Is Salvador really worth it? It is one of the country’s oldest cities but its also the poorest one...
Lets have a look what Salvador has to offer.
Salvador de Bahia, or simply Salvador, is an old capital of the Portuguese colon and the third largest city in Brazil. Due to its colonial past it offers a great diversity in terms of distinctive culture, habits and foods. It is also unfortunately one of the most insecure places in Brazil according to certain statistics, but do not be discouraged, some basics of well applied common sense will keep you away from many troubles.
We arrived in Salvador at 6am at the Rodaviara bus station. We took a taxi to go to the Bahia Café hotel as it is not recommended to take public transportation in Salvador.
The hotel is located in Salvador Pelourinho. Why did we stay there? We wanted to see a different part of the city, the more traditional. We were not disappointed. The city center is really poor and popular at the same time, some parts of the old city center really look like favelas but also have the local vibe.
We quite liked the hotel as the breakfast was delicious, room spacious and the staff very helpful. The Bahia Café hotel were quite open to discuss what they try to do in terms of environmental impact, they attempt waste recycling bins, encourage electricity saving in their hotel (card control room electricity) and take care of their waste management individually to ensure it ends in the right place. Of course it might not be much but as green travelers we appreciated to hear they do efforts and are conscious of the importance to do so.Salvador is quite hilly and varies in architecture from big city like building to smaller historical village alike houses.
1) The street food is delicious
There are many streets completely packed with food just around Lapa shopping center. And it is super cheap about 2R$ for a bolinho de queso or an acaraje. What else?
2) The churches are beautiful
There are dozens and dozens of them. Just walk around and select the most famous ones. We loved the ones in the city center (Pelourinho)
3) Barra district has great beaches
Where you can have a really nice walk along the beach, go to the Forro da Barra and have a beer there to enjoy the sunset!
4) There are some great restaurants serving typical regional food
We had dinner at Casa Tereza which was excellent. We took the taxi to get there from the beach cost 30R$ (lots of traffic around 7pm). We took as a starter 4 different street food item revisited by the chef. Then we had the Chief’s moqueca with seafood. The portions are pretty big and we didn’t feel the need for a dessert! We had a wonderful time and the food was fantastic. We totally recommend this place.
5) Nice shopping centers to cool down and buy some souvenirs
It’s a good option during the day to cool down or shop and during the evening if you are not comfortable walking around the city, there are couple of big ones where you can have food, drinks and probably buy some stuff you miss during your trip
6) The old city center, Pelourinho is simply amazing
You’ll find the famous colorful houses which are the Salvador’s pride. Just follow the Alfredo De Brito street and it will lead you all across the nice spots.
7) The Bonfim church is unique
The ride is about 20 minutes from the center of Salvador de Bahia. Bonfim is very interesting and is a postcard must see place. Though you have no other really interesting spots to visit around.
8) There are bars like “O Cravinho” where you’ll feel 100% local
The bar is always crowded with locals. We drank some local liquors called “infusao” (like everybody else was drinking) and had some snacks. Prices were good (16r$ for 8 big bolinhos and 4R$ for a small glass of liquor). Perfect place to get drunk. It was loud and crowded but so local, we loved it. And we were full, so we took the snacks in a doggy bag. On our way back to the hotel, a young kid came to us to beg for money (as it is very common in Salvador, as well as pickpockets). We didn’t have any cash anymore so we gave him our leftovers from the bar. The kid was genuinely happy. In Salvador, you will see poverty and the kind that leaves people starving and desperate for 2 little R$. So if you see people begging in the street, it is because they are resource less and are probably really hungry.
9) There are organic and vegetarian restaurants!
Salvador is not a green city but a green trend is raising!
What about the environmental practices of the city itself? What can we expect from a city struggling between poverty and social tensions? Well, the infrastructure or shall we say the lack of infrastructure and services, makes good environmental practices scarce or nonexistent. We would like for Brazil to wake up and finally take the right steps. Anyway, as tourists, we tried not to contribute to environmental pollution.
But the good news is that we have seen some signs that the demand for more sustainability is there. The large presence of recycling and sorting containers and the presence of several restaurants “organic” or vegetarian. We ate in one of them and found the food very tasty. Warning-This said, many “natural” restaurant or “organic” are not the only names! Brazilians tend to use this my “organico” or “natural” to describe organic vegetarian restaurants but not necessarily!
Bottom line? It is definitely worth it!
We found Salvador de Bahia very charming due to its contrasts even as the misery of people and deteriorating city buildings remind of the harsh reality. Safety is not an issue as long as you don’t hold any valuable on you, avoid showing your possessions and just go with the flow. Avoid going in the night into streets if they are empty, stick to tourist places.