Lonely Planet is a name that dominates the travel sphere on the internet, offering guides and informative content on almost all in the world. Its popularity is largely due to its guidebooks with detailed maps that were considered as a great resource for travelers, particularly for backpackers on a shoestring. Today, it’s the world’s largest travel guide publisher with over 150 million guidebooks.
But, as Lonely Planet’s ownership was changed from time to time, it began to lose its appeal as a unique platform for travel content. So, we wanted to know if Lonely Planet is still a resourceful travel website ripe with information that’s relevant, timely, and budget-friendly.
Keep reading to find out if Lonely Planet travel guides are still worth purchasing!
What Is Lonely Planet?
Lonely Planet is a travel guide and travel content publishing company that was founded with the aim of providing travelers with useful and unique information along with affordable choices for accommodation and dining.
Started by two broke backpackers, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, with a vision to provide fellow travelers with inspiration to travel, Lonely Planet quickly rose through the ranks due to its depth of content and originality. It was eventually sold to BBC and then to a billionaire, Brad Kelley. If you are wondering, who owns Lonely Planet at present; it’s Red Ventures, an owner of many digital businesses.
What Are the Main Features of Lonely Planet?
Guidebooks and maps
Lonely Planet sells guidebooks on regions, countries, cities, parks, hikes and treks, and many other topics in both digital and print form. These include itineraries, maps, user reviews, insider tips, and information on hidden gems.
If you are an old-school traveler who likes to flip the pages of paperback devouring travel content, you can order its print versions. Otherwise, you can go with the e-books, especially if you are backpacking. Maps can be purchased separately as well.
Booking can be made via Lonely Planet related to insurance, hotels, flights, adventure tours, sightseeing tours, and transport. So, if you come across interesting experiences or points of interest while going through its content, you can place a reservation directly.
Inspiring travel content
In addition to Lonely Planet travel guide books that users have to pay for access, Lonely Planet also provides extensive travel descriptions, articles, and videos covering topics related to different destinations that are free to view.
Users can purchase and access Lonely Planet travel guides via its website or mobile app, which is available in both Android and iOS versions. General content related to destinations can be viewed even without an account for free.
What Is Missing in Lonely Planet?
One of the frequent complaints about Lonely Planet by its avid users is how the guidebooks have lost their novel touch. Information and tips mentioned even in newer editions are outdated and uninspiring. If a guidebook that you purchase for eye-catching information has only generic, old, and mainstream facts that you can gather with a quick search on the internet, then it’s obviously not worth the money.
If you have ever purchased or viewed some of the earliest guidebooks (old versions) by Lonely Planet that were ripe with information, intriguing you to travel further, you would know Lonely Planet as a platform that offers what curious travelers are looking for. But, if you take a look at the latest versions, you no longer see the juicy content that you would love to flip through on a plane.
One of the aspects that set Lonely Planet apart from its counterparts in the beginning was the depth of its travel content. The guidebooks were a treasure trove of information on places with descriptive and useful explanations. At present, its descriptions are vague narratives that are written poetically but lack the necessary details we need. There is less emphasis on unusual attractions and insider tips as well.
The list of attractions provided by Lonely Planet is nothing short of overwhelming, especially if it’s a popular destination. While it does give us a plethora of choices to choose from and create our own itinerary, it would have been better if Lonely Planet sifts the best for us as a travel company that knows better than its users. There’s the choice of filtering the attractions based on categories but that doesn’t help us choosing places that are actually worth visiting.
Lonely Planet has appropriated mainstream travel content and booking websites and has lost its defining competitive edge as a result. It’s no longer the expert who knows how to “guide” travelers away from dull and uninspiring spots and help them experience the true essence of the destination.
Lonely Planet guides also provide accommodation and dining options that can be booked from the website directly. However, its knack for providing affordable and unique choices for travelers looking for a localized experience has diminished greatly. Users also complain how Lonely Planet’s choices are overcrowded and highly commercialized places or ones that no longer exist.
After reading many Lonely Planet reviews, it seems that even the customer service is appalling. Many customers have complained of delayed shipments of guidebooks they ordered, irresponsive and unreliable customer care team, and time-consuming refund process. This has further downgraded Lonely Planet while discouraging people to purchase its guides.
It’s also noteworthy to mention that Lonely Planet has gone through what any company goes through with a change of ownership – a change of objectives, values, and business model. So, the ideas cherished by its founders may not align with its present parent company – a highly commercialized enterprise.
What Else Has Changed?
There are other factors that have affected the popularity of Lonely Planet.
Consumer expectations have increased rapidly over the past years with the growth of the travel industry as well as technology. It may be that printed guidebooks are no longer deemed as essential resources when there are resources on the internet that won’t affect the weight of your backpack.
Lonely Planet has lost its charm to hook readers with its resources is the influx of travel websites we have experienced over the years. There’s information everywhere, and Lonely Planet has been unable to compete well enough to retain its edge.
More importantly, its competitors like Rough Guides, Bradt, and DK Eyewitness Travel have also been performing really well, filling market gaps. When it comes to Rough Guides vs Lonely Planet, some prefer the former for better accommodation options.
What’s Still Good about Lonely Planet?
Great platform to get an overview
For those who are simply browsing for travel content on a particular country, city, or attraction, Lonely Planet maybe a good place to get a comprehensive introduction. It rounds up information on history, culture, wildlife, and other major aspects that are worth the attention while giving a long list of attractions below for you to gain a better picture. If you prefer to gain all the basic details in one place rather than strip-searching the internet, Lonely Planet is a good site.
Covers all destinations
It’s unlikely that Lonely Planet won’t have a description for a destination you are looking for – although it may be short of a detailed travel guide. It’s due to this very reason that travelers continue to use the website and get a heads-up about places they intend to visit. So, while it is increasingly syncing with mainstream travel sites, the mammoth of information is also good in a way. Due to this, Lonely Planet still remains as one of the frequently used websites by travelers around the world.
Lonely Planet is a great place to watch inspiring videos and learn about wildlife attractions, cultural events, natural wonders, and other interesting aspects around the world. For those of us who don’t necessarily enjoy reading lengthy articles, the videos of destinations and facts about them can be a feast for the eyes.
Despite the inaccuracies that have been noted in some guide books and maps, people continue to refer Lonely Planet to supplement their travel plans. The maps have proven to be useful – although they could be much better. You can use the website to select what appeals to you and include it in your itinerary. Its booking features also make travel planning a step easier.
Want a better travel planner?
Lonely Planet still does a solid job in providing travelers with useful content but it doesn’t allow you to plan trips using its app or website.
If you are looking for a reliable travel planner to create itineraries by gathering details from multiple sources on the web, we highly recommend Pilot. Our social planner helps you plan memorable trips with your favorite people, ensuring you leave nothing behind. What’s more? Use Pilot to store your notes, save booking information, and brainstorm travel ideas. You can also find inspiring travel content that would intrigue you to keep ticking your travel bucket list!