Safety Tips: How to avoid problems
    • Keep space around you (if possible). This is the single most important thing you can do to stay safe while out in the streets during carnival. As long as you have room around you, you'll be OK. Of course, it's easier said than done and not always desirable; getting caught up in the carnival frenzy can be a lot of fun. If you are on the side of the street when a trio electrico is approaching, look around for an "escape route" or a place where you can harbor yourself from the oncoming mob. You are most vulnerable to "bad luck" when a popular trio elétrico passes; before you even realize it, you can get swept up into a sea of humanity where there is literally no room to move, that is, except for HIS hand into YOUR pocket. If you're out as pipoca or "popcorn" that is to say, surfing the circuits on your own, intersections are a good place to hang out as they function as "pressure valves," the intersecting street absorbing the pressure of the crowd "steaming" your way. Another safe place to hang out is next to the police boxes where the police squads stand at vigil monitoring the party, ready to spring into action at the first sign of trouble. After all, nobody's going to try and rob you when you've got Salvador's finest by your side. “Uh-oh. Wait a second; where are they going?” Yep, from time to time, the police leave their box to go on routine patrols.

    • Distribute your money amongst many pockets.
      Like wildebeest at a river crossing, there may be times where you may find that you have no choice but to dive into the carnival crowds to get to where you are going. Or maybe, like a white water rafter, you thrive on the adrenalin rush generated by the frenzied mob. In any case, it pays to have strategically appropriated your funds before leaving the house. Wallets filled with credit cards? Don't even think about it! Only bring with you the money you'll need for drinking, eating, and transportation. It is a good idea to distribute your bills equally amongst each pocket. This way, if someone does get a hand into one of your pockets, instead of losing "the house," you'll still be "three quarters" intact and able to keep the good times rolling. Better yet, if you have shorts that have inner pockets, stash the majority of your cash there with a couple of smaller notes easily accessible in a front pocket. Or, stash a R$50 in your shoe. Always good to have a reserve note, just in case. Small notes (R$10, R$5, R$2) work best for street purchases during carnival. You have about as much chance of finding a street vender who can change your R$100 as you do of finding one who is giving food and drinks away for free...None!

    • Don’t take valuables with you into the streets.
      Take off all jewelry, necklaces, bracelets, watches, etc. Leave your cell phones and your expensive cameras at home. Every year, I hear stories of necklaces snatched and watches yanked. While it’s true that cell phones and digital cameras make great stocking stuffers for Christmas, come carnival, it is going to be you who’s "stalked" and your pocket that gets "stuffed"…by someone else’s hand. You may think that you’ve got the situation under control, but things happen much faster than you can imagine, so why risk it. This reminds me of a story from carnival 1996. There was this Swede who was staying at the same hotel I was. He wasn’t huge, but he was built like a tank, compact and strong; he had been in Special Forces in the Swedish Military, and was an experienced traveler who had already been on the road in South America for almost a year. When he arrived at the hotel, he had a boil growing on his leg that he cut out with his Swiss army knife which he had first heated/sterilized with a lighter. In a word, he was "tough." Anyhow, one carnival afternoon, he was getting ready to leave the hotel with a "fanny pack" wrapped around his waist. I knew how crazy things could get so I let him know that wearing a fanny pack in the streets was the carnival equivalent of strapping chunks of bloody tuna to one’s body and jumping into shark chummed waters. He told me not to worry, that nobody was going to mess with him, and if they did, he knew how to handle himself. Later that night, I ran into him and noticed he didn’t have the fanny pack on any more so I asked him how things went for him out there. He laughed and admitted that about a half an hour after he got into the streets, he found himself in a massive crowd when a group of huge guys smothered him, grabbed his arms, “locked him up like a pretzel," and cut his pack off. Moral of the story, if you don’t want to lose it, leave it at home! There is one exception to this rule; if you are going out with a carnival bloco and will be behind the protective cord or in a camarote party box, you might want to bring a digital camera to take pictures. You’re perfectly safe in these environments. Just be careful that you don’t lose your camera on the way there or on the way back.

    • Avoid conflict.
      If trouble comes your way, move away from it instead of getting caught up in it. It’s a natural reaction if you catch someone trying to put their hand into your pocket to grab the hand, look the person in eye, and spit like a cobra, but here in Salvador, it’s the wrong thing to do. What’s the right thing to do? Use your "flee" instead of your "fight" reflex. Don’t get "caught up." Brush the hand away (as if you didn’t notice it) and get moving. Here, fighting is rarely "mano a mano." Even if you think you are dealing with one guy, you can be sure all of his neighborhood buddies are within striking distance. If they weren’t, he probably wouldn’t have had the “courage” to come at you in the first place. Like most things here, fighting is a social activity, and Bahians are social animals. If a fight breaks out, everyone’s going to have a lot of fun…at your expense!

    • Stay away from dark and empty places.
      When you are walking home at night after the party, if possible, it’s best to stick to routes where other people are walking. If you have to "tirar agua do seu joelho" or “take water out of your knee” as the Brazilians like to say, don’t wander off too far into the darkness by yourself. Ask a friend to come with you and watch your back.

    • Careful of who you bring back to your apartment with you.
      It’s not likely that you’re going to wake up in the morning and find yourself in a bathtub full of ice with one of your kidneys missing, but if you’re not careful, you might not be able to find your wallet or worse yet, your passport. In truth, chances of getting stuff lifted by someone you bring back with you are slim, but on rare occasions, it does happen. If you are visiting for the first time and you don’t speak much Portuguese, you don’t really have a way of evaluating who you are dealing with and Brazilians can kill you with their charm…well, make that rob you. One thing you can do to reduce risk is to be pro-active. If you have valuables you don’t want to lose and you are considering bringing back unknown guests, hide them in a spot where only you will find them BEFORE you leave the house for the night.

    • Don’t hit on someone else’s girlfriend.
      Women, or rather jealousy, are main causes of fights during carnival. If you find yourself talking to a girl and some guy (or guys) starting to look visibly upset about the situation, or if she tells you that she has a namorado (boyfriend) and points him out, that’s your cue to politely excuse yourself. Bahian men are usually easygoing, but they can become a lot less understanding as to why you might still be sticking around. Best just keep on moving. As for you girls, not much to say here. Chances are that you will be hit upon by just about every man who passes. If he is so unlucky (or stupid) that his girlfriend happens to be around when this happens, she’s probably going to take it up with him, not you.

    • Keys.
      Think about what to do with the keys to your place. If someone’s hand does get into your pockets, if your keys are in there, you may lose them as well as your money. Inside pockets make great places to hide keys. Another way to deal with this problem is to lace them into your shoelace. It’s probably not a good idea to give them to the doorman at your building (unless you’ve been specifically told he’s trustworthy). If you do lose your key and have no way of getting back into your apartment, for around R$30 - BR$50, you can get a chaveiro (key guy) to come to your place and open the door. There are 24 hour chaveiros working during carnival. A taxista or the doorman at the place you are staying may be able to help you find one. If you are staying in Barra, try Chaveiro Sao Paulo at the bottom of the ladeira da Barra at Ave. 7 de Setembro, 3577. Or, you if you prefer to call, you can reach them at 3264 3931 or 9981 0552  But, please, whatever you do, don't kick down your front door (as some of my groups have done in the past).
    • Separation Anxiety: If you are going out with a group, it is relatively easy to get lost or separated in the carnival crowds. Before you get caught in the thick of the action, agree on a designated meeting place and a designated time where you can hook up. This applies equally to those going out in a bloco as to when you are pipoca in the streets. In a bloco, it’s a good idea to pick a location, say, “in the back of the bloco on the right hand side” as a place to reunite in case of separation.

Pin It