Let loose for Salvador's carnivalSalvador, Brazil
Rio gets all the kudos when it comes to Carnival, but the biggest party of them all engulfs Bahia.
Different reports will tell you that between one and four million people flood the city, but all you really need to know is that it’s lots. And most of them are Brazilian.
Taking place during the week before Ash Wednesday, it’s the magnificent, hedonistic storm before the calm of Lent (carnelevare translated means ‘to remove meat’).
The first parades take place on Thursday, working their way to a crescendo that lasts from Saturday night right through till Tuesday. There are two parade routes with trio elétrico – brashly decorated, gigantic trucks carrying bands – blasting out waves of music, and a third that harbours a quieter, more traditional parade.
For maximum thrillage, you’ll want to buy yourself an abadá (t-shirt) that acts as a ticket to parade with a specific trio (also called a bloco). There are other options. You can purchase a t-shirt that guarantees you entry into a camorote, the grandstands lining the parade routes. From their heights you’ll get a great view, plus they have bars and toilets.
Otherwise, try your luck in the crowd as one of the pipoca (popcorn), so named because that’s what a whole load of people bouncing to the beat looks like.
- Not having to worry about being on time –most stuff starts late. Chill out!
- Halfway through the Barra-Ondina route (near Rua Sabino Silva) many people leave the bloco and sell their abadá for less than US$10, when theress still about two hours left of the parade
- Having to fiercely safeguard your cash
- The lack of public bathrooms. Try to find a bar or restaurant and negotiate or bribe your way in
From the airport, it’ll take more than an hour on the bus or in taxi to the city centre. During the festival, plan to stay on foot. At other times, buses are available and taxis (legal and otherwise) are everywhere.
To view the parade is free, but the best option is an abadá (t-shirt), and they don’t come cheap. You’ll pay anywhere from US$75 to US$450 for one to participate in the parade and up to US$580 for access to the grandstands and their bars. However, ask around when you get to Salvador because there’s a thriving black market and you can buy them for about half that price.
If you like loud music and throngs of partiers, you’ll be just fine. However, don’t wear thongs or sandals for safety reasons. Converse, Vans, Nikes, in fact any sort of comfy sneaker, is an absolute must.
Make sure you stick your money in your shoe, and leave your camera and everything else back at your hotel. There’s a huge police presence but that doesn’t stop pickpockets or someone else nabbing your camera or phone and hurtling off through the hoards of people.
Find a place to stay in Barra or Ondina as you could be waiting for hours for a taxi back to your accommodation.
Don’t wear your abadá outside of Carnival – it’s a faux pas!