You probably remember my ode to pupusas, the El Salvadorian delicacy, but El Salvador has a lot more to offer visitors than just this scrumptious morsel.
Many backpackers hitting Central America just bypass El Salvador and Honduras due to safety concerns or a lack of “things to do”. Those that do take the plunge to explore even a small piece of El Salvador often can’t stop boasting about its charm.
This country is a hidden gem in the tourism world. From rainforests to amazing beaches, there’s something for everyone here and it’s relatively un-traipsed which gives it that off the beaten path, more rugged feel.
Safety is a concern for many when it comes to traveling around El Salvador. For the most part, it follows suit with the rest of Central America, if you don’t go looking for trouble, you’re probably not going to find it. Don’t be stupid and stir up fights or drama, don’t go where you shouldn’t, don’t get drunk and wander home alone, pretty much the normal danger-prevention tactics are what you need to survive a trip to El Salvador.
I, personally, spent about a week in El Tunco on the coast of El Salvador. It is a sleepy little surf town that becomes a Salvadorian vacation hotspot on the weekends. It has two streets that make up the whole town so it isn’t for those that need a lot of action to be happy.
Here’s what you need to know to make El Salvador your next destination:
Getting to and around:
The main airport in El Salvador is SAL located about 45 minutes outside of San Salvador in Comalapa. If traveling to the country by plane look at Avianca airlines for the cheapest flights around Central America and many of the major airlines fly into it as well.
To get around within the country, stick to chicken busses. Yes, even if you’re trying to be extra cautious, chicken busses are a great option. Trips are typically under $1 USD and as long as you keep your belongings close and travel during daylight, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Pro Tip: Look for the older buses instead of the newer ones. Weird, I know. But the older ones typically have more space than the newer ones and the drivers will shove just as many people in each.
Transportation costs are cheap; busses are $1 or less, shuttles in and out of the country are usually under $20. For accommodations, hostel dorms will start at $8 per bed and privates around $20. To save a few dollars check out local guesthouses instead of hostels.
Finally, food can either be very cheap or pretty pricey. If you stick to local spots and street food and all the pupusas you can eat, meals won’t be more than $5 USD. If you head to American or European places you’re going to set yourself back a good amount of cash; think $10+ for tacos.
Things to do:
Tazumel: These are some of the biggest and most important Mayan ruins in El Salvador. The entrance fee is only $3USD as well, so it is a great budget friendly activity to see some of the history behind the country.
San Salvador: Typically in Central America, the rule of thumb is to avoid the capital cities due to their higher crime rates. However, San Salvador is worth a visit. El Salvador is actually small enough that you can base yourself in San Salvador for your entire visit and travel via day trips. While in the city, check out the vibrant night life, beautiful monuments and museums and extremely historic downtown region.
El Tunco: Known as a sleepy surfer town, this place has become a popular stopping point for travelers going between Nicaragua and Guatemala. The waves are great, the pupusas are flowing and the nightlife on the weekends are unmatched. If you can’t possibly eat another pupusa, try Take a Wok, a noodle stir fry place that is fabulous!
Puerta del Diablo (The Devil’s Door): Devil’s Door is a lookout point with a breathtaking view of the countryside of El Salvador. This rock formation is also home to El Salvador’s best rock climbing. Adventure junkies can choose one of 60 different routes.
Suchitoto: Another culture capital, Suchitoto is chock full of beautiful architecture, cobblestone streets, art galleries and churches. It also happens to have a breathtaking view of Suchitlan Lake. There are ample waterfalls and caves that can be explored in the surrounding region, so this is a great place to bunker down for a few days.