A review on Lonely Planet “Ecuador and the Galapagos” a travel guidebook that will take you… nowhere.

(Para la versión en español, da click acá)


When our travel guide first arrived, we were a little euphoric. We had gained very good experience with the USA edition of Lonely Planet, which is why we decided to get a copy for “Ecuador and the Galapagos” as well. Additional confidence in the book was provided by the fact that it was the very latest edition (issued December 2012). There also was a Sticker on the back stating that this edition had been completely researched anew. Equipped with such an incredible travel guide nothing could go wrong.

Well, no!

The first clue

The first clue how useless the travel guide was came on our first day in Guayaquil. We talked to José María León, our host, about the holiday that was about to happen for Bolivar’s birthday. According to the travel guide at least. JM, however, just shook his head saying that this had not happened for at least fifteen years.

We wondered just a little and to quote Lenny Leonard from the Simpsons: Everybody makes mistakes, that’s why pencils have erasers. On the other hand, we got pretty annoyed when we wandered around Cuenca at night looking for a restaurant that seemed to exist only in the maps of our travel guide.

Also, this book seemed to have a weired fixation on hotel room colours. Instead of answering the four basic questions: Limpio? Baño privado? Agua caliente? Inglés? it went on and on about furniture and the colours of the walls. It was talking about colourful rooms and the extensive use of the colour blue instead.


First class recommendations

In Riobamba we decided to stay at a hostel basically because it was recommended by Lonely Planet. But when we arrived the owner/only employee was obviously pretty stoned. On the other hand it was 6 p.m. already. When we asked the guy to call us a taxi he walked out on the street trying catch one. Of course this endeavour was doomed to fail. By the way, this hostel is labelled as a “pearl of a guesthouse” by our travel guide.

Another one of Lonely Planet’s recommendations is the restaurant Tiki Limbo, which is labelled as probably the best restaurant in Montañita. What? This thing? I have not been to a place where they did not have beef since Germany became reunited. If entree and main dish were as good as it can get in Montañita I am very sorry for everyone who travels there. The dessert on the other hand (Maracuja cheesecake) was an almost biblical catastrophe.

In the land of pregnant men

And the famous Rasta Vibe of Montañita, stressed at length in that book never really got to us. All we discovered was a phenomenon best described by the term pregnat men. We saw a couple of guys (40+) who had rolled their T-Shirts back above their beer bellies, petting them in the way pregnant women ususally do.

The weird and somewhat unintelligent placing of the Natural guide to the Galapagos is only worth a minor note among the rest of the failures. But it became simply very annoying as it was placed between the map of Puerto Ayora and the descriptions of the individual hotels. We always had to flip back and forth. Annoying. Annoying. Annoying.

Quito, city of failures

Two out of three travel agencies had miraculously vanished from the face of the Earth, when we tried to book our trip to Quilotoa. The very new and good one where we finally booked was nowhere close to being even mentioned by our travel guidebook.

On our walk to the old city we missed one of the highlights: The missing stone at the church of San Francisco. We heard about this stone and the legend that builds around it only from JM when we were back at Guayaquil. Pretty poor performance for a travel guide!

Talking about Quito the travel guide also mentioned bull fighting which is taking place for a certain festivity. JM again just shook his head telling us that bull fighting had been abolished in most of Ecuador almost two years ago. Completely researched anew!

Hmmm, of course!

But of course there were useful pieces of advise. Like, that we should not drink the water from the Quilotoa lagoon… Really? I had been trying water from lakes all across South America.

Taxis in Guayaquil

But the worst part was the missing warning on taking taxis on the street in Guayaquil. It says that there are enough yellow taxis available in Guayaquil. Yes, there are enough of them, but are they safe? In our experience, no.

During my stay in Ecuador I got two basic pieces of advise from JM. The first one was: If something tastes strange –for the love of god– do not finish it!

The second one was: At no time (NEVER EVER!) take a taxi on the street in Guayaquil. This may sound paranoid but the fact that JM called a taxi company at any time during our stay kind of convinces me that this is the way to go. Also, Tito, an acquaintance of JM was kidnapped in a taxi. JM’s plain answer: Taking a random taxi in drunken state of mind in downtown Guayaquil has every ingredient to being kidnapped. Luckily the guy resurfaced the next morning in a hospital in Durán. And my guess is that guy did not smell like tourist in 3 mile radius.

In our travel guide there is not a single word about this. And even if there is I have not seen it yet. Actually there should be a bold warning about taxis in Guayaquil, but all they offer is the phone number of a taxi company. In case there is no taxi on the street.

While the rest of the episodes I have been telling are simply research mistakes and inaccuracies, the thing with the taxis appears to be really dangerous.

My final statement: Fail!


Tim Ruhe