Books of the week

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The Independent Travel
Summer Jobs Abroad '98, Summer Jobs Britain '98

(Vacation Work), both edited by David Woodworth, both pounds 8.99.

These two annual publications are on the shelves again, tempting the nation's youth to postpone having to settle down and get a proper job. The "abroad" title actually has details from 50 countries, ranging from about half a page (Belarus, Latvia) to 33 pages (France), and few of the jobs look particularly tempting.

How about picking strawberries for 50p a kilo in Denmark? Or digging foundations in Kenya, six days a week, for which a "registration fee" of $330 has to be paid eight weeks in advance? Or what about working as a volunteer in a Maltese youth hostel for 21 hours a week, "with free breakfast"? Come to that, how about working as a nanny in the USA?

The "Britain" title looks fractionally more wholesome. Leading tours of whisky distilleries sounds like a sure-fire winner to me, but even here the bulk of the work seems to consist of long hours spent working in hotels and restaurants for rock-bottom wages.

There is a very fine line between valuable life experiences away from home on the one hand, and rank exploitation on the other. These books give you the chance to find out where that line falls.

The Rough Guide to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (The Rough Guides, pounds 12.99) by Barbara McCrea et al.

Now that South Africa has gone from being the world's least right-on country to the most right-on, the Rough Guides have finally decided to issue the guide book. This country not only offers the world's first gay- and lesbian-friendly constitution (we are told), but is not really as dangerous for tourists as the media would have you believe. The countryside is safe; the cities are not much worse than the USA and only downtown Johannesburg can be risky. One tip for avoiding car-jacking is to "repeat to yourself the mantra: 'most people are never car-jacked'."

This volume also includes a delightful 16-page colour section on the wild beasts you might expect to see stalking the savannah. We are warned to watch out for African buffalo (common and dangerous), and advised to track elephants by their football-sized pieces of dung.

"Real" budget travellers should not despair, however; the guide lists no fewer than 12 hostels in the centre of Cape Town where beds cost less than $10 a night, and this is supposed to be the most expensive place in the country.

Jeremy Atiyah