Mongolia: The Bradt Travel Guide

Jane Blunden

Bradt 2004

Mongolia: The Lonely Planet Travel Guide

Michael Kohn

Lonely Planet 2005
A book review by Danny Yee © 2005
The Mongolia travel guides by Bradt and Lonely Planet are the only two real choices, at least in English. Both offer the usual fare: general background on Mongolia, general advice on travelling in the country, and an area by area guide to sights, transport, accommodation, eating, and so forth.

In general the Bradt leans more towards background information and the Lonely Planet more towards practical information. So the Bradt discusses topics such as poverty alleviation and problems with the health and education system, and provides fairly detailed "howtos" on camel- and horse-trekking. There's some padding here, however, with material that is not at all Mongolia-specific: two pages of generic information on biodiversity, half a page on how plane flights contribute to greenhouse emissions, two pages of completely general photography tips, and so forth.

On the other hand, Lonely Planet has noticeably more detailed practical information. On the town of Mörön, for example, it has two pages to the Bradt's one and a map of the town centre as well. The Bradt guide doesn't mention any of the tourist camps near the Khongoryn Els sand dunes, while the Lonely Planet lists three and provides prices and other information. The Lonely Planet also has better maps of Ulaanbaatar — important! — while the Bradt devotes full pages to not particularly useful maps of the Bogd Khan's Palace Museum and Amarbayasgalant Monastery.

One nice feature of the Bradt guide is the large number of brief pieces by (named) travellers and specialists, though these are sometimes quite esoteric: "Student Life in the Cold War Days", "Steppe and Forest Fires: a Historic Overview", "Naadam - A Tourist's Observations", "The Genghis Khan Polo Club", and so forth. The Lonely Planet guide has just one piece along these lines, opting instead to integrate contributions anonymously.

I spotted only the occasional minor error in both books. Lonely Planet had the days for the number 24 and 4 trains switched in the Ulaanbaatar to Beijing timetable. The Bradt map of south Gobi national parks doesn't show the Khongoryn Els sand dunes. Earlier editions of the Lonely Planet guide have been criticised as ethnocentric and unbalanced, but I think both the new edition and the Bradt manage a reasonable job here, given the constraints.

For independent travellers without preplanned itineraries the Lonely Planet is the better choice — as well as focusing more on practical information, it's more recent and noticeably lighter and more compact. Those doing an organised tour and less concerned about practicalities may lean towards the Bradt's more extensive background information. And its personal stories may be more helpful for those deciding whether or not to visit Mongolia. I found both books useful, both before and during my trip, and any sizeable group will want both.

July 2005

External links:
Mongolia: The Bradt Travel Guide
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Mongolia: The Lonely Planet Travel Guide
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Related reviews:
- books about Central Asia + Mongolia
- more travel
%T Mongolia: The Bradt Travel Guide
%A Blunden, Jane
%I Bradt
%D 2004
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1898323941
%P 390pp

%T Mongolia: The Lonely Planet Travel Guide
%A Kohn, Michael
%I Lonely Planet
%D 2005
%O paperback, index
%G ISBN 1740593596
%P 296pp