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Going by the Book

November 16, 1986|DON JAMES | James is a Los Angeles free-lance writer.

"The Pocket Guide to Safe Travel" by Stephen Sloan offers common-sense observations on how to be security conscious and avoid potential terrorist activities. It briefs the traveler on hotel selection, likely ground or airplane targets, low-profile awareness and much more. It's booklet size for easy reference and could be a life saver for only $3.25 (Contemporary).

Presented in textbook style are three Traveler's Companions on "Florence," "Edinburgh" and "Naples." They re-create a topographical anthology of the drama, history and city life through buildings and places that can still be visited. The guides contain extracts of chronicles, memoirs and biographies; the text places the discerning traveler into the era of what was once there. The occasional illustrations offer sufficient emphasis to bridge any pause in subject matter (Antheneum: $9.95).

Fielding's has some new offerings: "Mexico 1987" by Lynn V. and Larry Foster and "Europe 1987" by Joseph Raff ($12.95 each). Also, "Economy Europe 1987" ($9.95) and "Selective Shopping Guide to Europe" ($6.95), both by Judith and Joseph Raff. Big spenders or nickel squeezers always find the Fielding's guides helpful.

If only for the excellent color photos of elegant surroundings in a variety of settings, "Country Inns of New York and Mid-Atlantic" by Roberts Homan Gardener is one of those guides in a class by itself. It's a close look at congenial inns, many with delicious cuisine, that includes all the information needed to choose the one for you. Worthwhile. (Henry Holt: $11.95).

"The Peoples Guide to Mexico" by Carl Franz, edited by Lorna Havens, offers outstanding information. The text is whimsically refreshing, the sketches clever and the presentation expertly detailed. Be careful after reading it because a resident could mistake you for a native. If your store is out of stock, send $11.95 (plus $1.75 handling) to John Muir Publications, P.O. Box 613, Sante Fe, N.M. 87504.

A runny nose in Colombia might cause your arrest on suspicion of using cocaine. Don't use your thumb to hitchhike in many countries, because it's considered a rude gesture. However, the circled fingers used as an OK sign is all right most everywhere except Brazil, where the natives look upon it as obscene. These and much more in "Do's and Taboos Around the World," edited by Roger E. Axtell, will help avoid any embarrassing faux pas (John Wiley & Sons: $9.95).

Coping with the greater Hong Kong area, all 326 islands of it, with ever-changing skylines, can be much easier with a copy of "Hong Kong, Macao & Canton--A Travel Survival Kit" by Carol Clewlow in your pocket. The street maps and a good selection of where to eat, stay, shop, gamble suggestions are above average. It's crammed with good advice and important know-how for the first-timer or the old hand (Lonely Planet: $7.95).

Rick Steves and John Gottberg provide knowledgeable information beyond the basics of where and what to tip in "Asia Through the Back Door." The excellent cultural vignettes are just enough to pique the traveler's awareness when staying a while or just passing through. For $9.95, it's a revelation of that part of the world (John Muir).

The traveler will find the right places to see, stay, eat or avoid in "Africa on a Shoestring" by Geoff Crowther. Along with a great amount of information are some good travel smarts on money and language. (Lonely Planet: $14.95).

It's not a dramatic presentation with color photos and over-detailed maps. Instead, the Collier Traveler Series "In and Around Paris," translated by Mark Howson, furnishes 376 pages of answers to almost any question. The what and where-to-see-it tips, plus historical vignettes, should pique the traveler's interest. The eat, sleep and shop information could help discover a place with a touch of romanticism just for you (Macmillan: $8.95).

"Bali & Lombock--A Travel Survival Kit" is a neat, compact guide to that part of the world. The many-faceted tips, facts, getting around, accommodations are complete. The maps and photos are sufficient to get the lay of the land (Lonely Planet: $7.95).

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