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help with planning trip to Brazil

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Hi all,
My husband and I are going to Brazil at the end of August for 2 weeks. The plan is to spend half the time in the Rio area, with some possible side trips including Ilha grande and the other half in Bahia: Salvador and surrounding areas. We are looking to be budget travelers, though we would still like to have a private room and bathroom. The question is whether or not we need to book places to stay in advance. I know that it is low season which makes me think it might be ok to wing it. I am hesitant to book things before we know where we will want to be and for how long, but I don't want to end up without a place to stay! Anyone have any advice on the matter? I really appreciate any thoughts and ideas and would also welcome any specific recommendations for those areas:places to stay, things to do/see etc.
Thanks!!

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    Well school holidays have finished and there are no more public holidays until September so you should be alright regarding availibility. Weather is fairly settled in late August. Morro de São Paulo will be pretty quiet if you were planning on going there.

    There are any number of accomodation options in both cities. For the sake of amenity I would suggest you confine your search to areas well on the beaten track. In Salvador that means the Centro Historico (Pelourinho and Santo Antônio) or Barra. these have the biggest concentrations of pousadas and hostels. The Laranjeiras is a good hostel choice in the Pelourinho, they have private rooms. For Barra, perhaps you might consider Noa Noa, near the farol. The people there are quite sweet. Do bear in mind that Brazil isn't a cheap destination.

    If you want somewhere really cheap, then the cheapest place that would be tolerable for the average tourist would be the Portal de Politeama in Centro. The rooms are clean if somewhat austere. Bear in mind it gets a bit of traffic from locals consumating their trysts but that shouldn't really be a problem. Location is good, half way between Barra and the Centro Historico. I doubt any of the staff speak English, if that's an issue.

    Things to do in Salvador would fill a book and I'm sure you have access to all the usual guidebooks. A personal tip outside the usual tourist traps is to take the train to Plataforma for lunch, have the best moqueca in town at Boca de Galinha and then take a oat back across to Ribeira for a superb icecream. Very cheap trip and the lunch can't be beaten.

    Sidetrips? I'd recommend a day on the beach in Gurajuba, a day trip over to Itaparica (keep going to the township, don't just stop in Mar Grande or Bom Despacho) and an overnighter in Cachoeira/São Félix.

    If you have any detailed or specific questions about Salvador, feel free to ask and I'll try and answer them.

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    I can`t talk about Salvador, but I can give some advices about Rio. If you want to see cariocas's life you have to find a hotel in Ipanema or Leblon. The beaches are fantastic and near to Copacabana, you can walk from one to others. In this area you can walk to wonderfull restaurants and visit (walking too) Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, o Forte de Copacabana and this 3 beaches.
    By subway you can go to the center, that is extremelly beautifull. Choose a week day because on Sunday or Saturday is extremelly dangerous. Visit all! If you like ferryboats you can go to a little island nearby or to a Niterói to visit MAC (a museum designed by Niemeyer, our famous architect).
    Of course you have to visit Pão de Açucar e o Cristo! Oh, if you like to know more about nightlife you have to visit Lapa and go to a show of samba. Finally, to visit a traditional neyghborhood took the "bondinho" to visit Santa Tereza. Please, go there during the day! I think the best way to arrive in those places is by taxi.
    Outside Rio you can visit Ilha Grande, if you like snorkling that's good idea and Parati (beach cities). Or you can visit Petropolis, very beautifull too.
    If you wanna know something particulary let me know.
    Querols.

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