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Great Britain not so great?

A new Lonely Planet guidebook on Great Britain may give potential tourists pause with its honest opinion of popular attractions — and its criticism of how expensive the nation has become.
/ Source: news services

Two billion people tuned in to watch the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton worldwide, and chances are, the live broadcast convinced some viewers to see Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and other London landmarks firsthand.

A new Lonely Planet guidebook on Great Britain, however, may give potential tourists pause with its honest opinion of popular attractions — and its criticism of how expensive the nation has become.

The lead author David Else called the London wax museum Madame Tussauds "overpriced" and "over-rated" in an interview, and the guidebook isn't any kinder: "With so much fabulous free stuff to do in London, it’s a wonder that people still join lengthy queues to visit pricey Madame Tussauds."

The southeastern city of Dover is "down in the dumps," according to the guide. A ferry town that serves as the gateway to England from Europe, Dover "isn't the most attractive," Else said.

Cardiff is described as "a prodigious boozing town," but Else is quick to add that the once-industrial Welsh capital has modernized in the past decade, opening chic restaurants and turning its docks into an inviting waterfront area.

While the guidebook can sound harsh, Else said it reflects Lonely Planet's typical approach. "We’re world-famous for telling it as it is," he said.

The authors did attempt to dispel negative perceptions of Essex, a region northeast of London, which they wrote is "home to chavs, bottle blondes, boy racers and brash seaside resorts — or so the stereotype goes." While knock-off Burberry bags and bumper-car resorts are common, the authors also wrote that the area is a "rural idyll of sleepy medieval villages and rolling countryside." (The Sun, a London tabloid, quoted this passage without including the reference to stereotypes; Else said the paper was a "teensy bit naughty" for doing so.)

No matter where tourists venture in Great Britain, the guidebook advises travelers to plan carefully or risk paying high prices for restaurants and accommodations. The book suggests that travelers spend around $8 U.S. dollars for "top-notch" curry in Birmingham rather than waste $50 on a "modern European concoction that tastes like it came from a can." The guidebook also recommends budget chain hotels as a great value. They may lack in style or ambience, but the prices are often fair.

Even though Great Britain is more expensive compared to other European countries, Else did say that tourists overall enjoy better services than they did a few decades ago. "Whatever budget they’re on," he said, "we have found the facilities have improved. Over the last 15 years, hotels, restaurants and attractions have all gotten better."