Book review: Berlitz USA Handbook by Jennifer Paull and Annika Hipple

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Whether you are grown-up ‘gappers’ or first-time adventurers, don’t head off on holiday this year without your ideal travelling companion.

Berlitz know a thing or two about getting the most out of your holiday and their experts have been busy compiling six new authoritative handbooks guaranteed to put you firmly in the driving seat both at home and abroad.

France, Peru, the USA, Vietnam, Ireland and Great Britain all have brand new, lavishly illustrated handbooks which put travellers in the picture every step of the way.

In fact, getting around has never been simpler with the help of these action-packed and invaluable guides containing everything from budgets, tailored itineraries, transport and accommodation to what to pack, restaurants, entertainment and special tips for families.

There is hands-on practical advice, details of the best tours around the country and colour-coded chapters and full-colour maps to enable holidaymakers to navigate foreign climes with ease.

Building on the success of long-running sister series Berlitz Pocket Guides, the Handbooks are written by a local author who knows the country inside-out, and are full of recommendations for making the most of each destination and the sights within it.

But what really sets a Berlitz Handbook apart is its illuminating Unique Experiences section which contains five or six features, each one describing a particular type of activity or experience that evokes the essential flavour of a country.

For example, new direct flights to Vietnam in 2012 mean travellers can soak up the culture of the country’s Hill Tribes with authentic experiences ranging from drinking rice wine out of a ceramic jar to ‘buffalo stabbing’ festivals which are held to mark a good harvest or a wedding.

Enjoy Amazon adventures in Peru, where remote habitats have vast numbers of animal and plant species as well as indigenous tribes clinging to nomadic ways of life, or discover the food and wines of France, savouring outstanding gastronomy like the truffles of the Dordogne and the wines of the Loire and Bordeaux.

At home, you can celebrate the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth by following the Dickens literary trail from Portsmouth, where he was born, to London, his town house in Doughty Street, the Old Curiosity Shop and his final resting place in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey.

The USA Handbook combines authoritative narrative detail and stunning photography to uncover this diverse country. It tells you everything you need to know about top attractions, from the latest plays in New York City to the family-friendly beaches of Florida and from the mountains of Colorado to the shores of California.

Travellers to the Southern USA are urged to seek out the rhythm, blues and jazz music that originated here, while those out West shouldn’t miss riding the California Zephyr train that runs along remote stretches of the Rockies.

To inspire you, the book offers a rundown of the USA’s Top 25 Attractions, followed by a Fact File with all the details you’ll want to know. The Trip Planner and Essential Events sections help you to take advantage of the local offerings, wherever you happen to be.

With chapters covering all the best sights and attractions, you’ll be able to plan your perfect trip, while a brief history of the country and six Unique Experiences give you a real insight into what it means to be an American.

The Places Section, divided into colour-coded area chapters, makes up around two-thirds of the book with an engaging narrative on the main sights and attractions in the area, and listings for accommodation, restaurants, nightlife, entertainment, sports and activities, tours, festivals and events.

And if that wasn’t enough, the final section of the non-English speaking guides is an extensive phrase book, providing a wealth of language expertise.

So whatever your holiday destination this year, make sure you don’t leave home without your passport, tickets, wallet ... and Handbook!

(Berlitz, paperback, £12.99)