Australia has long been the country of choice for year out European and American travellers, which means there are a load of guides to choose from and almost all are very good. The same goes for New Zealand. In both cases Lonely Planet guides are by far the most popular. Many would say because of this, there are better options.
Remember that unless you have a car and are really travelling off the beaten track your need for a guidebook is often limited. This is because of a very well worn path, an extensive network of hostels and free to pick up accommodation guides.
Learn more about the various different publishers of guidebooks: their strengths, weaknesses and general background.
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It is of course worth remembering that if New Zealand or Australia is not your first stop on a trip you can pick up your guide on the ground there. Rough Guide books come highly recommended, but have a lesser budget focus. If this is important for you should check out the studenty Let's Go versions. A real find are the Footprint guides, particularly the Eastern Australia guide, (if you are (like most) only travelling the East coast you have a detailed and compact guide) and the New Zealand guide. As for the pacific, it's good that most travellers don't stop for long as guide books are far from their best in this region.
A town like Alice is a famous read, but perhaps not the most stimulating. Australia does not have a good reputation for fiction. However, with New Zealand there are countless great books based around immigrates and the Māori, a few of which are recommended on this page.
Totally focused on budget travel and the most comprehensive information on backpacker's hostels and enjoying a trip without blowing a huge budget. Every listing is clearly defined and all accommodation and sightseeing listings include details of prices, opening times, contact details and transport. The guide is updated every year. It's the most thorough listing I've seen of hostels, well organised with good descriptions. Very good partner to another guide book for backpackers and those on a budget - but not always easy to get hold of.
Published: (February, 2010)
This book does have it all and this latest edition is a big improvement. There is a slightly better focus on budget travel in this title than other Australian title, but not by much. If you do choose this guide, don't expect to be alone with it. Remember if your route is selective you are much better off with the following for regional guides for the east or west coast.
Published: (Novmeber, 2013)
A big and heavy book compared to peers, you're not likely to find a place in this vast country without at least a few words written about it. Clear and well written. Information on independent (without a car) travel could be presented clearer, but all in all a great read and you can just use hostel network's (like VIP) accommodation guide.
11th Edition - Published: (April, 2014)
Footprint really have a gem here. This is a very in-depth guide that covers the East coast route from Sydney to Cairns. If you are on this route only, this is the guide to get, rather than a whole Australia guide.
Published: 5th edition (September, 2013)
As with the Oz version this guide is totally focused on budget travel. In this guide every listing is clearly defined and all accommodation and sightseeing listings include details of prices, opening times, contact details and transport. The guide is updated every year. It's the most thorough listing I've seen of hostels, well organised with good descriptions. However the BBH guide is free and almost as good.
Published: Annually updated
This newly updated Lonely Planet is very good indeed it has excellent maps and brilliant accommodation sections including the largest hostel selection of any guide - better than the Rough Guide. However at a push and because it is too overused I would pick the Rough Guide and just take a look at the LP of all the other travellers. Also see South or North Island only guides.
Published: 16th edition (October, 2012)
Released at the same time as the latest LP update to go head to head in the lucrative market. The Rough Guide authors say what they think, and if somewhere is a let down, they will say so. Be warned that prices are always on the increase, and add about 5% to all the prices in this book. New Zealand is a fantastic destination, and one of the most compactly diverse countries in the world, and fast becoming one of the main adventure activity locations in the world. The Rough Guide gives you a huge wealth of information about New Zealand, as well as some in depth history about the country. Its layout is easy to follow, but not very fancy - they don't waste space on prettiness (although the first 20 pages are full colour and a great pictorial intro).
Published: 8th edition (September 2012)
Depending on how wide spread your travels will be, Footprint take a two book approach. One for each half of the island, providing a more compact and comprehensive guide for each. Let's face it New Zealand is never going to really be off the beaten track. However, the Footprint guide does allow you to at least find yourself a more un-toursity part of the country and this guide is not in common use. The books are most useful if you have your own transport and you enjoy walking, as its best feature is detailing the large number of 1-5 hour walks you can under-take if you want get out to some of the more incredible and less visited views. However, it may not be detailed enough with regards to the more famous walking tracks (Milford / Keppler etc) and you may want to get the Lonely Planet Tramping guide in addition. Not only thoroughly cover north and south island, but give a real flavour of the places you will be visiting. Most importantly this guide book is the only one that actually comes off the fence with its hostel reviews, particularly guaranteeing you won't come across a single bus crowd. It's a great supplement to the free BBH hostel guide.
Published: (September, 2012)
Not stunning, but it is up to usual LP
standard and the best of the bunch.
Published: (October, 2012)
The best of a bad bunch. Far from being fully comprehensive, this guide is pretty vague. Not bad as a rough guide, and admittedly has some useful numbers that I don't know where else I would have found, which is the crux of this book's success. There is no real competitor (it would seem) that has backpacker budget information. If you are looking for a mid-price or luxury holiday then there are better guides. French Polynesia isn't exactly the budget travellers haven that Thailand or even Fiji can be and there are fewer options for the financially challenged tourist. However the guide could be a lot more comprehensive with the information there is available. Do not take any prices or times in the book at face value - found most prices a little higher in practice and times well out. But this is pretty normal with travel guides considering the time span between writing and publication. It may be the best on the market for budget (hence the three stars) - but that isn't huge praise! Budding travel writers take note!
Published: (October, 2012)
Covers loads about working in Australia
and New Zealand, even listings of places you can find work in major
cities, whether its in a bar, a hotel or temping in an office. It also
has loads of website links in it that help you to plan your trip.
This is a densely woven, idiosyncratic book written from three separate viewpoints. It deals with the nature of relationships, the nature of selfhood and the meaning of family and cultural values. Drawing upon the Māori culture and history it blends narrative and philosophy, twisting and turning, and carrying the reader on a voyage of discovery. Each reading reveals additional levels and complexities of narrative, touching on the meaning of identity and the fusion of past present and future, and provides confirmation that this one of the outstanding works of literature of the decade if not the century.
Alan Duff's harrowing story of life amongst the urbanised Māoris of New Zealand combines writing wistfully of traditions and culture with an ability to rock the reader with a string of hard-hitting home truths about city life. Duff focuses on contrasts throughout the novel: the fortunes of the poor central Māori characters compared to the more comfortable, white-skinned Trambert family; traditional Māori life versus life in the urban ghetto; male outward violence against women's inner strength; youth's angst against age's wisdom. But where Lee Tamahori's film of the book glamorised "Jake the Muss" and his bloodthirsty way of life, squeamish readers should take note that the novel concentrates much more on the spirit of the Māori tribes, where the Warrior past is what takes centre stage. The offshoots of this culture are brought to life in the sweaty, 'gemeinschaft' city climate, and one family's struggle for happiness makes compelling reading.
Nevil Shute really lets you see into the characters lives and have a real empathy for them. If you have seen the film read the book - it can only enhance your enjoyment. If you have not seen the film, the story is of a young girl during the war being marched around by the Japanese because no prisoner of war camp was available for women. Then the story jumps to post war life in London, and her dealings with her lawyer. Then another jump as she goes in search of what really happened to the man she fell in love with during the war whom she saw executed, then finally her new life in Australia. This is an excellent book and a timeless classic. I read it after visiting Alice Springs and it evoked great memories of the outback. Although Alice is not the most exciting place in the world, it is a gateway to the wonderful Australian outback, which Neville Schute describes in vivid detail in the book.
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"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia."