Advice on where to buy a surgical face mask is not the kind of information you'll find in most guidebooks, but if you're planning to head off the beaten path, such as a dusty bus trip between Golmund, China, and Lhasa, Tibet, it's the kind of information that can be very helpful.
It's the type of tip you'll find in the quarterly newsletter by Lonely Planet Publications. Lonely Planet publishes more than 50 guide and phrase books that are packed with information helpful to travelers on tight budgets and off major tourist routes.
Travelers who use the Lonely Planet books are encouraged to send in information and advice from their experiences and it is published in a quarterly newsletter. The recent, 46-page edition of the newsletter included details on accommodations, transportation, safety, visas, restaurants and tour services.
One of the most important aspects of the newsletter is that it passes along down-to-earth information on problems other budget travelers have encountered.
For example, one traveler warns of a guest house in New Delhi, where "we suspect the staff of this hotel have been entering our room and searching through our luggage."
Another traveler advises "stock up on maps and books on Egypt before arriving." He found that the Luxor tourist information office had little to offer. "We were lucky that we had picked up maps from the tourist office in Athens, otherwise we would have had nothing."
Travelers heading for Nepal encountered different difficulties. "We obtained our Nepalese visas at the embassy in Calcutta, India, and did not check them." When they reached the border at Kakarbitta, they were told the visas were not dated correctly and they would have to pay an extra $24 U.S. or go back to Calcutta.
Warnings of such problems can help you avoid a lot of frustration, but sometimes the advice can help to avoid much more serious situations.
For example, another traveler reports from Bali: "My traveling companion was suddenly taken ill in a village outside Ubud and at the time appeared to be in a life and death situation. She suffered muscle spasms and paralysis and was in great distress." A phrase book helped the traveler communicate with the villagers who arranged transportation to a hospital, but he advises:
"I think it would be a good idea to carry a small card with you written in the local language that says something like: 'Please take me to a hospital/doctor--I am very ill.' And it should include your name, address and nationality."
The Lonely Planet guidebooks can help you plan an adventure in Alaska or travel Africa on a shoestring.
The series includes Shoestring Guides for low-budget travel and Travel Survival Kits with in-depth coverage for a range of budgets. The company also publishes trekking guides and a series of phrase books.
Last year Lonely Planet became one of the first publishers to produce a guidebook for independent travelers visiting Tibet. "Tibet--A Travel Survival Kit" is available through retail bookstores for $7.95. Other guidebooks released in 1987 are Travel Survival Kits for East Africa, $9.95; Egypt and the Sudan, $8.95; Chile $8.95, and Peru, $12.95.
Travel Survival Kits that have been updated recently are Alaska, $8.95; Thailand, $8.95; the Philippines, $8.95, and Sri Lanka $8.95.
For newsletter subscriptions, contact Lonely Planet Publications, Embarcadero West, 112 Linden St., Oakland, Calif. 94607. One year costs $10, single copies $3.