Travel:- Visiting Salvador, Brazil

A few years back, prior to the lockdown of 2020, I wrote about travelling to India, for a 2 weeks holiday, by booking elements separately rather than through a tour operator.

Sometimes doing things yourself can be cheaper, but at other times not, however maybe it can be because you want to travel and explore a little more than a package will allow.

On many trips, I like to visit both beach and city, in one trip, and by booking separate elements, it can help you do this easily.

One destination that you can’t visit via a tour operator, is Salvador, Brazil, which in 2006-2008, was available to visit via First Choice, but has not been available since, to those wanting to book a package from the UK.

Now as it happens, I myself, was very lucky to be a holiday rep in this destination, for First Choice in both 2007 and 2008, so its a destination that is close to my heart and one that I have always wanted to visit since, the problem being cost!

The hotels that I worked in back in 2007/8, would cost a holiday guest, back then, approx £1000 per person for 2 weeks all inclusive including flights. Now I’m not sure many of the guests appreciated what an incredible great deal they were getting. Even back then, 2 weeks in the hotel booked locally would cost in the region of £3500 per room (2 Sharing) Now, booking directly with the room we booked was quoted at over £5000 for 2 people sharing, and that’s before flights and transfers, but fear not, there are cheaper ways of booking.

For the best deals, I use sites like Kayak / Expedia and see which third party options are offering the best deals, which can be around half the price of booking direct. After finding the best deal, why not see if the hotel are willing to match the price directly, their call centre will usually be happy to do this, plus you may get other benefits by booking directly with the hotel too. This is what we did, with almost two weeks stay in the hotel costing around £2200, which being an All Inclusive, wasn’t to bad, when split between two people.

Hotel bookings aren’t any good without flights though, and its here that this destination falls down.

The only option of flying with the same airline, from the UK to Salvador, is with TAP Portugal, which despite being Portugals national carrier, is an airline full of flaws.

Their website can be difficult to use and when things go wrong, they have no UK helpline, in fact when I tried to upgrade my outbound flight the day before, the website said my card was declined, however the money had been processed and American Express confirmed it was authorised. Trying to call TAP Portugal to resolve it resulted in 3 calls where I was cut off mid call and a final phone bill of hundreds of pounds – definitely something they need to resolve.

The airline also doesn’t have the best reputation for being on time and this was the case for our flight from Manchester to Lisbon. Although arriving into Manchester 20 mins late, we are around 1hr 30mins late taking off, and our 2hr 20min layover, became a gate to gate dash.

On the plus side, the planes were comfortable, with the first flight on an Embrear 95 and the second sector being on a Airbus A330-900 neo, with newer quieter engines.

Embraer 95 seats are comfortable

I didn’t get the executive class upgrade on the way out, but we did have the ‘comfort’ seats located close to the front of the plane, which have more legroom, so it wasn’t the worst flight. Service levels also left a lot to be desired and while I know TAP staff were in the middle of planning strikes, the feeling onboard was not one that made you feel very welcome or taken care of.

We also arrived in Salvador with saturated bags and contents, with somethings ruined, they have still to come back to me regarding any previous complaints, and I am not making a £200 phone call again to chase it up!

Flying Economy to Lisbon meant paying for wine in a paper cup

Flying back home was a little smoother and not only was it on time, but I also got the upgrade I had booked and paid for.

Executive class on TAP, isn’t quite the same as many international airlines, but you do get a fairly decent fully lay flat bed and upgraded food and drink.

For me its the chair and bed that made the upgrade worthwhile, with a flight that took off just before midnight and lasted approx 8 hours, it meant that you could get a decent amount of time sleeping, something that is hard to do in a standard airplane seat.

Business Class breakfast was an improvement but still not amazing

Food was also a step up, as was the service received. It has to be said, that its something of a disappointment at how much better the quality of service was in business class compared to economy, after all, customer service costs the company nothing, and if all staff were as courteous and friendly as those in business, then it would make a huge difference.

Flights to Salvador from Manchester cost around £1000 a person, flying in economy, with a change in Lisbon, although be prepared to give yourself at least a couple of hours to account for any delays that you may encounter.

On arrival in Salvador, we opted to spend the first two nights in the city itself, which is located around 30 mins from the airport.

The city is a wonderful place, with so many sights and sounds to see and for this trip we booked a hotel right in the heart of the historical centre, Pelourinho – you can read all about the stay at The Fasano in another post here.

Wondering around the streets of Pelourinho is a delight and being a world unesco heritage sight, it has not changed one bit since I last visited 15 years previous.

The colours and sounds are exactly how I remember and I start to feel back at home, just like i did many years ago.

My Photo from 15 years previous

As you walk the cobbled streets, it isn’t long before you can hear some drums, as its here that the world famous oludum are based. You may recognise the sites and sounds from one of Michael Jacksons music videos of the past, with this famous drumming band, still performing around the streets of this city.

Other sites in Salvador include the elevator, which connects the upper and lower parts of the city and costs just 20cents per person in each direction (Approx 3 pence).

Once in the lower city, you are faced with the indoor market place, selling a range of tourist items. While we were there, the building was having lots of work done to preserve it, as it has huge historical value, once being a market place for slaves in the days of the Portuguese colonisation, a history that has resulted in the huge diversity of people and cultures within brazil today.

Churches are aplenty in Salvador, with religion of the past, combining African and Christian cultures. Great churches include Sao Francisco’s and further out of the city, Senhor Bonfim.

Along with its historical sights, food and drink is also very important in Brazil, with street food vendors found everywhere, along with little cafes and bars, where you can just sit and watch the world go by.

Food is a little more expensive in that area, due to it being a major tourist hotspot, but not too expensive to put you off. We sat down and enjoyed some shrimps and a drink while enjoying the spectacular sights.

Music is also a massive thing in Brazil, with Salvador being no exception. Carnival in Salvador is an true party, with everyone getting involved and two separate areas where processions take place.

But don’t worry if you’re not actually visiting during carnival, because in Bahia, all year round is party time, with music and fun happening everywhere. One way that you can get a taste of what carnival is all about however, it to visit the Carnival Museum, which tells you the background of carnival and tells you about its stars, as well as even allowing you to learn a few dance moves and get dressed up yourself!

There are also many beaches around Salvador, however due to our very limited stay in this area, we did not head down to he sites of Barra, but this was due to us about to head further north, up to the ‘Coconut Coast’ and to a hotel just outside of Praia do Forte, which I will be posting real soon.

Many people ask about Salvador being safe, and I can only give my own experience, which is that to me it has always been somewhere I could relax, even at night, when I occasionally visited a bar and watched the world go by. Having said that, and just like all places where I travel, always use common sense, do not flash jewellery and cash, and stay to the main streets, unless you are familiar with the area, or with someone that is.

Our stay in Salvador itself was very short, with only one full day, plus a morning before heading up to the coast and there was so much we didn’t get to see in the short time we had, thankfully I have managed to see other places previously and who knows, I may well be heading back again someday.

Keep an eye out for the next two parts of this post that have also been posted, highlighting our stay at The Fasano as well as our stay at Iberostar Bahia.


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