Carnaval in Salvador – Tips For Trio Elétricos & Camarotes
Bands and singers from Bahia spend the entire year dreaming up and composing the songs that will rock the trios elétricos of Salvador during Carnaval. If you don’t know anything yet about Carnaval in Salvador de Bahia, you will greatly benefit by reading this post.
What Is A “Trio Elétrico”? What Is A “Bloco”?
The world famous Carnaval celebration in the Bahian capital city Salvador is centered around a huge parade down the main street of Salvador that anyone can participate in. And the trio elétricos are arguably the most important element of this whole experience. Trio elétricos are slow-moving trucks which the singers and bands (some of the most famous in brazil) perform on top of, and the show lasts from one end of the street to the other end.
If you observe the picture above, you may notice that there is actually order to the chaos. See how there are people wearing green shirts forming a perimeter around the trio elétrico? Well, these people are actually holding hands and essentially working as a human barrier (these are paid workers), to keep some people in to walk with the trio eletrico, and to keep others out. Basically, you pay to follow the trio elétrico and to stay “inside” the human-chain by purchasing a special shirt. The part inside the human chain around the trio elétrico is called a bloco. And the shirt is your entrance pass to the bloco. These shirts in Portuguese are called “abadás”. So, every trio elétrico, meaning every band, designs a different abadá for carnival every year. And as long as you are wearing the shirt, you can go in and out of the human chain surrounding the trio elétrico as you please. So, as the trio elétrico moves slowly down the street, (it takes about 3 or 4 hours from start to finish) everyone who has purchased the appropriate abadá to gain entrance into the trio elétrico moves slowly down the street with it, dancing to the music of the band that is playing on top. Every day of carnaval in Salvador, there are many different trio elétricos to choose from. So every day, you could buy the abadá for a different one. Or, if you are feeling like being safer and staying relatively clean, you might want to opt for a camarote
Tips for Trios Elétricos:
- Shop around and buy your abadá in advance. You will find people selling them on the street all around the center of Salvador, so ask different people how much they are selling them for to price shop. Or even better, buy the shirt off a friend, or at least find someone who is Brazilian to negotiate for you.
- No girl goes into the trio elétrico wearing their shirt/abadá the way they bought it. Guys, it’s ok to leave your abadá the way you bought it. Girls, on the other hand are known to buy their shirts in advance and have them professionally modified by a tailor to be different from everyone else (in brazil this is very inexpensive). If you are interested, I have written a guide to transforming your abadá (with some great examples) Here. For those of you who buy your abadá shirts last minute, the sellers also try to make some extra money by selling you the use of their scissors (usually R $2), so that you can alter your shirt yourself:
- Wear tennis shoes. Your feet will get stepped and jumped on…many times.
- While in the bloco, try to stay nearer to the center, close to the trio elétrico truck. Because if you stay on the fringes that are closer to the outside, near the human chain, you will probably get robbed and grabbed at many times by people on the outside.
- Just know that you will probably be offered drugs. The most popular drug in the blocos is called lança perfume, it’s a euphoric drug made from ethyl chloride that people carry around in perfume bottles and spray onto a towel (read more about lança perfume Here). They put their face to the towel and inhale to get high off of it. So, that’s what’s going on when you see people breathing into towels.
- Expect to get very very dirty.
- Expect not to be able to hear anything for a few hours after the trio elétrico is over.
What Is A Camarote?
This is what a camarote looks like:
Camarotes are a step up from the trio elétrico in terms of safety and in terms of classiness. In my opinion, everyone should try partaking in the trio elétrico at least once, it’s an intense, raw and wild experience to put it mildly. But camarotes can be a good alternative during carnaval in Salvador when you still want to party, but you don’t want to feel like you could be trampled and groped by people at any moment. To get into a Camarote, you will have to buy the abadá for the Camarote that you want to go to, and they are generally more expensive than the trio elétrico abadás. But price varies by camarote, the ones towards the end of the street tend to be most desirable and most expensive. Camarotes are basically like clubs that look out onto the street and have open bars. So, you get to see the trio elétricos passing by and hear all of the trio elétrico music, but there is also a dj and a dance floor (or multiple dance floors) in the camarote itself. Camarotes give out little promotional gifts and you can get your photo taken inside professionally so that you don’t have to bring your own camera, things like that.
Tips for Going to A Camarote:
- Arrive at your camarote early, ideally before the trio elétricos begin to make their way down the street. Remember that the more the street begins to fill with people, the more dangerous and impossible it will be for you to navigate your way to the camarote.
- Once you are in the camarote, don’t leave the camarote. Very dangerous idea.
- Everything about re-designing your abadá for the blocos also applies to the camarote abadás.
- Provided you get there early, it is OK to secretly bring your camera into a camarote. But i will say this, and this is very important: have a super secret, strategic and secure location for your camera transportation. People on your way there will be putting their hands into your pockets, and they will be trying to rip things off of you (like purses – never bring a purse to carnaval). So just remember that. Only take your camera out when you are inside the camarote and when you are about to use it.
So, that’s my summary of trio elétricos, blocos and camarotes: the three most important things to know about if you are a gringo planning on spending carnaval in salvador. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!