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Having decided to explore the Australia with my partner for my gap year, I was given this book as a gift from my partner's father to help aid us in our decisions about where and when to go and explore the great Aussie outback..
Being cocky and looking at the size of the thing (its quiet bulky and heavy and was sometimes a nuisance when carrying in my rucksack - note MY rucksack....boyfriend not strong enough or willing to carry it!), i put it aside and decided i could cope without using it for my pre planning and planning during my trip. After struggling looking at a wide range of websites and getting conflicting prices and ideas from travel agents, I took out the book and flicked through the first few pages.
I firstly found the range of information impressive (and prehaps a little overwhelming), each region of Australia was covered, (Western Australia, Queensland etc) and each town or city within that region was covered in severe detail by previous backpackers experiences of the area.This detailing began with an overall description of the town and whom it was suited for, ie backpackers, surfers, families or couples. Followed by every accomodation within the city or town from cheap backpacker hostels to the top of the line hotels and were each given a large paragraph of detailing including contact details, directions, prices, facilities and a star rating.
Each section also covered the towns local attractions from tours, resturants, cafes, parks, zoos, mueseums, galleries, pubs, clubs, theme parks and any other exciting attractions the town or city has to offer. Again it gives a detailed decription, contact details, opening times, prices and a star rating.
The book also provides useful information about planning your trip before you even leave for Australia, such as immigration and visas (we went on a holiday working visa allowing us to stay in the country for one year and work up to three months with any one employer), health issues such as what immunisations to have before your travel and what diseases or symptoms you could encounter. There was also a breakdown and lists of deadly and venomous snakes and spiders for each state, giving detailing of what to look out for, what to do if you get bitten and national helpline numbers for emergencys. It also had a good range of maps from a national perspective and a local one.
Lonley Planet also included estimated expenses of accomodation, travel, personal items and the exchange rate of currency from British Pounds, US Dollars, Hong Kong Dollars all to Aussie Dollars. Furthermore it provides detailed prices and accounts of the variety of transport avalibale getting across the expanse of land that is Australia, such as internal flights, trains, car hire and boats ranging from economy status right up to first class.
Additonally the book provided detailing of local state laws and national laws that differed from the United Kingdom, such as drinking and driving laws. It provided information of the local and national cuisine (predominately beer and BBQs) and how to prevent offence through language or action iin resturants, bars or cafes.
So overall the range of information was diverse, detailed and extensive. When using numbers to arrange accomodation and activies such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge (please check out my review on this) the information was accurate. However the quality of information regarding the state of accomodation was over generous by some backpackers.We required an over night stay in Perth, and selected Hay Street Backpackes centred in the middle of Perth City as recommend heavily by backpackers whom had experienced it and was rated the best in Perth for value for money. All details regarding pricing and the number to ring ahead was correct, including the facilities avaliable. However its description was "really clean, exceptional value and friendly staff", this was incredibly incorrect.
Our room (we paid for the highest and 'best room' avalaible) was a double bed ensuite. We paid $60.00. The room was dark (one window at the top of the wall), unclean, only had the bed for furnishing (not even a hanging rail for clothing! - $60 we paid for this!!!), the ensuite was a dirty sink with a broken mirror and the shower had not been cleaned in about a month. The shower head particulary was grubby and had a green growth over it. The ensuite had no windows, no door and was so tiny my partner had no have one leg out the shower when showering! Made me wonder what the other rooms were like, since this was supposed to be the best they had in the whole facility! The room did however have a lock on the door, and we only had to stay for the one night. The staff was moody (and barely spoke english) when we arrived and told us that i had to give all my credit card detailes over before i was allowed the key and if we lost or stole the key we had to pay $25.00 for the replacement.
This experience made us decide not to use the book again for advice on where to stay and chose to select accomodation online with www.flightcentre.com, where we got for $55 a night (last minute just like Perth City), an apartment in surfers paradise, on the beach with our own double bedroom, washing facilties, bathroom with a proper size shower, living area with a TV, balcony with sliding doors, air conditioning, clean sheets and pillows, sufficient windows and lightinh, our own kitchen and a decent looking (and not to mention clean ) swimming pool.
Having said this the book was useful in gathering information about Australia, understanding the nitty gritty details such as the law and immigration and gave a good indication of accomodation and attractions avaliable but most importantly the prices that we could encounter. Considering the expanse and cost of Australia this book was very helpful and i would recommend this to any backpacker or long holiday individuals to plan their trip.
The book is updated every year by backpackers sending in their accounts of the accomodation and sells for around the £16-20 mark, you can buy second hand ones of outdated versions, which still hold some use on amazon or even ebay.
you should drop them a line and tell them how crap you found their advice. Having said that and I am not sure if the Ciao picture is right it looks like it was an oldish copy. I visited in 2003 and used this copy so perhaps it was out of date?
carcraig 01.06.2008 21:48
We have used Rough Guides in the past but will may be look at Lonely Planet next time, good review, Caroline xx