The original colonial capital of Brazil – vibrant, colourful, different, noisy, lively – a real highlight of Brazil.
Salvador de Bahia has a unique African heritage with an almost entirely black population descended from slaves brought for centuries to work on the sugar and coffee plantations of Bahia.
Colour and music are everywhere in this city. The colonial architecture of the city is fantastic, particularly the baroque churches dating back to Portuguese times.
Pelourinho (rough pr. pel-oo-REE-nyoh) is the main quarter where visitors spend their time, and although a little bit touristy is still a fantastic place to absorb the atmosphere.
It is best experienced after having acclimatised a bit to Brazil: ideally not straight off the plane.
You may find bands playing to crowds on the steps between Ladeira do Carmo and Rua de Passo. Crowds are relaxed and there are lots of street traders selling cold drinks from carts or insulated coolboxes slung over their shoulders.
The streets are most full between about 8 and 10pm.
There are lots of wonderful drumming bands performing around the streets, as well as music clubs spilling out onto the streets. More on the wonderful music of Salvador.
Salvador has a reputation for petty crime (pickpocketing, scams, minor harassment, etc.) but otherwise doesn’t seem to be a violent place.
With a sensible wits-about-you approach you can reduce the risk, and reduce the impact if you are unlucky enough to be a victim.
Travel light: do not wear a watch if it looks remotely expensive; nor jewellery; nor carry a handbag. If you can travel without any form of bag and just take what you need in secured pockets, you’ll be safer and more relaxed.
Dress to stand out less: locals dress very casually: flip flops, shorts, t-shirts or singlets so dress down.
Know roughly where you’re going: standing on a street corner with a map or guidebook is best avoided. Actually that applies anywhere in the world.
Stick to busier streets, especially at night, and avoid the lower city and the _ladeiras_ between the lower and upper city completely at night.
Don’t let that put you off: We’ve had only good experiences in Salvador and people helpful if you ask directions etc. Safety precautions for Salvador are really the same as for any other city in the world.