I traveled to El Salvador after Honduras, it was an easy transition. At similar cost, maybe even cheaper, Spanish speaking country, same kind of food and kind people. I experienced that El Salvador is less touristy than neighbor Guatemala. El Salvador is usually skipped mainly due to the negative and violent headlines in the news; of which I didn’t notice any of it in the touristic places. I didn’t visit San Salvador for that reason to be honest. Not enough time but preferred to stay at the beach and more touristic places. Here I will describe my experiences and hope you find this useful tips.
As a Dutch citizen we don’t need to request a Visa, we get one in our passport for three months when we arrive in the country. Please check your visa status when traveling to El Salvador. Strangely enough you don’t get a stamp at the El Salvadorian border. They look at the stamp of the country you leave, in my instance Guatemala. This means the exit stamp and date is the entry for El Salvador.
Several websites show different recommendations for vaccinations. For El Salvador you are required to have these standard essential vaccinations: Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine, Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio vaccine and varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. I got an extra shot of Measles because I was not sure I got it in the past and to make sure I was covered I took a shot. Beside these vaccinations I have the recommended vaccinations: Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Optional vaccinations are Hepatitis B, Yellow Fever and Rabies.
I got a three days emergency package of Malaria pills with me for my entire trip to Central America. Have you been feverish or flu-like in the tropics for more than 24 hours? Keep in mind that it may be Malaria. Go to a hospital to have your blood tested for Malaria. Preferably consult with your travel insurance company about a good hospital on the spot. Does research show that you have Malaria; use the emergency package of Malaria pills (Malarone) as treatment; no need to take the pills during the whole trip.
All I heard when I told people I went traveling to Central and South America: “Is it safe?” “A woman all by herself!” And all I can say, you have to be cautious and be prepared. I wrote a separate blog on Safety during my travels; Travel Tips to keep Safe.
The local people in El Salvador are very friendly; I haven’t experienced any unsafe moments even at night, just stay alert and keep your head clear.
I used mainly chicken/local buses in El Salvador. The way of traveling was not that easy like in Guatemala; the shuttles didn’t run every day and not to all the other touristic places. I further used a taxi to the airport. In El Tunco more shuttles run to Guatemala and surrounded countries.
Tip: Check the CentralCoasting Website; on all the travel tips and routes in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
Compared to other Central American counties, I found El Salvador cheaper than Guatemala. In El Salvador you can only pay in US$; all the ATM’s provide you with US$. At the border you can change the old currency to US$. Easy to calculate; everything is priced in US$!
Tip: Bring some cash US$ with you in case of emergency.
You can buy a SIM card for your phone, but I only used the WIFI at the hotels and restaurants; it’s available everywhere, no need to buy extra data in my opinion.
Before I left to Central America and Belize I already downloaded the app; Maps.me. This is an off-line map provider. You download parts of a country in advance where you intent to go. This was very helpful by walking in the city streets where there was no reception and you still can find your way!