This is the place to learn about Passplanet. The idea. The project. The philosophy. The challenge...
If you have a particular question not answered below, feel free to contact pass@... instead of firstname.lastname@example.org
I would love to answer "backpackers !" to that one. Indeed, thousands of travelers have already helped, answering the surveys or updating the information. On a more practical basis, I am however the only one behind the computer so far. Benoit Saint Girons is the name. French is the nationality. Backpacking is the passion... If you share the same interest and like the idea of Passplanet, you are welcome to contact me and join the "team" !
The idea came from my frustrations while using a guidebook in India. This was back in 1997. The book was so bad and unpractical that it made me think about an alternative. I first thought about writing a "regular" travel guide. But then I realized that internet was an amazing way to keep track of the latest info. Passplanet was born ! For more details, refer to history & news.
Creating something from scrap, I thought that I would better come up with an original alternative to the existing guides. I decided to make Passplanet the most practical guide from the backpacker's point of view, with very precise info regarding the guesthouses and the transport schedules. Passplanet is for example the only guide I know offering the convenient Chinese trains' schedules. The surveys are also an exclusivity and, despite their limitations, are quite useful to select a country or an itinerary. But the originality is above all a question of media : internet offers the opportunity to share the latest info with others, to interact, to build up a guidebook day after day... moreover, it is free !
Well, not all of them are actually bad. A few are even good, the normal limitations aside. Still, there is something that I found in all the guidebooks that I have used and that I find really annoying : they talk about places they have never been to ! How do I know the writers never went there ? A good indication is when the scale of the map is completely wrong (1km instead of 100m for example), when you get lost following the books indications ("you cross the river and go up" except you need to cross the river twice !) or when a guesthouse has closed for the last 3 years but is still in the new edition... The problem with guidebooks is that they need to be exhaustive to sell and, still, have limited time & money to do the research. Most writers of most guidebooks company will therefore rely on some second hand information to complete their huge task and give their manuscript on time. With so many places to visit, they certainly have no time to do the treks themselves... So, they look at the maps, ask a few locals or travelers and then write about it. And you, you get lost !
Passplanet is different. It does not have to be exhaustive : it is free ! We can therefore afford to take the time to visit the place and provide backpackers with the most reliable info available. Nearly 95% of all the info on Passplanet are first hand info, collected on the spots. And when we did not actually visit a place, you will know about it ! Honesty is one of my core value. This is also why I prefer to publish travelers' tips under their own name : keep that first-hand approach ! Better not to write about a place than do it incorrectly !
This will obviously depend of a number of factors. First, your experience as a backpacker : a big heavy guide sometimes makes you feel more secure... Second, your interest for the culture : Passplanet is rather limited in this field. Third, the country you plan to visit : a country like China requires precise maps and detailed info with precise translation. Other countries however often offer maps for free or are small or easy enough to be discovered with "limited" info. If you plan to buy a guide via the net, kindly visit Passplanet's guidebooks selection.
I hope so. The surveys and description of each place will for example help you plan your itinerary. The sections "how to visit" will also give you some useful tips. If you plan to visit independently but wishes comfortable accommodations, you can now get precise hotel info and book them online (saving money in the process !). Not all the localities are covered but there is a growing selection. Visit Hotels You can also use a powerful search engine to find your dream vacation !
Well, it depends what your idea of a commercial site is. For some, Passplanet is one because it is a dot.com site ! Others people, point at the articles on sale (books, hotels,...) or the ads (actually some are banner exchanges !) to justify this classification. In my opinion however, a commercial site is a site backed up by a Company whose main purpose is to make money. In this regard, I do not consider Passplanet as a commercial site. If my interest was to make money, I would have concentrated on tourism rather than backpacking or maybe on one particular locality only. I did not because I prefer to live my passion and keep traveling. Now, if I can make some money from it as well, I will not spit on that ! Passplanet represents a lot of time & financial investment and some part of this work (like translating the Chinese trains' schedules) was really not too existing. So I obviously hope to be rewarded one day and cover my "costs". Eventually, I also wish to enable myself and other backpackers to live from their passion... I am therefore open to any business proposal. But whatever the future, be assured that quality and passion shall remain the cornerstone of Passplanet ! See help / join for more details about my philosophy.
For a simple reason : I do not wish to deal with politics ! It is always too simple to criticize from outside...and I often realized while traveling how the media distort and exaggerate the reality. Of course, it is always a good idea to get informed about a place before going (plenty of web site are dealing with this kind of subject). Just remember that very few countries actually qualify as "true" democracy...
Passplanet has not a vocation of being exhaustive. My time, energy and financial resources are not extendible to infinity and beyond. Some places, I went a few years ago and did not wish to go back (the east coast of China). For others, I showed up at the wrong season (south of Thailand). Etc. As a whole, Passplanet offers a logical itinerary within a country. But, obviously and fortunately, more places are worth exploring. Putting the guide aside for a while and exploring is also, I feel, part of the backpacking game. Travelers are welcomed to share their discoveries with others via Passplanet.
Actually, there is no cultural information on Passplanet. Three reasons. First, I did not have the time nor the competence for this huge task. Second, those info can easily be found on other sites or encyclopedia. Third, this kind of info is not susceptible to change like the practical info and therefore, in my opinion, does not require internet as much. Passplanet is about interactivity between travelers.
For at least three reasons. One, I am not a culinary expert. Two, as a French guy, I can not really recommend an English guy (for example) where to eat. Three, I do not feel that this is essential backpacking information : once in a place, you always find where to eat, simply by asking around or trusting your senses. Passplanet however do give some tips on where to eat with the local people.
Nearly all of the info were "first-hand" researched, directly collected on the spots. I visited the guesthouses, spent hours in the trains or bus stations and took notes of my experience while visiting the attractions, trekking or bumping in the transports. Not all guidebooks' writers can afford to do the same... If I did not personally visit a place (it happened a few times), there will be a warning note about that. In addition, I annoyed all the backpackers I met with silly questions to feed the surveys. Once online, the info is regularly updated by the travelers kind enough to share their trip & discoveries with others. I also try to keep track of the latest and may improve Passplanet with some info found online. In this case, I will take care not to breach any copyrights policy.
I do not visit all the countries covered every year and do not plan to. I prefer to extend the offering and discover new places myself. This being said, the info are constantly being updated by the travelers (your help is precious !) and I try to keep track of the major changes. Considering the time it takes to publish a "regular" guidebook (usually 1 year) and the shelves' life of those books (usually 2 years), Passplanet provides you with the latest info for at least three years from the time of the research. For example, I collected the info about China beg. of 1999 and Passplanet was launched by Sept 99 (I had to learn how to spell "internet"). While in China, I learned that a major company was also updating its book. It was however published mid-2000 only and the book will be on sale for at least two years. That is about four years between the collect of the info and the end of life. During that time, Passplanet's info will already have been updated by travelers !
Updates are regular. Basically, every time I receive or find pieces of useful information, I will update the relevant section(s) as soon as possible. There are however periods during which I can not update the site : I am traveling and do not bring my computer on the dusty roads ! Refer to history & news to check if this is the case.
The structure of the site and the way the surveys were conducted (and are conducted thanks to the online submissions) are detailed at site structure & surveys
As this is a very time-consuming process, I update them only when I feel I have enough additional surveys to feed the tables. It will therefore depend of the traffic and the feedback I receive.
Internet is a great way of communicating but the hardware and software running the stuff are not quite yet 100% reliable. My previous hoster was having regular technical problems and the forms, requiring the Frontpage Extensions to be handled correctly, were often down. With my new hoster (oct 2001), it is even better : I did not manage to load the site with Fontpage ! As I am fed up with changing hoster (a very stressful process), I decided to use FTP loading instead. Consequently, no more automatic forms and far less error messages in the future (I hope) ! So how to reach me nowadays ? Simply by copying the form into the body of an e-mail and sending it at email@example.com It may be less flashy, but this let you answer the questions offline and it is much more reliable !
Because Passplanet can not "compete" with the big "heavy" forums : there was little logic to ask people to post an article while knowing that they would rather post it somewhere else to get precise answers (or more simply read Passplanet as quite a few questions of any forum are precisely answered here). Great forums exist. The two best are the newsgroup "rec.travel.asia" and the Thorn Tree of Lonely Planet. Do not hesitate to promote Passplanet on those... If you have a precise questions that is not already answered on Passplanet, you could also contact me directly. Bear in mind however that all my knowledge is basically written down on Passplanet. I did not keep any "secret" and my time is limited...
I am fortunately not always behind my computer. I try to travel at least a few months every year. If you send info and I do not reply to thank you, it probably means that I am in such situation. You can check if this is the case at history & news. Do not worry, I will keep your info preciously and feed the site at my return.
It is actually recommended to do so ! Passplanet was not designed to be read online (too many pages) but to be carried and shared around ! Select your itinerary using the surveys & tables and then print the info you need. While traveling, I would however appreciate if you would be kind enough to take note of any change you encounter and then send me the info via e-mail at your return. Passplanet can not survive otherwise...
There is nothing I can do if you use part of Passplanet to create your own site, as long as you write your own articles and are "original". What I really do not appreciate (and have already seen) are people who "copy" and "paste" whole parts of Passplanet onto their site, without the slightest reference of where the info was coming from. This is a clear copyright infringement and I will strongly fight against it ! If you wish to use small parts of Passplanet, please contact me. In exchange of a clear link to the site, I usually give my agreement. But in any case, please contact me beforehand.
Again, I do not mind if you use them for your own personal & private use. Publishing them on your own site will however be a copyright infringement, even with a link to Passplanet. If you really love the photos, make a link to Passplanet and tell me about it. If your site is about traveling, I shall usually link back to it.
Well, like I said above, Passplanet is not an exhaustive guide. When in a locality, I try to visit all the guesthouses but it is not always possible to do so. Also, I concentrate only on the indispensable addresses. Restaurants, travel agents or dive centers are usually not listed because it would obviously be difficult to "test" them all.
I would like to keep Passplanet as objective and "free" as possible. New guesthouses will therefore only be listed if I hear something nice about them. Having not visited myself, I would need an article from a backpacker. This article will be published under his/her name. As for restaurants, travel agency, dive centers or internet cafe, you are welcome to promote your services on Passplanet. Contact me to work out a successful partnership.
Glad you ask. Indeed, this is the main idea behind Passplanet : create a solidarity between backpackers in order to keep the info updated ! As you will see at participate ! there are plenty of ways you could contribute : fill up the surveys (countries & localities), update the info, cover new places,... Any article will be published (if you wish) under your name and nationality. You will also appear in the contributors section. Of course, it would also be nice if you could help promoting Passplanet around : share the info with other backpackers, either on the roads or via the net. The more visitors, the more updated the info in the future... For more details, visit help/join.
I am still looking for partners to join me in the adventure. Passionate backpackers who would like to live from their passion and can afford to take a financial risk. The first step would be to contact me for a full discussion on the subject. Then, covering a new country would enable to test the motivation, concretely add "value" to the site and involve the writer with the success of Passplanet (sharing of the profits generated by the section). After that, it will depend on the partner. There are plenty of work to do and plenty of ideas to develop ! For more details, visit help/join.