on March 4, 2003
The new edition of this book fails to deliver in every aspect. I've used Lonely Planet books in the past, and they've proved to be reliable and useful, but not this one. I live in Banff, and so the observations are from this region.
Firstly, the "new" edition is terribly out of date. I purchased it after seeing the publication date was October 2002. It's accepted and understandable that things change, but there is information that was wrong well over a year before the publication date. A hostel that burnt down in 2000 (Hilda Creek, page 701), and reference to Banff and Jasper as "townsites" (Banff was incorporated in 1991, Jasper in 2001) are examples.
The description of Banff is laughable. There is no possible way anyone could describe the town as a "small, alpine-style village that consists of essentially one main street" (page 686), as this book does. The following history section doesn't get better: "The Bow River forms a class-distinctive boundary that is still evident today." In the first instance, the side of the river that LP tells us "caters to the wealthy crowd" comprises mainly of subsidized housing. And "Many people complain that the townsite is too crowded and argue that more hotels and streets should be built." Aside from the fact a 12 year old could have written the sentence, it's just simply not correct. In an effort to include an environmental slant, the authors have touched on current issues. Readers are informed that a convention center at Lake Louise is controversial because it's "in grizzly bear habitat-good goin' guys" (page 696). Bad goin' I say-it's controversial due to water issues, not bears.
The book is riddled with inaccuacies. Not information that is out of date, but straightforward mistakes. Page 688 talks of canoe rentals at Banff's Central Park. There has never been a canoe rental place here. How could a trained writer even imagine there was? Golden is "just outside the park" (page 692) No, it's over an hour's drive away along a treacherous road. There are literally dozens of similar mistakes in just the few pages on Banff. This is also reflected in the maps: Banff has no "Mamoth St." (page 687). As all Banff streets are named for animals, I guess they meant "mammoth" street, but there is no street of this name either. The mapmakers can't even correctly spell an incorrect name, or something along those lines anyway.
Most surprising for me, the good, solid travel information these books were once renowned for has been replaced by useless, fluffy text that serves no purpose at all. For example, the restaurants listed are not recommendations as such, but simply listings. And where there is a description it does little to inform. Four lines are used to explain the source of the name of an Irish pub (page 694) that has absolutely no relevance to Banff or the mountains, including that the original Guinness Brewery is still open and that it was "founded by 34 year old Arthur Guinness in 1759." The next listing is for Bruno's, named for one of Banff's most famous and respected mountain men. This name isn't explained, just that the restaurant has a "wide-ranging menu." There is an excellent reason why renting a vehicle in Banff, as opposed to Calgary or Canmore, is a bad choice (no unlimited mileage is offered, even by the majors), yet, this important and useful information isn't included (page 696).
My original purpose of buying this book was for travel around my own country, not so much to rely on every word in print but to get a feeling as how Canada is portrayed by these books. The litany of inaccuracies and uselessness seems to continue beyond the Rockies section. On page 34 readers are told brown bears are "actually a black bear but brown in color." I just wish I could ask the author how he came up with this unique theory.
I imagine picking a Lonely Planet book as the guide of choice is habit more than anything for many travelers. It's reflected in the attitude of those I meet on the road and the reviews I see here at Amazon. It seems somehow ironic that Lonely Planet has evolved from the likes of an Africa book I relied on for every word in the 80s, written by a guy whose biography had him living in a hut brewing mango wine somewhere I can't recall, to this worthless tome that relies on name rather than content to generate sales.
on January 3, 2004
This book is a lot of things, and none of them good. The authors really don't know the country very well, or have failed to visit many of the palces they recommend. I buy a guidebook to learn what's good and what's not. But this book doesn't give that. It just lists the same information anyone can find on the internet or in tourist brochures. I want to know if the rooms are big, if they're clean, where they are in relation to local attractions. None of this information is given.
I used this book to seach out a hotel near Vancouver Airport, which was my arrival point in Canada. The text says that the Holiday Inn is "beside Highway 99.", with no indication where along this 30 mile long road it is.
When the author does add a description, it does nothing to inform. Or it's incorrect. My travels took me to Lake Louise. There are lots of good hiking guides to this region, but I figured the outlines in this book would get me going. I hiked 2 trails the author suggested. The descriptions of both were so wildly inaccurate as to be dangerous. The author thinks there is a teahouse at Mirror Lake (never, I was told). He or she highly recommends hiking the "popular" trail between Moraine Lake and Lake Louise when in fact one doesn't even exist!
The Lonely Planet description of Mt. Assiniboine Park sounded good, so I followed their lead which said "a gravel road takes you close to the park through the ski resort of Sunshine Village." I followed my map to Sunshine Village to be told the gravel road has never ever been open to the public.
The only redeeming feature of this book is that when the author hasn't bothered to visit a place, he or she admits it in a subtle way: In Lake Louise, the extent of recommendations for places to dine is "Eat at your hotel." (lots of great places here for all budgets including the best bakery I found in a month on the road). In Nelson readers are encouraged to "ask at the visitor center" for somewhere to stay. These type of entries make me doubt whether they even bothered to travel to many places they write about, let alone do any actual research.
This book has turned me off a guidebook series I have used for years. Never again.