Guidebook mistakes



While in Venice last year, I took up a friend's recommendation to visit a bar called Paradiso Perduto. Away from the crowds of Piazza San Marco, the music was live and the wine was cheap, my friend assured me. I'd purchased Lonely Planet's Venice iPhone app especially for the trip; presumably was identical to the printed edition, but it was cheaper and meant less weight to carry. The bar was listed in the app and the address was only a few minutes from my hotel, at Fondamenta della Misericordia 2640. Perfect.

Except I couldn't find the bar. Not on my first attempt, at least - or the second. It was clear when I reached Fondamenta della Misericordia 2640 that the derelict residential property hadn't seen a wet wine glass in quite some time. So I checked Google Maps, which concurred with Lonely Planet. Maybe it was tucked away down a Venetian alleyway? I paced up and down them all, first those immediately around the address, then broadening my search along the street. Nothing. 

So I searched Google for travel websites with information about the bar, and the search returned pages from TripAdvisor, The Observer, Yahoo Travel, NileGuide, and TripWolf; between them and Lonely Planet, I had information from half a dozen travellers and professional writers, and all of them pointed to the same address - Fondamenta della Misericordia 2640. After an hour I called off the search until the following night, when I found the bar straight away, on account of it not being closed - the opening times listed in the various guides were incorrect. 

Opening times can change at any time; what was infuriating was that all the published information I'd read - from Lonely Planet, Google, TripWolf, from the review in The Observer - had placed the bar 100 house numbers from where it actually was - at Fondamenta della Misericordia 2540, not 2640. 

Think about it. It can't have been a simple typo, because multiple guides made the same error; the only reasonable explanation I can think of is that one source made a mistake and the others blindly copied it. Google have since updated their source of information; The Observer TripAdvisor and TripWolf all still list the wrong address online and continue to mislead travellers. NileGuide go one better (or indeed, one worse); their NileGuide 'expert' provides a photo of Paradiso Perduto is actually a building several hundred metres away. The same incorrect photo is also supplied by Google, but alongside the correct address. Thanks to the internet, a little misinformation appears to go a long way.  

The truth is guide writers work under an insane amount of pressure, with hundreds of entries to review in very little time and with very little money. The problem is the reader doesn't care. Perhaps user generated content supplied by the likes of NileGuide and TripWolf should always be treated with caution, but consumers assume that travel guides published by household names will speak from experience. When we catch them taking shortcuts, that experience is called into question and their brand is tarred. 

I doubt I'll buy a Lonely Planet guide again - their mistake robbed me of my time spent in Venice. But was this an exception to the rule? Are such glaring errors few and far between? What's the worst mistake you've stumbled across in a travel guide?




"Twitchhiker – How One Man Travelled the World by Twitter" is Paul's book about his social media adventure around the world, published by Summersdale and available on Amazon.
Paul's next book, "Tales from the Edge of America" will be published in Spring 2012. You can subscribe to the book's mailing list to find out more.