India is a land of mystery, complex in its history and modern culture. Traveling this magnificent country truly requires a travel guide book. Without one, tourists will find navigating the landscape of India a test of patience. Guide books of India fill the bookshelves of local stores as well as the results page after a search on Amazon. Only a handful are worth the cost, what I consider the best travel guide books for planning a trip to India.
So what makes a great India guide book? The contents should include above all else, a simple map of India, something that helps you gather a sense of direction. Detailed maps for trekkers or DIY (Do-It-Yourself) travelers working their way around the country rather than a pre-planned tour of India can be purchased upon arrival. Any map inside a travel guide book should help associate the reader with the place they are visiting. With the help of a well written India guide which includes major tourist destinations, reviews, suggestions, and basic advice, travelers can quickly feel connected to any location. Below are the books that I keep within arm’s length for effortless research or queries about India.
Lonely Planet India
LP guides are known around the world as a trusted source for safe, reliable travel regardless of which country one finds themselves. Lonely Planet India is no exception. Clocking in at 1244 pages, this isn’t an overnight read. Tourists are best advised to take several weeks dissecting the various sections of the book. Each state or union territory is separated for an easy research of basic background facts, popular sightseeing destinations, suggested lodging and eating locations, as well as information on which mass transportation options are available. Maps provided throughout each chapter keep travelers connected to roads and landmarks while on-the-ground. Readers can delve further into the wonders of Indian food, customs, basic travel tips, and some language advice at the beginning and ending sections of this well-edited book. This is the first book I turn to when planning a new adventure to India.
Lonely Planet South India
This travel guide is devoted to the 4 states and 3 union territories which comprise an area best known as South India. The tropical climate and beach resort settings are a favorite among international vacationers. So why a separate book? There is an amazing dichotomy between North and South India. Although English is still widely spoken here, the official language of India, Hindi, is rarely heard or understood in these parts. Instead, regionally recognized languages pervade the sounds and sights of daily life. Indian food takes on a new twist with different spices, favorite snacks and drinks, and favorite dishes like idly and dosa not found in North India. Lonely Planet is able to capture the essence of South India by digging deeper into the traditions of this important region. From the breathtaking temple circuit to the beaches and backwaters of the coastlines; with maps, language advice, basic travel tips, descriptions of cultural activities, and religious beliefs, this book expertly guides the novice or local through South India.
Lonely Planet Rajasthan, Delhi & Agra
When you think of India, colorful images of camels, jewels, elephants, and more come to mind. This Lonely Planet guide covers the 3 key tourist destinations of North India commonly referred to as The Golden Triangle. Digging much deeper into the wonders of Rajasthani palaces, massive forts of the Mughals, and of course the Taj Mahal, travelers will find the thoughtful analysis of this book to be helpful when planning their Indian journey. Delhi is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world which begs for help. Lonely Planet can walk anyone through the narrow twisting alleys of Old Delhi while highlighting the wonders of New Delhi’s nightlife, shopping, or cultural activities. Readers will understand the haunting but fascinating beauty of Rajasthan’s past through individual sections devoted to the regions of this northern state. Whether tourists decide to take the road well-traveled, or the outer rim of Rajasthan less seen by others, LP is there to guide as always. Maps, basic travel tips, and so much more is packed into an easy to carry a book that should be within easy reach for all wanderers.
Lonely Planet Northeast India
Northeast India is a region all its own, rightfully deserving of a separate guide book. Varying languages, customs, and rules regulating areas permissible by tourists are all covered in this in-depth guide. This is an area just coming into its understanding of tourism, meaning some things are lacking as one expects with LP guide books. Still, this is a must-have guide for any traveler of NE India.
This popular series of guide books examines India on a deeper level than Lonely Planet. Exploring the breadth of the culture rather than the latest hot spot, Rough Guides teaches the visitor about why each specific landmark is worth seeing. Of course suggested accommodation, dining, and transportation advice is included to ease the frustrations of Indian travel. Number coding offers a smart, simple way to quickly decipher which lodging or eating locale fits an individual’s budgets. And easy-to-use maps keep travelers pointed in the right direction. With even more regional editions than Lonely Planet, tourists are well covered throughout the country. The only downside is having to lug multiple books for various destinations. The general Rough Guide to India would be the best choice for those with extended travels around the country. For visitors to say Kerala, the regional specific Rough Guide to Kerala would be the only guide you’ll ever need.
The best way to describe Frommer’s interpretation of India is to liken it to buying the generic brand vs the national brand. Although in this case, Frommer’s guide to India costs the same as Lonely Planet or Rough Guide to India. But somewhere in the effort to cover the expanse of the country, the wheels fell off this project. Frommer’s India clocks weigh in half the size of LP India at 628 pages, and those missing pages are what leaves you wanting more from this book. Advice, basic travel tips, and the usual suggestions on dining and lodging are aimed toward the 4 and 5-star tourist with prepackaged travel itineraries. The targeted audience for Frommer’s will enjoy the descriptive summaries of tourist sights. Edited background information of India offers a top layer effort to educate the would-be tourist, enough to feel comfortable but lacking the depth to appreciate all that might be encountered on the road. Only the largest, most popular destinations are included in this guide book designed to complement those traveling with pre-booked drivers and guides. Wayward wanderers with a need for more detail should rely on Lonely Planet and Rough Guides.
Part guide book, part novel, part photography book, Eyewitness Travel Guide takes on India unlike anyone else. Gorgeous high gloss pages beg the reader to keep flipping while exposing one interesting discovery after another. Each page stuffed with full-color photos offers a view to would-be tourists of what can be seen at each location. Concise descriptions of smaller locales offer enough to tempt tourists to visit while important sightseeing locations are matched with impressive 3-D detailed maps highlighting the top sights to view. Individual chapters provide an easy to follow the map with corresponding numbered articles. Notable regional points of interest, whether wildlife, artisan works, or cuisine, are also highlighted in full color, descriptive summaries in a way any tourist would appreciate. Don’t look for advice on where to eat, to sleep or how to get around. Eyewitness India is deliciously obsessed with reporting what is to be seen. How you get there is up to you. This is a must-have guide book for any traveler of India.