Overview

Overview of the Balkans :: Books

Travel Guides

Choosing a guidebook

Coverage of the Balkan region by guidebooks is patchy. Greece and Turkey have been popular with western visitors for so long that a bewildering variety of guidebooks is available and Croatia and Slovenia are not far behind. Romania and Bulgaria remain more specialised interests, but as they never dropped completely off the tourist map it hasn't been difficult to find guidebooks to these countries. Until recently the remainder of ex-Yugoslavia plus Albania was an unknown land for guidebook publishers, an empty space on the map bearing the legend "here be dragons". For my first visits to Bosnia and Serbia and 2002 I had nothing more to go on than a handful of pages in an Eastern Europe guide and a book about Yugoslavia written in 1968. This has changed for the better in the last few years, although several countries in the region still only have one dedicated English-language guidebook available. Almost all publishers now make their books available in electronic format as well as in paperback form.

I have found that my style of travel is best matched by these three guidebook series, which are generally aimed at independent travellers:

I also like the In Your Pocket city guides, available online and in magazine format from news outlets in some cities.

Multi-country guidebooks are listed below; guides to individual countries and cities are listed separately.

Multi-country guidebooks

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Lonely Planet Southeastern Europe  (1st edition published October 2013)

Lonely Planet used to publish a "Western Balkans" guide, but the "Eastern Balkan" countries have been now beed added to create this new format. The countries included are exactly the same as those covered on this website, in a convenient format for anyone planning a trip to multiple countries in the region.

More about this book:

Amazon (USA)

Amazon (UK)
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Lonely Planet Eastern Europe  (12th edition published October 2013)

Includes all the Balkan countries except Greece and Turkey. This books covers a vast areas so many interesting places naturally have to be omitted to keep it to a reasonable size. However there is quite a bit more detail than in the Europe on a Shoestring guide, and not much less than the Southeastern Europe guide listed above, so this is well worth considering if you are planning a trip to the Balkans combined with other parts of Eastern Europe.

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Lonely Planet Mediterranean Europe  (11th edition published October 2013)

Depending on your planned route this is a possible alternative to the Eastern Europe guide, with about the same level of detail. Of the countries covered on this website Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, and Montenegro, Slovenia and Turkey and are all included.

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Europe on a Shoestring - Lonely Planet  (8th edition published October 2013)

Includes all the Balkan countries. The area covered is so vast that inevitably there isn't room for much detail on any one country - the focus is generally on major cities. A handy reference to have on your bookshelf, but don't expect it to lead you even slightly off the beaten path.

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European Rail Timetable

A printed timetable might seem a bit old-school in our era of online databases, but being able to produce this from your backpack at a moment of indecision will make you feel like a proper traveller. For many years it was published by Thomas Cook but is now an independent venture. For more details see the publisher's website.

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Rail Map Europe  (1st edition published Dec 2015)

The title is fairly self-explanatory: this is a map of Europe's railways. Main lines are distinguished from secondary ones; high speed lines are also identified, but that's of rather academic interest to the traveller in the Balkans. A nice touch is the highlighting of scenic lines - see the article Scenic Train Journeys in the Balkans.

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More guidebooks: individual countries