Located between Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, El Salvador is one of the least visited countries in the world due to the large number government travel warnings out there. While certain setbacks are more than present, El Salvador should not be avoided if you really want to go. Located within the bounds of the tropical climate zone, it does have its own allure but it should be taken as a diamond in the rough. So, without further ado, let us take a look at the top five things to know before visiting El Salvador!
Alright, so we have to get the elephant out of the room right away: El Salvador is a dangerous place if you consider its murder rates per capita. Along with Honduras and Venezuela, it is a leading country in terms of violent and non-violent crimes. Yet, in spite of all that, there are plenty of locations that are heavily guarded by armed police and which are quite safe. There are countless tourists who have gone to El Salvador and have never experienced anything negative but there will be a few who have. So it really is a double edge and it is based on how obvious you are as a tourist. Try to blend in with the locals and also to not flash expensive cameras and watches in plain sight. Modesty goes a long way in countries that have such high crime rates. Additionally, try not to walk around alone and if you are a lady, do not enter the slums with tempting clothes (wink). Stay safe!
You may have heard a thing or two about Central America being cheap and we are happy to tell you that it is true. From a budget-perspective, El Salvador is an excellent place to travel to: perfectly affordable housing, cheap food and public transportation. Though subjected to price inequality, the country is generally not going to rid you of your coin anytime soon. Even San Salvador, the capital city, is dirt cheap – though global restaurant chains can pack quite a punch, if you know what we mean (wink).
Tipping in El Salvador is not a very well-developed system, so you can use this to forge your own decisions. First and foremost, the extra that you leave does not influence the service that you get in any way. Secondly, you might want to keep an eye out for the more “touristy” places as they might expect tips. If you, however, avoid the centre of San Salvador, people might not even know what a tip is. If you want to stay polite, though, leave 1-2 USD as extra, because that is what most travellers do and it tends to work wonders. This goes for cab drivers and hotel staff as well (especially if you allow your luggage to be dragged after you).
4. Language barriers:
Unfortunately, not many people in El Salvador speak English or any other language. What this inadvertently translates into is that you need to know at least a little Spanish to properly get around. Getting down the basics and the simplest of courtesy-words can make all the difference in this Central American tropical paradise. People there talk extremely fast, though, so try to sharpen your ears and watch a few Spanish movies before you undertake the trip just to get a feel of things (wink).
As we have already mentioned, public transportation in El Salvador is extremely cheap. But, of course, this often means that it is as sluggish as a bored snail. Most of the buses in the country have so many stops that it will take hours to get to where you want to go. Most experienced tourists will even tell you to avoid public transportation altogether but we recommend that you use your judgment and decide for yourself. On the end of the spectrum, flights to El Salvador are so cheap that they often lure travellers who do not have sky-piercing budgets – the main reason why most people visit the country. Oh, and before we forget, do not forget to agree upon a price if you choose to move about using a cab. Drivers will often take advantage of newcomers and you must always stand your ground when haggling. If you can, also urge them to start their metres.
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in El Salvador and what do you have to share with the world? Tell us all about it in the comment section below and be sure to check back whenever you can for some exciting updates! Safe travels!