I always recommend people to use the South American handbook if they travel the whole continent, because I found a great number of errors in the Shoestring. But for separate countries, I prefer LP above anything else. And for cities, the Rough Guide series is excellent...
Which handbook would you recommend in which situation, and why? And what information in it is absolutely indispensable to you?
Having used a variety of handbooks I am a huge Lonely Planet fan. When (embarassingly) slightly disorientated in the Oaxacan zocolo, a local bookstore's lonely planet guide provided rescue in map-form!
The South American Handbook is great if you know exactly where you want to go and what you want to do. It's more like a timetable or something, whereas LP (Shoestring) is more likely to inspire to do stuff you never thought of before. It's more enjoyable reading, and you sort of think "mm, that sounds like fun!" all the time. You would never do that with the handbook.
I've always bought the Eyewitness guides before a trip (although I've never been to South America). I like their concise form and the fact that they're not text-heavy. I came across a Rick Steves guidebook to Italy at the place we stayed at in Venice, and after a quick read I loved it. Concise, easy-to-read and interesting. Anyone ever gone the Rick Steves route? I've never heard anything good about his books before...
The way I approach a trip to South America or any destination:
Go to the library, check out everything on the destination (ours here in Baltimore usually has Lonely Planet, Moon, Fodor's, Frommers, and sometimes other guides)
These are often out of date. So whichever guide I like, I buy the newest copy (it's always Lonely Planet, Moon or both). Also, I go to this forum and others to see what specifics have been updated on the logicits.
Sometimes I photocopy the relevant pages (say if we are going to Tobago, but not Trinidad, on a trip) to the guidebook, holepunch them, and put them in a thin binder for the trip.
Depends on where you are exploring ..My B&B guests here in Costa Rica (thousands over the 15 years) always recommend buying books that which cover ONE country at a time ...as an Ex- editor (still bo a bit of writing) I know you will get less information per country if you get a book which clumps South America with Central America because it would be as thick as a phone book if it was to cover many places. For Costa Rica I recommend ..Moon Handbook "Costa Rica Handbook " by Chris Baker, "Lonely Planet"
"The New key to Costa Rica " and a new recent book by Bruce Morris "Costa Rica Alive "
Hope this helps
LP's Argentina is just awful... if you are buying individuals give this one a miss. I've never said an LP stunk before but this one was pretty useless and wrong on just about all counts.
Just my opinion of course.
Which edition was that? I have one bought in 2003, and apart from the inaccurate practical info (connections etc.), I found it pretty good. At least it makes better reading than SouthAmerican Handbook...
The current one... just left there 60 days ago and my guide is sitting on a bookshelf in the states now. hostel and hotel info was inaccurate and out of date, prices were bad, and all of the practicals were wrong. Basically I lived via the tourist information centers - did well too.