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Lonely Planet has always been my go-to guide, and I have dozens of them. I have always loved LP with its wealth of information that I could locate quickly, because the organization was very similar for all guides, and had an ample table of contents and an excellent index. Unfortunately, they have decided to reinvent their look, and the new format is like a totally different guidebook, one that is hard to use.
The new guides read more like marketing brochures. On the back it says "Budapest is a paradise for explorers. Keep your senses primed and you'll discover something wonderful [...] at every turn." That is not useful information. It does not tell us something unique about Budapest: change the word "Budapest" to "Bangkok" or "Boston", and it probably fits. And indeed, because the new guide is so poorly indexed, exploring might be the only way to find things. I buy travel guides to cut down on the time to find what I am looking for, and LP fails at that basic task in its colorful, redesigned format.
OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
The organization used to be by the kind of thing you might be looking for - sights, lodging, eating, entertainment, etc - often with sections in each for parts of the city. The new organization is separate sections for parts of the city, and subsections within that for sights, lodging, etc. This is great if you know where you want to go, and especially if you are focusing on one part of the city. But what if you are flexible about where you want to stay, and would prefer to have all the lodgings grouped together, with subsections for neighborhoods within lodging? What if you want to find a particular kind of food and are willing to travel to another part of the city to find it?
Aside from flipping through sections for all the different neighborhoods, another option could be to search the index. Sadly, the detailed index of the past has been replaced with a very minimal index. Why duplicate any topic in the index? Well, because people think of different ways to call it, and one purpose of an index is to find it even if you have a different name for what you are looking for.
This guide is one of the few new LP books that actually has an Table of Contents for the book near the beginning; most others have only a ToC for each neighborhood. But the master ToC for this book is minimal as well.
The new style has more white space and bigger fonts, but often fewer pages, which means less information as well (though a bit easier to read for middle-aged eyes).
EXAMPLE: FINDING MARKETS
I was in Budapest for work, had some time to explore, and so I brought the newest LP Budapest City Guide with me. I always want to explore markets, and in particular I was looking for Hungarian spices and blends to bring home. My local colleagues told me there was a big market in the city center. What's it called? In English, they said, "Central Market".
Neither "markets" nor "Central Market" is in the index. Unlike LP editions before about 2010, this guide does not even have an index entry for "markets". I tried paging through the various neighborhood sections with no luck, as City Center is not one of the neighborhoods. There is a separate section of the index for shopping so I tried looking there too, with no luck.
So I got some directions and walked there, but arrived too late: it closes at 3pm on Saturdays. Most disappointing.
I could not believe that LP would have missed such an important attraction, so I did some Internet research. Ah ha, it's actually called the "Great Market Hall" in LP, or, in Hungarian, "Nagycsarnok".
Now back to LP. Sure enough, it is in listed in the index as "Great Market Hall" and also as "Nagycsarnok (Great Market Hall)". It's even in the shopping index, but only as "Nagycsarnok"; if it had been in the shopping index in English, I would have found it, because the shopping index is short.
Looking at the listing, it did say that it closed at 3pm on Saturday. I wish I had found this entry earlier so I would have known; I would have taken a taxi instead of walking.
The market is listed as being in "Southern Pest" which, to me at least, sounded like it would not be near the city center, so I did not think to look there. There is no "Northern Pest", "Central Pest", only "Southern Pest". On the hotel map, the market is shown on the map as being in "Central Pest".
None of this would matter if they had a more complete index, for example one that had a listing for markets, as the old guides always did. Adding entries to an index is easy to do, but they reduced their index. Ironically, there's more than a half page of empty space on the last index page, so they did not reduce the index to reduce page count, they just indexed it poorly.
I am fed up with the new style. I would almost rate this as 2 stars, except that the information I wanted was in fact there. Three stars because I could not find it after a good deal of looking. It may look nicer, but it is not as good a guide as before the redesign.
LP no longer has the benefit of being familiar from using many LP guides, and I will begin to look at other brands of travel guides to see if I can find one better suited to my needs. Ironically, the best style of all remains the PREVIOUS LP style. In fact, I decided to bring one OLDER LP guide on this trip rather than the newest one for just that reason: I can easily find things in it. A lot of information does not change in many guides, and for my money, I will be using the older LP guides and shunning the new ones.