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Cranachin Aug 10th, 2013 06:50 PM

Guidebook for Eastern Europe?
From the beginning of September until mid-October I'll be in Southeastern Europe for work (mainly the countries of the former Yugoslavia but also Albania, probably Hungary, and maybe Romania and/or Bulgaria). I'm wondering if taking a guidebook along would be a good idea, and if so, which one. Does anyone have any recommendations? I would use it to consider weekend trips as well as things to do in the places I find myself for work.

Obviously a lot of info is on the web, but I'm not sure how much Internet access I will have outside work.

As far as leisure goes, I enjoy learning about the history and culture of places I visit (incl. historic sites & museums), as well as photography (both urban and nature). I'm not a big outdoorsman but do enjoy some hiking/walking. I am not interested in nightlife (bars, pubs, dancing) but would enjoy a concert or "folk performance".

For accommodations and dining I run to the budget end of things rather than the 5-star end. I'm old enough that a hostel dorm bed is not an option, though!

Any suggestion for which ONE guidebook might best serve me for the countries I mentioned above? It need not be limited to only those, although I doubt I will range as far north as Poland or the countries of the former USSR, and probably not the Czech Republic or Slovakia. I have looked at a few books, but from the perspective of sitting at home before the trip, they all seem to have advantages and disadvantages, so I am having a hard time deciding.


Andrew Aug 10th, 2013 06:58 PM

I'm a Rick Steves fan myself (of his books, anyway). I find his advice practical and subjective. I don't always agree with it, but at least I know where he's coming from. I'm not sure his books will cover Albania, though. His Croatia/Slovenia book (last I checked) covered Mostar, BiH and a little of Montenegro but that's it.

No guidebook is perfect. If you're gone for six weeks, why not take two of them?

I envy you. Six weeks over there sounds like fun! I enjoyed Croatia, but I really loved Slovenia and would love to go back to the area. It would be great to have a long period to check out things between your working hours vs. trying to do it all as one long vacation.

carolyn Aug 10th, 2013 07:09 PM

I got the Rick Steves guide last year for Eastern Europe and thought it was very good. It's the first of his books that I've used, and I enjoyed his sense of humor as well as his knowledge of the area.

Cranachin Aug 10th, 2013 07:13 PM

Thanks, Andrew. Taking two books would be nice, but I am pretty limited in space in my luggage. I can see if I can fit in an extra. (I like Rick Steves as well, by the way.)

The time should be enjoyable, but also pretty busy. For example, in Albania I will not have any free time (including evenings) during my working days there, although I might be able to tack on an extra day at the end for leisure.

I have to be back in the States right after my work assignment ends, for other reasons, so no extending for vacation after my work is done. Instead I'll have to do weekend trips and maybe take a weekday off once or twice to do any touring.

xyz99 Aug 10th, 2013 07:25 PM

Another vote for RS's Croatia and Slovenia book. Don't miss Slovenia, if you can, it's a small, beautiful gem.

centraleurope Aug 10th, 2013 07:36 PM

I don't think Rick Steve's is as comprehensive as you need for the region (ex. Albania)

I am an American living in Budapest. To give us the best regional overview, I use lonely planet.

Do you own a kindle? That is, I find, the easiest way to tote guidebooks.

Andrew Aug 10th, 2013 08:25 PM

I tend to pack extremely light when I travel and usually take only two guidebooks if not one. For areas not covered by my primary guidebook, I just photocopy sections I need - usually don't take up much room. (If you have a printer at your work facility over there - scan the pages before you leave and print them when you arrive.) Obviously if you choose Rick Steves you'd want to find a second guidebook that covers Albania - or rather, the parts of Albania you think you'd want to see. It sounds like you're really not going to have a ton of spare time, so maybe you can sort of pick your trips ahead of time. You really don't need a book that covers all of Eastern Europe, right?

And if you wind up wanting to take a trip not covered in a guidebook...wing it with some vital internet research the night before you do the trip.

Kindle would be an alternative too of course if that's an option.

Cranachin Aug 10th, 2013 08:27 PM

Thanks for your suggestions, everyone.

A country-specific book (like RS's Croatia/Slovenia) is nice for the extra detail it offers over a regional guide. Unfortunately, I can't afford a book (or the space they occupy) for every country I will or might visit.

Kindle would be nice, except I find them hard to use for things like guidebooks, where I want to be able to flip easily between sections, and to use with graphics. For things that I read linearly, like novels, they are much simpler to use.

Hence, my quest for a good all-around guidebook (knowing that none is perfect).

trvl_ing Aug 10th, 2013 08:33 PM

I've purchasied a RS book for my mini tablet. Saves a lot of room and weight I don't want to depend on Internet access.

This also holds my magazines and novels, if I have time to read along the way

Cranachin Aug 10th, 2013 08:38 PM


I want to take a guidebook precisely because I don't rally have time before I leave to plan excursions or to photocopy or scan a lot. I arrive in Europe Sep 2, but I will be on a trip to Asia for 10 days before that.

I'd like to be able to peruse the entire book (would make good reading on the plane, for example) and then focus in on places of interest. That would be much easier to do with a guidebook than going online (online is great for details, but I find guidebooks better for big picture).

Because this is mainly a work trip, I have to fit in sightseeing around that. So I can't even plan at this point exactly which weekends I might travel or what weekdays I might take off.

But at least I get to travel, for which I am thankful.

Cranachin Aug 10th, 2013 08:53 PM

I guess I should at this point insert some of my thoughts on possible guidebooks:

Lonely Planet (2011; 2013 is not out until November) seems to be the most recent guide that covers all the countries that interest me (as well as some I have little likelihood of visiting).

Fodor's and Frommer's guides, though comprehensive, are a bit dated at this point.

Rick Steves Eastern Europe only has Croatia, Slovenia, and Hungary, so I would need another book in addition. :(

DK Eastern & Central Europe is from 2012 and I like their style, but it lacks Albania, Montenegro, and Macedonia. It is another publisher where how much you sacrifice in going from a country guide to the regional guide is readily apparent (e.g. comparing their Croatia guide to the Croatia section of their E&CE guide).

Lonely Planet isn't usually my first choice (I feel like it is pitched to a younger crowd), but in this case it might end up being one that meets the most of my requirements. I did want to hear what experiences others have had, though. I have read that sometimes books that look great when you are at home are not very useful once abroad.

centraleurope Aug 10th, 2013 09:37 PM

Andrew... I am 55... So if lonely planet is for a younger crowd, they are older than me!? Yikes!!

I use guide books for historic overviews, to select interesting towns and cities, for reference maps (none of which changes in 2 years).

I do not use guidebooks for restaurants or hotel suggestions.... If you do, yes... You will need a newer book.

I use it to see if I can squeeze in Macedonia and if so is a bus or train the better alternative.

kja Aug 10th, 2013 09:52 PM

My go-to guide books are from The Rough Guide. I also generally find Lonely Planet guidebooks very helpful, although I don't like their maps as well.

centraleurope Aug 10th, 2013 10:22 PM

Cranachin... Lonely planet is never my first choice either. But I used them for this because they cover all the countries. But it is a relatively big book.

For as long as we live here, we are trying to priorize Eastern Europe travel... If you already know the subset of countries, that is an advantage.

Kia, I will need to look closer at rough guides. Do they have a book which covers the entire east/central region?

I actually do like Rick Steve's ... But I find his books on Central Europe to be lacking. I never get the sense from reading them that he actually comes here. His bratislava coverage (we lived there before moving to Budapest) is inaccurate.

Bobandco Aug 15th, 2013 06:16 PM

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Eastern and Central Europe 2012 Edition; if you must use just one book. I also like the Kindle idea. So Centraleurope, once again, what region are you prioritizing?

KL467 Aug 15th, 2013 06:50 PM

My favorite guidebooks are Rick Steves. Second favorite are DK.

centraleurope Aug 15th, 2013 09:12 PM

Hey bobandco... We are looking at Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia... The lesser travelled places (at least while we live here).

So, for this, Rick Steve's is out...and, of course, we bought our book here in Budapest (so a bit more limiting maybe... I will run by the bookstore today and see what they carry!)

sofarsogood Aug 15th, 2013 11:18 PM

try the Bradt guides - very very good on less visited designations

Bobandco Aug 16th, 2013 07:24 PM

CENTRALeurope I was giving you a hard time. Because you name got it right but your description didn't. When the time comes I can help a little with Romania and Bulgaria. I think you said you had been to Slovakia; I love Slovakia. Well for that matter I loved Bulgaria and Romania as well. Guess if I had to choose which I went back to first it would be Bulgaria, unless I had my fishing pole then I would go back to Slovakia first. Georgia and Albania are on the radar. Georgia because I have seen such great things but Albania just for the heck of it. Also Slovenia; more fishing of course. I guess what I am trying to say is why would anyone want to go to France? What you have missed not getting to Budapest sooner is Malev Airlines. Malev flew all over the region and at great prices. Things are a little tougher now but I heard something about a new Hungarian airline. Any word if its going to get in the air?

Bobandco Aug 16th, 2013 07:30 PM

Centraleurope, you can order just about anything from Amazon UK and the shipping is very reasonable. I purchased a couple of safes for our guests to lock up their valuables and had them shipped to the Budapest apartments and despite the weight of the things the rate wasn't half bad.

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