Overwhelmed trying to figure out Salvador carnaval?

All of these famous groups playing, but … surely you can’t just show up? How do you get into these viewing stages? What time do things start? Why is everyone dressed in the same clothes? 

Unfortunately, the carnaval websites in Brazilian Portuguese don’t really help — even with the aid of Google Translate. Or, maybe you got to the point where you are ready to buy, but the site won’t accept your US address format. And … what is a CPF?

I totally feel your pain, and I was you just a few years ago.

I remember landing in Salvador for my first carnaval — full of excitement to finally be a part of this ginormous event I had heard so much about. My Brazilian Portuguese was iffy, but I had been to Salvador twice before — once, just two months earlier — and knew I could figure it out.

Little did I know just how wrong I was.

My first morning I went to meet a girlfriend from the US who was also attending her first carnaval. A local friend of ours said that we needed “fantasia” (Portuguese for costumes) so we went to the lower city and bought masks and feather boas. We showed up on one of the carnaval circuits with our costumes, pleased as punch with ourselves.

But our pride quickly turned to dismay when we realized that this was not what was meant by fantasia (costumes) — we actually needed to buy specific clothes from the group that function as admission tickets. As you can tell, we eventually sorted it out and had a FANTASTIC time, but I became acutely aware that without a good working knowledge of Salvador and Brazilian Portuguese, carnaval is really hard to navigate.

If you have been reading and nodding along thinking, “this will totally be me,” I would love to help.

Two women dressed for carnival

Me and Betsy

Carnaval 2015 in our Cortejo Afro fantasia

What our clients are saying

I used Jen to help me during Salvador’s crazy world famous Carnaval. I contacted her the day before going and within 12 hours I had reservations to be in a Barra Ondina bloco 2 days later!

She met me on the street near my place with my Abada the next day and filled me in how it works, what to do, and what not to do. It couldn’t have been more smooth using Jen.

Thanks Jen!

Matt J / Minneapolis, MN

Your website is very informative for any foreigner who has no experience with Carnaval in Salvador.

This gave me the confidence to do business with you without looking at alternatives.

We got a fantastic itinerary tailored to our needs.

J&J / USA

The team that will bring your memories to life

I am Jen Waak, an American living in Salvador who wants to help make the magic of Salvador accessible to more people — particularly those that don’t speak Brazilian Portuguese well yet. I’ve spent two decades as a program manager at some of the world’s largest companies, so I know how to organize and get stuff done.

My husband is Bira Santos, a Salvador native and professional musician of 20+ years who has played in carnaval more times than he can count and has a tremendous amount of pride for his city, his Afro-Brazilian culture, and his country. He knows the city and the people and who to call to facilitate a fantastic carnaval experience.

Jen and Bira Santos

Carnaval 2020

Choose your adventure: we take care of everything

The services we offer range from the most basic — help buy your bloco or camarote ticket — all the way to complete trip planning.

Sample services include:

  • Purchase your camarote (viewing stand) ticket for you and get the ticket, typically a shirt, to you. We charge your what we pay for the ticket, plus a minimal service fee.
  • Purchase and pick up a ticket for you so you can walk with your favorite band/artist in their bloco. We’ll then arrange to get necessary outfit (adabá or fantasia) to you. We charge your what we pay for the ticket, plus a minimal service fee.
  • Help you choose a camarote and/or bloco, plus ticket purchase and delivery. Price varies.
  • Complete trip planning. We’ll help you find a place to stay, make the deposit, and work with you to create an itinerary you will love. Price varies.

How it works and pricing

Carnaval is about celebration, having a good time, and letting go of your worries. We embrace that 100% and want to make your Carnaval planning as simple as possible. No complex websites or forms to fill out. Just a couple of emails typically takes care of it all.

The general process is:

  1. You email us or with how we can help make your carnaval experience exceptional
  2. We will promptly respond with a quote — or if we aren’t the right people to help, we’ll point you in the right direction
  3. You send an initial deposit, typically 50%. Deposit can be paid via credit card or PayPal via a link I’ll send you
  4. Magic happens here and we get you ready for carnaval
  5. You arrive in Salvador and the final balance is paid when the services are complete. Final payment can be made via credit card, PayPal, or Brazilian Reais
Man dressed in costume at Salvador carnival

Carnaval 2018

Walking with Cortejo Afro on the Barra-Ondina route.

Pricing

Our minimum service fee is just $30 USD (rush fees apply if you contact us the week before or week of Carnaval). We take care of all of the nitty-gritty details so you can focus on enjoying your carnaval experience. Our goal is to help you enjoy carnaval from start to finish!

Our promise to you with pricing is to always be up-front and stick to the established quote for all pieces in our control. Since our work together involves third parties, if and when things change with them, we will communicate with you as quickly as possible so we can course-correct together.

Delivery

All items are available for pick-up in Barra — an easy-to-access, tourist-friendly neighborhood — by appointment only. Delivery to other neighborhoods by special request only and may involve an additional fee.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!

-Jen and Bira