I have always been a great fan of the Berlitz travel guides and I have found them to be a great companion while on my travels, they usually contain all of the information that is essential while in an unfamiliar place while at the same time being concise neatly presented. It is undoubtedly for the previously stated reasons that the front cover boasts that they are 'the world's best selling travel guides', a claim that I have no reason to dispute.
The front cover of the guide is strong enough to survive many a journey through an airport while in the bottom of my rucksack. Traditional blue is the colour used by the Berlitz guides to distinguish themselves from the competition. Where the front cover itself is concerned about two thirds of it is covered with the archetypal image of Dubrovnik which is a picture of the harbour area. Berlitz have done a very good job of making it clear exactly what you are buying, the words 'pocket guide' is clearly visible under the logo for Berlitz, I admire them for doing this because it shows no attempt to mislead you. The name of the city Dubrovnik is clearly displayed across the cover although it does not obscure the landscape of the city. The cover actually expands out to form an extra page and useful words and phrases are printed on this, all the essentials are present such as good morning, how much and some others, a guide to pronunciation is also next to each phrase which can be useful at times if you happen to be really stuck. I really like how accessable the list of expressions is because it means you do not have to scramble around for the correct page, that could be anywhere within the book. The inside cover contains a convenient map of the old part of Dubrovnik, this is fine for the average tourist who is not going to want to go off the beaten trail but for those with a passion for real exploration it does not cover a large part of the more modern city. I am always interested in the small things when it comes to layouts and I am delighted to report that the front cover has been well thought out and lives up to my high expectations.
Content - Divided Into Sections
I really do feel that the organisation of the guide is fantastic because I have found it to be very easy to navigate through the book. Berlitz have employed a colour scheme in order to help you fine the exact part of the guide that you are looking for, in my opinion this saves scanning through pages of information that may not be relevant just to find a few lines that are relevant. However my bone of contention with the content is early on, there is a page that displays the apparent top 10 attractions in Dubrovnik, I have no problem with this as an idea but it can look confusing with lots of arrows all pointing to different pictures. Furthermore I think that if they include the top 10 attractions then they ought to be ranked in descending order which would be very useful for those with limited time.
These five pages for a basic background guide to life in Dubrovnik for the normal people, it is packed with interesting snippets of history without drowning you is a mass of statistics. Having read the section I felt as though I had a basic knowledge of what is important to Croatian families and I also armed myself with some interesting random facts to wow people with when I returned home, such as the fact that a form has to be filled out for every stamp that is sold, rather painstaking and backward if you ask me!
A Brief History Section
The ten pages that form the history section are actually more detailed than 'a brief history' would have you believe. Complex and sometimes dark periods of Dubrovnik's history are covered in substantial detail and it covers aspects such as medieval Dubrovnik, the earthquake of 1667, The Habsburg Empire, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the journey from communism to independence and more recently in 1991, Nationalism and the Balkan war, the effects of which are clearly visible today. This is well worth a read especially while in the heart of the city because it gives you a real sense of living history when you can seen what is written about.
Where To Go Section
This is the most substantial part of the book and it covers the largest proportion of it with fifty-eight pages in total. I particularly like the fact that even though this is a pocket guide the editors have not cut out the information about the places beyond the city walls of Dubrovnik. A further great inclusion is the information about the islands that can be accessed by local ferry from the harbour in Dubrovnik. Before reading this section I was unaware that they even existed but I can honestly say that they are some of the most unspoiled islands that I have ever visited, they also provide a get-away for those who travel during the much busier seasons of the year. The island of Lokum is perfectly summed up as having 'little to do other than enjoy the peace and quiet', this is certainly true although the guide does seem to largely overlook the fact that there is a former French Fort on this island which is worth a visit on a cooler day. Other islands featured include Elaphite Islands which are well described, the information covers all of the main points that it is very easy to miss, although it is not easy to miss the lack of a single car on the island. The other pages cover all of the essential information about the city itself and the layout is logical and easy to follow.
What To Do Section
Rather oddly I have found this section to be quite vague about the many activities that are on offer, all of the generic tourist activities are mentioned such as water sports and tours as well as information about the seasonal festivals. I noticed this when I read about what there is for children which covers approximately half a page, it does not go into much detail about where their activities take place or how much they cost, this is essential information for any family that plans holidays on a budget. I have found no safety information about things such a children's playgrounds or activity clubs or if they are worth the money. If I am being generous I put this down to the fact that it is only a pocket guide but I would rather have this included that some of the history detail at the start.
What To Eat Section
I like to know what I am likely to be eating when I book a holiday so to me this is pivotal information. Berlitz have included some basic translations for food items which is always useful when confronted with an alien menu. I also like the fact that a section is included about when to eat as this makes sure that you always find the good restraints are open when you want to eat, it also means that you can attempt to get more of the Croatian cultural experience which I enjoy.
Travel Tips And Recommended Hotels Section
This section does exactly what it says on the can, this travel tips are unbiased and the list of hotels considers all price ranges from accommodation for the gap year traveller right through to details of the luxury five star accommodations. The travel tips include guides to tipping and information about local customs which is always worth a read in order to do your best not to offend any of the locals. Hotels details are given with local telephone numbers which are always useful in a time of crisis. I commend Berlitz once again on the fact that they have included details for hotels on the islands around Dubrovnik as this a fantastic and valuable section which demonstrates the scope of the guide.
The recommended retail price for the guide is £4-99 which is a sensible price in my opinion. However problems arise when you discover that it is not all that easy to get your hands on. I could only find used versions on Amazon and they often retail at around £15 which is far more than it is worth. Other book stores seem to only have limited supplies at the best of times, although Waterstones are probably the best bet as they can usually get a copy in for you.
This review may also appear on Ciao uder the username chrisbriers567.