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The Rough Guide to India (Rough Guide Travel Guides) Paperback – 25 Oct 2001
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This guide to India provides advice on the best Himalayan trekking route, camel safaris in the Rajasthan desert and elephant-spotting in the Cardomom Hills; accounts of every attraction from the gateway cities of Delhi and Mumba to the temples and beaches of the tropical south; accomodation reviews from pilgrim guesthouses to magnificent forts and palaces; and an exploration of India's history, politics, religions and music.
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The introduction of the book gives you some 'must sees' and 'when to go' advice. For those interested in Northern India I would recommend travelling in November as flights are relatively cheap this time of year and the weather is hot but not unpleasant
The main part of the book is split up into India's different regions. There is a chapter on Rajasthan, Goa, Mumbai etc.
I mainly stuck to the Rajasthan section. I found the information on this area very useful and I used it as a basis of my trip. At the end of each section there is information regarding train/plane times. I found this essential, and Rough Guides are the best in this respect.
Another reason I liked this guidebook is it's 'reading list' towards the back of the book. In this section, the editor recommends reading material. Using this as a cue I read the various books by Indian authors which really brought India to life.
On several occasions on I leant my bok to fellow travellers as the historical and cultural sections were much more instructive then the LP guide books.
There is also a short section on India's amazing food . I did not try any of the recipes but I think this is a good idea.
I do have some slight criticisms of the book. It should have a larger section on 'Crimes and annoyances'. People do have problems in India, but with common sense you should have a great time. Plan your holiday well in advance. I recommend that you learn a bit of the local language, be very careful about what you eat and drink, do not stand out as a tourist and make yourself aware of scams. But don't get too paranoid-look out for the plentiful genuine and honest local characters as well as scam artists.
Also, this book is too big to carry around with you if you are backpacking. Why not take out the pages you need for your journey rather then taking the whole book? Your load will be lighter and you will look less conspicious.
My other criticism is that Rough Guides can sometimes be a bit political and left field. Please, let the reader make it's own mind up!
All in all, I found this guide to be very useful. You can enjoy reading it before your trip to India, and as invaluable and entertaining read (especially on the long journeys) whilst you are there.
Enjoy your trip!
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a) a reasonably clear overview of each city or historical site, when it was built, and by whom, and why it is of importance to tourists and to India
b) reasonable detail for cities, outside of the usual tourist attractions
c) some attractions/ towns not listed in most tourist books.
I was checking the sections on West Bengal and Orissa in particular (having lived and travelled in both states). I used those sections to compare between this guide (the 1999 edition) and Lonely Planet etc. For my purposes, Rough Guide was the most helpful - in describing places, in offering different ways to get around (with notes on how safe it is for women etc), in evaluating the historical and/or tourist appeal of places, and so forth. I think I fell for this guide when I noticed the level of detail it had on eating places and places of worship in a residential area in South Calcutta (not to mention a critique of the Pipli handicraft industry).
The little vignettes on getting around in a Hindu holy site (and in temples, where allowed in) were also quite interesting. I have never been one to make pilgrimages, but if I wanted to do so, this would be useful to have along. The history section was surprisingly thorough and balanced - and I learned new things not covered in Indian history textbooks in school.
Is this book perfect? Of course not. But a guidebook generally cannot cater to all tastes equally. For me (a non-tourist but an NRI returning home), it did quite well (even though Jammu & Kashmir were omitted but Ladakh was included). It sparked in me the determination to visit Madhya Pradesh (one of the few states I have never visited) and parts of the Northeast. I would love to see a Rough Guide or the equivalent that focuses more on Eastern and North-eastern India, but until this, this works fine.