Top critical review
10 people found this helpful
Maybe the best guide if your main interest is the culture and history of Iran, but second-best for the independent traveller
on 15 June 2011
The intrepid visitor to Iran is in for a deeply rewarding experience. This enormous, varied and little-visited country is full of wonders and surprises; it's very safe for travellers and in many ways easier for the visitor than most other destinations in the region. Follow a few simple rules, and you can't go wrong.
The choice of guide books, however, is limited at the time of writing to just two: Lonely Planet and Bradt. Of the two, the LP guide is definitely the most useful with the greatest amount of accurate information about where to stay, how to get from A to B and other practicalities high on the priority list for the traveller. It's important to have a guide book for Iran because internet access is difficult and slow, cellphone networks congested and almost impossible to access in the daytime (especially in Tehran) and English not widely understood.
The Bradt guide, however, is not without value. It's written by Patricia Baker, an academic with an interest in Islamic art and costume, and the weight of content reflects these specialist cultural interests at the expense of travel practicalities.
The first 66 pages are devoted to Iranian history, politics and religion and to basic practicalities like best time to visit, visas, health issues and tour operators. The author tends to discourage independent travel to Iran and recommends an organised tour, as (according to her) Iranian officialdom is more comfortable with groups who can be managed and controlled more easily. I have to say I found travelling independently around Iran quite easy, especially with a positive attitude and the helpful and invariably accurate advice in the LP guide, so do not agree with Ms. Baker on this issue.
The second part of the book has a chapter devoted to each of the major cities and regions of the country, and is OK but can be a rather dry read. Often the author recommends only one place to stay in each location, whereas for example the LP guide invariably details many options accurately and so is more useful to the traveller.
The four separate colour photo sections are pretty good, but again betray the author's prime interest in the architecture, archaeology and cultural relics which, it needs to be said, in Iran are plentiful and often truly magnificent, especially in Isfahan and Shiraz. However the fun and adventure is somehow missing (yes, you can have both in Iran), and the text is not exactly racy or humorous.
So overall, the Bradt Guide might be best for the visitor whose primary interest is in the history, culture and architecture of Iran and who chooses to go on an organised tour where accommodation is booked in advance and taken care of - or if for some reason you don't like the style of LP guides, this is your only option.