Which is the best Thailand travel guide? Lonely Planet or The Rough Guide?
Over the almost 15 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 instance, will usually have all this and more. So which one is it?
My pick for the best Thailand travel guide book has to be The Rough Guide. That’s because, every time I’ve used mine as opposed to Lonely Planet Thailand, I’ve found The 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 The 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with the condescending attitude of some of the writing, as well as with finding so much information that’s either out of date or simply wrong.
The guide book does finally have a more modern layout, so that is a nice change, but I still think the layout of The Rough Guide to Thailand and that book’s ‘warmer’ writing style does a better job with pulling you in and making you feel excited about visiting the country.
Meanwhile, The Rough Guide to Thailand too, with its nice layout and lovely colored maps 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 The Rough Guide to Thailand writers
In the year I’ve been using the latest editions of both books I’ve also noticed The Rough Guide has more content than the Lonely Planet Thailand book does for most of the destinations I specifically go to. It also mentions places the Lonely Planet guide doesn’t seem to get to.
My take on this is it is likely because the main writer for Lonely Planet Thailand, Joe Cummings – a man who wrote the definitive Thailand and Bangkok guide books for years — no longer seems to be involved in the creation of the book.
That means the latest edition of Lonely Planet Thailand has a conglomerate of writers creating the content for the book — Austin Bush, Joe Bindloss, Mark Beals and Tim Bewer — so it’s a mish-mash of writing styles that, frankly, I found annoying.
Sadly, the latest edition of Lonely Planet Thailand is poorer for it.
Meanwhile, of the two authors for The Rough Guide to Thailand, one (Paul Gray) lives in Thailand and the other (Lucy Ridout) travels around Asia full-time. In the accurate consistently well-written prose and the far superior updated listings, it shows.
Overall, while both Lonely Planet Thailand and The Rough Guide to 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.