My next stop after Rio was Salvador in the state of Bahia. On my first stay I was in the upper section, near the historical centre of Pelourinho. I spent three days there, then left for a brief trip to Arembepe and then went back to Salvador, this time staying in the lower part near the beach, at Rio Vermelho. It felt as if I visited two separate cities.
Salvador is divided into the upper and lower city and the two parts are connected by a huge lift (elevator) Lacerda. You pay R$0.15 to use it (that’s about 3-4p, which is obviously a great bargain).
From the top you can get great views over the bay….
…and at the bottom of the lift is the artisan market, Mercado Modelo.
The historical centre is interesting, albeit a little touristy, with lots of little artisanal shops, colonial buildings and cobbled streets. However you can easily see it all in a day or two.
Everywhere you go you hear music blasting out of doorways or simply people making music in the street. Turn a corner and there is a Capiero class going on; turn another one and there are some people banging drums.
By contrast, the part by the beach had nice bars and restaurants, I managed to track down a bit of street art and it had, or course, the beach. However I preferred the upper town. Rio Vermelho is probably a better bet if you are a big fan of nightlife and want to be right in the middle of it, but the upper town had more interest for me. The beaches are perfectly good urban beaches, but there are better ones if you head a little out of town.
Every guide I read and everybody I talked to told me to be careful in Salvador; the general opinion is that, even compared with Rio and Sao Paulo, Salvador is dangerous.
General advice is to not carry a lot of valuables with you (but make sure to have something to hand over so as not to anger your assailant). If you get mugged don’t argue or scream and don’t look them in the eye (in case they think you’re trying to memorise their face). Generally they will take what they find and leave you alone.
Better advice is to try to avoid drawing attention to yourself in the first place and try to ‘blend in’, although that is easier said than done for us yellow-headed people.
Certainly these constant warnings do change your perception of the city and it leaves you a little ‘on edge’.
On my first day I walked to the art museum, only to find it was closed. So I looked (discreetly) at my map and decided to walk on to the nearby beach. Except the path there was full of homeless/crack users, and as I got further along it became more and more menacing. Then I remembered reading something about a road down to the beach being unsafe day and night and realised this must be the road they meant. No harm done, but after that I got taxis whenever I wanted to get from the upper to the lower city (Uber did the journey for less than £3).