We paid Bahia a flying visit, going to Salvador and to Boipeba. Both places deserve their own posts but sadly we didn’t spend enough time in either to give a proper account of them, so here are our pointers if you decide to head to Bahia.
First stop; Salvador. This sprawling city of around 3 million people is one of Brazil’s former capitals, one of its most important ports and the capital of the state of Bahia.
- Salvador was a very important slave port for Brazil. Consequently, after the abolition of slavery the city maintained a decidedly African influence, and it shows. Every night the city bounces to the beat of drums until the small hours, and samba plays on every corner. Go to Pelourinho on a weekend or a Tuesday night to sample it.
- Pelourinho is also the city’s old town, and it is beautiful. Think cobbled streets, pastel coloured houses, crumbling colonial churches and street food to die for. On the subject of street food, you have to try acaraje. It is kind of like a prawn sandwich, only the bread is made from beans, the prawns are whole king prawns and it is served with a spicy spread. I have done it no justice at all – it’s absolutely incredible – and you can get it at loads of stalls pretty much anywhere near the sea for about BR$8.
- Barra (confusingly pronounced “Ba-ha”) is probably the most well-to-do district of the city. It runs right along the coast and has the best beaches, as well as a wide promenade ideal for an evening stroll. Watch the sunset with a coco gelado at the Barra lighthouse and feel good about the world.
- We stayed in Barra at a great Airbnb. (This link is to a shared room but we stayed in a private for very little extra). Sol and Michael were amazing hosts and we can’t recommend them enough. Airbnb has been a godsend on our travels, if you haven’t used it before sign up using this link to get discount off your first stay. In fact, even if you already have an account, use this link to get another one, Airbnb make enough money, right?
- Getting around Salvador can be hard work. The buses are really confusing and there is no metro, although one does seem to be indefinitely under construction. Taxis are very common and there is Uber in the city, useful when you have wi-fi. Do your research before you try and head anywhere, or there is a very good chance you will get lost.
- Unfortunately, getting lost in Salvador could have quite serious consequences. The city has high crime rates, even for Brazil. We spoke to a South African girl we met who had been in the city for 6 months teaching, and she said that she didn’t know a single person who hadn’t been robbed. When a South African calls the place dangerous you should take note. Don’t take out valuables with you, don’t wear flashy jewellery and don’t go wandering off into parts of the city you aren’t sure about.
Next stop is Boipeba, a paradise island 80km or so from Salvador. You should go because it is ridiculously beautiful, peaceful, relaxing and safe. First though, you have to get there.
- Getting from Salvador to Boipeba is a bit of a trek. I’ll break it down into steps:
- First, get to the Terminal Maritimo Sao Joaquim. It’s near the public elevator which takes you from the coastline to Praca do Se in Pelourinho. It can be a bit of a rough area at night so go in daylight hours.
- From there take the ferry to Bom Despacho. It takes 45 minutes and costs about BR$5, a little more on Sundays. They run on the hour, every hour, starting around 6am.
- From Bom Despacho, take the bus to Valenca with the Cidade Sol bus company. That takes 2 hours and costs BR$24.
- You then have a choice. The quickest way is to hop in a taxi to the cais or port, which should cost you about BR$10 but the drivers will try and charge you more. In a metered taxi if you are lucky enough to find one, it will be cheaper. On the dock there are ticket agencies selling various different boats to Boipeba. The fast boats leave about every hour and a half, cost BR$44 and take one hour. The slower option costs BR$31, and involves a 20-minute bus ride up the coast then a one hour boat. The catch of this is that the initial bus ride takes you right past the bus station, the very same one that you have just paid a taxi to bring you from. So, if you are happy to just wait, a bus probably will come right to you at the bus station and take you to a boat, however, the information about it is non-existent so it is a bit of a gamble. You pay for the slower option on the bus, the faster option on the dock.
- Once you finally get to Boipeba, you are treated to a sleepy little seaside village. There are no cars, only horses and carts and the odd tractor. The towns are laden with pousadas, we stayed in Abaquar Hostel which was great.
- Food on Boipeba is a little hit and miss. There are lots of restaurants lining the coast, but they are very overpriced. We found a couple of good ones in the town, Verandha and Pamela de Barro, the latter of which doesn’t look much but serves huge portions for very little, and the former which is a Brazilian Italian crossover and serves a mean steak.
- The town also has a great little night market. I don’t know if it only opens on weekends, but in the main square loads of little stalls open up in the evening selling sweet treats, juices, caprahinas, burgers and of course acarajes. Think deep fried everything. Try it all (for a reasonable price) and feel guilty another day. It’s a great experience and really popular with Brazilians there, whether they are local or tourists.
- Of course the reason you go to a paradise island is for the beaches. Boipeba’s are stupidly pretty, and all are walkable from the main village, with the exception of the northern-most one at high tide. It takes a few hours to do a full circuit from the village right around the coast on foot, and it’s a stunningly beautiful walk.
P.S While you are here: Take a look at our newly opened store! We personalise and print beautiful collages for you to remember your travels in a really unique way. Check it out 🙂 More details can be found here.