Salvador is the cultural heart of Brazil - so should you visit? How safe is it? Where should you stay? Here’ some travel tips.
Visited: May 9 & 13 2008
Salvador is said to be the cultural heart of Brazil - we spent two nights here in total.
Capoeira is much practised in Salvador, and throughout Brazil.
The first night, before catching the boat to Morro de Sao Paulo, was spent in the Atlantic coast suburb of Barra. After much hunting around for a pousada, I hadn’t found anything cheap, good value or appealing. We settled for Pousada Bella Barra, as it was the best option I found for R$65 a night. We stayed in Barra as we expected the area to be safer and more peaceful than that of the historic centre, but with hindsight, choosing a hotel in Barra was pointless.
The second time we returned to Salvador, we opted for a hotel in Pelhourinho - this is part of Salvador’s old town and is a much more interesting and beautiful part to stay in. Pelhourinho has it’s share of problems, beggars and criminals roaming the streets, but the place is full of camera flaunting tourists, and many police during the day. Late at night, the police are not so present, and walking around is unsafe, but during the day and evening, it all seemed perfectly safe.
There’s dozens of hotels and pousadas in the old part of Salvador. The best is undoubtedly Convento do Carmo, but it’s located just outside of Pelhourinho, and I’m unsure how safe walking around that area is.
Those on a tight budget can easily find good value pousadas right in the heart of Pelhourinho. We binned our Footprint Brazil travel guide as it was uselessly out of date - many of the hotels mentioned no longer existed. I expected Pelhourinho to be a bustling, hectic part of Salvador where one wouldn’t really want to turn up and hunt for a hotel, but it was remarkably peaceful and enchanting, and the cobbled streets invite wandering. We opted for the Italian owned Pousada Terra Nova as it was bang in the middle of the colonial district, clean, safe and very reasonably priced at R$50 a night.
Salvador itself was a little dissappointing compared to other places we have visited in Brazil. Pelhourinho and the historic centre are atmospheric with many colonial buildings, but a visit is pointless if you’ve been to places such as Colombia’s coastal colonial city Cartagena, which is 10 times as impressive. Half a day is enough to explore Salvador’s historic centre, and for anyone who has never been to a South American colonial town, it will be very interesting, but for everybody else, I really can’t see much point in spending time in Salvador (though it does have some buzzing nightlife).