book links

Rough Guides

online booksellers
barnes and noble
edward r hamilton
powells books



travel books

travel guides


pictorial guides




reading list

Rough Guide Egypt

Nearly everyone I talk to loves the Rough Guide guidebooks. Rough Guide has great information, a free-and-easy style, and some of the best travel suggestions for "off the beaten path" places of any guidebook series that I've found.

And, lest you think that I'm basing the review on this book alone, I'll shamefully admit that I have something like twenty Rough Guides, from Europe to Asia, Scandinavia to India. They're my choice for armchair travel and dream-vacation plans. Rough Guides has also branched out to hip reference guides to everything from music styles to pregnancy. Rather an odd range of titles, but each one offers crisp, opinionated writing (something that I value in a travel guide, especially -- I want to know what you liked, not the vanilla, wishy-washy review that says everything is "wonderful" or tries to find the silver lining in every cloud...sometimes a town just stinks) and up-to-date information. I know that the latest book will be accurate and that I can reliably base my travel expectations on what they say for prices, times, and travel suggestions.

Rough Guides are for the most part geared towards budget travel. Not necessarily travel on a shoestring, but on low-cost independent "backpacker"-type travel. I tend to discard any guidebook that explains that you might want to pass on a site because the entry fee is too high and it's only the equivalent of US$5 or so (geesh, if you can't afford five bucks, you're on a tighter budget than I'll ever be!). Rough Guides doesn't do that, but it does focus on 2 and 3 star accommodations, cheap eats, and public transportation instead of luxury accommodations and flying or driving yourself.

Still, for general travel tips and sheer volume of data, Rough Guides have few competitors. Their books are based on reader and traveler feedback (in fact, if you send them updated information, they will post it immediately on the website and send you a book certificate when the next edition is published), and therefore have more detail and esoteric tidbits than most other guides. For example, when directing travelers to the Tourist office in Cairo, they specifically note that you should go in the afternoon, when X works, as he is a veritable encyclopedia of information about the local attractions. The general "been there, done that" attitude of the guide is refreshing -- I have no images of expense-account travel writers peering into the hotel and writing a quick blurb; with Rough Guides, you know that someone stayed there and experienced the plumbing adventures firsthand.

Hotel reviews and restaurant reviews tend to be very reliable in the mid or low range, and there is a general bias towards mid-range accommodations, but this is eminently useful information. There is voluminous data on public transport (trains, taxis, buses) that will be indispensable to all but the most exclusive travelers.

The Guide is organized by region, with each town or site afforded a section including transportation and sights. Hotel and restaurant recommendations are grouped by price (although actual costs are not often provided, a reasonable price range grading system is used). Other offerings, including camping and nightlife are also included. An extensive reading list and cultural references is also welcome. Maps are excellent, and the detail maps of Cairo, Aswan, and Luxor are worth taking along.

This guide is especially useful for the in-depth coverage of more remote areas where tourists often don't venture, including the Western Desert and the Oases. I do wish they had more pictures, but there are other guidebooks (notably Insight Guides) that more than cover that desire, so I can't complain much.

Current updates and an extensive travel support site can be found at An online community newsletter is also available.

A new edition has been released in April 2003.

prev | open road
© 2003-2004 r. fingerson
drop me a note!
passport guide | next