Rough Guides

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Rough Guides
Parent companyAPA Publications
Founded1982; 42 years ago (1982)
FounderMark Ellingham
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Headquarters locationLondon, England
Publication typesBooks, Mobile apps, Video, Travel Agency
Nonfiction topicsTravel guidebooks
No. of employees50+

Founded in 1982, Rough Guides Ltd is a British publisher of print and digital guide book, phrasebooks and inspirational travel reference books, and a provider of personalised trips. Since November 2017,[1] Rough Guides has been owned by APA Publications UK Ltd, the parent company of Insight Guides.

With the company's personalised trip service encompassing over eighty destinations, and 200 guidebooks covering 180 destinations, Rough Guides is a multi-faceted travel platform, with global sales of 100 million guidebooks since their inception.

Company history[edit]

The first Rough Guide, The Rough Guide to Greece,[2] was conceived and written by Rough Guides’ founder Mark Ellingham in response to a gap in the market for well-written guidebooks offering practical, low-budget information. Published by Routledge & Kegan Paul in 1982, the guide's popularity resulted in Ellingham being made Series Editor and commissioning more guidebooks.

In the mid-1980s, Ellingham and three fellow editors, John Fisher, Jack Holland and Martin Dunford, bought the Rough Guides titles from Routledge and set-up as an independent publisher. By the early 1990s, around 100 Rough Guides were in print. With detailed cultural and historical coverage, a contemporary journalistic approach, extensive maps, and practical advice, the guides gained a following among travellers seeking authentic experiences.

At the same time, the company expanded to cover a broader range of topics, with an early guide to the Internet selling over four million copies. The company also contributed to developing a BBC TV series, Rough Guides, which ran for almost a decade. Later editions of the show, usually hosted by Magenta Devine, were repeated on the Sky Travel channel until 2005.

In 1995, when Rough Guides were selling around a million books a year, Mark Ellingham entered into a pioneering agreement with HotWired Ventures, the digital offshoot of Wired Ventures, the then-publisher of WIRED magazine. The deal offered free online access to the full text of The Rough Guide to the USA via the World Beat section of HotWired. Ellingham stated at the time that publishing the guides online would facilitate easier updates. "If you could send me an e-mail from Senegal saying this hotel's closed down, I would just key it in," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The online book would take on a life of its own".[3]

In 1995 the company was sold to Penguin Books, which was already managing book distribution. Initially, Penguin bought half the company's shares. When the process was completed in 2002, Rough Guides was integrated into Penguin's travel division.

In May 2007, Mark Ellingham said he had grave concerns about the growth of air travel because of its growing contribution to climate change. He launched an awareness campaign with Tony Wheeler (Lonely Planet founder), and Rough Guides began including a "health warning" in each of its travel guides, urging readers to "Fly less, stay longer".[4] In November 2007, after celebrating "25 Rough Years" with a series of celebratory books, Ellingham left Rough Guides to set up a new imprint, GreenProfile, at Profile Books.[5]

In 2017, APA Publications purchased Rough Guides.

Since April 2019, Rough Guides have offered a free downloadable eBook with every purchase of a print guide.

Rough Guides products[edit]

Travel guides, phrasebooks and Inspiration books[edit]

Travel guides continue to be a key component of Rough Guides, with over 100 million copies sold worldwide. The current list comprises 200 guidebooks covering 180 destinations. Purchase of any Rough Guide offers free access to an eBook edition of the same content.

Covering countries, cities and regions, books in the main Rough Guides series provide travellers with practical area-by-area information, with maps, recommendations, and cultural and historical contexts.

Rough Guides also publish pocket guides and mini guides covering global destinations. Guidebooks in the British Breaks series cover UK cities, coastal areas and islands. Rough Guides’ Staycation series covers UK destinations in a pocket format, with a focus on walking and driving routes.

Rough Guides phrasebooks are published in a pocket-sized format, with a 7000-word bilingual dictionary and free app. Rough Guides’ large format, photographic Inspiration series includes The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places on Earth, The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places in the USA, and The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places in Scotland.

In 2023, Rough Guides launched a personalised gift book service.

Personalised trips[edit]

In November 2018, Rough Guides launched a personalised trip service.[6] Allowing travellers to plan and book personalised trips, this platform receives more than six million visitors a year, with the trip-booking service covering more than 80 destinations, supported by over 60 local experts.


From 2017 to 2020 Rough Guides ran an award-winning podcast, The Rough Guide to Everywhere.[7] This explored topical travel issues, and showcased interviews with travel personalities. In 2019, The Rough Guide to Everywhere was nominated for the Best Branded Podcast category at The British Podcast Awards.[11]

In 2018, Rough Guides was nominated for two categories in the Travel Media Awards – Broadcast Programme of the Year, with former editor Zara Sekhavati nominated for Young Writer of the Year. In addition, APA Publications’ Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2018 won Guide of the Year.

In 2022, Amy Hopkins, Rough Guides’ Head of Content, won a PPA Professional Publishers Association Newcomer of the Year Award.

Also in 2022, Rough Guides was a finalist in the Guide of the Year category at the Travel Media Awards.

2023 saw Rough Guides shortlisted for the TravMedia Travel Magazine of the Year Award.


  1. ^ "APA and DK Complete Rough Guides Sale". Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  2. ^ "About us Rough Guides". Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  3. ^ Quinn, Michelle (13 October 1995). "Travel Guides Hit the Net / HotWired, British Publisher jump On World Wide Web". SF Gate. Retrieved 21 February 2024.
  4. ^ "Eco-Holidays: Fly Less, Stay Longer". The Independent. London. 24 September 2006. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012.
  5. ^ "Ellingham quits Rough Guide". The Bookseller. 1 October 2007. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  6. ^ Choat, Isabel (28 November 2018). "Rough Guides launches tailormade trips as part of major overhaul". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  7. ^ Verdier, Hannah (9 February 2017). "The Rough Guide to Everywhere – a new podcast for extreme travel tales". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 3 May 2019.

External links[edit]