Do not go to El Salvador. It is dangerous. You will be mugged. I encountered that attitude a lot. It is a fact that the capital, San Salvador is one of the world´s most violent cities. Murder, rape, kidnapping, and mugging are happening daily. But most of them are gang-related and not to tourists. Tourists bring money into a country. After I met this guy from Denmark in a bus who was raving of Santa Ana my decision was made. I think it is very important to build your own opinion. For me the people in El Salvador were the most welcoming, authentic, and helpful locals I met in Central America. Maybe because there are less tourists yet.
My plan was to go directly to Santa Ana. But when I arrived in San Miguel it just started to get dark so I decided to stay in the hotel del centro for the night. It was only 10 USD and felt more like a motel. The next morning I walked through the food markets and found those amazing baked sweet potatoes. That was the moment when I knew I am going to have a great time in El Salvador 😉
I couldn’t have asked for a better host in Santa Ana. He was very thoughtful, smart, and great to talk to. He took me to the most beautiful bar in the city (Tejita), accompanied me for a walk downtown, and drove me to the lake for the sunset. And his mum spoilt me with her delicious cooking. On Sunday I joined them to the church. Many people are religious in Central America. Another day we went to San Salvador in one of those clubs (only accessible if you are a member) where you can eat, swim, play tennis, and do other sports. As a tourist there is not much to do in San Salvador. I felt like a part of the family. Something that is precious if you don´t know when you will see your own family again.
I had a little accident in Costa Rica. The surfboard hit me on my right shoulder. Nothing serious but there were days the pain was so strong that I had difficulties to breathe. When my host told me that he knows a great osteopath (10 USD) that cured his dad when he couldn’t stretch his arm anymore after dengue fever and that she is blind I knew that she is going to be the right person for my back.
Volcano Santa Ana
There is only one bus per day that leaves to the volcano. The bus number 248 leaves at 7:30 am (1.80 USD /duration: 90 mins) and the tour starts at 11:30 am. It is recommended to go with a guide (1 USD) and a policeman. Sometimes there are bandits. Entrance to the park is 3 USD and entrance to the volcano is 6 USD. Bring a sweater, sunscreen and enough water with you. It is very windy up there. It almost blown me off. The hike was 4 hours total.
- Couchsurfing is popular in Santa Ana. Didn’t check other places.
- hostel: between 8-10 dollars
Most typical and only in El Salvador: Pupusas (0.35-0.60 USD for 1). Handmade Fried thick tortillas filled with meat and cheese. Very greasy. Also with beans, pumpkin or carrots available. Many locals eat them everyday.
Very common: fresh coconut water with a piece of the meat in a plastic bag with a straw (0.75 USD).
Breakfast: 1-1.50 USD
Lunch and dinner: 2.50-3.50 USD
My recommendation: Take advantage of the fresh vegetables and fruits (e.g. 3 avodados for 1 USD, 10 bananas for 1 USD) from the local market and cook.
Coffee: 0.20 USD (instant coffee). Do not drink the tap water.
Around 1 USD per hour. The bus I took from San Miguel to San Salvador was big and directly and therefore more (5 USD).
Official currency: US dollar
Many speak Spanish and English. Mainly because many El Salvadorians studied or brought up in the US.
Do not be afraid of all the people who are wearing long guns. That is normal. Only 25 years ago (1991) ended a big civil war. Like anywhere else it is important to be careful and use plain common sense. It is safe to walk around during daytime. There are some neighbourhoods you should avoid. I did not feel unsafe any moment.
El Salvador has only two seasons. The dry season from November to April to and the rainy season from May to October. It was hot during the day but in the evening it got fresh (end of January). It is best to visit during the dry season and to avoid the hottest time of the year (March-April) when humidity levels are particularly high.
Border crossing to Guatemala
- bus 210 from Santa Ana to Ahuachapán: 0.50 USD
- bus to border (Aduana Terrestre Las Chinamas): 0.50 USD
- exit El Salvador: free. Walk over the bridge and through the markets (10 mins).
- entrance Guatemala: free
- bus to Guatemala City (30 Quetzals or 5 USD). Ask to get dropped off for the bus to Antigua. Walk 10 mins.
- bus to Antigua: 10 Quetzals
- total duration: 7h