WANDERLUST: SALVADOR DA BAHIA19:53:00
Before I started on my round trip across Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay (click for my first and second stop of that trip and stay tuned for more) and after my job at the Olympic Games I headed up to Salvador da Bahia for a long weekend. I have heard so much about this colonial gem and I wanted to at least have a glimpse at the North East of Brazil before heading down South. I am so happy I did it, Bahia was one of my absolute of my favourites in Brazil, it is so insanely beautiful, so tropical and you can truly feel the remnants of African culture here, be it in the amazing music in the streets or the delicious food.
Let me be honest here my friends. Yes there are buses to Salvador from Rio. Yes I know many people, who have survived that trip. Yes they may be cheaper.
But as much as I love backpacking and saving some money my tolerance for bus travels definitely ends at 12 hours and that is really, really cutting it close. The bus from Salvador is scheduled for 28 hours, which in Brazil can easily end up being 34. If you are hardcore you may get on one of them for around 100 Euros, but I am over that phase where I have to prove to myself I am an actual backpacker. My flights back and worth were 180 Euros, so realistically why torture yourself. I flew with Gol, which is one of the cheaper airlines, but you still get a snack and it only takes two hours and I am cool with cheap airlines in general. As with all plane trips around Brazil they can be really cheap if you book quite some time in advance, but they spike up dramatically the closer you get to your trip.
What I did not realise is how far the airport of Salvador is from the old part of town the Pelourinho, where I stayed. The airport is closer to some of the beachy cities, where a lot of Brazilians spend their holidays, but to the Pelourinho it will take you about an hour and a half.
Sadly Uber (which was my absolute favourite way to get around in cities in South America) is blocked when you are located at airports in Brazil and a taxi ride of that length is going to be a little fortune unless you find other people to split it with. I took the mini bus from the airport (there is also a local one for like 2 Euros, but it takes about three hours and is apparently not the safest) and it was about 10 Euros and had air-conditioning. It sadly only leaves every hour, but you take what you can get.
As I said there are a couple of beach cities along the coast, as well as really famous island like Morro do São Paulo so that´s what you should pick if you want a real beach holiday, which must be absolutely incredible. However I have heard so many great things about the colonial city of Salvador da Bahia and it is actually really easy to get to nice beaches from there as well so I chose to stay there.
The historical part of town the Pelourinho, is just absolutely gorgeous, but you have to keep in mind that Salvador is realistically not one of the safest cities in Brazil. There are a number of streets, that are really touristy and safe to walk in, but just two streets off you may end up in incredibly poor neighbourhoods, where drug abuse is a huge problem. I think this just goes for South America in general, but I felt it to be especially true for Salvador: Listen to the locals! I know some people love to leave the beaten path and whatnot, but honestly then don´t complain if you get mugged. And do not under estimate how desperate some people in a country with such a poor social system can get. Especially for me travelling solo as an obviously European girl, I would make sure to always be as safe as I can.
I stayed at an absolutely incredible hostel in the Pelourinho, called Hostel Galeria 13 and I can not recommend it enough! The staff was just incredibly going above and beyond to make the guests happy with little tours, an entire book of recommendation, accompanying us when we went out... I could go on forever. If that is enough to win you over, this hostel literally had the best breakfast out of all the hostels I stayed at, it has a pool and it offers a Caipirinha Happy Hour in which you can drink as many Caipirinhas as you can for free for an entire hour.
What to do
I spent four days in Salvador and spent three days of those in the city. On my second day some of my new hostel friends decided to head out to Ilha de Itaparica. It is only a 45 minute ferry ride from Salvador and then a little taxi trip to the beach so it´s perfect for a day trip. Plus other than to get to some of the other beaches around Salvador you can take the local ferry, which will cost you the generous price of 3 Euros. Only make sure you are back at the dock in Itaparica before the last ferry leaves (around 5) and if you ask me try to be back in the city before it gets dark, especially as the ferry dock is in the lower city which can be a little shady.
Other than that Salvador is an absolute colonial dream, where just walking around is incredibly. Some of my highlights included the church of São Francisco and its famous golden ceiling, the Lady of the Rosary church, built by slaves during their "days off" and the Afro-Brasilian museum. My hostel also offered a tour of a local market, but let´s just say it is not easy on the stomach.
On Tuesday the entire city is out on the streets. Tuesday was the traditional day off for the slaves of Bahia and the only day they could practice their own religion, a mix of African traditions and the Christian belief of the Portuguese colonisers. It is so impressive to see large groups of people celebrating completely dressed in white and throwing fire crackers (spoiler it´s not gun shots). At night the entire city is out to celebrate and it is incredibly fun. Just make sure to go in groups.
What to eat
Salvador is as tropical as it gets so you definitely should splurge on all kinds of fruits. Fresh Coconut will forever be my favourite, but in Salvador I also got to try Cashews, mandarines with green skin and fresh cocoa.
The cuisine of Brazil´s North East is highly influenced by African flavours, so there are loads of special delicacies. The most famous dish is Moqueca a seafood stew with coconut milk and curry and if you hate fish like I do you can also get a veggie version. If on the other hand you do like fish there is obviously incredibly fresh fish all around. In most restaurants you will get a plate to share, with rice, fries and either poultry, beef or fish and it is really a huge portion so they often can feed three easily. My favourite place to eat in Salvador was Bar Zulu, which had an incredibly Veggie Moqueca and really cheap burgers. Plus you get 15 per cent off if you are staying at Hostel Galeria 13.