7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Relatively complete information for a new visitor to Brazil
Format of the information is consistent with other LP guides, making it easy to find what I need
At least one inaccurate city map
Out of date information on at least one sight
May not be as thoroughly updated as I would prefer
I like the Lonely Planet guides because they the country guides are written with a consistent plan. That means that if you get used to finding information in a recent guide, you'll be able to find that information in recent guides for other countries. I have gone to Brazil four times for work, but have some spare time to look around, and this book us helpful both for basic information that even a business traveler needs ("Dangers and Annoyances" in particular) as well as fun things to do when there is time.
In most LP guides, they list the biggest city first. In this one, they list Rio de Janeiro first, probably because it is the most popular destination. São Paulo is much bigger, though not much of a tourist destination, so I guess that is why it comes much later in the book.
LP helps me find good things to see and do in my off time. Visiting the central market (Mercado Municipal) was a worthwhile morning in São Paulo. I would not especially recommend São Paulo, but my business usually includes it.
Ouro Preto certainly did not disappoint as a day trip from Belo Horizonte. However, the map for Ouro Preto was incorrect: some streets were mislabeled compared to the signs I found. As convoluted as the streets are in this town, and given they are on steep hills, the problem caused me more walking when I was ready to wind down.
Another day trip I wanted to take from BH was Gruto Rei do Mato, which LP describes as caves that feature ancient cave paintings, petroglyphs, and bones of an extinct animal. What I found when I got there is that it did not open until 1 PM (not 8 AM as listed in the guide), so I had to wait to get in. After seeing one cave, the tour was over - no paintings, petroglyphs, or bones. A local person said he had been to the cave three times and never seen them because they were located in a smaller cave that has been closed for a few years. To me, without these features, it was just another cavern lit up with colorful lights (LEDs). Since I have seen such caves elsewhere, I would never have spent a precious day off visiting the cave had I known that the most interesting features was closed. This guide is only six months old, and I think they should have re-researched such facts to ensure they were still accurate.
The Belo Horizonte bus station is called Rodoviária, but LP calls it only "the bus station" in the text and on the map. You'll have an easier time getting there if tell the driver "Eu vou a Rodoviária" (the name for the bus station) instead of "Eu vou a estação de ônibus" (the words for bus station; forgive me if my Portuguese is not good: the drivers understand the first form just fine). LP correctly tells you that there is a bus to Ouro Preto from BH bus station, but it does not tell you where to catch the bus to Sete Lagoas (for Gruto Rei do Mato; the answer is Rodoviária), or where to catch a bus back to BH from the cave (you may be able to flag it down on the entrance ramp, but I got a ride to the Rodoviária in Sete Lagoas from one of the other people touring the cave).
The point is, if in my short trip this time I encountered this many problems, there are probably as many in other parts of the book. I don't expect travel guides to be perfect, but these problems add up to two stars off an otherwise good guide.
By the way, Belo Horizonte itself is a pleasant and approachable town for walking, especially the "planned part" inside Avenida do Contorno (the circle that encloses the double-grid streets); outside of Contorno it is a sprawl. There are many Butecos (casual bars with food and lots of people) and por kilo restaurants (buffets of Brazilian food sold by weight). The city seems safer than SP and Rio, but keep your safety awareness on, especially after sunset, and in the area around the Rodoviária. LP tells you these things, and I think it is right.
The section on the nation's capital, Brasilia, makes a valiant attempt to make the place sound worth visiting. From my perspective, it is a pedestrian's nightmare, since the city is mainly built around highways and ramps that are hard to navigate on foot: it was built as a car driver's utopia. There is some unique and interesting modern architecture, but not much of it. At the end of the section they admit that "residents love it but visitors love to hate it."
If you do use this travel guide, I strongly recommend you check before going somewhere to make sure you are not disappointed.
I would have given the review 3 1/2 stars if I could, but given the problems and the choice of stars, I'll give it three.