Patrick Bruha

Patrick Bruha

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Salvador Public Transit

Patrick Bruha

Patrick Bruha

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Brazilian public transport is defective, which makes traveling in Brazil difficult. In this article you will learn how it works in Salvador, the richest and most populated city in the Northeastern region, noted for its gastronomy, architecture and music and named a world heritage by the UNESCO.

Salvador is home to more than 2.8 million people, making it the third most populated city in Brazil and the eighth most populated city in Latin America. As one of the cities hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, it still has one of the most unreliable public transport systems in Brazil. A subway system which is not quite ready and traffic which is prejudicial to bus transportation, rendering the use of public transportation in Salvador very difficult.

Moreover, the land of Salvador is full of hills and cut by deep valleys, dividing it into the Lower Town and the Upper Town, complicating urban transport, specially in the Northern part of the city.

Changes to the transportation system are being made and subway stations are being built in order to improve the system and ease the overcrowded buses. The main catalyst of these changes is FIFA World Cup 2014.


Since the subway was not, until June 2014, an option for public transport in Salvador, 52% of the inhabitants have to go to work, home or school by bus. Despite being the third most populated city in Brazil, Salvador has a total fleet of less than 2500 buses, the smallest amongst Brazil´s most important cities.

A total of 18 companies share the responsibility for operating all 510 bus lines. This was cited as one of the main reasons why bus transportation is not as good as it might be: the companies compete for the same users, often for the same route, worsening, without purpose, the already chaotic traffic.

There are four main bus terminals - Lapa, Mussurunga, Pirajá e Iguatemi - and a single ticket to travel on Salvador’s buses costs BRL 2,80. The bus system operates by electronic ticketing - SalvadorCard. Three lines make an exception to this and the cost is BRL 3,00: Imbui-Sé, Iguatemi-Sé and Iguatemi-Comércio.

The city is divided into four zones:

  • A - Subúrbio, which is portuguese for Suburb
  • B - Miolo, which is portuguese for Core
  • C - Orla, which is portuguese for Seaside
  • D - Centro, which is portuguese for City Centre

A map of each zone, as well as the bus routes, can be seen on the TranSalvador website.

A single fare ticket allows a person one single bus journey allowing them to get off wherever they want, whether in the same zone as point of boarding or another zone. If the person wants to take another bus, they will have to buy another single fare ticket. But, with the implementation of SalvadorCard, a bus passenger can leave the zone where they were and take a second bus in another zone within a period of up to 3 hours and pay only one fare.

Among the main complaints that inhabitants of Salvador make regarding bus transportation is the fact that they take too long to arrive at their destination, they are overcrowded and their maintenance is poor.


After 14 years of work, the Salvador subway network is almost ready. A section of 6,6 km of Line 1 was opened in June 2014. The only stations that are in operation are Lapa, Campo da Pólvora, Brotas e Acesso Norte. In July 2014, the Retiro station will be opened, adding 7,3 km.

As of June 2014, the Salvador Subway is operating under “Assisted Operation”, which means it is toll-free, however it works only from 12:00 to 16:00. The Assisted Operation will continue until 15th September 2014, when regular operation is initialised. The service hours will then be from 5:00 to 00:00, and tickets will be BRL 3,10, with the option for a connecting transfer to a bus for BRL 3,90.

Line 2 is expected to start operating with only two stations in October 2015. Bonocô, one of the first stations to be opened, will enable connecting transfers between Line 1 and Line 2. Gradually, new stations will be added to complete the Subway Line 2, linking the centre of the city to the city airport.

When it is finished, Salvador’s subway will have a total length of 41,8 km , 17,1 in Line 1 and 24,2 in Line 2.

Stations where places of interest are located nearby will be:

  • Lapa: Piedade Square
  • Campo da Pólvora: Ruy Barbosa Forum, Arena Fonte Nova Stadium
  • Brotas: Arena Fonte Nova Stadium

In addition, there are some stations with connecting transfers to major bus lines:

  • Lapa
  • Acesso Norte


SalvadorCard is the electronic ticketing system used for bus transportation in Salvador. It is used by 350.000 people and allows its users a whole set of benefits:

  • Half-priced fares for students
  • Free connecting transfers for the first bus ride in another zone
  • Online charging

Purchase of more than 30 tickets is subject to a service charge, ranging from BRL 0,56 to BRL 1,40. Online charges expire 20 business days after their validation.


The conventional taxis in Salvador – the white ones – charge an initial price of BRL 4,00 for a journey but the price per kilometer varies according to the fare applied. The regular fare, called Bandeira 1, is applied to journeys between Monday and Friday from 6:00 and 21:00 and Saturdays from 6:00 and 14:00, the cost per kilometer is BRL 2,04. There is a surcharge, called Bandeira 2 that is applied during the week after 21:00 and before 6:00, on Saturdays after 14:00, on Sundays, on holidays, during the whole month of December and for trips to and from the airport at any time. The cost per kilometer of Bandeira 2 is BRL 2,85.

Elevators and cable railways

The solution found by Antônio de Lacerda, a rich visionary, to the problems of the cliffs in Salvador was the construction of an elevator, in 1873. The Lacerda lift is 72 meters high and links the Cairu Square in the Lower City and the Thomé de Souza Square in the Upper Town. It is equipped with four cabins, each with capacity for 32 passengers. It is now one of the main tourist attractions in Salvador. The Lacerda Lift transports 28.000 passengers a day and the fare is BRL 0,15.

There are three funiculars linking the Lower Town to the Upper Town in Salvador: Gonçalves, Pilar and Liberdade-Calçada. The most famous of them is the Plano Inclinado Gonçalves, that links the Comércio district to the Pelourinho, the main tourist point in Salvador. Due to poor maintenance of the cables its operations were suspended in February 2011 and it reopened in February 2014. It transports an average of 9.000 people a day. The price for a one-way ticket costs BRL 0,15.