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Best Brazilian Travel Guides

By - 27 December, 2013

These are some of the travel guide books for Brazil that we’ve encountered over the years and some of the ones that are soon to be released, which we think you should take a look at if you’re heading to Brazil soon. Our recommendations are based on years spent travelling Brazil, reviewing travel guides and getting advice along the way. As we do not know all of the new editions – most travel guide publishers are releasing 2014 editions to tie in with the World Cup – some of these recommendations are based on older editions, but we are confident that they are still pretty accurate.

Spending Time In Just One Place?

If you’re going to be spending most of your time in just one place in Brazil then you might want to check out one of the city or regional guides. These are some of our favourites:

  • Lonely Planet Rio de Janeiro (Buy) – Lonely Planet have a recently-updated edition of their Rio de Janeiro guide book which will most certainly do the job if you’re planning on spending some time in Rio. Though, as it’s aimed at the casual traveller rather than someone hoping to find out a bit more about what’s happening under the skin of the city, we would recommend you look at some of our other options below.
  • Wallpaper* City Guide Rio de Janeiro 2014 (Buy) – this guide has a nice size (smaller than a lot of the other guides listed on this page), has a tight style and is edited with a bias towards culture, fashion, night-life and architecture rather than backpacking. So, if you’re planning on spending a good amount of time in Rio then this is an essential purchase and a great way to find out some of the interesting cultural events happening in the city. Wallpaper* also published a São Paulo City Guide in 2012 which you can buy from here.
  • RECOMMENDED: Footprint Focus Guides (Buy) – Footprint have produced a load of regional guides for Brazil in the last few years in their Focus series and we have found them infinitely useful in our travels around Brazil. With good maps, quality listings and the odd interesting travel or cultural article they are really recommended. They are very detailed which sometimes means that the odd detail is out-of-date (such as the listing of a musician who plays a bar every Friday in Recife) but it’s well worth it for when that extra details leads you onto something extraordinary that you would have never found without it. Just click the Buy link above to see the full list of Focus guides which includes editions for Bahia & Salvador, São Paulo, Recife and Northeast Brazil, Brazilian Amazon, Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian Pantanal.

Fancy Something Different?

Looking for something different to the usual travel guide? Here are some of our favourite travel-related books that will give you an insight into Brazil without filling its pages full of maps and listings:

  • Brazil by Michael Palin (Buy) – one of our favourite people for his work in Monty Python, Michael Palin is a national treasure and offers a somewhat charming and personable take on Brazil that may not always reflect reality but is most certainly entertaining. Thankfully, a paperbook version of his Brazil book has recently been released (following on from the initial hardbook) and is a great travel companion.
  • Sounds and Colours Brazil (Buy) – we would of course be daft if we didn’t mention our own Brazil book, a 200-page excursion into Brazilian music and culture guide which looks in-depth at music, film, art and literature from all over Brazil. If you’re looking for a cultural expedition to Brazil then it doesn’t get any better than this!
  • Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos (Buy) – this really is an incredible book and one of the most fascinating books about Brazil. English author Alex Bellos goes to ridiculous lengths to find out why Brazil love football so much and in the process finds something of the greatest stories about football and Brazil we’ve ever heard. More than being a book about football, this is a book about Brazilian passion, creativity and survival, and a great way of discovering Brazil.
  • D.O.M. Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients by Alex Atala (Buy) – Brazilian Alex Atala was the only chef to be named in TIME’s Most Influential People of 2013 list, such has been his contribution to the food industry worldwide. In his latest book he offers one of the most in-depth looks at Brazilian food and ingredients we’ve ever seen, offering another way to discover Brazil, through its food. Both a feast for the eyes and the mouth, if you try the recipes, this is an interesting diversion into Brazil, though not one you’ll want to carry around with you – this is one heavy book!

The Best Brazilian Travel Guides – The Definitive List

To finish off our article, here are what we think are the best travel guides for Brazil:

  • Lonely Planet Brazil (Buy) – the best-selling guide book for Brazil but no way near the best in our opinion. If you like and are used to Lonely Planet then this is a good option, but if you’re looking for something a bit different, that doesn’t condescend you and goes more in-depth into Brazilian culture then we would recommend you look elsewhere.
  • Moon Brazil (Buy) – this is the work of Michael Sommers and is incredibly in-depth and with a real personal feel to it. There are plenty of recommendations for respecting Brazilian customs and for hotels and places to eat in all of the main touristic areas of Brazil. The only thing we would say is that this is aimed at travellers who like some comfort and has a little money in their pocket. It still has budget options but there is definitely more of an emphasis on mid-priced travel. Sommers has also written Moon Living Abroad in Brazil, which is worth a look if you’re planning on moving to Brazil.
  • Insight Guides: Brazil (Buy) – a decent overview before you head to Brazil with some good suggestions, especially for the big cities. If you’re planning on just spending 2-3 weeks travelling around Brazil then this will do you fine. If you’re going to be spending more time than that in Brazil we would recommend the Moon, Fodor’s or Footprint guides.
  • The Rough Guide to Brazil (Buy) – this was a great guide book. Unfortunately it hasn’t been updated since 2009 so don’t expect it to be the most up-to-date. If Rough Guide could get around to updating this one then it would be a hell of a guide book. That said, if you are trying not to spend too much money and see this second hand then it is probably still worth a purchase.
  • Brazil Footprint Handbook (Buy) – Footprint’s Handbook series are our favourite handbook. They are the most detailed, with a good understanding of destinations that doesn’t treat its readers like a bunch of chancers going from drug-fuelled party-to-party on a swift Brazilian retreat, and with good maps and layouts to boot. However, their latest edition doesn’t come out ’til February 2014 and their last edition is out-of-stock so you’ll have to wait a little while before you get your hands on it.
  • RECOMMENDED: Fodor’s Brazil 2014 (Buy) – in light of the fact that we haven’t seen the latest Brazil Footprint Handbook (because it hasn’t been released yet) we currently recommend Fodor’s Brazil 2014 as the best Brazilian travel guide you can get right now. They don’t have the best maps but have lots of information on planning your trips, different itineraries you could use which cover a large base of interests, and lots of cultural info and listings, they are definitely a good bet and well worth an investment.

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