Saturday, May 20, 2006

VirtualTourist site on El Salvador

I often get asked for tips about travel to El Salvador. One English language website with a great deal of information is the El Salvador section at This site contains reports from travelers who have recently been to El Salvador and includes places to see, restaurant reviews, safety tips, photos and more.

Here is a sample of the travel journal from one traveler:

Never had I heard as many horror stories about a country as I heard about El Salvador. 'You're gonna get shot or robbed if you leave your hotel room' was the best one. Typically though, most of these warnings started off with 'I heard that,' 'my friend said,' 'I read that,' 'someone told me that.' People who haven't even been here somehow have become experts and manage to scare people into believing this garbage. Sure there are robberies and gang-related crimes, but they exist in LA, New York and Miami too and I never hear anyone telling people not to go there. No one I met in El Salvador, or spoke to on my trip that had visited El Salvador, had a single bad thing to say about the place. So people need to shut up when they don't know what they're talking about.

El Salvador was my favorite country in Central America. While I didn't see a whole lot of the country and only spent two weeks there, it just felt like the most amazing destination. Number one, the people. El Salvador is the least-visited country in Central America and the place hasn't been overrun like Guatemala or Costa Rica. The people I met were genuinely friendly and interested. Many would ask why I came to El Salvador and how I liked it. When I said it was beautiful and the people were so friendly they would get a big smile on their faces. They know how their country is perceived in the rest of the world so to see people actually come there makes them very happy. Second, the scenery. The mix of hills, lakes, cities, volcanoes, mountains and beaches in such a small area of land is incredible. Even though I spent more time and learned more in Nicaragua, El Salvador just had something special about it that made me love it. Viva El Salvador!


David Bloom said...

I am a Tourism Specialist living in El Salvador for many years and before that, neighboring Guatemala. Some people travel to El Salvador and are very critical, comparing it to Guatemala or Costa Rica, you see there are no big "destinations" for travellers in El Salvador such as Antigua, Manuel Antonio Park or Tikal. Our national parks, mayan ruins, monuments and villages may be small in comparison to other Central American countries but our heart is big. There are no tourist hordes hereabouts,during the week the beaches are practically void of anyone but some locals and surfers..all yours.. I am associated with Hugo Villarroel, a journalist now specializing in tourism, we operate a Periodico & Guia del Turismo called ZONA AZUL, based in Puerto de La Libertad, hoping soon to commence with our Website and Newspaper in English as well as Spanish to attract visitors from abroad. We need your assistance so do call us if you are in El Salvador and have photos or HTML skills.
David Bloom T. 2512-6637 San Salvador
Hugo Villarroel T. 2346-1127 Puerto de La Libertad.

David Bloom said...

More and more...folks are beginning to discover the beauty, charm and friendly people of El Salvador, "Central America's Hidden Gem"



The following suggestions are put together for anyone traveling to El Salvador, whether it be to visit friends or relatives, for business or just for a visit of the country.

How to Pack: El Salvador is hot and humid any time of the year. Rainy season begins usually at the beginning of May and runs through October, so plan accordingly. Bring light weight clothing, but appropriate clothing. In many rural areas it is still inappropriate for women to wear pants and especially shorts so be sure to pack some skirts, sisters, just in case! You’ll see few bikinis on El Salvador’s public beaches as in the resort areas of Costa Rica and Mexico.Good shoes. Please bring comfortable shoes. Even if you hire a driver or tour operator to transport you or rent a car in El Salvador some hiking and walking will be required to explore off the beaten path, and it won't always be down paved sidewalks, more often mountain trails, so bring some good, sturdy and comfortable hiking shoes. Leave all your valuables you will not need at home. No flashy jewelry, no fancy watches, nothing that will make you stand out in the humble villages you are bound to visit. Remember, the contents of your luggage could contain more than a humble person may possess in a lifetime.

Travelling around: In the modern cities of San Salvador and San Miguel as well as in Santa Ana you will find the modern "MetroCentro" malls boasting everything from supermarkets to tattoo parlors where the young imitate US dress and styles, chatting endlessly on the cellular phones! ATM machines and Banks are located in the modern shopping centers and accept most all international credit and debit cards, paying out in USD, the currency of legal tender in El Salvador since 2000. The shopping malls have their own private guard services avoid using ATMs on the street or outside buildings alone at especially at night. When travelling to to beach or countryside bring only as much cash as you feel you'll need for meals and small purchases, some of the larger coastal restaraunts and all of the resort hotels accept credit cards. For large purchases in the city, use credit card. Never leave valuables unattended in a parked vehicle unless locked securely in the trunk. Never discuss your travel itinerary with overly friendly strangers nor tell anyone where you are lodging.

Getting There: There are several flights daily into San Salvador from the US Gateways of Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, New York, and Miami (as well as from Montreal and Toronto and other Central and South American cities, Flights direct from Europe into Cancun & Mexico City, Guatemala and San Jose, Costa Rica)). Shop around and start early and you may actually find a good deal. Don't rule out the national airline, Grupo Taca. View: Their international service is now at a par with the US carriers, often even they usually run a little cheaper. I the writer, work specifically with those planning to travel to El Salvador, Guatemala and the rest of Central America. If you notify me at least a month in advance of your departure I can give you some valuable information, either if you are travelling in a group or independently. There is also a website,, that generally has a couple of tickets to San Salvador up for auction, but we cannot vouch for their service, reliability, etc... we have only seen that they offer cheap rates. Read the fine print and study before making any purchases. The Consolidator, Exito Travel, based in the USA and dealing only with Latin Travel can be very helpful in planning a trip view:

US and Canadian Citizens no longer need to purchase a $10.00 tourist card when they arrive in El Salvador unless wishing to stay for 90 days, and the airport departure tax leaving El Salvador is generally $27.00-$34.00USD cash, check with your airline. (not included in the price of your ticket usually). Remember that the airport for El Salvador is near the coast, actually 45 kms. or 28 miles from the capital city (about a 45 minute ride to the capital). Those planning beach or coastal vacations in El Salvador will be glad to hear that resorts and hotels on the Pacific Coast are all accesible, some within minutes, from the airport by the Carretera Litoral or Coastal Highway CA2, no need to drive into or through San Salvador. There exist in El Salvador local tour operators/drivers and transportation companies who will arrange in advance to pick you up at the airport and transfer you to your Beach, San Salvador city or Countryside lodging place, or when travelling by first class or luxury bus services from either Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua/Costa Rica, the at the appropriate international bus terminal direct to your lodging place. Where to Stay San Salvador There are several unique places to stay in and around San Salvador.

Business and Upscale Travel: If you are a business person looking for first class hotels with world business class service try the Hotel Princess, El Presidente, Raddisson, or Holiday Inn located in the upscale San Benito, Escalón and Santa Elena neighborhoods of Metro San Salvador. Also some excellent 3 star hotels such as the Hotel-Casino Siesta offering discounts with advance reservations..have no fear, if you wish we’ll assist you to handle all the detail work for you in advance, and save you a bundle off the rack rate! Some of these 4 Star hotels are located in or near the Zona Rosa, a trendy area with expensive boutiques and restaurants.. It is quiet and very safe in the surrounding areas by day. The Holiday Inn is the newest large hotel in San Salvador. It is in the neighborhood of Santa Elena, just 3 blocks away from the U.S. Embassy. It is at the edge of town and will allow you to leave San Salvador for the western part of the country without having to fight the traffic of the capital city. Prices in these hotels range from $65-$100+ per night rack rate depending on how many occupants you will be traveling with. Book ahead.

Budget and Independent Travel: No doubt, if you are an independent traveller you are looking for something nice but less ritzy, try one of the many unique lodging places, bed and breakfasts and guest houses associated with us in and around San Salvador. They have private rooms and bathrooms, but are not as large as the hotels, generally with less than 15 rooms. Prices for the bed and breakfasts/guest houses range from $25-$75 per night depending the establishment and on how many beds you require. Cheaper accomodations can be found at some of the smaller hotels closer into town and around the National University area, which boasts a thriving "Bohemian" style nightlife. Most of these small hotels and guest houses offer excellent basic services for our travellers, especially those who wish to mix and socialize with natives and other travellers and of course, do not mind taking a cold shower in the early morning! Prices range from $6.00 per person in dorm rooms to $20.00-$25.00 double in some small guest houses offering breakfast, cable tv and hot water! . for anyone who wishes to stay on in El Salvador for a time and either work or volunteer in one of the ongoing releif projects or in humanitarian aid, before and after your arrival we are willing and able to assist you in finding home stay or long term room or apartment rentals from $60 month+. Home stay with native families in Indingenous Studies (Nahuat) and Spanish Language programs is also recommended and arrangements may be made with them on a weekly or monthly basis.

Getting Around: Transport - Public Transportation The buses in El Salvador are a thrill for those who have never experienced our "guanaco" mode of transport. If you enjoy a thrill, feel free to use the public bus system on your free time to get around. It can be slow at times, but it is extremely cheap. Even if you choose not to use the public transportation, you should take one bus ride just for the experience. There's nothing quite like it... believe us! All the organized tours for travelers are in insured vehicles with driver for your comfort and safety..and theirs as well! Taxis within the city of San Salvador are reliable. Do not walk alone nor take public transport after 8PM within San Salvador unless you are familiar with the area and route. Simply flag a taxi down on the street if you require to and determine the price to your destination before you get in the cab. There are also dispatch services that you can call from your lodging place and have pick you up. Most dispatch drivers have their own cell phones and you are able to contact them later for pick up. Try to avoid the "taxistas" at the luxury hotels, unless you are able to negociate in Spanish, or if not, try and have a native negociate price for you if possible. For visitors in San Salvador there are safe and sound city nightlife trips if desired: casas de arte, gallery showings, theatres, bars and restaurants with either a Salvadorian or international flavor, in the countryside (small towns) in El Salvador there exists little "night life" but the "right life" with El Salvadorian native guides or friends introducing you to our culture, cuisine and customs. Rental Cars: If you don't wish to drive contract transportation which is insured, with a local bonded company driver who knows the conditions and terrain, however for certain specialized archaeological and ecological trips it may be necessary for your group to rent a 4WD vehicle, one of several qualified native guides is able to conduct you if desired. Remember that rental car companies in Central America offer you two insurance options: 1. Basic: with a $1,000 to $1,200 deductible on your Credit Card at approx. $17 per day up insurance charges or 2. Full insurance, including all collision damages, fire and theft at approx. $60 per day insurance charges for a 4WD, if I were you, venturing to remote areas with rough terrain I would choose full insurance, a friend of mine recently did so in Nicaragua and saved $1,200! Again, economic car, $40-$55 for a four door sedan, $75-$100 for a large pickup or SUV. All these prices incluye insurance and 13%sales tax (IVA). What to see n' do: There are a few things you shouldn't miss while you are in El Salvador. Here are a few activities that you could do Either on your own or with a guide.

For those independent travelers wishing to take public transport to all of their destinations while visiting El Salvador, be advised to leave the bulk of your luggage, passport and valuables at hotel or friend's home. If going far leave early in the morning, most buses are running by 5AM. Buses are generally crowded, especially after 3PM and on weekends, there is excellent service on main bus routes such as San Salvador to Santa Ana (Ruta 201), San Salvador to San Miguel (Ruta 301) and San Salvador to Puerto Libertad (Ruta 102), however to more remote areas and smaller towns bus service can be sparse, in areas where there exists little or no public transport, you may need to hitchhike a ride on a pick up truck, giving driver a tip at arrival. Many of these pick ups often act as "public transport" for locals anyway.

Cerro Verde and Lake Coatepeque: These two destinations are beautiful, close to each other and not to be missed.

Cerro Verde National Park: a lush verdant park on a summit soaring above the lake with the famous view of Izalco’s Volcano and its still smoking cone. The lodge, where you may stay overnight, with volcano or lake view rooms, is run by the national tourist commission, reservations required. We obtain your permits to enter the park. The lake is very scenic with boat trips with local fishermen to the small island "Teopan" in the middle that is a holiday and weekend retreat for wealthy Salvadorians. Most of the island is a nature preserve and hiking on the trails is allowed, thousands of Monarch Butterflies in mating season and a bird sanctuary. Lake Coatepeque is a volcanic crater lake and there is a nice hotel and some small restaurants along the lake edge.

Montecristo Cloud Forest: This is one of the most beautiful hikes in all of Central America from the summit, which is reached by 4WD, coaster or minibus (standard vehicle not recommended) by winding dirt road 23Km. above the town of Metapan, located 35 Km. north of Santa Ana, near the Guatemalan frontier, a 1.5 hour drive from San Salvador. One of the few remaining cloud forests in Central America, Montecristo winds to the top where Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are all visible from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Orchid Gardens near to the Camping grounds…our organization provides camping and equipment on all our organized tours for those able, others may opt for country hotels. ..The park is administered by an NGO from the EU.

Life is a Beach!

Ocean Highway - Calle Litoral from La Libertad to Acajutla This coastal highway runs along the ocean front for seventy or eighty kilometers. It is a beautiful drive that winds along the hills and through a set of five tunnels. Take time to snap some photos and have lunch in La Libertad or Sonsonate. If you're eating in La Libertad try La Curva one of the nicer oceanside restaurants with a great view and wonderful food. Acajutla is a thriving port city and the nearby Los Cobanos Beach offers the adventure traveller deep sea fishing and diving excursions. For more detailed information on El Salvador's coastal desinations, unique lodging places and resorts contact the writer. At present, besides the 'Decameron' there are two new resorts very close to to the International Airport under operation and several more new unique lodging places along the coast, as well, tourism in the colonial and crafts villages and the countryside is increasing.

Ruta de Las Flores - Carreterra from Sonsonate to Ahuachapan Stop off in Nahuizalco and buy a few wicker souvenirs. The nahuizalqueños set up their shops right along the highway, but if you have time, go into the small town and visit some of the shops. The handicrafts are worth a few minutes of your time as is the market. Drive through Salcoatitan and take the detour into Juayua. If you're driving through on a weekend, they often have a market with traditional dishes set up around the central plaza. These are generally very clean and safe to eat. After Juayua visit Apaneca where you can have a bite to eat at the Cabañas de Apaneca and take in the view of the coffee fields and surrounding mountains. Continue to escape the heat by passing through Ataco on your way down to Ahuachapan. Chorros de Juayua: The Chorros de Juayua are a set of waterfalls outside of the town of Juayua. The hike down is not difficult, but the path is not easy to traverse. It is definitely worth it, though. The secenery around the waterfalls is beautiful and the hike down is also very scenic. **If a single or a couple alone..Ask the local police in Juayua if they would be willing to provide an escort as local thieves occassionally hide out along the trail. If you do encounter a thief, however, simply give him some money and be on your way. They are usually local teens that do not intend to harm anyone, but are looking for an easy buck. If you are the type who would rather be "safe than sorry" then The El Salvadorian National Tourist Police are also able to escort small groups on day tours, including eco tours, anywhere within El Salvador if you give them about two weeks notice, there is no charge, however tipping is expected. Police are very helpful to tourists, and if driving a rental car and are stopped, show your licence and car papers and you'll be on your way

Mayan Ruins: San Andres and Joyas de Cerén San Andres and Joyas de Cerén are two Mayan ruin sites. San Andres has a new museum that is excellent and offers free tours before examining the pyramids. If you have seen the majestic temple ruins in Copan, Mexico or Guatemala, don't expect much in "size" from these ruins, but more in "quality" We know native guides who are experts in every aspect of our Maya-Pipil culture..We ourselves are associated with 'Mundo Maya' (The Mayan World) organization. Joya de Cerén is the only "non royal" Mayan site existing in MesoAmerica, an ordinary village buried under volcanic ash some 1400 years ago after an eruption of the nearby volcano, Joya de Cerén is referred to as the "Pompeii of the Americas". It is a very interesting site for academics and a "must see" for visitors who wish to understand fully our pre-Hispanic culture! with some displays explaining what has been unearthed, but is not completely finished yet. Well worth the effort is a visit to Cihuatan, a ruins north of San Salvador, still under excavation, called "The City of Women"….

Santa Ana: Cathedral and Theater in the Central Plaza of Santa Ana The catedral in Santa Ana is famous throughout El Salvador for its classic gothic design. Be prepared for the pigeons and local photographers trying to snap your photo and sell you a picture. The theater on the other side of the park is a rare work of art in El Salvador. They are attempting to restore it, and it seems very "out of place" for Santa Ana with its classic design and architecture. There is a nominal fee (less than 50¢) to get in, but it is an interesting stop if you are in Santa Ana.

*Guatemala, just over the border: We have associate native guides, hotels and lodging places and tour operators in Guatemala, only 4.5 hours by vehicle or first class bus from San Salvador. Antigua, where most travellers choose to base, is only 45 minutes southwest of Guatemala City (42 Km.) by paved divided highway. For budget travellers buses to Antigua leave Zona (Zone)3 in Guatemala city every 10-15 minutes during the day.

No No's: Do not plan JUST for a "vacation". Plan for AN UNFORGETTABLE CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE! Do not bring expensive gifts to give out to beggars or street children... This sets up false expectations for other families and trravelers when they come to visit in the area. Many of the people you visit will be extremely poor, but the best thing to do is not to give them money, ESPECIALLY STREET CHILDREN, if you wish to donate, arrange to do so quietly with your native guide and a village leader or priest. Please do not offer anyone promises of visas or work in the United States, etc... Always respect local culture and customs, never become argumentative nor critical and always have your native guide smooth out any disputes that arise.. Do everything possible to make all your own arrangements leaving from the United States, Canada, etc. and not burden others with those little minute travel details that you should be able to handle on your own. If I do not know the answer to a question I shall try and find out for you. Invaluable to bring along with you are PRINT Guidebooks, up to date, such as Footprint, Lonely Planet and the 'On Your Own in El Salvador' (the only country specific guidebook for El Salvador) and detail maps available in bookstores and on the Internet..... so Let's Go Amigo!…

ZONA AZUL - EL SALVADOR & CENTRAL AMERICA Tourism Newspaper and Web Portal. Puerto de La Libertad, La Libertad, El Salvador, C.A.

E mail or message us for more detailed information.

For a virtual tour of El Salvador: English or Spanish

HODAD26 said...

good acccurate information you have posted Mr Bloom

but I have been in El Salvador since 1983, moved there in 1994 and I have had various businesses, and eventhe first USA corp[oration to take adfvantage of the new corporate laws for El Salvador. we have an excdelente attorney to assist in this also.

we will have small scale tourism infrusructure by September, Beach Hotelito, Lake Ilopongo facility and a Restaurant on Boqueron that will offer exotic meats, and YES, the first North Carolina Hickory smoked BBQ in Salvador.
at present please visit our ciber cafe,CIBERVISION in Miramonte, THE BOHEMIAN AREA
and ask for Max Serpas
for any and all information on El Salvador and Guatemala, he also has lived in England, Russia, and Germany
our market focus for tourists are EU and UK tourists

see for phone numbers and contact info

thanks, as El Salvador is 'THE BEST PLACE TO VISIT AND ENJOY'

Anonymous said...

If one stays away from the replanted Gringo establishments, one can find the true El Salvador. A place where the people are friendly, the beaches are wonderful and the food is great. I grew up near Detroit and there were many areas we would not enter, especially at night. But I never has any problem with the average guy on the street in most of the city. Part of the charm of El Salvador is that you can get to know the people. Too many North American just like to go to fenced off beach areas and never get a taste of the local culture.These are the types that complain about how terrible things are "over there." Don't listen to them.

Pierre said...

there is a lot to VISIT. For example, Salvadorians can be proud of their culture, but step by step, they have forgotten it. Watch this video in my blog, you will enjoy the Pipil culture in Tacuba:

Celia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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shahadat hussain said...

Good blog.I have been in El Salvador since 2001, moved there in 2004 and I have had various businesses, we have an excdelente attorney to assist in this also.

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