and offer more than just the tried and true "must see" tourist sites. They're full of valuable info for travelers of all budgets and travel styles.

I'll bite my tongue about Rick Steves.
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Old Jan 14th, 2007, 08:20 PM
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I have in my possession (from the library) a Lonely Planet book of the East Coast of Australia which is quite good for where we ( and many other tourists) want to go. The publication date is 2005 I believe so the prices aren't too out of date. The one criticism I have of all of the guides mentioned above (with the exception of the AAA book) is that they don't differentiate between a must see place and a sort of interesting place, they just do a "brain dump" kind of information overload. That's why I like Rick Steves because (for better or worse) he gives you manageable ideas of whre to go and what to do. The AAA book has good ideas of what is great to see if you only have 3 days kind of descriptions and a good first book to look at if you are trying to chart out an itinerary. It is available, btw, in regular book stores as well as from AAA offices. I think to buy it online you need to be a member. It doesn't go into a lot of detail about each place, just the highlights. I like the LP guides for the individual states once one has an idea of where you want to go, and am stoked about the East Coast one!
Sally in cold, snowy Seattle
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Old Jan 15th, 2007, 01:00 AM
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Statefan - the Rough Guides have been around since the early 80s, not quite as long as LP. Both started out because the guides available at that time were either very erudite (Blue Guides) or very tame (the rest).

Both started out slowly; both have grown into large groups publishing guides to most destinations as well as maps, phrase books, etc. Both have included more info of a practical nature for less-than-budget travellers over the years.

It's interesting that you have never heard of them. I have never seen a Rick Steves guide but through doing my own research for this or that destination have heard of them.

Another imprint that is always worth checking out is Footprint. They used to publish hardback "Handbooks" (South America was the famous one) but rebranded themselves late 90s I think and now have a broad range of titles.

But they don't do Australia, just Sydney. And as I haven't seen it, I won't venture an opinion.

If you want "slightly off the beaten track" info about Sydney you might like to check out some books that aren't guides as such but will give you ideas.

"Sydney" by Jan Morris
"Sydney" by Geoffrey Moorhouse
Ruth Parks's "Sydney".

If you are interested in walks there are many publications devoted to that, and that only. Joan Lawrence is an author that comes to mind. Or you can get leaflets free once you are here by going to the Sydney Visitor Centre in the Rocks.
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Old Jan 15th, 2007, 06:51 AM
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From my experience, LP has the most info on off-the-beaten-path sites in Australia. Their budget accommodation suggestions for Down Under and much of Asia tend to be the gospel of backpackers, but their their mid to high level recommendations aren't as packed (my thought is that those looking for higher end accommodations scoop up the other guidebooks).

If you want to get off the tourist path in Sydney get James Cockingtons Secret Sydney. It's available online and at the Tourist Offices in Sydney. A few of the sites have changed a bit since published, but 95% of it is accurate and fantastic. I loved the walks for Kings Cross, Watson Bay, Lavendar Bay, Bondi and Kirribilli. - Definitely cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge (walk or train) and do the Lavendar Bay Walk in the early evening...the city is beautiful, Luna Park is lit up and it's just a great way to experience the city.
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Old Jan 16th, 2007, 03:32 AM
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Sorry, not to keen on Lonely Planet. Useful for sure in Viet Nam, wherever you went tourists were poring over their copies, and every second street tout was flogging it.

Finding myself confronted with 2 weeks in Bandung, Indonesia, I bought the LP Indonesian book in Australia, only to find that the 8 pages relating to Bandung and environs just weren't there, and not discovered until I got to Bandung. A precarious enough journey in itself if you could visualise the battered old Fokker which flew from Jakarta to Bandung and crashed a year later. Page numbers indicated that there should have been 8 pages devoted to area, but no, just an 8 page gap. Obviously some stuff-up with printer, but one would think a mass marketer like LP would have some quality control. I did complain on return to Australia to bookseller, who told me a whole print run ran like that.

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Old Jan 16th, 2007, 05:51 AM
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Thanks for the great recommendations. I'm definitely ordering a copy of Secret Sydney. I spent yesterday calling the local bookstores for the Footprint and Rough Guide books. No luck with Footprint, but I did find one Rough Guide I plan to check out today.

I forgot to mention I already have the AAA Spiral Guide for Sydney. We like their maps and tidbits, but it is not detailed enough to be a single solution to my wants.
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 12:16 PM
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I'm a fan of the Rick Steeves series and find them fun to read (unlike most guidebooks) just to get a sense of visiting a country.
I used the book to visit Europe, way back, when the series was newer and it was perfect. It gave what most guidebooks do not- day by day expectations - of how much distance is reasonable to cover in a day, what is doable to visit in a location in a day.
However I can see that the series may be past its prime.

I used the Australia 22days book for my trip to OZ last year. Its out of print, but available on used book sites such as abebooks. also was one on NZ and many other destinations.

I also like Frommers.

Best source of info bar none of course is this website forum.



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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 12:33 PM
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Most of those LP vietnam street editions are photocopied.Some profit oriented vendors...just copy the covers and shrink wrap a volume of blank pages!

I like the footprint style...following on from the seminal...south american handbook.
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