Nethy's Reviews > New Zealand

New Zealand by Carolyn Bain
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M_50x66
's review
Oct 16, 10

Read in January, 2010

I'll start by saying the this is a lonely planet and therefore pretty good. The format of listing eating/sleeping/activities for every destination along with prices and direction is a killer formula. You'll almost certainly end up doing things, eating and sleeping in better places and at better prices with this book than without out it. That said, and keeping this in mind that I usually really like LP, I have a mostly negative review.

1. For many places in the world, lonely planet is written with the voice of an advocate. "Israelis will advise you that it's dangerous to visit the west bank but it is really safe enough if you follow these guidelines," "Espresso in the Netherlands is awful and local cuisine is nothing to write home about, eat Indonesian and drink black coffee, avoid Cofiemelk," "Camping on the beaches here is officially illegal but it's tolerated and actually the best place to stay" etc. etc. The NZ planet advises you to do what the adults tell you and sounds more like an official explanation than an old hand showing you the ropes.

2. The book lists as "activities" most of the things that you would find in a local i-site (NZ's brilliant, but commercially focused local tourist info offices), zorbing, bungee, go carts, ski, fishing etc. Expensive, made for tourist activities. These are better in NZ than almost anywhere and most people will want at least some but there is no trouble at all finding them. What guidebooks are for (and lonely planet usually excels at) is activities that don't have multi-million dollar marketing budgets attached to them. A place where you can spend a morning in the snow on $5 plastic sleds. A beautiful stream you can float down on a donut from the local dollar shop. A place to meet locals. How to avoid booking $45pp bus tickets to go on a hike when what you really need is a way to get back to your car at the beginning of the trail. I saw locals on the trail, but none on the bus.

3. The book doesn't seem all that researched. In many smaller places it's close to exhaustive in it's list of eateries, for example, but almost useless. It's not so different from what you'd discover by walking down the main street looking at menus which is what we ended up doing anyway. It's as if the writer arrived in town, went to the i site, picked up the brochures, removed all hype & fizzle and called around for prices. Most places don't have an "our pick" for sleeping, eating or things to do & see.

Maybe NZ is too close to home for lonely planet to really shine. It's a useful directory of places, restaurants and hotels. It'll save you carrying around stacks of brochures with everything but the price. It reads like an officially sanctioned version with prices. You won't be guided around any obstacles. It isn't a secret weapon and it' not the lonely plant at its best.
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