Matador member Hal Amen reviews the latest guide to Mexico City from Lonely Planet.

A recent 5-week visit to Mexico City gave me cause to acquaint myself with the hot-off-the-presses edition – released September 2008 – of Lonely Planet’s guide to this mega-city.


Photo by DoctorWho

First Impressions

Immediately obvious are the book’s graphical differences from the ordinary Lonely Planet style. Mexico City has a snappier, more modern look. A quick perusal reveals an updated organizational format as well. This took a little getting used to, but before long I was digging the fresh setup.

Pluses


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Mexico City fulfilled its most important task—it kept my agenda full of activities for the entire 35 days of my stay. I never ran out of ideas; in fact, there were many suggestions I didn’t get around to pursuing.

Breadth of information: check.

As a visitor, it can be difficult to discern how deep a guidebook delves, how far off the tourist track it’s able to take you, if it does at all.

I met a local at a bar one night who seemed intent on directing my touristic endeavors. As her jotted list of recommendations spilled farther and farther down the paper napkin, I had to stifle a grin.

Every single entry was familiar; I’d already read about them in the guidebook.

What’s more, many of these attractions were included in the book’s detailed neighborhood walking tours, which transcend the typical foot-tour fare, taking you through narrow alleys and overlooked passageways to uncover obscure interests.

Depth of information: check.

Minuses


Photo by DoctorWho

Each of the main districts is introduced separately, accompanied by a map and list of sights and attractions. Their wining, dining, and accommodation info, however, are sequestered in separate “Eating,” “Drinking,” and “Sleeping” sections.

So a fair amount of page flipping is required to:

1. Read up on a restaurant or hotel, and then

2. Pinpoint it on the appropriate map.

In addition, most LP guides feature an introductory chapter dedicated to the cuisine of the destination. Mexico City offers only a two-page overview at the beginning of the restaurant listings.

Not that I’m incapable of getting to discover the local dishes on my own terms, but a little more in the way of background information would’ve been helpful.

Details on transportation to and from destinations outside the city were also lacking. I frequently found myself yearning for a Mexico country map.

Other Features

The history chapter provides the usual comprehensive facts and timelines and is a useful prerequisite read. Mexico City is also equipped with a wealth of supplemental boxed text throughout.

Standard LP “Gay & Lesbian” content actually gets its own chapter in this edition (albeit a short one), which is worth noting.

The tear-out folding map is a neat addition and, while not perfect, certainly comes in handy.


Photo by DoctorWho

Another new feature is the “Itinerary Builder” table that precedes the neighborhood maps. It lists three sight, restaurant, bar/cafe, and shopping highlights for each district. While you’re likely to forgo the itinerary builder once you dig deeper into the book, it serves as a nice primer for planning outings.

Finally, in a nod to the current transitional state of travel guides, the inside back cover of the book boldly pronounces “THIS IS NOT THE END” and directs you to the new-and-improved LP website.

Overall Grade: A

While not without the occasional botched address, egregious typo, and outright misinformation that plague all guidebooks, Lonely Planet’s latest Mexico City offering gets two thumbs up from this traveler.