As mentioned in many reviews, taxi services in Salvador range from mediocre to ripoff. There's many stories around of the tactics Salvador taxi drivers use to make a few extra bucks, from charging extra for air-conditioning and having the radio on, to getting 'lost' and charging extra to find the hapless travellers hotel. If it's any consolation, these scams aren't just for the international tourist, with many Brazilian nationals experiencing the same level of service.
My recommendation when arriving in an unknown city, particularly a city like Salvador, is to arrange your transport from the airport before you arrive, if possible. This is worth it particularly if you're getting off a long flight and will already be feeling a bit disorientated. The cost might be a few dollars more, but the peace of mind, and security, make it worth while.
Once you've dropped your bags at the hotel, had a nights sleep and are feeling a bit sharper then attempt the local transport. Most of the chain hotels in Salvador can organise a taxi from Salvador airport for their guests. And, although they are far and few between, there are companies such as Salvador Airport Transfer (www.salvadorairporttransfer.com) that can provide transfers from Savador airport and seem to have a good reputation - although as always, do your own research first.
Step out of the arrival hall and cross the official taxi lane, you will see a blue sign 'Onibus' on your right hand near the food vendor. There's an executive bus with air-conditioning runs until 10:00pm. It departs every 30 minutes and costs R$4. It goes along the coast and the terminal is in downtown Salvador.
There's a huge parking lot opposite to the arrival hall. If you walk to the back of the parking lot, you will see a bus station. The bus goes along the east coast to the downtown Salvador and runs at least until midnight. No air-conditioning, same price: R$4.
Take a taxi at the same spot where the bus station locates, you may save abt R$20 to downtown salvador.
Taxis are plentiful in Salvador. All with the same colour of white and blue one can find them at any tourist attraction and a number of taxi ranks all over town. Make sure you negotiate the fare before hand since taxi meters are hardly ever used with foreigners.
Most of the time I travlled around the city by bus. the fare being 1 Reais 50 per journey. You can also get the airconditioned executivo to get around which costs 3.70.
Sometimes when waiting at a bus stop taxi drivers will come by and offer you a ride to a popular destination (pelo or barra) for 2RS per person. On a hot day you are unlikely to say no!
I used taxis alot around Salvador and unfortunately some of them will try and con you... It is a good idea to know what it shoud cost before you get in... A good book is "Salvador for Partiers" It has a page which gives you estimations on cab fares from common deatinations. Don't be afraid to question them if they are wrong.
Sundays, and evenings, it can be rather frustrating waiting for a bus to arrive at the Ponto Da Barra busstop. So if you are heading for a location near the center, or Pelourino, Do jump in if a taxidriver offers 3-4 persons a ride for 2 R$ pr person! It is a common practise, the locals do it all the time to save time, and if the car is not full, or somebody gets of on the way, he will just check on the next busstop, or continue to where you agreed. He will not raise the price.
Dont be afraid to ask the taxi driver what the fare is BEFORE you let them take off with you. Often they will try to tell you that the meter will be more than the cost of what they might quote you, but if you know better, SAY SO. If you threaten to get out, they will often turn the meter on & comply with your request. In the end, the Reais add up, so keep an eye on yours.
It was interesting the way the ride to a certain location in Salvador would take several minutes and cost several reals and then the way back would take less than five minutes and cost less than five reals.
This happened even when we were with our Brazilian friends. One cab driver charged us 20% extra for the air condition being on during our drive. And we didn't even notice it was on. Interesting.
I liked to take the city buses to get around. They're cheap and you can see a lot of the city from them. If you've got the money taxis will save you time since the buses don't really run on any discernable schedule. The bigger buses that look like Greyhounds don't seem to be running like they were in the past. The new thing is the Micro Onibus. Depending on the route they will be air conditioned and will cost more. The average city bus, pictured here, now costs 1.50 Real, and a long run Micro w/air will be about 3-4 Reais.
From the airport, which is located 20 miles from downtown, you can take a cab which will run you about 55 reais if you use the Comtas company which has booths at baggage claim. You pay (credit cards are accepted) at the Comtas desk and take the voucher out to the cabs. I paid 67 reais for the round trip fare, which obviously saved some money (about $12 US each way), but you can save even more by skipping the Comtas booth altogether and just hailing your own cab at the airport. I rode in plenty of cabs and talked with many drivers here and would have felt completely comfortable with any of them driving me to the airport.
In other words, don't do what I did! Skip the Comtas booth at the airport and just walk out front and grab a cab. Ask the driver how much it will be and if it's more than 30 reais, ask him if he'll take you for 30. I bet he will.
Taxis in Salvador are white with a red and a blue stripe on the sides! The license plate is red!
In Salvador taxis are not really expensive, but you should find one you trust. They could easily make a ride 5 times more expensive then they really are. So pay attention to the following details:
1:: every taxi ride in Salvador starts off with R$ 2.50 . Make sure your taxi driver turn the meter on.
2:: there are 2 different kind of 'flagging'. Flag 1 and Flag 2.
about flag 1 Flag one is cheaper and is used when : there are less than 3 people in the taxi (not counting the driver); it's week days before 10 pm and after 6 am; it's saturday before 2 pm;
about flag 2: Flag 2 is more expensive and used when: it's week days between 10pm and 6 am; there are more than 2 people in the car; the client asks for air conditioning; the client carries heavy luggage; if the destination is outside Salvador (therefore it's always flag 2 to the airport).
Here's a hint: prefer taxis that are registered in an union (Disque-taxi, Tele-taki) and have a phone number showing on the back window - at least in those you have who to complain to if you feel robbed or overcharged.
Here are some call-taxi numbers:
Takes all credit cards, except Hipercard.
Special offer: no R$2,20 call tax! They have insurance for passengers.
Takes Visa, American Express, Mastercard
If you pay cash,they don´t charge the R$ 2,20 tax.
Takes all credit cards
The tax will only be charged if you pay with check.
Takes all credit cards, except Hipercard.
No call tax.
Rádio Táxi Cometas (or COMTAS, they have a pinetree logo)
TOURIST TRAP! THEY ARE EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE AND OFFER NO BETTER SERVICE! THIS IS THE TAXI HOTELS AND AIRPORTS WILL TRY TO MAKE YOU TAKE, SO BE CAREFUL!