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Choose a travel guide - Lonely Planet or Rough Guides?

If both guides have passed the “what’s the best travel guide for me?” test, which one to purchase? Lonely Planet or Rough Guides?

Bear in mind that there are also other travel guides around. In fact, we have previously used Marco Polo, City Pack and Time Out guides.

What travel guide do we like?

Our hearts are set on Lonely Planet. We confided on it for many a trip and it has always delivered.

And we’re not easily-pleased people: we expect a lot of useful information from a travel guide, including all the extras such as a history section, well-written reviews and the unmissable food recommendations. What can we say? We like to completely “immerse” ourselves in a country, so to speak.

Are you like us? Then you may also want to plan your trip like we do. 

Lonely Planet or Rough Guides?

“OK, OK but Lonely Planet or Rough Guides?”, you ask.

We wanted to give you an unbiased opinion based on not simply a book cover but its content. So here you go. 

What they don’t have in common:

The use of colour:

Rough Guides mainly uses black, grey and white whereas at Lonely Planet they’re huge fans of blue (for titles and names) and black for the descriptive bits.

The use of fonts:

The guides use slightly different fonts but they do deploy a similar technique where the useful info of a sight or attraction (address, opening times, prices, website etc.) is written in a different font and in a smaller size than the descriptive text that follows it.

The use of white space:

At Rough Guides they make a clever use of white space which helps the eye to quickly scan the page and understand the importance of the info and where to easily find it.

Lonely Planet’s content can feel a bit more “crowded” in comparison but it is ultimately still as easy and as clear to read.

The page layout:

Rough Guides uses the entirety of the page when listing and describing the main sights and attractions of a place and only splits the page in two for dedicated sections such as “Arrival and Departure” (to and from a place), “Getting Around”, “Accommodation”, “Eating”.

Lonely Planet always uses a split-page layout, no matter the section, no matter the category.


Rough Guides divides the country in regions/area. Each region will have a colour. Each colour will be seen on the side of the book so to make it easier to identify the region you are looking for.

Lonely Planet divides the country in regions and each region will have a different dedicated section on the guide. The colour-coding device is deployed in all of the Lonely Planet guides to identify four specific sections: “Plan your Trip”, “On the Road”, “Understand” and “Survival Guide”.

Read more about the single structure of Rough Guides and Lonely Planet.

What they have in common:

  • The writing styles are quite similar: they write elegantly but clearly, seldom deploying complex terms and some technical jargon; they do have their funny boutades and make use of foreign terms (in italics).
  • Star-symbols are used in both guides to identify a must-visit location or spot. Rough Guides only uses it for eating options, whilst Lonely Planets applies it for every category if it deems it worth checking out.
  • Funny, engaging, informative. Every book-seller we’ve approached has told us that ultimately they both are really good and detailed guides.
  • You will find that, for both books, time schedules and prices may be wrong at times. This is one of the big downsides of the print-versus-online content. A guide cannot be constantly updated just like a website or a blog post.


A note: How to decide? Once you’ve picked the most recently published guide, there’s only one more way to verify whether timetables and prices are up-to-date. Get your phone out and type a random name – be that of a museum or a restaurant – and compare the info. Are you satisfied? If not, but you’ve now desperately fallen in love with that travel guide and cannot let go, just buy it. Our “how to effectively plan your trip” takes that into account, do not despair!

Lonely Planet or Rough Guides: how to make the final decision?

It all boils down to you: how you feel about it, what you find tickles your fancy more, what you think would be easier to read. You will have to travel and be guided by it.

Therefore, read a few lines from each one, hold them in your hands, skim through the pages, smell them (?!). And just let your heart guide you.

Did you know?

On the back cover of every Lonely Planet guide you will find a ruler with inches and centimetres. Did you spot it? It can be useful… if you don’t forget it’s there.

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