Salvador

Although it’s still unknown to many travelers, Salvador is considered Brazil’s most gay-friendly city. It doesn’t have the glitter of Rio de Janeiro or the size of São Paulo, but for years this northern city has burnished a reputation for having an easygoing attitude about gay people. Salvador is home to the country’s oldest gay rights and human rights organization in Brazil, the Grupo Gay da Bahia. Salvador's Gay Pride Parade was one of the largest in Brazil, drawing approximately 500,000 people in September 2016 - the last time it took place.

It's said that gay people feel comfortable to be open about their sexuality in this city, so activities take place all around town. One of the more active gay quarters is the Barra neighborhood, with a number of gay bars and clubs. Gay saunas here are also well frequented.

For the Hell & Heaven party, an annual long weekend of electronic dance music each November. This past year people came from all over the world to Club Med Trancoso and Arraial Eco Park, in Porto Seguro, just down the coast south of Salvador, for one of Brazil's biggest annual gay events. The Vila Galé Marés Resort, near Fortaleza in the State of Ceará north of Salvador, was the site of the H&H Cumbuco events in early November past.

Carnival is another huge event with many streets, squares and avenues closed for the events, including 11 km strictly for parades. For six days and nights just before Lent, the whole city comes into the streets to sing and dance to exhaustion; among the largest street parties on the planet, with around 2 million people participating.

The St John's, or Sao Joao da Bahia, festival, during the Southern Hemisphere's winter solstice and throughout the month of June, and New Year’s Eve are occasions for more big gatherings, parties, fireworks and music events in Salvador, and other towns and cities all over Bahia.

Established in 1549, Salvador was larger and wealthier than any North American city at the time of US independence. Now one of Brazil’s most intoxicating cities, it is more different from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo than most first-timers could imagine. The population is overwhelmingly descended from Africans or racially mixed, with a completely different cultural vibe, and visitors can be suprised by the warm welcomes they're likely to receive. The capital of Brazil until 1763, the city remained outside the mainstream of Brazilian industrialization, becoming instead a cultural center, and now a tourist destination second only to Rio.

The city is gorgeous, a United Nations World Heritage Site divided into Cidade Alta ("Upper Town") and Cidade Baixa ("Lower Town"). Pelourinho, the 'old town,' sits on the bluff above the port with the largest concentration of colonial–era buildings in the New World --among them several magnificent cathedrals. Traveling between the two levels you’ll most likely take the century-old lift, called the Elevador Lacerda, Brazil’s first elevator.

Hotel prices, even for beachfront locations, are quite inexpensive, and the constantly changing choices of bars, restaurants, cafes, and discos provide food, entertainment and a chance to meet the locals. For faster and more intimate contact there are eight or so gay saunas catering to various tastes. Extras, besides the usual steam rooms, saunas, Jacuzzis, bars, cafes, videos, cabins and dark rooms, include massage, strip shows, special parties, and the services of free-lance escorts. The larger complexes have websites for checking ahead.

 

Getting here

Salvador Deputado Luís Eduardo Magalhães International Airport, about 12 miles north of Salvador, has many domestic flights and some international connections. Buses and taxis bring you downtown. Salvador's Terminal Rodoviaria long-distance bus station, a bit outside downtown, has scheduled buses from all around the country, and from Paraguay.

Getting around

You can get around the city by way of Metro de Salvador system, with eight stations on Line 1 from Lapa Station to Pirajá Station, and an extension planned to Águas Claras; plus two more stations on Line 2, from Acesso Norte on both lines, onwards to Rodoviária. A planned Line 2 extension will continue to the airport. There are also buses running constantly on main streets until around midnight. Board from the rear door on full-sized buses. Taxis often are off the meter, especially late at night when you most need them, so agree on the price before starting out. For checking out the many interesting towns of the region you might want to rent a car, but city driving and parking can be a hassle.

 

Beaches

With a tropical rainforest climate, Salvador's temperatures are quite constant throughout the year, usually in the upper or lower 80's F (25-30 C), and humid. February is the driest month, May to July are wettest. Not surprisingly the beaches are the most popular places to relax here, and people of all sizes, ages and shapes wear bikinis or speedos. Guys are as body-conscious as girls in looking sexy. O Globo, Rio's daily paper, reports that Brazilians spend 45 minutes, on average, in making love -- they compare that to just 6 minutes for Americans.

There are 31 miles (50 km) of beaches between Cidade Alta and Cidade Baixa. Grupo Gay recommends Porto da Barra beach, the most urban stretch of sand. Britain's Guardian newspaper, in 2007, rated this 3rd in their world's best list. Weekdays are quieter, with young artist/students types, but from Saturday afternoon through Sundays it's crowded and gay, epecially around the grand staircase connecting the beach to the avenue above. Buses between Pelourinho and Porto da Barra stop at 11pm.

Praia dos Artistas, near the Sport Club Bahia at Boca do Rio, is also festooned with rainbow flags during the crowded weekends. There are food and drinks tents, music, light shows and lots of flirting taking place in the generally young local crowd. Street-smart caution is advised if leaving after 9pm.

 

Currency and Money

The Brazillian real (meaning “royal”) is the local currency. The coins are divided into the same denominations as most currencies, so getting to know the local money is easy.

 

Personal Safety

Foreign visitors, considered rich by local standards, soon get noticed, especially when drunk and/or alone. Use steet-smart awareness and sensitivity to minimize the prospect of a spoiled vacation. Areas such as Pelourinho and Mercado Modelo, as well as the main popular festivals like the Carnival, are generally safe for tourists on the streets, but others like the Barra harbor area, especially at night, can be iffy. Take cabs, stick with the crowd, and avoid the beach after dark. Even in daylight carry only what you'll need; keep your bag, wallet and passport close, and the camera or iPhone out of sight. Good pickpockets are like gifted magicians, and long gone before you realize something's missing. Also cruise with care. If all goes well a "gift" will likely be expected by your partner as he leaves -- even if met in a bar or sauna -- sort things out ahead of time. Also, getting into a car alone with strangers can be risky and potentially expensive. For more advice on cruising see the local gay media.

 

Media & resources

GuiaGay Salvador is the best and most up to date guide to the bars, clubs, saunas, restaurants, news and events for the local LGBT community, as well as another 15 gay bars, clubs and saunas in Recife to the north; in print and online.

Locals turn to Grupo Gay da Bahia for LGBT news and activities in Salvador.

Projeto Dois Terços LGBTQ social/political group promotes social campaigns, and volunteer work, sponsoring interviews, debates and meetings concerning issues of homosexuality in Brazilian society today.

Bahia.com.br is a more general, but gay-friendly tourist website, with English language pages. Salvador Central blog and guide is created by an American expat who loves music, and this city.

For gay and gay-friendly businesses, locations and website links, see our maps & listings section.

 

Bars and Clubs

Amsterdam Pop Club (Ladeira dos Aflitos s/n), midnight to 6am gay showbar at the center, drag shows, cabaret, live bands.

Âncora do Marujo (Rua Carlos Gomes 808), small music bar, mixed young gay and drag crowd; opens 8pm but busiest after midnight.

Bar de Ray e Lucy (Rua Carlos Gomes 1.001), Fri/day/Saturday night gay neighborhood bar, DJ sets, live music.

Beco dos Artistas (Avenida Cerqueira Lima, Garcia), Artists' Alley where Teatro da Queda returned to Bar Canto da Seresta, aka Xampoo, to recreate the LGBTQ space of years past, with live music, theater, cinema, performance art, poetry and workshops.

Burlesque Bar (Rua da Mouraria 51, Nazaré), live music and showbar, cafe food, indoor/outdoor seating, decor inspired by Cher movie. "Burlesque."

Farol Tropical (Av Almirante Marques de Leão, 22, at Rua Dias D´Ávila), Farol da Barra gay bar, seafood restaurant, sidewalk tables in space once occupied by Off Club.

Mocambinho Bar (Rua da Faísca 12, Centro/ Largo Dois de Julho), small artist and musician hangout, young scene, local food and drinks.

San Sebastian Salvador (Rua da Paciência, 277, Rio Vermelho), all-week dance club, Don Sushi Lounge, top DJs, good sound and lights, shows, Heaven & Hell warm up party.

Tropical Club (Rua Gamboa de Cima 24, Campo Grande), popular weekend dance and party bar, DJs, male strippers, drag shows.

Up the coast in Recife: Clube Metrópole (Rua das Ninfas, 125, Boa Vista) is a large gay and mixed nightclub with dancing, go-go boys, and drag shows.

CLOSED(?) - Previously popular clubs, now unresponsive, "dark" or outdated online, these two businesses may no longer be open:

Cabaret 54 (Rua Carlos Gomes, 860), karaoke bar, cabaret shows, male dancers, live music, young gay/mixed crowd.

Queens Clube (Rua Theodoro Sampaio 160, Barris), sex/cruise & dance club, go-go boys, dark room, video/sex shop.

 

Baths & Sex Clubs

155 Entretenimento Masculino (Rua do Meio 144, Rio Vermelho), sauna/ cruise bar, porn cinema, escort services, rental rooms, live sex shows; open daily and all-night Saturdays.

Clube 11 (Rua José Duarte 11, Tororó), men's sauna on 3 floors, cabins, go-go shows, professional massage services, escorts, bar, dancing, restaurant. Formerly Sauna Planetario XI.

Goy Club (Rua Coqueiros da Piedade, 6, Barris), bar and sauna, free internet, dark room, porn videos, private rental rooms with AC, nude strippers and live sex shows, rent boys.

Sauna 57 (Rua Politeama de Baixo 57), men's sauna, steam, dark and play rooms, cabins, porn videos, bar, massage, escorts; strippers, drag, live sex shows and "bingo boy."

Sauna Fox (Rua das Rosas 682, Pitubasaunas), modern sauna/bar, patio, bingo, go-go stripper shows, bedrooms; open daily 3-10pm.

Sauna Paradiso (Rua Leoni Ramos 59, Barra Beach), 2-level men's sauna near beach, dark room cruising, bar, variety of guys, no escorts.

Sauna Clube Rio's (Rua Almeida Sande 8, Barris), men's sauna, pool, porn videos, bar, internet access, escorts.

Sauna Olympus (Rua Tuiuti 183, Carlos Gome), sauna, dark room, bar, cabins, escort services, shows; one of two Entretenimento Masculino clubs.

In Recife Termas Boa Vista (Rua Manoel Pereira, 53, Santo Amaro) men's sauna/steam baths also features a bar, free food buffets, drag and sex shows, go-go boys, massage services, and special nights.

Cine Tupy (Av. José Joaquim Seabra 357) is a classic porn cinema with lots of m2m show and play action in the seats, the bathroom and the area next to the big screen.

 

For a dozen Hotel & Guesthouse suggestions see our map listings. Museums and Galleries, Shopping, and Theaters and Performance venues are also listed. For some photos from around town see our Gallery pages.

- staff - December 2016