Lonely Planet Chile & Easter Island 8th Ed.: 8th Edition Paperback – Feb 15 2009
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LONELY PLANET aims to cater for every independent traveller, whatever the destination, whatever the style of travel and whatever the phase of the journey.
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Familiar LP layout makes it easy to find what you need quickly.
LP guides always have the essentials travelers need, in a similar structure across all guides of the same vintage.
The overview section at the front with color photos gives a feel for what you'll find in Chile.
Smaller fonts (compared to Rough Guide) means more information on fewer pages, but is also a CON for middle-aged eyes.
Good overview of Chilean Spanish, plus a short intro to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) language
Good coverage of non-continental Chile and some nearby areas
The maps and listings omit most major hotels, of the sort business travelers use. I am both a business traveler (when working) and a lower-budget traveler (when on holiday). Having business class hotels would be useful for those on business, and for easy-to-find landmarks for everyone.
WHICH BOOK FOR YOUR TRIP?
Lonely Planet has this guide focused on Chile, and a much larger book that covers all of South America in about twice as many pages. If your plan is to see more than two countries in South America, with less than two weeks per country, the South America book may be a good choice. If you are focused on Chile and some time to see it, LP Chile has 528 pages, whereas LP South America has only 122 pages on Chile. LP Chile has 54 pages on Santiago, where LP South America has 12.
There are several other brands of travel guides that cover Chile and South America - Footprint, Rough Guide, Frommers, and perhaps others. I suggest that you visit your library and look at each brand, then decide which is best for you.
The style of LP Country Guides is mostly text. There are color pictures in the front, and that's it. The DK Guides provide the alternative of many color photos and less text. LP has a new "Discover" series of country guides that does much the same. These books are great for selecting your destinations before you go, or for shorter visits, but they are not available for Chile so far, and they are inadequate for someone who plans a longer visit, or several return visits. The detailed listings of lodging, transportation, and food options are essential for a serious traveler, even if they are less flashy.
Chile is mostly thriving and growing, and is among the safer countries in South America. Chilenos are friendly and jump at the chance to be a host to foreigners, in my experience. The weather is agreeable. They are being recognized as a major producer of fine wines. The land is narrow but nearly twice the length of the west coast of USA.
But the amazing thing about Chile is the diversity of the land:
* charming Valparaiso (near enough to Santiago to be a day trip)
* amazing Easter Island, about 2400 miles west of Santiago
* a desert in the north
* perhaps more volcanoes (active and inactive) than any other country in the world
* the end of the world at Tierra del Fuego
* beyond the end of the world: Chile has claims on part of Antarctica, and you can visit that continent
Even within continental Chile, the land is so long that there is substantial difference between the major areas, both in climate and culture.
CONTENTS - 528 pages total
This list is not complete and is not in the order of the book. My purpose is to give you a sense of what you'll find in the book, and in how much detail.
Highlights - 16 pages
Basics - 60 pages (itineraries, history, culture, food&drink, environment)
Directory (all of the essential details) - 14 pages
Transport - 12 pages
Health - 7 pages
Language - 7 pages (Chilean Spanish plus a half page for Rapa Nui)
Santiago - 54 pages
Middle Chile + Valparaiso - 52 pages
Norte Grande - 55 pages
Norte Chico - 32 pages
Sur Chico - 57 pages
Chiloé - 20 pages
Northern Patagonia - 32 pages
Southern Patagonia - 33 pages
Tierra del Fuego - 20 pages (including 10 pages on the Argentinian part)
Archipiélago Juan Fernández - 10 pages
Easter Island / Rapa Nui - 21 pages
Antarctica - 1 page
I have visited 43 countries, using Lonely Planet or sometimes Rough Guide in most of them, for both work and holidays. Even for short trips, maybe especially for short trips, a travel guide is useful to fine essential things to see. I have visited Chile only once, but I am hungry to return - both from what I have seen to what I have read in this book.
I compared it to the Rough Guide, they seem to be almost the same - recommend same places, talk about the same stories etc. As if they're joined at the hip.
I may quibble with a few of the glowing recommendations (e.g., marked by !). In some cases, I suspect either kickbacks or royal treatment for the reviewers. A case in point - Ecole in Pucon, which while a nice place is not really like what the description says. Not to mention that the review caused the establishment to raise prices at least 5000 pesos above what its (equally good but not visited by LP) neighbors charge. So it gets a bit tricky: a good LP review will cause people to flock to the hospedaje/hotel, resulting in higher prices and/or less service.
Of course many good (and cheap) places do not get written up. Case in point: Totem in Valdivia, owned by an amateur anthropologist. Or refugio Tinquilqo in the Huerquehe national park, a pretty cool place.
Finally, the ATMs that most consistently work with US passwords belong to Santander (the ubiquitous Spanish bank). Their machines work in English and even have identical punch buttons as machines used by US banks. The exchange rate however was slightly less than the Chilean banks.
Seems to me the contributors are way on the conservative/traditionalist side. Don't get me wrong, Santiago has lots of history, but it is no Buenos Aires or Paris where you can spend days just watching ancient landmarks. I think the guide missed on the opportunity to exploit all of Santiago's new developments and attractions.
Restaurant guide is decent at best, explanations on how to move around are very basic and they do not reflect the complex Santiago Metro and Metrobus systems.
This a is big city, with hundreds of lodging accomodations, especially apartaments, and this guide misses big time on this aspect. I had to look elsewhere for hotel advice.
One crucial aspect I think this guide forgot to mention are the ski resorts near Santiago... Valle Nevado, Valle del Colorado, Farallones, etc. They are a "must visit" and the guide barely mentions this fact.
All things considered it is a Country Guide, not a City Guide, so probably it is impossible to cover every aspect of Santiago and its surroundings. If you plan to move along this vast nation then maybe the LP Guide may suit you well, BUT if Santiago is your primary destination than you are better off with a simple Tourist Map given for free at most Metro Stations... that's the only guide I carried along my 2 week stay and boy did I cover the city.
On a fun note, this particular book led us to one of the littlest out-of-the-way restaurants you can imagine. If I had found it on my own, I never would have gone there, but I kept telling my boyfriend, "No, let's do it, the guidebook mentioned it, it must be worth it." And it was! That meal was one of our most memorable evenings.