I have purchased both the Latin American Spanish and the French versions of this phrasebook. The phrases are organized by category, with an alphabetical index in the back. This organization makes it easy to review a few key phrases before entering a restaurant or museum etc. so you can sound like less of a tourist. Also, the book is so small it is very discreet and takes up hardly any room in a purse or backpack. However, the way the pronunciations are spelled out is rather strange sometimes. I would recommend knowing some basics in the language before you use these books, so you can recognize proper and improper pronunciations.
For every significant trip out of country, I've picked up a copy of the pertinent Lonely Planet Phrasebook and I have yet to be disappointed. I purchased two of the Latin American Spanish edition prior to a recent trip to Honduras. As with other Lonely Planet Phrasebooks, this one includes basic pronunciation and grammar, phrases organized by category, short dictionaries in both languages, and cultural commentary. While they aren't comprehensive in their vocabulary, they are compact and can easily be carried in a pocket. Unless you plan to really dig in and learn the language, my personal opinion is that one of these books is all you need to get by.
For me these books have also provided a great way to connect with local speakers. I have handed my copy to new friends more than once so they could look up phrases or words to communicate with me. When traveling to a location where you don't speak the language (in this case, Spanish), these phrasebooks combined with a smile and a good sense of humor will demonstrate a real desire to communicate in the local tongue, get you through many common situations, and ultimately help enrich your travel experience.
I took this book with me on my travels around Buenos Aires and it definitely helped me out in times of dire need. It was full of great words and phrases and the fact that it had phonetic descriptions was great to. But the reality was i didnt get to use it much in social situations, as the navigation was so terrible. I tried to ask a cab to take me somewhere using the book... and it took me 5 minutes to flick through and find the right page! I opted for a crash course at Expanish Spanish school instead. To those who dont have a word of spanish, I would suggest doing a course and taking a smaller phrasebook
I bought this book as a present for my parents who were leaving on a trip to Guatemala. It was a great resource for people who are not fluent in Spanish but who want to be able to communicate (however awkwardly) in Spanish while in a Spanish speaking country. It contains a number of phrases that are important to know when traveling as well as the basics of the Spanish language to review prior to leaving. I would buy this again for friends in a similar situation.
I'm planning a trip to South America at the end of the year, and bought the book to supplement other Spanish learning tools. I like the layout, and the intro discussing the differences in Latin American Spanish and Castilian, pronunciation differences, and expressions used in Latin America. I like the breakdown by topic (i.e Shopping, Directions, etc) as it could be reviewed in advance of a 'situation'. There is a small English <-> Spanish section in the back for those situations where you are looking for a particular word, although it is not as complete as a real English - Spanish dictionary due in part to the amount of space. Still, this seems to be a "quick and dirty" pocket reference that could be of value while traveling, but is no substitute for other books, software, etc for learning the language. For the price, and size, it seems hard to go wrong. It will accompany me on my trip. Only then will I know how well it really serves its intended purpose.