Frommer's India Paperback – Mar 1 2010
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"Get a copy..." (Garavi Gujarat, December 2006) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From the Back Cover
Tamil Nadu is home to nearly 33,000 temples, some with an elephant who will bless you with a tap of its trunk. See chapter 8.
Detailed maps throughout
Exact prices, directions, opening hours,and other practical information
Candid reviews of hotels and restaurants,plus sights, shopping, and nightlife
Itineraries, walking tours, and trip-planning ideas
Insider tips from local expert authors
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There's a bit of hysteria in the section on getting ready -- you don't need all those immunizations unless you're going to places where the specific disease is endemic. Check on-line with the US Centers for Disease Control for more realistic advice.
In contrast, the authors are right on target when they warn repeatedly about minor scams. From the moment you go through customs you will be approached by people who have some offer that's a scam or semi-scam. Even when you hire a good guide from a good company, there's a high probability that you'll be taken to a shop whose owner gives the guide a commission. It's endless and ultimately an amusing game, and Frommer's does a great job of hoisting the warning flag. Pay attention - from the second you arrive.
The book also warns against trying to drive yourself in India. I've driven in places like Sao Paulo, Bogota, Rome and Mexico City (and Boston!), and I agree with that warning. Driving in India was scary 25 years ago and it's even more so now due to the great increase in traffic. There are clearly rules of the road, but you'll be dead before you figure them out, so hire a driver locally, fly long distances, and take the train inter-city when flying doesn't make sense.
The discussions in the front of the book about what's good and what's great are excellent and valuable in helping you decide how to spend limited time in India. The suggestions are divided into rankings of sites and rankings of "moments" or experiences. In the back, theres a short but useful section on Indian history and on its multiple cultures, knowledge that you can use to put what you see into context.
The book's one major fault is the lack of good city maps, as mentioned by another reviewer. Even the state maps are poor in terms of identifying good roads and main rail lines. There's a reasonably good explanation of how the rail system works and it tells you what class of travel to book, but that section would be improved with a clear description of what you get at each level of service. (The top level of overnight train is 1 AC which is a 2- or 4-berth air conditioned compartment, and the bottom level is Sleeper, which is a bare bench in a wretchedly crowded coach.)
The book is organized by state and region, and two places that could be twelve hours apart may follow one another in the text, with no indication of their separation. It can take an hour or more to go 30 miles on a main highway; a table of time between major points of interest would help readers plan a realistic itinerary.
Despite these shortcomings, Frommer's India is a solid guide packed with useful information. Not perfect, but very good.
1) Maps. While there are maps of entire regions, there are very few city maps. So, through reading the book, I had been cautioned that taxi drivers may take more circuitous routes to my destination, but I nonetheless had no clue on how to get there myself.
2) Addresses. The book lists many great stores, but often does not give you more information than the street name or market name. This does not help when you're dependent on your taxi driver. On two occasions, I wanted to visit a store mentioned in the book, but never ended up finding it. One taxi driver did make a concerted effort (stopping three times on the road to ask), but we eventually ended up at a store where he would get commission because we couldn't find the store (also where a detailed map would come in handy).
3) Yoga. It is hard to believe that a travel book on India could hardly mention yoga or have any recommendations on where to go. I don't think it's even in the index (!).
On this trip, we also had the Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide, which were much more informative. The benefits of Frommer's are that it is a more recent (2004) edition and it weighs less (but buy maps!).
I started reading it with great enthusiasm, and although I already had an accumulated amount of knowledge about India through reading extensively I begun by agreeing and thinking the information was good, but the further I got into the book the more the thoughts for cancelling my visit were coming, and specially in regards to Kashmir province. The information they gave which they purported to be very little, it was enough to do a great deal of damage, for I almost cancelled the visit, based on the little they wrote! there may have been a bad situation around 2008 but what I encountered in the Kashmir province was that I was as safe as I could be; true there was visible security present, which in itself gave one confidence. Not for one moment did I worry, was harrased, felt uncomfotable by being in Kashmir; the contrary can be said! I found the people very warm, caring and they went out of their way to make sure we were comfortable at all times. We spent 6 day in the province...Srinahar, visited three mountains, and where-ever we went the discribed experience was had again and again.
Fromer's said in their guide that they update their guide regularly; I fail to see how this can be as I found some of the important information not to be up to date at all. I could go on about what I didn't like in this guide, but I have said enough, and I must say I was glad I decided to be the judge from inside India. I will end though by saying I will never regret having visited India as it was one of the great experiences of my life...we traveled from north to south, by air, boat, train and road. I am 73 years of age this very day.