Insight Guide: The Dominican Republic & Haiti (1st Ed)
by Gordon Lesley, Langenscheidt Publishers
Release Date: December, 2000
I bought this book, not as a travel guide, but as a "coffee-table book" about the country of Haiti. As such, it is FANTASTIC! Sure, there are some typos in this first edition, but the publisher specifically invites readers' contributions & corrections (p. 2) for future editions. The photos in this book are vivid, stunning depictions of life in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. There is an introductory section full of photos & illustrations that covers the history of both nations that comprise Hispaniola, followed by colorful, photo-filled sections on people, language, art, religion, cuisine, sports, flora & fauna, architecture, economy & agriculture, geography & demography by regions of each country (including a wide variety of detailed maps), sites to visit and sights to see. All this comprises the first 344 pages of this marvelous book! Only the last 48 pages are devoted to "Travel Tips" -- trip planning, transportation, places to stay, places to eat, tourist sites, shopping, festivals, excursions, and so forth. Indeed, this is NOT A TRAVEL GUIDE! BUT A MARVELOUS AND DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO THE RICH CULTURE, BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, AND INTRIGUING HISTORY OF THE ISLAND OF HISPANIOLA it is!!
If you are looking for backgrounder on the people, geography, and history of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, this book may fit your needs. As a general travel guide, it misses the mark badly.
First, the positives. The book provides 150 pages of concise overview. The history section is particularly successful. With an investment of about 90 minutes of reading, you come away with a reasonable understanding of how these two nations arrived at their modern condition, and in particular why they are quite different from one another. The photography in this section and throughout the book is superb and inspirational.
Now, the bad news. As a practical travel guide, information is consistently lacking or just plain wrong. A few examples (there are many more)...
1. Want to know what time it is when you arrive in the DR? This book will tell you you're in the Eastern Time zone. (False - you are one hour ahead).
2. Want to know how much cash you'll need at the airport? This book correctly informs you of the $10 tourist card you must purchase on arrival but utterly fails to mention the $10 departure tax.
3. Want to do a little exploring on the Costa del Coco north of Punta Cana? This book will treat you to purple passages like "the charter meccas are left behind glinting like shiny oyster pearls in the sun...", then toss out the names of a few beaches you could have located on the map, and provide absolutley no additional information.
In short, you might find this book useful for some inspiration in planning your trip, but don't expect to rely on it for practical information once you're on site.