Attractions: Salvador is a historic city with so much to see and do! There are more than enough beaches with their own character. You can access these through the bus system for a quick weekend trip. Pelourinho is a famous neighborhood and CIEE will take you there a couple of times. It also has its own nightlife, museums, & dance/music classes.
Bahia state has more attractions (beaches, landscapes, etc.). Many of my friends and I traveled to Morro de São Paulo, Chipada Diamintina, and other places.
Food: Feijão! You will eat a ton of it. It was served for me basically weekly by my host mom. There is access and opportunity for other foods as well.
I suggest you find a nice açaí place and eat a ton of it. Getting açaí with friends was a highlight of my time in Salvador. We even became friends with local business owners which is always nice. By the way, açaí is comparable with frozen yogurt, but it is served with other fruits (mixed) and granola. Yum!
Housing: In any study abroad situation, housing can be a hit or miss. In my case, it was definitely a hit! I spent my six months in Brazil with a very loving and caring family. I stayed in a really nice and modern penthouse apartment that featured a rooftop pool (awesome, I know!) in the Graça neighborhood of Salvador. My house was about a 10-15 minute walk from the beach in Barra and a 7-10 minute walk from Shopping Barra, a mall. It was an hour walk from UCSal, one of the university, but about a 5 minute walk to the bus stop.
Moreover, my host mother prepared 3 meals a day for me and was very flexible and accommodating if I needed to pack a lunch or would be missing the usual mealtime. I had my own room with built-in storage space. Frequently my host mother would change my bedding and sweep the floors. She also took care of my laundry.
The best part of the housing situation was my host family. I felt included in family events and often accompanied my family to relative’s houses. I had the opportunity to meet their extended family and engage in conversations to practice my language skills. I will say the key to establishing a great connection with your homestay is to communicate your absolute needs, understand your homestay’s expectations, and remain flexible and respectful.
Local Celebrations: If you choose to study abroad in the Spring you will have the opportunity to attend Iemanja, Carnaval, and Páscoa celebrations (possibly São João if you are there during June). Each celebrations is its own, but all will involve lots of people and lots of fun!
Transportation & Travel: The bus system in Salvador is ‘iffy’ at best, but it’s a fun and new experience. Rather than ‘googling’ bus routes, you have to memorize route numbers/locals. This will help you learn the city better, but you will be off to a rough start. I suggest mapping out the local just so you have an ideal of what is in what particular direction.