Porto Seguro: As safe as the name suggests?

Porto Seguro, which means Safe Port in English, is a fun little seaside city some 11,000 kilometres north of Rio de Janeiro. Nick, my latest travel buddy, and I decided to shoot up there in one sitting on our way to the north. Seventeen long hours after boarding in Rio we arrived with sore backs and tender rears.

I always try to travel at night as much as possible. Sleep may be broken but the body clock stays somewhat in kilter and there is an added advantage in saving the price of one night’s accommodation.

In Porto Seguro, we stayed in a small hostel beside the tiny airport that services the town. Our host was Sergio, a retired movie producer whose English was better than our Portuguese and who gave us much needed unsolicited advice. He was great.

porto seguroThe main street of Porto Seguro. I lost my trusty four year old camera here, so this is all I have….

The town itself is quaint. Unlike many other cities in the state of Bahia, wooden buildings are in good repair and freshly painted in bright cheerful colours. Businesses appear to be thriving from copious amounts of Brazilian tourists – international tourists were nowhere to be seen. If tacky souvenirs is your thing, you’ll find them here in spades and, like many such coastal resorts, printed t-shirts with questionable motifs abound.

Arraial D’Ajuda

It is definitely worth taking the ferry over the Buranhém River to check out Arraial D’Ajuda (Village of Help); it may even be worth staying there for a night or two. The ferry costs 5 reais return and the minibuses at the other side are a mere 3 reais into the little town.

Arraial D'AjudaThe streets of Arraial D’Ajuda are lush and well kept; the beach is amazing here too

The town seems to exist exclusively to service tourists and it is packed with restaurants and bars and not much else. Fine by us.

Crime in Porto Seguro

Nick and I discussed how nice it was to just relax after spending so long in Rio, a beautiful city marred by high crime, where one is perpetually slightly on edge. We remarked how aptly the town was named in Porto Seguro (Safe Port) and how family-friendly the place was.

And then we had a drink with some Brazilian guys and things went a little pear-shaped. There is always trouble in paradise.

We were chatting away in our limited Portuguese, of which Nick has more than me (mine close to zero), when one of the guys ‘discovered’, with a little too much animation to be wholly convincing, that his phone was missing. We all helped search but no phone was found.

Over the course of ten minutes frowns deepened and dark suspicious looks came our way. Not liking where the situation was going we smiled and emptied our pockets to prove we hadn’t swiped the missing device. This did not placate them. Of course it didn’t – I think they call it a ‘shake down’ in the industry.

Bar patrons started to scurry away. Nick literally clashed heads with a fat member of the crew and tempers quickly began to fray… Nick’s mostly. I could see he was moments away from tearing off his shirt, a signature move I had witnessed before and was reluctant to see repeated.

We eventually walked away followed by our three unholy disciples. They caught up with us again in the town centre. After another altercation, one side in profanity-laden English and the other, I suspect, in equally profanity-laden Portuguese, we managed to slip away.


Perhaps Porto Seguro is not so well-named after all. Or maybe we were just unlucky. Either way, keep your wits about you…