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Best travel guides for Asia and Africa

Rick Steve’s guides have been our favorite source for travel planning in Europe. We are ready to explore other continents, but I’m at a loss when I look for similar travel guides for Asia and Africa (Japan, Kenya, South Africa). What guide books do you recommend?

Posted by
255 posts

Go to your local Barnes and Nobles if you have one. Ours has an excellent tour guide section. Peruse their selections over a cup of coffee. I buy the one that fits our travel needs from my bookstore to support them. Lonely Planet is very good for almost all countries in the world.

Posted by
3789 posts

I agree that a personal read of several would help decide the one for you. But for Africa and a more nature or off the beaten path option, check Bradt Travel Guides. It was ideal for my Arusha to Uganda trip with car and driver. None of the usual North American guides covered what I was looking for. They also have updates on their website. If it helps, it's endorsed by Michael Palin....if you have watched any of his travel shows.
They do Asia as well.

Posted by
31435 posts


I would also suggest Lonely Planet guides. They tend to cover some offbeat locations and seem to have an adequate amount of detail these days. As I recall, it's possible to buy PDF versions of their entire guidebooks or just individual chapters. My impression is that their books are revised on a fairly regular basis.

Posted by
7496 posts

In Asia, we have used Fodor’s and DS Eyewitness guides. For Japan, also consulted FOOD SAKE TOKYO for dining recommendations.

Posted by
6539 posts

Interestingly, Rick Steves did publish a guidebook "Asia Through the Back Door" back in the early nineties. I found copy at a garage sale. It appeared to be a collaboration, primarily based on a colleague's experiences, with a overlay of RS commentary. It must have not been successful.

Posted by
1179 posts

I remember reading Asia through the Back Door back in the 1990s. I enjoyed it, although I’m sure it’s hopelessly out of date. I assume Rick made a business decision to focus on Europe with his occasional forays into the Middle East. I assume it worked better for the PBS shows, European travel was expensive and ‘exotic’ enough in the 1990s before the lower cost airfares made almost any place accessible.

Posted by
10344 posts

This may be obvious but of course get a guide book that focuses on each country of particular interest to you. Asia is too diverse to be covered in one or two books.

Posted by
8 posts

While exploring Africa or even Asia, I will suggest you to checkout Lonely planet, Tripadvisor and some local blogs, like if you are planning to visit Bangkok, just search "best places to visit in Bangkok, this year" and you will be surprised that how some local travel sites have shared excellent details on their site. But still, for Asia, you can checkout, as they share good content on Singapore, India, and be aware that their tours are very over priced. Then checkout list, which is mostly on ASEAN countries, and for India, is my best travel guide, along with links to hotels, restaurants, and you can always google for more inside details like I was planning a trip to Jaisalmer & I found this blog quite interesting which was on Rajasthan
desert sites. So, I would suggest to google out some of the best travel guides for Asia, Africa if you need more info. And do visit Thailand, which is now like a second home to me, especially in these COVID days.

And you can also find some good books on Amazon too? Yeah like if you are planning to visit Egypt, then search for some books on Egypt. Like I just did and found this - DK Eyewitness Egypt, Fodor's Essential (Fodor is also a very popular tour guide platform, so do checkout their site too) and National Geographic Traveler: Egypt. The last one is of 2009, so see if you can get for 2019, if not 2020.

You can always get good travel guide content via book written by National Geographic, especially on African countries. Plus other books which you can try are wanderlust, lonely planet, fodors, frommer, and then their is always Youtube.

So I am not aware that from which country you are, but you will definitely find some good vlogs on youtube, as I recently sebscribed to Attaché, which has some excellent video content. The one on Honk Kong was the one where I found his channel, and he has one on Japan.

Posted by
5334 posts

We very much like DS Eyewitness Guide books. Also, Rick Steves has some fairly good ones. Lonely Planet guides are good, but more for backpackers.

Also, researching on the internet prior to your trip is always good. We have found local guides that were excellent in places like Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and India.

Posted by
48 posts

Yes, I remember "Asia Through the Back Door" too. In 1989 I was living in Seattle, planning my first trip to Asia, and attended a slide show and lecture about Asia from Rick in a classroom at the U. of Washington at which he sold signed copies of that book. His business was pretty small then, and as noted above, he decided later to focus it entirely on Europe which obviously has worked out for him. My actual travel guide bible for that trip, though, was the classic Lonely Planet "Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" by Tony and Maureen Wheeler, who also built a huge guidebook business focusing on Asia, and expanding to the whole world. Those are still reliable choices for Asia and many other places (I think it's literally true that there is no place in the world that a Lonely Planet book doesn't cover); the Wheelers sold their business (to the BBC I think) and the Lonely Planet guidebooks are now more "mainstream" rather than being backpacker kind of books with the Wheeler personal touch. Rough Guides are also good for many destinations; they have tried to fill the backpacker/lower budget type niche that Lonely Planet has moved away from. Footprint guides are also good -- especially for Latin America.