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Health & safety

Dangers & annoyances

The city has a reputation for theft and muggings, and pickpocketing is common on buses and in crowded places. Tourists are easily singled out. Paranoia is counterproductive, but be aware of the dangers and minimize the risks. The following small sacrifices could assure a trouble-free visit.

When visiting Salvador: dress down; wear cheap jewelry and watches, if any at all; take only enough money with you for your outing; carry only a photocopy of your passport; and be roughly orientated before you set out. Don’t hesitate to use taxis after dusk or in areas where you feel apprehensive, though taking buses in the evening is not necessarily unsafe.

In the center, tourist police maintain a visible presence, particularly in the Pelourinho. However, it is best not to rely solely on their protection, and you may find them apathetic should something occur.

Crime in the Pelô increases during the high season (especially around Carnaval) and on crowded Tuesday nights. Avoid empty areas. Not carrying a bag (and therefore little money and no valuables) at night will make you less of a target.

The Pelourinho shifts quickly into sketchy areas, so avoid wandering off the beaten path. Cidade Baixa is deserted and unsafe at night and on weekends, and the ladeiras (steep roads) that connect it to Cidade Alta should never be taken on foot.

On the beaches, keep a close eye on juvenile thieves – or capitães d’areia (captains of the sand) – who are quick to make off with unguarded possessions.

Women will attract annoying attention from men, especially in the Pelourinho. The best tactic is to simply ignore the comments, psssu-ing and beckoning.

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A common way for bars and their customers to keep track of how many drinks were ordered without dispute is to place empty bottles underneath or next to the table. To prevent your server from pulling one over on you, make sure the area under and around your table is clear before you open your tab.

Be wary of motley bands of hotshots playing capoeira on the Terreiro de Jesus. Not only can you see better capoeira elsewhere, but if you even bat an eyelash in their direction, they will come scurrying across the plaza demanding a contribution. When you don’t cough up, you will likely be accused of not supporting the arts. Just walk away, it’s happened to them before.

Meandering vendors, especially the kids with the ribbons, will offer you things as a regalo (present; they often say ‘presente, ’ as Spanish and English speakers understand this term). But as the street-weary say, nothing in life is free. Once you accept a free ‘present, ’ you’ll likely have to buy something in order to be free of your new vendor buddy.

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While you're there

Medical services

Hospital Aliança (3350 5700; Av Lucaia Juracy Magalhaes Jr, Itaigara) English spoken.

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