Book Review: Discovering Lonely Planet’s The Best Things in Life are Free

There just might be some travel truth in the age-old saying "the best things in life are free" as discovered in Lonely Planet's latest travel tome of tips. In The Best Things in Life are Free, you’ll find over 800 pages filled with free and oh-so-cheap travel recommendations from across 60 cities around the globe.

Discovering Lonely Planet's The Best Things in Life are Free while enjoying a Melbourne coffee.

Discovering Lonely Planet's The Best Things in Life are Free while enjoying a Melbourne coffee.

Right from the introduction by Lonely Planet's Editorial Director Tom Hall, we as travellers find relief knowing that an immersed local experience can be achieved when our travel budgets are stretched. Money puts our travel into motion and our budgets can set our course. On the contrary, no matter how much or how little we spend, it's the travel memories we gather along the way that are priceless.   

As usual, Lonely Planet has crossed the seas and traversed continents to publish this modestly sized, money-saving guide of thrifty travel gold. The Best Things in Life are Free covers an expanse of experiences from food, nature, urban tours, history, art and music, categorised by continent and divided by city. There are walking tours, brewery visits, markets, street art, theatre, festivals and movies, all tightly packed into this one economic guide. From the historic to the eclectic (case in point – an underwater sculpture park in the Caribbean), you can create priceless travel memories with a little help from The Best Things in Life are Free. More unique local experiences such as the Heidelberg Project in Detroit or Freemont Street Experience in Las Vegas all get the nod from Lonely Planet.

Local street art and laneway tours fair well in The Best Things in Life are Free's travel tips.

Local street art and laneway tours fair well in The Best Things in Life are Free's travel tips.

This guide is scattered with tips and tricks from locals, such as 'The Local's View', so travellers can capitalise on their freebie finds at the best times to visit and be prepared with bonus local knowledge from those on the ground. All experiences are colour-coded and plotted out in mini-maps for easy navigation.

In true Lonely Planet style, each destination featured in The Best Things in Life are Free is outlined by vital stats to leverage said knowledge, including a rough cost of a day spent in each city. From Melbourne to Rio, Boston to Bruges, Shanghai to Singapore, the seductive photography buried within The Best Things in Life are Free, will also set your wanderlust and travel envy into motion; no matter how frugal a traveller you may be. For example, you can seek out the best sunsets across the globe, or Europe's best free museums and galleries. It's these centrefold round-ups dotted throughout that can help you on your way.

Walking and hiking are among the top travel ways to explore local parks and cities.

Walking and hiking are among the top travel ways to explore local parks and cities.

Or, it might be a specific city that reels you in. For me, the likes of Marrakesh, Reykjavik and Tokyo had me wanderlust-ing; stunning spots that can be explored on nothing, or near enough. Some of the locations found in The Best Things in Life are Free even brought back priceless travel memories for me – my day-trip to the ancient town of Qibao, only a short train ride from Shanghai.

‘One Day Pass’ tips are also valuable throughout The Best Things in Life are Free, especially when you're short on time and money at a destination. Though, free travel experiences may seem like robbery, especially when you can stay in San Salvador or Bangkok for the equivalent of only AUD $30-40 a day. Then again, free activities and cheap treats are welcomed when you travel to a more expensive location like New York or the Caribbean where you could fork out up $US400 a day!

Local galleries and museums can come with little to no price-tag.

Local galleries and museums can come with little to no price-tag.

On a foodie note, it’s a shame that Asia's Best Cheap Gourmet Grub recommendations don’t feature a vegan choice or two. Even a flick through to Portland in the U.S, a burgeoning cuisine hotspot with known vegan cuisine, yields none. Sadly, not all tastes and diets are covered in this guide and it’s true that some options may be impossible to discover. Yet, all is not lost. The ultra-cheap veggo tip for Melbourne is a positive sight where vegan choices can be purchased.

Book-lovers may warm to the guide's souvenir style hardcover format and the bespoke travel recommendations within (the guide can be back-packed). Though with a hard cover, you may be compelled to leave your collector-style hard copy at home. If you search a little, you may find a Kindle edition to purchase on the web, that’s a little more travel-friendly and can complement your hard copy.

Overall, The Best Things in Life are Free underscores the invaluable importance of free or cheap travel. If travellers like us can be welcomed by a free – or very cheap – travel experience, we’re warmed by local hospitality and acceptance as a result. Thrifty travel then has an effective way to bring hearts and minds closer to history, culture and tradition. This is the overhanging beauty of Lonely Planet's latest travel guide. Who needs top-dollar experiences when free or cheap finds can coax us to a more immersed, local journey? Closer to home, we may even be inspired to travel through our own countries a little bit more closely.

Budget travel tips for festivals, free gigs and outdoor cinemas are found around the globe.

Budget travel tips for festivals, free gigs and outdoor cinemas are found around the globe.

I believe that The Best Things in Life are Free doesn't discount our ability to spend when we’re experiencing free, or dirt cheap, recommendations. Rather, this guide draws on our conscience as travellers to support local economies. We can then head home with newfound – positive – knowledge from our time on the road. Understanding and tolerance then returns home with us; the priceless gift any culture can hope for. 

Discover Lonely Planet’s money-saving guide The Best Things in Life are Free for yourself.

RRP $AUD29.99 and in bookstores now.

A review copy of The Best Things in Life are Free was supplied to Fire & Tea for review purposes by Lonely Planet.