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Rough Guides was started in the 1980's, in England, by a small group of recent college grads who wanted to create a contemporary, journalistic alternative to the old-fashioned attitudes and approaches of traditional travel guides.

Mark Ellingham, Rough Guides' publisher, explains:

"I'd been travelling in Greece and, looking at the guidebooks, realized there wasn't one for me. There was nothing contemporary, which had an enthusiasm for ancient sites, beaches, and bars, which treated Greece as a 20th-century, living culture, and which didn't make you feel inadequate for not having a lot of money. And I realized that was pretty much the case for every other destination. So with The Rough Guide to Greece, we (myself, my partner Natania Jansz, and John Fisher) were basically writing a book for ourselves, and one with a journalistic and quite a writerly approach.

After Greece we had an idea to write a guide to Sri Lanka, which was where Natania's family came from. But our then-publishers talked us into doing Spain and Portugal...And by the time we had written those, we had a series......now close on two hundred titles.

Nowadays, the books no longer seem particularly 'rough'. The early editions were written on very little money for readers we assumed were in the same boat. But the books had a much broader audience than we originally anticipated and we began supplementing the "rough" elements of the books - the hostel and low-budget information - with restaurant and hotel reviews right across the range. Even on a tight budget, the philosophy is, people like to have an option for the occasional blowout."

Since the initial series, Rough Guides has expanded in a number of directions. The offerings now include miniguides, phrasebooks, music guides, CDs, and a number of specialty guides. Ellingham explains the expansion.

"For twelve years, we did nothing but travel guides. In those guides, though, we always have included our famous Contexts section: thoughtful essays on a variety of topics from the destination's wildlife, history, art movements, indigenous music, and more. From those essays on music grew our first non-travel project, The Rough Guide to World Music. That was such a success that we saw we could apply our unique Rough Guide perspective to any number of categories from music to the Internet to sports and much more.

Our mission, no matter what kind of book, is to demystify, entertain, and enlighten."


These handy, value-for-money books are ‘How-to-do-it’ manuals, packed with the practicalities: getting a passport and inoculations, saving money on flights and rail passes, planning an itinerary, staying healthy, packing wisely, avoiding trouble, and much more. Filled with anecdotes, both funny and cautionary, this series is an important, entertaining and inspiring pre-trip read.

Available in the series:

First-Time Around the World
First-Time Asia
First-Time Europe
First-Time Latin America

This is where it all began-comprehensive, contemporary coverage of destinations far and wide from Amsterdam to Zimbabwe and 130 more in between. Country and regional guides include in-depth site information, listings for all budgets, color photographs, and maps. City guides take you neighborhood by neighborhood, break out listings by cuisine and neighborhood, and contain easy-to-use color maps for streets and public transport.


Rough Guides score very high on our list of recommended travel guides, primarily for their first-class writing, strong attention to rail travel, great maps, and wide-ranging, well-informed coverage of the local scene. One thing not to expect is detailed reviews of hotels and restaurants, as this isn't something they try to do. Neither are shops and shopping, which go pretty much undiscussed. If you enjoy researching and reserving hotels or fine restaurants ahead of departure, or if you rate shopping high on your list of travel pastimes, you'll want additional resources.

  • quality writing; a Rough Guide is not just a guidebook, it's a good read as well.
  • a contemporary, journalistic view; a Rough Guide views a destination as more than a tourist never-never land. Rough Guide writers treat it as a place where real people live and work and the book's readers get to participate in that vibe.
  • reviews of places to stay and restaurants are brief, but provide a sense of who you'll be mixing with as well as what's offered.
  • area-by-area descriptions of sights are strong on historical and anecdotal detail but with an irreverent attitude toward all of those amazing tourist attractions.
  • special sections for gay and lesbian travellers, women travellers, and disabled travellers.
  • best nightlife and entertainment sections, especially for people interested in music. Use this guide to find out-of-the-way places for all sorts of music, clubs, and bars.
  • emphasis on a destination's contemporary culture with background on history, politics, economy, indigenous peoples, art, and music.
  • maps in each city guide.

This general travel series is for the independent traveller who wants the best cultural and historic coverage but is also interested in where the out-of-the-way beaches and hottest clubs are located.


Each phrasebook has a unique free download feature! Each Rough Guide phrasebook includes 16 pages of scenario material presented in easy-to-locate tinted boxes. These scenarios are also available online as downloadable audio files. Recorded with native speakers, the files can be downloaded to a PC or Mac, and then to an iPod or other MP3 player.


  • Highly practical, laid out in clear A-Z style
  • Detailed grammar section - Rough Guide phrasebooks are the only series on the market to include a grammar section
  • Compact
  • Extensive menu and drinks reader, giving a run-down of food and drink terms that you’ll find indispensable whether you’re eating out or browsing a local food market
  • Free audiofile downloads
First Time
Asia & the Pacific
Central & Eastern Europe
Western Europe
Great Britain & Ireland
The United States & Canada
Latin America & the Caribbean
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The Savvy Traveller
Chicago, Illinois
Telephone: 773/525-9300