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Title: Lonely Planet Travellers' Tips
Editor: Tom Hall
Copyright: © 2003
Publisher: Lonely Planet
Relevance: Lonely Planet Travellers' Tips is an ideal introduction for reporters and correspondents working on their first assignments abroad. Although experienced travelers have likely picked up many of the hints and tips contained in this book, even they can find one or two great ideas that make the book worthwhile.
Review: Living up to its name, Lonely Planet Travellers' Tips is a pocket-sized (3.75" by 5") book full of tips "for travellers by travellers". Divided in 20 chapters, the book shares more than 250 travel-related tips ranging from such obvious ones as "travel light, travel faster" to "bag the top bunk for long train journeys -- it's safer and there's a good chance you'll wake up in the night if anyone's trying to get at you or your gear".
Clearly the tone and market is Lonely Planet's traditional audience -- beginning backpackers and budget travelers -- but many of the tips ring true for all travelers, regardless of affluence, experience or vocation.
Book chapters include Itchy Feet (planning your trip); Getting Ready (the packing experience); Upgrades, Perks & Tricks of the Trade (how to ease your way through the check-in process and customs); On The Road (tips for the actual travel process); and Essential Kit (necessary things to take with you -- not to be confused with the things discussed in the Getting Ready section).
Next up Money Matters; Getting Around (day trips and transportation options), and Closing the Cultural Gap (not getting into hot water by committing any local faux pas). The Getting Around chapter is full of quick tips about travel within a particular country and although some of the information is a bit dubious -- for example, "if you're sure it's safe, never pass up the opportunity to ride on the roof of a moving vehicle, and that includes a boat." -- many of the other tips ring true.
Chapter 8, Close the Culture Gap, contains hints about getting around culturally, having fun and interacting with the natives on their terms, not yours. For example, the ability to say "yes" or "no" and even "one beer please", as well as how to respect the local dress codes and attitudes goes a long way to making a happy trip for everyone. Reporters and correspondents can be just as guilty as the other rabble as being loud, boorish and generally a pain in the you-know-where, so it's useful to have these not so tender reminders about how not to go out of your way to upset people.
"Travel Light, Travel Faster" could be the theme for Chapter 9's Solo Travel. Although short, even by this book's bite-size information standards, it does contain a few tips that would be useful to many travellers and of course, correspondents. For example, "a wedding ring is the best way to avoid unwanted amorous attention" (this tip rings true for both women and men) and "large amounts of drink or drugs and being alone in an unfamiliar place are a bad combination".
Naturally, reporters on assignment will have no time for shopping, The book, however, does contain a few tips on how to shop while traveling and how not to get taken by unscrupulous merchants. Some advice is particularly poignant: "try to buy souvenirs from a needy local, rather than a fancy shop or an expatriate hippy." We couldn't agree more.
We were somewhat disappointed that the food chapter wasn't more in-depth, however, the quick snatches of information contained in this chapter are in keeping with the theme for this book. "Get enough to share -- hungry kids in your train compartment can make you feel very guilty about snacking on your own". And of course there's the usual "Lonely Planet reality" whereby normal people would say, "that really can't work" and have a quick chuckle. As an example, one tip: "Here's how to make free tomato soup; free ketchup packets, free milk for coffee, free hot water. Mix in free Styrofoam cup -- and use your own personal flair!" One of our reviewers after rolling her eyes and saying "oh so gross", asked sarcastically, "what about the free pepper packets?" Still, this short chapter does contain information that, although may be obvious to many hard-core travelers, is sometimes forgotten to the detriment of the visitor. As an example, "If you are going to eat from a street stall, avoid meat that's been sitting for a while or choose a busy place where they turn the food over quickly." Yep.
Mile High Club
Chapter 12, Romance & Night Life, outlines tips about romance and sex while traveling. With the growing popularity of small narrow-body planes with highly visible lavatory doors, some advice is plainly obvious: "Everyone on the plane will know if you join the mile high club" and another unfortunate truism: "If you don't normally pull girls that good looking at home, make sure you're not in for any surprises when the clothes come off." However, many tips are very useful and new travellers may not have thought of these useful ideas: "Always, always, carry condoms. Aside from obvious reasons, different countries may have different sizes to what you're used to. If a friend is short of one, you can earn a lifetime of free beer by being equipped. In emergencies, they can also add a layer of waterproofing to valuables when crossing rivers or caught in sudden storms." Although the book doesn't specifically mention it, condoms are also great at protecting canisters of exposed film and electronics from moisture, dirt and grime.
Staying Safe, Watch Out!, Family Travel and Health all deal with keeping safe on the road and are very apropos for all reporters and foreign correspondents. Several tips are very useful: "A first-aid kit should be the first item in your pack. Hopefully you won't need to open it, but it may prove the most crucial thing you pack. Remember to customise it according to your destination". Also: "most people go to the doctor's before a trip, but a visit to the dentist is equally essential. You may find yourself a long way from a modern, comfy surgery with goldfish and magazines, and your gums may regret it."
Chapter 17 is titled Keeping in Touch and deals with the often difficult struggle to keep in touch with loved ones or business associates back home. Although not entirely useful for reporters who need to communicate quickly and accurately, many of the tips could prove useful. "Agreeing to a check-in-time each week can save a lot of concerns with the folks back home" is just as useful for reporters working in a press-hostile country as it can for a single 18-year-old backpacker on her first trip away from home.
Capturing the Moment (Chapter 18), deals with photography and other ways of remembering your travels. Here, the book provides some basic, yet useful tips for travellers, including "always carry a spare battery for your camera -- some are hard to come by from home and you don't want to find yourself miles from the nearest shop with the perfect shot and no battery" and " if you're going abroad to snap wild animals, a trip to your local zoo can familiarize you and your camera with your subject matter". Needless to say, professional photographers won't be taking any notes here.
Although the chapter titled "Coming Home" is not particularly applicable to reporters or correspondents, it is useful for other travellers who have to deal with the realities of returning home and the usual post-travel depression. Perhaps one of the more useful chapters is titled "Never Thought of That". Here, there are lots of different tips that don't particularly fit in the previous 19 chapters/categories. For example: "Everyone says take photocopies of your passport, tickets, etc. Fair enough, but I say photocopy them onto acetate sheets so that they can't get soggy and useless!!" And perhaps one for travellers with less-than-stellar ethics: "Stay with old family friends and steal their toothpaste when you leave."
We were pleasantly surprised by the number and quality of the tips contained in Travellers' Tips. Although many of these tips are aimed at beginning travellers, quite a few are useful for experienced trekkers as well. Despite the fact that the needs of reporters, correspondents and ENG teams are not specifically mentioned anywhere in the book, Lonely Planet Travellers' Tips' many helpful suggestions are generic enough that can be used by a wide variety of people -- whether on assignment or pleasuring tripping. Recommended for all levels, but especially beginners and intermediate travellers.
End of Review
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