Whenever I plan to travel to a new country, I always purchase a guide book to help with the trip planning. I count on the guidebooks to highlight interesting places to visit that might be off the beaten path and to give guidance on how to get there without spending a fortune. So, when I planned a trip to Botswana and Namibia in September 2009, I purchased the Lonely Plant Botswana and Namibia with high expectations. However, I have never been so disappointed in a guide book before.
Part of the problem is that the prices in the book are fractions of what you will really spend. To be honest, I always expect the prices in guide books to be wrong by a bit. However, the difference between the prices in the LP and what they are in reality is staggering. This is not the fault of the authors since the prices in Namibia and Botswana seem to increase every few months. However, one would expect that Lonely Planet might then publish a new version to try to keep up. The difference is so bad and some of the hotel descriptions are so inaccurate, that we met one owner of a guest house who told us that she has repeatedly asked the LP to remove her guest house from their books because people arrive with the wrong expectations. Prior to this, I have never been at a hotel or guest house where they have wanted to end the free publicity the LP provides through the hotel listings in the book.
The other problem is that the LP does not provide low cost options at all. I can easily find super expensive drive in safaris on my own through the internet. What I count on the LP to provide is lower cost alternatives and the LP Botswana and Namibia does not do this at all. Reading the book is an exercise in frustration because the book lists the $400 to $1000 US per night per person lodges, but not any way to do it for less money. Once I was on the ground in Botswana, I found all sorts of alternatives, but by then I had already made my bookings through research on the internet.
Information in the book is also just plain wrong. For example, the book states that there are no taxis or shuttle busses from the airport in Gaborone and that you must haggle to get on a hotel shuttle. However, when we arrived, we found people at the airport entrance offering a shuttle bus into town. To make matters worse, cities like Maun and Gaborone are currently in the process of building new, international airports and these projects will make the book even further out of date.
The book has a brief section on Victoria Falls, but lacks guidance on how to make the transfer from Kasane to Victoria Falls which would have been helpful (shuttle busses make the trip daily).
The guidance for Namibia is not much better. However, we found Namibia to be far easier to plan on our own than Botswana. That probably wont be true for long since we were told by one guide that there was a large price increase in Namibia just after we made our bookings.
The rapid and unrelenting increases in price for visiting Namibia and Botswana makes budget travel to these countries really difficult. Plan on spending a lot per day (mobile safaris start around $200 US per person per day and go up from there).
We eventually turned to the Bradt guides for Namibia Namibia, 3rd: The Bradt Travel Guide and Botswana Botswana: Okavango Delta, Chobe, Northern Kalahari, 2nd: The Bradt Travel Guide and I would recommend taking a look at these. The Bradt guides are far from being perfect guide books. They are not well laid out and the prices in these books are incorrect as well, but not nearly as bad as the LP. I would recommend the Bradt books in addition to or instead of the LP.