Lonely Planet Writer

Travel debates: city breaks vs country getaways

When it comes to travel, we all have our biases. Some of us like to rough it, others like to lie in the lap of luxury. Some of us like to plan to the nth degree, others like to fly by the seat of their pants. But one thing we all like to do here at Lonely Planet is debate about it. So, in the first of our travel debate series, we ask: What kind of holiday is better - a city break or a country getaway? Bang a gong, we are on!

Getting in the ring for the advantages of the country, we have Talk2Us Coordinator, Trent:

I’m a city dweller, and chances are you are too. As we all know, city life is an endless grind of work, traffic, eat, pollution, sleep, and bad manners, fuelled by large doses of caffeine, beer and fatty food. It’s hard work, and to keep sane I need to regularly escape the madness and unwind, relax and recharge. So I travel. But when I do, why would I want to visit another city?

Well I don’t - when I hit the road I head straight for the countryside. The people are friendlier, the food is fresher and often local, and the pace is several notches slower. I can immerse myself in a destination without rushing to every famous tourist attraction before closing time. I can take long walks through fields and forests, or cycle along country lanes without inhaling toxic fumes. Queues, traffic, scammers and stress are unknown concepts outside the big smoke.

Cities are big, nasty, unfriendly places that will chew you up and spit you out, usually before you’ve left the airport terminal. Recent studies have shown that travellers to cities are 73% more likely to be assaulted, 84% more likely to fall ill and 128% more likely to have a really bad time than visitors to the countryside. I may have made those figures up but they’re 90% likely to be accurate, so take my word for it.

That’s not to say I don’t find myself in cities on occasion. Prolonged stopovers at major transport hubs allow me the opportunity to compare levels of street crime, public drunkenness and footpath dog poo to what I’m used to at home. I also get to see if multinational hamburger and coffee chain outlets resemble those I never visit in my own city. But after a couple of hours I’ve had more than enough.

So on your next trip take my advice, go rural and avoid big cities like the plague (which you’re more likely to catch in a city anyway, due to poor sanitation and overcrowding…).

And going in to bat for the cities, we have Lonely Planet's research librarian, Mark:

Cities are exciting. You never know what's around the next corner. In contrast, in the countryside you can go for hours and hundreds of kilometres without anything changing.

Nevertheless, people travel for days to see stuff (eg a waterfall), then, to defend the time they've wasted, convince themselves that it was amazing because not everyone is stupid enough to go there as well. I went to Iguazu Falls. It's water falling. Sure, it's lots of water falling, but just because something is big doesn't make it amazing.

The sublime is overrated. Get over it. And, while you're at it, get over the idea of the countryside being full of 'noble savages'. They are busy eking out a boringly hard existence. But, in any case, most countryside visitors treat the locals as part of the scenery anyway. They are busy visiting the countryside to 'find themselves', not to understand the locals. In a city you can submit to the anonymous chaos or engage with locals working in all manner of professions; in the countryside you stick out like a sore thumb and are sometimes treated as such because you're not a farmer.

To conclude, cities have great food; the best thing you can say about countryside food is it's fresh. In cities you find fun everywhere; the countryside is renowned for 'fun' adventure activities, but really they are Sisyphean at best (ascending a mountain, descending a mountain) or, worse, trying desperately to make inanimate rocks interesting (white water rafting). In cities you'll learn about the destination's culture and history in magnificent museums; in the countryside you'll find really old trees.

And in rebuttal:

Trent: Cities are ‘exciting’, sure, but they’re mostly the same around the world, with similar buildings, similar fashion, similar shops, etc. No point in leaving home really. The only city folk you’ll meet are jaded types who work in the travel industry or scammers – hardly representative of the local populace.

Mark: Why leave your home city to visit another city on your travels? Because you’re on holiday – duh – you don’t have to commute to work, you don’t have to go to Starbucks or McDonald’s (even at home), and you don’t have to go to the boring ends of the earth to relax.

Well, you've heard those fightin' words - so who do you think got smacked down? Cities or countrysides? Get in the ring and have your say!