Which is the best Thailand travel guide for 2014? Lonely Planet or Rough Guide?
Over the almost 11 years I’ve lived in Bangkok, I’ve been a big collector of Thailand travel guide books. That’s because even though I’m a partial ‘expert’ on Thailand as I’ve lived here for so long, whenever I leave the city to go to Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kanchanaburi or Hua Hin, I still want to have the latest information about each destination at my finger tips.
After all, hotels open and close, restaurants lose their celebrated chefs and, as Thailand becomes more and more upscale and trendy, there are thousands more cool things to see and do every year. The best Thailand travel guide book for 2014, for instance, will usually have all this and more. So which one is it?
My pick for the best Thailand travel guide book for 2014 has to be the Rough Guide. That’s because, every time I’ve used mine as opposed to Lonely Planet Thailand, I’ve found Rough Guide to have more comprehensive listings and, frankly, to be more up to date with its recommendations than most of the others.
I have also never had the bad luck of arriving at a place recommended by Rough Guide only to find it closed down or hugely changed. That, however, did happen to me with several recommendations from the Lonely Planet.
Lonely Planet Thailand past its prime?
In past years I was a big fan of Lonely Planet Thailand but, in the last couple of editions I’ve bought, I’ve found myself being annoyed with the condescending attitude of some of the writing, as well as with finding so much information that’s either out of date or simply wrong.
Plus, the book’s old-fashioned looking layout, which quite frankly hasn’t changed in years, just makes me feel as though the author is probably as much out of touch with modern Thailand as the book design is.
Meanwhile, Rough Guide Thailand, with its more modern layout, has lovely colored maps, which Lonely Planet doesn’t, and it also includes more colored photographs. Perfect for when you want to see exactly what the writer is talking about at any given destination.
Lonely Planet Thailand writer vs Rough Guide Thailand writers
In the year and a half I’ve been using the latest editions of both books I’ve also noticed Rough Guide has more content than the Lonely Planet Thailand book does for most destinations, and mentions places the Lonely Planet writer obviously never even gets to.
My take on this is it’s likely because the main writer for Lonely Planet Thailand, Joe Cummings – a man who wrote the definitive guide book for years — no longer seems to be involved in the creation of the book.
The 2012 edition of Lonely Planet Thailand (the newest edition of the book until August this year) has another writer, China Williams, doing the research and the writing and, as she lives in the US and only makes a couple of trips a year to Thailand rather than live ‘in country’ as Joe Cummings does, she obviously doesn’t have the breadth of knowledge about the country the previous writer did.
The 2014 edition of Lonely Planet Thailand is poorer for it.
Meanwhile, of the two authors for Rough Guide Thailand, one (Paul Gray) lives in Thailand, and the other one (Lucy Ridout) travels around Asia full-time. In the accurate writing and far superior updated listings, it shows.
Overall, while both Lonely Planet Thailand and Rough Guide Thailand are useful additions to a vacation or business trip to Thailand, I still have to recommend Rough Guide Thailand as the better of the two.
You can currently pick up the October, 2012 edition of Rough Guide Thailand on Amazon (a newer edition is due out later on this year).
And, if you still think you’d prefer Lonely Planet Thailand, you can buy a copy of that at Amazon as well. Do note, however, it was published six months before the latest Rough Guide Thailand and doesn’t have a newer edition coming out until October 2014, so don’t be surprised if its listings are more out of date.