Rough Guides are known for presenting an alternative view of popular destinations, for helping you have authentic experiences rather than package-holiday plastic trips. So you’d expect the Rough Guide to the World to be something special. Well, it is and it isn’t.
It is because it’s a beautiful, well-crafted coffee-table book that is great to dip into to discover new destinations and experiences. But those of us expecting to find all the best places to see in Earth will be disappointed — far too much is left out for it to really fill its remit.
The introduction says that the 1000 experiences described in the book are the personal recommendations of Rough Guide writers, and, fair enough, Rough Guides don’t cover the entire world yet. But any book that purports to be a guide to the world really shouldn’t miss out a fifth of the countries in it! Sure, Andorra and the Vatican are tiny, but Kazakhstan and Cyprus are surely worth a mention.
While a lot is included in this book, it isn’t spread evenly enough. The USA, the UK, Spain, Italy, Australia and New Zealand are over-represented, with 40 countries of the world excluded completely. My personal pet peeve is that tiny Malta has four inclusions, where my next travel destination, Tonga, has none at all. Also, some of the experiences are very similar to one another — if you’ve done one, you probably won’t want to do the others — for example, the three helicopter experiences listed for New Zealand — helibiking, heliskiing and helihiking.
That said, most of what is included in the book deserves to be there — a variety of experiences are included, from eating and drinking, to typical tourist pastimes, to adventure sports. Since my favourite part of travelling is sampling the local cuisine, it was great to see so many entries about trying local food and drink — wine, beer, cider and sherry all feature.
The layout is also great. The book is divided into 21 sections, each with a title page featuring a map of the region, and a Miscellany double page that’s packed with interesting facts and tips. The experiences themselves are individually numbered and titled (some in a rather irritating manner), and arranged attractively on brightly coloured pages that are packed with inspiring photos.
The size and weight of this tome mean that you’re unlikely to take it with you on a trip around the world, and too much is missing for it to really be useful for trip planning, but it’s a fantastic inspirational book. It’d make a nice gift for someone who has always dreamed of travel, or someone who’s interested in different cultures.
Make the Most of Your Time on Earth is published by Rough Guides, this edition 2007. It was supplied for review and is available to buy from Amazon.com.