Staying Safe and Avoiding Robbery In Salvador

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Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

Staying Safe and Avoiding Robbery In Salvador Salvador da Bahia Reviews

worldcitizen worldcit…
84 reviews
A few tips to help you stay safe and happy in the wonderful city of Salvador Nov 07, 2006
It seems that everyone knows someone who has a terrible story of how they were robbed in South America. Right before I left, everyone wanted to share these stories with me and discuss the synopses of Bus 174 and City of God (I didn't see these movies until after my trip). As I prepared for Brazil, I worried about the country's reputation and wondered how safe it would be there. But letting worries keep me from experiencing the fabulous places the world has to offer is not an option for me. Like with anywhere else, if you take a few precautions and are careful, you should be fine in Salvador. It has its fair share of problems, but I don't think it's as dangerous as Sao Paulo and Rio. A lot of people have questions about safety there, so here's some advice:

HANDLING MONEY AND CREDIT CARDS

- Never bring more than you need out with you. Figure out how much you'll need for whatever you're doing and leave credit cards, extra money and other valuables locked up in a safe (or in a hidden money belt), especially at night.

- ATMs are plentiful in Salvador and have the best exchange rates. When you're there, be discreet. Put your money away before you leave the ATM and always take your receipt (sometimes it takes awhile to print). You'll want to take large amounts of money so you don't have to keep going back and getting charged. It's best to take out money during the day at a busy (preferably non-touristy) location.

- Most ATMS give you your cash in 50 Reais bills if you take out a large amount. If you give a 50 Reais bill to a cab or vendor or even some stores, they look at you like you're insane and they never have enough change. Break up your 50s buying small things at a grocery store or other established stores and restaurants.

- If possible, avoid carrying a purse or sticking your wallet in your pocket. If you must take a purse, make sure it's small and it's best if it's the kind that fits under your armpit.

- Ladies: put your cash in your bra. It sounds funny and old fashioned but it definitely worked wonders for nights out.

BLENDING IN

- American tourists in developing countries have a tendency to look like they're going hiking, even when they're not: hiking boots or high tech sneakers, earth colored clothing, cargo pants, large backpacks, etc. Don't dress like this is Salvador- you'll be very easily spotted.

- Women in Salvador tend to dress up all day like they're going out at night, regardless of social class. You don't have to wear tube tops and short skirts everyday, but try to keep it feminine.

- Men tend to wear beachy-casual attire: t-shirts or tank tops, board shorts and flip-flops during the day. At night some will dress up more.

- If you look very Caucasian or eastern Asian, you will stand out. Some people will be instantly friendly and others will see you as an easy target. Try to look like you know what you're doing and where you're going.

- Don't wear flashy clothing and jewelry that is obviously brand name and expensive. Gold jewelry seems to be valuable there. If you're not sure about your jewelry, you can buy a lot of interesting cheap stuff when you're in Salvador.

- Even if you're in a tour group, don't wear nametags.

AT THE BEACH

- Locals don't bring big beach bags and coolers to the beach. The larger the bag, the more it is assumed that there is a ton of valuable stuff to steal inside of it. If you must come with your Ipod or any other valuable item, keep an eye on your stuff.

- At more secluded beaches you can bring more, but for the crowded social beaches, most people just come with a sarong and some cash for beverages and food.

- Keep an eye an everything. Sometimes even things that are useful but not expensive to you will disappear. Even in a large group, a seemingly innocent kid will walk off with your newly purchased Havaianas (popular and comfy Brazilian flip-flops).

AT NIGHT

- If you're alone at night, it's best to stick to crowded areas where there are a lot of people and a lot of cabs such as Pelourinho, Barra, and Rio Vermelho.

- If you're going into a favela at night, try to make sure your with a local you can trust.

- I've heard it's best to avoid the beach at night.

GENERAL

- Use your best judgement. If you sense an area or situation is shady, just leave!

- Neighborhoods can be patchy and while walking around you might find yourself on the edge of a favela. If you end up in a bad neighborhood by accident, just move quickly and avoid drawing attention to yourself by talking loudly in your own language.

- Get the recommended vaccinations. If for some reason you need to get some while you're there, it is surprisingly easy to do. I can't remember the name of the public hospital but I'm sure the staff at your hostel/hotel can tell you.

OTHER WAYS PEOPLE TRY TO GET YOUR MONEY WITHOUT ACTUALLY ROBBING YOU

- During street performances of capoeira and drumming, some people will walk around with a hat or bucket or something asking for donations for the group. There is a good chance that the person is not even affiliated with the group. Better to buy a CD or T-shirt or something else from the group if you want to support them.

- Sometimes beggars (especially near the Bonfim church or in Pelourinho) will come up to you and tie Bonfim ribbon around your wrist for good luck. They act like it's a gift, but they may continue to hang around and expect a gift of money in return. Never accept "gifts" from strangers.

- There are drug addicts who ask for money and it is quite obvious. Some of them are heartbreakingly young, but avoid giving money... you know where it's going to go.

- If possible, try to have a general idea of where things are. Sometimes cabs will take you the long way, wasting your time and money.

- Also in the taxi by the meter there is a number 1 or 2. If I remember correctly, if you have one or two people up to a certain point on weekdays, it should be set to #1. At night and weekends, it is set to #2, no matter how many people. Make sure it's not set to #2 when there is just one person during a weekday.
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worldcitizen says:
Thanks, that's good to hear. I was in Salvador for a month and a half if I remember correctly. Good addition about the tourist hunters in Barra... and you can usually find them in Pelourinho too. Some of my friends got caught up with people like that, despite my warnings about what they were after.
Posted on: Feb 29, 2012
morganarupp says:
Very good review! As Brazilian I'm impressed about how well you know about Salvador, how long did you stay there?

Some extra tips:

At Mercado Modelo (which I consider really expensive compared to other markets in Brazil) always ask for the goods' prices in the first place. The seelers will start talking to you (or try to comunicate if you don't speak any Portuguese)and make jokes and suddlenly you'll see that they are kind of forcing you to buy something really expensive. Most of them will also look at you with that Puss in Boots' look if you refuse what they are showing and say "but you wanted that, you were looking..." Just ignore.

When you take a cab to Pelourinho or the way back pay attention to the taximeter, it happened twice with me, that in 5 sec it jumped from R$23 to R$35. I don't know how they do that but at least they get ashamed when you catch them.

A piece of advice to foreigns. In Barra beach there are local men and women who will approach trying to comunicate and flirt. If successful, soon they will ask you to pay for food, beverages, cigarettes... they are called "Caça Gringos" (foreigns hunters) and I was told that the police in Salvador has even a special unit for that. Ignore them, but they are very persistent, anyway there's always a police man around if you need. :)
Posted on: Feb 29, 2012
Transitory says:
Incredibly helpful post. Thanks for taking the effort!
Posted on: Feb 17, 2009
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