Welcome to Passplanet Presentation !

 

Note : This site is slightly better looking with Internet Explorer 5.0...

You will find here all the practical elements you need to know about Passplanet and this site :

 

Our Fairy Tale...   

Hi, nice to meet you. My name is Benot 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 mental health...

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)

In 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...  

Waking 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...

I 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 reserved) :

  • Budget's information only. If you are rich, kindly send me money so I can afford to recommend luxury hotels next time...

  • Indispensable & reliable information only. If you do not know how to tie your shoes or need recommendations about every corner's restaurants, better join a tour or carry books written by culinary experts of your own nationality...

  • Facts, not literature. If you travel in order to get time to read, please store on novels or essays written by good English writers...

  • Regular updates. If you do not like to waste time trying to find a place that has been closed for the past two years, please help us maintain our infos fresh & crispy...

  • Light & cheap. If you like to carry a big bag and a small wallet, plenty of heavyweight guide books are already available on the market...

In 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 !

 

Fairy Tale on the web...   

The 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 :

  • As far as I know, nobody has done it on such scale before so it's an interesting & innovative kind of challenge.

  • The information would reach more backpackers faster and, who knows, some of them might be interested to join me in the adventure...

  • I believe that a quality site should at term generate enough advertising's revenues to keep running

  • I am a novice regarding internet so this would be a good incentive to learn

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...

 

A few precisions about Passplanet : what we are and what we are not !

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.  

 

Our philosophy and ideas...

At Passplanet, we 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 :

  • Help the modern traveler go where he wishes to go with the minimum fuss.

  • Understand his requirement for finances and weight control

  • Provide tailor made and high quality information that are immediately usable and constantly updated

  • Maintain a close and constant relationship with backpackers

  • Be a responsible media that do not teach lessons nor deal with politics.

Quite a challenge isn't it ? Would you like to know more ?  

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) :

 

WHAT YOU WILL NOT GET WHAT YOU WILL GET
Description of boring places Latest updates of the interesting places
Luxury accommodations The cheapest options for each locality
Listing of western restaurants Where to go to eat cheaply with the locals
Approximate infos on transportation Precise tables for train, bus or boat
Subjective opinion of writers Ratings of backpackers
Cultural infos about each site How to visit the sights
A full heavy package Infos you select
How to spend money How to save money
Literature Facts

 

The structure of this site...

For each Country or Area, we have classified the information in four parts :

  • Before your trip :

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

  • During your trip :

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

  • After your trip :

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 !

  • Culture shocks  :

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 :

  • Ratings by criteria :

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...

  • Travelers' ratings :

We asked 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...

  • Description & Comments :

A short description of each locality and its surroundings as well as comments & tips about the locality or the itinerary

  • What to do ?

List various activities that you can perform in the area, from watching butterflies to starting snowballs fights in the middle of August at 5000 meters...

  • What you may not like ?

List the various annoyances that you may encounter in that specific place, from traffic jams to shopkeepers eagerness to relieve you from your money...

  • How long

Helps you organize an itinerary by telling you the recommended length of stay

  • Where to 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.

  • Where to eat ?

No western restaurants listed but locations of food stalls or cheap local restaurants when appropriate.

  • What to see/visit ?

No cultural information but how to go there, what to expect, how to visit and how to save money when appropriate.

  • Money & Communication :

Banks, telephone or internet places listed when necessary

  • How to leave ?

Precise 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.

  • The trip to X :

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. 

 

The localities' ratings and surveys...

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 :

  • Charm : the global urbanism attractiveness of an area.  This is some rather ugly towns can get a good rate : they are the transit points to charming surroundings villages.

  • Scenery : the natural charm of an area

  • Parks : a criteria for the cities only

  • Culture : the cultural opportunities of an area : monuments, temples, caves, museums, festivals...

  • Minorities : the interests & friendliness offered by the local minorities

  • Markets : interest of the local markets

  • Relaxation : the possibility to leave the crowd and spend hours by oneself in a dreamable surrounding.  

  • Fiesta : either the ability to have fun with other backpackers or the possibility to go out & join the locals.

  • Cheap : the cost of basic accomodation, food and local sights...

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. 


The Backpackers' ratings :

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 ! 


The global mark :

For each locality, an average was made between the criteria ratings and the travelers' ratings. A ranking was then established between the localities presented...


Note : recapitulative tables of these ratings can be consulted at the sections "Where to go" of each country.

 

The abbreviations used...

Transport sections : 

  • "The Trip to X :  Bus / SSSS / L&R / Y5 / 1h30" means : Type of transport / Scenery rating : N (night), S (nothing to see), SS (nothing special), SSS (nice), SSSS (very nice), SSSSS (superb !) / Where to seat on the bus : L (left), R (right), L&R (both side OK) / Price / Approximate duration of the trip

  • ++ = a lot of buses

  • O = ordinary Bus / S = Sleeper Bus / L = Luxury Bus / I = Iveco, a kind of small & fast luxury buses, very popular in China

  • Freq. = Frequency of the buses in mn (minutes) or hrs (hours)

  • na = non applicable

Accommodation sections :

  • Sgl = single room / Dble = double room / Trpl = Triple room

  • For dormitories, the number in bracket after the price is the number of beds in the room

  • Bldg = Building

  • HW = Hot Water

  • GF = Ground Floor

Other sections :

  • HS = High Season / LS = Low Season / WE = Week End

  • The number in bracket next to some sights is a subjective rating : (1) = no interest, (2) = if nothing to do, (3) = interesting, (4) = very interesting, (5) = not to be missed

  • Exp = Expensive for what you get

  • All prices are expressed in local currencies, except when specified.