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Guidebook Review – Lonely Planet Mexico

Weighing in at 1,048 pages, Lonely Planet’s tome of a guidebook to Mexico is not simply a book detailing hotel, restaurant and sightseeing recommendations. The first 100 pages or so of the simply named Mexico are a mini-encyclopedia giving readers a snapshot into the history, culture, cuisine and environment of this vast and varied country. I’ve paged through several sections of the introductory copy and found the writing engaging and incredibly informative. I particularly like the sidebar boxes that highlight interesting facts and stories.

Lonely Planet guidebooks tend toward more off-the-beaten-path and budget-travel recommendations than Fodor’s or Frommer’s guides, and Mexico is no exception. For example, the introduction features lengthy driving itineraries that take readers through Mexico’s forests, canyons and deserts, its “Colonial Heartland,” as well as its southeastern jungles.

Eleven Lonely Planet authors contributed to this book, which was updated and published in late 2006. Typically Lonely Planet writers research “in the trenches,” not just updating by phone and on the Internet, but actually visiting the sights they mention in their books. From the enthusiasm expressed in the Mexico authors’ short bios, it’s clear they all have a love affair with this Central American country.

The book’s chapters cover different Mexican regions, from Baja California to Mexico City to the Caribbean beaches. I’ve zoned in on the Central Pacific Coast to help me plan for an upcoming trip to Mazatlan. We’ve already booked our hotel reservations, but I’m reading with interest the authors’ suggested places to go for good eats—from cheap lunch spots to more top-end restaurants for romantic meals.

One section called “Quirky Mazatlan” highlights the clavadistas, or cliff divers who hurl themselves off of high platforms into the ocean below. The book warns that nearby tourists are hounded for tips, but since it’s something I think will be fun to watch, I’ll likely check them out. I appreciate, though, the head’s up that I may need to dish out a few pesos for the privilege.

Road maps and detailed city-center maps help visitors get oriented in each city or town; listings of Internet cafes are helpful, too.

The last 100 pages of the book are dedicated to resources for tourists, including tips and advice on customs, money, transportation, health, even how to use best use public toilets. A language section and glossary help travelers who don’t know much Spanish better communicate with the locals.

If you’re planning a Mexican honeymoon that solely involves lying on the beach at an all-inclusive resort, you probably don’t have to dish out the $20 for Lonely Planet’s Mexico. But if you and your fiancé plan to cover a lot of ground, travel by car or bus to many not-for-typical-tourist sites, or you’re thinking about visiting several Mexican destinations over the next few years, this hefty, chock-full-of-information guidebook is certainly worth checking out.


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