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You will find here all the practical elements you need to know about Passplanet and this site :
nice to meet you. My name is Benoît
Saint Girons. This is a long French name so you would better call me Ben. My
background, various statistics or color preference are none of your concern so
I'll keep them for me. What you may want to know however is how I came up
with that crazy idea of giving away for free all the information I spent
months (and money) collecting and whether or not traveling can also affect your
I like to consider myself as a dynamic, bright, charming, and still single backpacker. I have been touring Asia since 1992, first in Hong Kong where I worked two years to make money and then in other Asian countries where I found various ways to spend money. One of those ways, as well as early indication of serious psychological needs, was to decide to learn Chinese. As a logical consequence, I spent quite some time in that big and highly original country known as China, with which I became emotionally adducted (if you know a cure, please send me an email). During those adventures, I mostly used the Lonely Planet's On a shoestring series (budget infos for a group of countries) and, honestly, found them rather good and convenient (with obviously the limitations of any guide book)
1997, I decided to change air and to visit Sri Lanka, India & Nepal before
heading back to China. Finding no "On
a shoestring" for this
area, I decided not to commit suicide but to buy a guidebook from another
publisher. This was an excellent
move : the book was so bad that it forced me to think about ways to improve it.
And this is how it all started : once upon a time...
up a bit late and alone, I quickly realized that trying to compete with the
Champion "Lonely Planet" or the Challenger "Rough Guides" would be a bloody fight. Not being masochist, I
decided not to try to be better but, instead, explore ways to be
different. I smoked a bit and, eureka, found a big highway...
spent the next year thinking about it in many various directions and positions.
The concept evolved quite a bit but still maintained its core ideas (all rights
1999, my conditions deteriorated to the point that I decided to become serious
about my business idea : I went to China again and collected practical
information for quite a few interesting places. At the same time, I annoyed all
the backpackers I met with silly
questions about the places they visited or their expectations of a guide book.
And the concept evolved again a bit more...
The initial feedback was very encouraging. I therefore took the decision to expand the offering to other Asian countries. I went to Asia again at the beginning of 2000 and traveled extensively for 5 months, visiting one more time Thailand, Malaysia & Singapore and discovering Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. And here we are : 9 countries and more than 160 localities covered !
idea of using Internet as a promotion tool was obvious from the early beginning.
But the decision to use it as the main way to share the information at a very
affordable price (it's free !) is quite recent. I finally took that extreme
decision for several reasons :
But the main reason was for the interactivity offered by the web. A "classic" guide book takes time to write, publish and distribute. This is why most publishers can only manage an update every two years. Unfortunately, traveling information are very volatile and after one year, quite a few addresses are already obsolete. By using the web facilities to provide free information, I hope to be able to offer round-the-clock updates by creating a synergy of exchange between backpackers : a "Get infos before my trip, Give infos after my trip" kind of dynamic. I hope that this site can become a meeting place for travelers...
Passplanet is a new travel site. It was launched on the 28th of October 1999 (see above for details). Its purpose is to provide travelers with the latest available info, help them prepare their trip and let them share their info for the benefit of others.
Passplanet is not a " one person site". Thanks to internet, everyone can participate and hundreds of backpackers have already anonymously helped me by answering the surveys. I would like to associate backpackers to the success of Passplanet as far as possible : anyone submitting proper material will have his info published under his name & nationality and/or be listed as a Contributor. And backpackers who wish to cover a new country shall get a percentage of the profit generated by the country (see Help us / Join us for details). The objective is for Passplanet to become a travel guide written and/or updated by thousands of backpackers from all nationality.
Passplanet is not a "commercial site". OK, it is a dot com site ! This was indeed the logical way to get a simple URL and a protected name. But Passplanet is for the time being backed up by no Company ! We have no millions to spend in promotion & development and so far only costs, no revenues ! All right, there is no reason to cry ! I am not desperate. But I simply wish to point out that Passplanet will turn successful only if you support it : if backpackers do not promote it around & participate to it, there is no reason for Passplanet to exist !
Eventually, I hope to make enough money from affiliate programs and ad banners to cover the costs, keep the site running and get a fair salary for my full time involvement. If Passplanet makes tons of money one day, I will obviously be very happy but, believe me, this has never been the objective ! Quite a lot of sites nowadays are created with the $$$ color in mind. Passplanet was created by the mere passion I have for backpacking and the desire to do something useful by improving the actual offer... Whatever the future, this shall remain the focus of Passplanet !
Passplanet is an original guide : I did not compile info from others but traveled the countries for months. I however use internet and other media to gather new info and update Passplanet regularly, taking good care not to breach any copyrights policy. Links to useful sites complete our info.
Passplanet is a responsible media that will not deal with politics. It is indeed difficult to judge any country by our own standard. The surveys & personal comments shall therefore be considered more like a "culture shock" warning than a kind of criticism. I also believe that backpacking is the best way of traveling as it enable contacts with the locals and broaden the mind on both parts.
Finally, I wish to say that I personally regard honesty & ethic as an essential tool for anybody's personal development and I published a book on this subject in France (The Alchemy of Success). Passplanet's development shall follow those beliefs. Shall I make a profit by covering developing countries, a minimum of 5% will be redistributed to associations fighting poverty worldwide.
do not aim at being exhaustive. We
aim at being economical, practical, clear, objective, updated,... In a word
: different ! Our philosophy
could be summarized as follows :
Quite a challenge isn't it ? Would you like to know
Below is a table which summarize the few things that you will not get from this site and what you will get instead (at the same no cost) :
For each Country or Area, we have classified the information in four parts :
Check out what travelers think about the country (Why go ?), get the basic information to prepare your trip (How to go?), select your destinations by using our localities ratings (Where to go ?) and get advices on various aspects of your adventure (Travel Tips)
The core of Passplanet. Find all the practical information you need for an economical and rewarding trip. Information may be classified at different geographical levels, according to the size of the country : Zone > Province > Locality
Share your experiences with other travelers, participate to our ratings, help us update the information, make this site yours... This is the interactive part of the site !
If available, read texts about the country, the people, the culture and the various "Cultural shocks" that you may encounter... So far, this part is available for China and in French only
At the Locality Level, you will find the following information :
Subjectively done by ourselves, this rating from 1 to 5 gives an idea of the attraction of each place for different criteria : charm, scenery, parks, culture, minorities, market, relaxation, fiesta and cost. A global rate is then calculated out of 20. More details below...
backpackers about their opinion for each
place they visited : "Did you like it ?", "Would you happily
come back again ?", "Would you recommend the place ?" At the
end, we asked them to rate the locality from 1 (the lowest) to 20.
More details below...
More details below...
A short description of each locality and its
as well as comments & tips about the locality or the
as well as comments & tips about the locality or the
List various activities that you can perform in the
area, from watching butterflies to starting snowballs fights in the middle
of August at 5000
List the various annoyances that you may encounter in
that specific place, from traffic jams to shopkeepers eagerness to
relieve you from your money...
Helps you organize an itinerary by telling you the
recommended length of stay
List the accommodations of the area with the following
criteria in mind : cheap, centrally located and acceptably clean. The
subjective friendliness of the key girl or the color of the wall paper shall
not be discussed. However, we tried to help you choose your paradise by
telling you some reasons to go there as well as a few things that you may not
like. Those information are obviously subjective and subject to change.
No western restaurants listed but locations of food
stalls or cheap local restaurants when appropriate.
No cultural information but how to go there, what to expect, how to visit and how to save money when appropriate.
Banks, telephone or internet places listed when
information about the different
transportations options to leave the place, with a preference to short or
medium distances trips.
Those info being highly
volatile, you should always
double check the schedules.
Those info being highly volatile, you should always double check the schedules.
Practical indications for the trip toward the next
"logical" destinations : recommended type of transport, cost,
duration or where to seat on the bus for the best view...
Also included when personally tested, the story of the trip in all
its glorious or miserable parts (a kind of backpacker's diary) as well as
tips for making your life more easy on the road...
Note : Additional information like the trains schedules or the suggested itineraries can also be found at the "Zone" or "Province" sections...
About the photos : In addition to our Photos Gallery, you can also find some photos at the locality level. See the listing at the index of each country
About the links : Our Links section offers a selection of Backpackers' sites. Do not hesitate to recommend yours. In the text, you will also find links to professional sites which offer additional or institutional informations.
We tried to be as objective as possible when writing about a place. This is why we developed a series of surveys and ratings systems. It is not perfect but it should help you to get an idea about what to expect :
The Ratings by criteria :
As we said previously, this rating is done by ourselves and is therefore subjective. Indeed, only someone with a global vision of a country (that is someone who visited all the localities) could try to establish a rating. We introduced various criteria :
As you have noticed, some criteria apply only to cities (parks) while others apply more to countryside (scenery). This is why, in general, the rating of a locality rarely goes very high : a city has got nice parks but no natural scenery for example.
Still, we took all the criteria into account to establish the rating. We established a rate from 1 to 5, the higher the best, for each criteria. The total is then divided by the number of criteria (9) and multiplied by 4 to get a rate out of 20.
We simply asked the backpackers we met to rate each locality they visited from 1 to 20, the higher the best.
The number of people surveyed appears in bracket : the more surveyed, the less subjectivity for the total rate. Some localities have however only one respondent ! Help us gain objectivity by completing the locality survey : Participate !
For each locality, an average was made between the criteria ratings and the travelers' ratings. A ranking was then established between the localities presented...
Transport sections :
Accommodation sections :
Other sections :