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QUESTION: Hello!
I am a 19 year old girl going to Salvador for my first time. I have spent three months in Brasilia but always with people that are fluent in English and Portuguese. My Portuguese is beginner/intermediate. I was wondering if you have any advice on where to stay/what to do/how to get around/ basic things I should know. I will be there for 4 or 5 days. Any information is helpful!
Thank you
Signe

ANSWER: Hi Signe.
A good introduction to Salvador is found on www.salvadorcentral.com  (formerly www.bahia-online.net) with sections on neighborhoods, music, beaches, festivals, etc.
You don’t say when you are going to be traveling, so it is hard to know what festivals or activities might be happening that make Salvador even more special.

Most of the tourist infrastructure is in the historic district of Pelourinho/Santo Antonio and the first urban beach neighborhood of Barra. They are within a 10-15 minutes bus ride of each other, and both have good bus transportation to most anywhere else in the city or city beaches you’d want to visit, and also lots of hostel choices.
I’d advise a hostel to try to meet other foreign (or domestic too) travelers of your age to do things with.
In Pelourinho, prepare for what might be an onslaught of child beggars (saying they need powdered milk for their brother, for example, or are hungry and want money for a meal from a shopkeeper who will return a large cut to them, take his cut, but not actually feed them) and touts (do not agree to be shown around, and maybe charged later for it); just try to decide beforehand how you choose to deal with them, ignore completely (learn the finger wagging “no” signal) or giving some change/coins (note that this can be a kind of business for children who may be being exploited and not directly cared for with the money).
I prefer Porto da Barra because I like going to the beach in the early morning and I find Pelourinho a bit exhaustingly noisy and busy.

You won’t find anyone much who speaks any level of English, so be prepared to use your Portuguese. Locals are very open to trying to help though.
Do be VERY cautious about certain local guys who try to be friendly; there are many in Salvador who make a sort of living from romancing innocent foreign girls/women (fulfilling, as well, some fantasy of theirs, and of the woman's I guess). But on the flip side, it is fun to get to know some locals, if you are careful not to open yourself up to being exploited; do remember that you seem extremely rich to most locals.

Things to do on a first visit might include the museums and churches (and shops and restaurants) in Pelourinho, perhaps some capoeira (watching or practicing--try Joao Pequeno in the fort in Santo Antonio for Angola style, and for regional style, Mestre Bimba in Pelourinho)), the lively urban beach at Porto da Barra with great vendors and service people, a handclapping mass at the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos, an evening on the praca or a music club in Rio Vermelho, the beach at Itapoa lighthouse, the Bonfim church and museum of miracles and the Catholic/candomble shops outside, Solar de Uniao, a show of the Bale Folclorico de Bahia, and as much music as you can find and fit in.

Day or more trips could include Itaparica (try Ponta de Areia beach), Cachoeira/Sao Felix with a stop in Santo Amaro especially for the Saturday market, Morro do Sao Paulo or further to Boipeba and Marau, and Guarajuba/Praia do Forte.

Post again if you have more questions. Hope you love Salvador as much as I do!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much! I will be there may 26-June 1

Answer
Take a look here and at the week after for musical events:
http://www.aldeianago.com.br/musica/eventsbyweek/2013/5/20/-

The weekly scheduled stuff that I recommend would be the free show with Geronimo on Tuesday in Pelourinho (the night of the weekly bencao), and maybe the Jam at Mam (at Solar de Uniao, by taxi both ways from the base of the Elevador and afterwards straight back to your accomodation--do NOT attempt to walk, not a good neighborhood, but once inside the gate, OK) if you like jazz. (You'll be fine by yourself if neccessary at either.)

As far as well known singers, Ney Matugroso is at the Teatro Castro Alves on 31 May, but you really have to like his style to spend the money for a ticket. (Check him out on YouTube.) Not for everybody's taste, IMO.

The locally famous Carnaval band Fantasmao is playing on May 29 at Bali Beach (on the Orla in the beach neighborhood of Piatã--http://www.balibeachclub.com.br/). R$30. Starts at about 10 and will go late. This will attract a lot of local young people, so be a bit careful, but lots of fun. Go with some new friends you've made at the hostel, and go and come back by taxi.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0F9_xMDqn8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49rfHwEMRsI

No other big name shows that I have heard about. Some local forro events are starting up since the Festa Juninha season is starting. (Like Eztakazero before you arrive on the 24th at Bahia Cafe Hall.) One of those could be fun, but more so if you have a dance partner and can dance a little forro.

I also like Casa da Mae, Rua Guedes Cabral #81, in Rio Vermelho (across from the Tel: 3017-9041)for music and good food. (You'll be fine by yourself if neccessary; can go by bus, go home by taxi.) Low cover.
Examples:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lq1EKqTI0f4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nM115DG7zB4
And on the 30th, at Sunshine Bar e Restaurante, Rua Guedes Cabral #20 in Rio Vermelho, there's reggae, dub, ragga, dancehall and jungle with Ministereo Publico. R$15 cover, starts about 10pm.



Also the 30th is the holiday of Corpus Christi, so some people may travel for the holiday and into the weekend, and there may also be some special events.
Have fun.

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Drawing on my personal travel experience in Brazil (more than a decade's worth), as well as time spent living in Brazil (especially Salvador, Bahia) and knowledge of the Brazilian community in the U.S., I can help with most questions concerning travel, specific destinations, paperwork for moving, marriage or business, and more. I enjoy helping people get the most from their stay in Brazil. I'd be happy to hear from you.

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I have spent considerable time in Brazil, living and travelling, over more than a decade. I have travelled widely throughout much of Brazil, sometimes solo and sometimes with Brazilian friends and relatives, and am familiar with many destinations. I have done translation and interpretation, and also have taught ESL.

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