Southeast Asia is an extremely popular destination for travelers representing every demographic and it is one of those rare places that truly has something for everyone. Beaches, mountains, waterfalls, and other natural wonders are abundant while cities offer amazing museums and cultural sights. Let’s not forget the abundance of both leisure and sport activities. Southeast Asia has something to offer all tastes and budgets, no matter your age, income, traveling solo or with your children, this region is a favorite of The Cube’s.
It is particularly popular among budget travelers. Two guidebooks catering to the same audience have dominated the market for years. One is The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget and the other is Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on a Shoestring. Many folks have their favorite and are willing to vigorously defend that opinion.
Oh, you’re a working professional and you’re not on a budget? Maybe you don’t want to stay at a hostel making ramen noodles in the communal kitchen? Perhaps you think these guidebooks are not for you. I disagree! As we said in our Guide to Guidebooks, relying on these books for your hotel and restaurant recommendations is outdated. It’s the one time The Cube recommends heading over to TripAdvisor to find the best hotel and dining options that meet your expectations and preferences.
However, hotels and restaurants are the only things “budget” or “shoestring” about these books. They are packed full of sights, activities, transportation instructions, awesome sample itineraries, and so much more. If I had to choose one book for my traveling to Southeast Asia, I would choose one of these, regardless of my budget. There isn’t one other book that covers the entire region and has everything you need in one place to plan your perfect trip.
The Cube has traveled with both books across Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam. These books cover several other countries, but I cannot vouch for that information. Based on my experience with the countries I have been to, I can say I found both very helpful and informative (although I recommend TripAdvisor to research hotels).
E-book or Old School?
Many travelers bring their tablets and e-book readers (the Cube uses the Kindle Fire HD 8″ and the Kindle Paperwhite) with them. They watch movies and use apps on their tablets during long flights and layovers and prefer the lightweight of an e-book reader versus carrying around a few books. As you’ll most likely travel with one of these devices, should you purchase an electronic or physical copy of the book?
Our experience with electronic guidebooks is limited as we’ve only purchased the Lonely Planet Sri Lanka guide. I would not recommend purchasing any guidebook for a black and white e-book reader such as the Paperwhite. The full color version on tablets is better, but not perfect.
Unless your luggage is a serious physical burden, The Cube highly recommends going old school and purchasing a physical copy. They’re easier to flip between sections and reference maps that may be on another page. Plus, it’s fun to mark up your guidebook with a highlighter and post-it notes. Perhaps someday the tablet versions will improve, but for now stick to the physical copy.
The Winner is…
You! After months of traveling in Southeast Asia, both books prove their worth again and again with great advice. It really is a matter of preference, but you can’t go wrong with either. In fact, if you’ve demonstrated loyalty to one company, maybe now is the perfect time to try another. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Don’t forget to know the place, get out more, and live life Outside the Cube.
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Book covers © by Rough Guides and Lonely Planet.