on March 5, 2004
They say that everything you hear about China is true somewhere. Everything you read in LP China may also be true somewhere but unfortunately not always where you are. Originally published in August 2002 this book is well past its prime. It is still superior to the Rough Guide but could use a serious update. Speaking of which the overleaf promises guidebook upgrades on the Internet but they discontinued this in favour of user discussion.
Pricing - the cost of tea in China, you say? Like most things in China, prices are in constant flux and I question the value of including them. They are more misleading than helpful. Tourist attractions will generally be higher than what the book says but other prices will be close.
Locations - I live in the city of Wuhan and in the last two year it has undergone tremendous changes. There is simply no way for a printed book to keep up with them. For example, in the last six months the bus routes in WuChang have changed four times.
If you are going to travel around China be flexible! Expect that nothing in the guidebook will be where you expected. Expect to bargain for everything, hotel prices included. Remember that any guide book is only a starting place. As I have travelled around southern China I have used this book as a starting point and then asked the locals what they would do. Most have never been to the "tourist sites" but can show you a great street restaurant just around the corner.
This book is great for those thinking of going to China but who will never make the trip, or for those who are going on a package trip to fourteen cities in eight days. For those who want to explore China on their own I would advise caution.
on November 23, 2004
I arrived home from China 2 weeks ago after being there for 2 weeks. I visited the most amazing places, and yes, I took the most recent LP with me. Alot of reviewers here have stated the lack of important information in this publication, however, I found this book to be valuble on my journey. China is a tough place to travel, English isnt spoken in most places and the general public (outside of those who deal with tourists often) are not a particularly friendly bunch to westerners. In reading this guide, you must take into account that it ISNT a tour guide, it is simply a reference to sites and popular places. I found the Chinese text to be very helpful when using taxi's. China is an ever changing place, and if you have ever been there, you will know how vast it really is. A mecca of laneways and confusing streets. LP was an invaluble read for me and I would recommend this guide for those who are imbarking on thier first trip to this wonderful place.
As a well travelled person, I have used LP many times in different places, I think some people forget to step outside the book and just find things on their own will...
on November 8, 2007
It is confusing that many of the reviews here are for the National Geographic Traveler China book, by the same author as the Lonely Planet book. The National Geographic book has lots of pictures and is a good "idea" book. The Lonely Planet is geared to the independent traveler, with much more specific information about how to get around. This review is for the Lonely Planet.
My husband and I have successfully used Lonely Planet books on many other trips, but we were disappointed in the China book. Obviously China is a huge country, and it is changing very quickly, so we were not surprised to find that many places no longer exist and that some of the information was out-of-date. But we WERE surprised at the amount of blatantly wrong information. For example, the section on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain near Lijiang was so mixed-up that we ended up spending the day at the wrong hiking area.
In most countries it would be fairly easy to double-check the accuracy of a description by asking a hotel concierge or taxi driver. In China, though, we often had problems communicating, so we relied much more heavily on our guidebooks.
The book is huge, but it didn't need to be quite so big. Many of the descriptions are excessively wordy, and sometimes it seemed like the author was more interested in writing a clever review than clearly giving the facts.
The best thing about the book is that names of places and most streets are written in Chinese. It was incredibly helpful to be able to point to the place we wanted to go. We found that our accents and pronunciations were so bad when we tried to read pinyin that most people didn't even realize we were trying to speak Chinese to them.
We looked through other guidebooks at some of our guest houses, and unfortunately none seemed to be much better.
on December 7, 2002
I agree with the previous reviewer when he says a) the arrogant tone of previous editions continues here, b) if you have an old edition, there is no need to upgrade, as there isn't much new here as they really don't update much. That second point is particularly egrigious, as there has been so much change in China of late. The most classic example is in the South West of China (there is a separate guidebook for this, which is better, but not much). The guidebook refers to Chengdu as "backpacker's paradise", but I'm here to tell you there are a lot of sorely disappointed backpackers who've wound up in Chengdu on this advice and left pretty quickly. Or tried to leave quickly but couldn't, as while the book tells you that there are 85 trains to different places, it shows there are four different train stations on the map in completely different places in town, wbut never tells you which is the main one or which one you might need to get to to get the heck out of dodge. Other descriptions include bus lines as "luxiourious rulers of the road" when there's not even a bus line in the town. This continues everywhere throughout the book. The Beijing section is *particularly* bad when it comes to listing cheap accomodation anywhere near Tianamen Square. According to the book, it is woefully lacking. But if they'd ever listed YHA hostels (they don't, who knows why), there's more cheap, clean, English speaking beds within walking distance of T-Square than you can imagine. Something like 2000 of them. When I met up with a friend in Beijing and we prepared to get on the Trans-Mongolian out of the country, we didn't even leave this book behind, we actually burned it and did a little dance that we wouldn't have to use it again.
on August 24, 2004
I received a copy of the Lonely Planet China as a gift. I am neutral about the book. Good general information. However...China is so dynamic and changing...it doesn't ring true in many cases.
I would suggest the National Geographic Traveler China guide. It is very well balanced...gives excellent background...so the traveler can interpret and experience the wonders of China through high quality text, pictures and maps.
I would still suggest the Lonely Planet guide for those that have not travelled much...and a starting point. But those that have past international travel experience will find it much too basic and generic. Nat'l Geographic will provide a comprehensive pretrip planning guide so you can best tailor your trip and will enhance your experience while visting.
Another factoid side note. The author of National Geographic Traveler China (Damian Harper) co-authored several guides of China, Beijing, and Hong Kong for Lonely Planet. To validate...click the D. Harper's name near the book title above. Same author...but with the quality of National Geographic.
on April 11, 2003
i would have to agree with the negative reviews i've seen, and also the majority of travelers i have met in china. we all carry around the lp "bible", but also agree that it is one of the worst publications they have. it seems as you travel along that maybe lonely planet has not visited china or the places it talks about in a while. unfortunately it is one of the only publications of its type and it does contain a minimum of information that one may find useful at times. most of the informatino is outdated, even though i'm using the 2003 edition. Not to mention that they add the poorly written humor instead of a little more chinese script, which let me tell you goes a long way in a country where once you're out of the main cities, very few people speak english, and when they do it is not the best. some more useful word and phrases would be great, instead of how to say "eel fried with spinach and mushrooms". just the words for muchrooms, noodles, and rice would be nice, instead of forcing you to buy the mandarin phrase book, just to get the basics. another complaint i would have is in the compactnes. i realize this is a large country, but i feel like a lot of the space dedicated to useless information and adveritisments that you can't ever remove (for more lp bibles...) could be put to some much better use. All in all i have to say that while containing some very useful information, you're much better off photocopying the important pages and leaving the book at home.
on January 12, 2003
I will agree that the LP China is out of date in many places, but in all fairness the only way to bat a thousand would to assign a team of writers working 365/24/7 to cover a nation as immense.
That said, I have to slam LP for misleading buyers that these new editions have much new data. They also put down their host country and that is not appropriate for a travel guide. I know the writers are mostly young and from either Oz or USA. So they try to impose their cultural/political views on the reader. I know this because in the 7th Edition I am credited in the Nanjing/Jiangsu section by the writer. I was a student at Nanjing Univ.
LP's Robert Storey is guilty of slamming China too often. He lives in Taiwan and his head is full of pro independence nonsense. BTW - having also lived in Taibei - Storey is a bit of a joke amongst young expats as telling to many "stories" - pun intended! He misses critical details for a traveler and instead romances the reader with his BS!
As with other reviews, this book is a set of training wheels but it is not the Bible. DO NOT PAY $30...get it used!!!!!!!
on October 29, 2002
I was carrying around a copy of the 7th edition LP China in Yunnan this past summer, and when I saw the newly-released 8th edition in a bookstore in Dali I snatched it up right away. Unfortunately, in Dali and in fact in most of Yunnan even the 8th edition seems to be already out of date; many of the Dali restaurants they mentioned didn't exist any more, and several of the hotels had either disappeared or become much more seedy than LP let on. Plus their descriptions seem out-of-date; in the last few years, all but the farthest reaches of Yunnan have gotten smothered with Chinese tourists, so a lot of the old town charm that they go on and on about simply doesn't exist any more. Admission fees at several places had gone up, too, in some cases (like Shilin) to such an extent that a budget traveler might change their mind about visiting them at all. This wasn't just confined to Yunnan, either; even in Shanghai it seemed that the guide was already out-of-date on several fronts.
There are also the usual LP problems: the arrogance and cynicism of previous LP China editions persists in this one, and while the maps are good (and expanded in detail) it would be nice if they'd list a few more hotels, particularly in China where they close and open so frequently.
If you've got an older edition of LP, don't bother upgrading; and if you're shopping around for a new China guide, don't let LP's publication date fool you into thinking it's any more accurate than its competitors.
on October 24, 2007
I spent two and a half months traveling around China and this is the book that I took with me. Besides the fact that the map in the front isn't very good, and that in a couple of remote places (the North Korean border town of Dandong, for example) the street maps aren't entirely accurate (a problem in China given that local people usually don't even know the name of the street on which they work), I found this to be a great guidebook. Really. It was fine. It did the trick. No problems. I subjected it to quite a lot of abuse and it's still together and looking good. I cannot, for the life of me, understand some of the negative reviews here.
One says there's no Chinese in the book. I'm looking at the Chinese in the book right now. In addition to place names, food items, and so on, there's an entire section of it for pity's sake, although, to be fair, it has been cleverly disguised with the heading, 'Languages.' Another critic claims that the volume doesn't contain any useful travel information, a miracle when you consider that it's nearly a thousand pages long and teeming with the sections 'Sights,' 'Sleeping,' 'Getting There and Away,' 'Getting Around,' 'To and from the airport,' 'Maps,' etc.
Despite the LP formula, quality can vary from writer to writer and book to book, and some writers are bent on plugging the humdrum (lest the potential buyer think the country rubbish and return the volume to its spot on the shelf), but not in this case. There are a few trivial glitches here and there, but in a tome of this size there are bound to be. Basically, you arrive at a place, check into a recommended hotel, take a look at the 'Sights' section and off you go. Book your onward tickets from your hotel's in-house travel agency, easy to find as it's usually the same counter or the one next to your hotel's in-house "massage centre."
One more thing: if you are using this guidebook in China, you may want to consider tearing out the map in the front. I ran into three people who had their China Lonely Planets confiscated by officials because it didn't include Taiwan. Each person was given a little geography lesson before having their book taken away from them ("Do you see this troublesome little island here? The one with more than a thousand missiles aimed at it? To whom does it belong?"). The reason why this can be problematic is that you rarely see English guidebooks (even second hand ones) in China, except in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing. I ran into a nice Danish couple who had their Lonely Planet taken away, hence they had to waste valuable time digging around for a new one. It was their first time to China and they hadn't the faintest idea as to where or what Taiwan was. But, of course, they do now.
Troy Parfitt, author of Why China Will Never Rule the World
on May 9, 2004
To echo the words of other readers, this is disappointing and out of date.
On the second point, bear in mind that many prices have increased (sometimes more than doubled) since this book was published.
On the first, try to ignore almost every recommendation on accomodation and food that the guidebook makes. In many locations the majority of listed restaurants are Western and those that are Chinese are poor quality, high priced and seem to be recommended only for having an English menu. Go somewhere else, point, go for pot-luck or learn a little Chinese before you go and you'll enjoy everything much more.