El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. It is surrounded by Guatemala, Honduras, and the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, El Salvador has a bad reputation in terms of safety, however there is a strong police presence in tourist areas and you can request a police escort during hiking excursions free of charge. Most major crime is localized to neighborhoods with no interest to tourists, however take care not to wear flashy jewelry or have an expensive camera out in plain sight.
El Salvador is a beautiful country with mountains, national parks, volcanoes and the best waves for surfing. Such natural wonders coupled with the country’s move toward safety and democracy in order to boost its tourism industry, usually convinces most people to experience the many wonderful things that El Salvador has to offer.
Its move toward democracy and its proximity to the United States are putting El Salvador on the fast track to becoming a medical tourism hub. Private hospitals in the country have state of the art facilities and are staffed with qualified doctors who are able to spend ample time with patients. The most popular procedures sought by medical tourists are cosmetic surgery and dental treatments, both of which you can get for a fraction of the cost compared to the U.S.
The official language of El Salvador is Spanish, however English is spoken by some throughout the country.
El Salvador’s climate is tropical with two seasons: the wet season (May to October) and the dry season (November to April). The temperature depends on the elevation. Coastal areas tend to be hotter with average temperatures between 72oF and 90oF (22oC and 32oC) year round. The central areas have varying temperatures, which can be as high as 82oF (28oC) and as low as 66oF (19oC).
Visa / Entrance Requirements
U.S. and Canadian citizens do not need a visa in order to enter El Salvador, but you must have a passport (valid for 6 months from the date of entry). You must also buy a tourist card (valid for 30 days, but you can request up to 90 days) for $10 USD upon entry. If you leave the country by land before the expiration of the tourist card you may return without having to pay another $10.
Airlines Servicing this Destination
There is one international airport in El Salvador. It is located in San Salvador and is called the Cuscatlan International Airport (SAL).
The following airlines have flights to El Salvador:
- Air Transat (seasonal)
- American Airlines)
- Continental Airlines
- Copa Airlines
El Salvador has many options for the budget traveler. A private room in a hostel or guesthouse ranges from $10 to $25 USD per person per night and 3 star hotels start at $60. There are also luxurious hotels in the country, one of which won the 2005 World Travel Award. 5 star hotels are comparatively cheaper than in the U.S. or Western Europe. They range from $95 to $200 USD.
El Salvador has two currencies:
- United States Dollar (USD)
- El Salvador Colon (SVC)
The exchange rate of U.S. dollars to El Salvadorian colones is $1 USD to 8.75 SVC (exchange rate subject to change).
*The colon is no longer being printed in an attempt to make the U.S. dollar the only currency circulating in the country.
The international access code for El Salvador is 503.
In order to call El Salvador from the U.S. or Canada you must dial 011 (exit code), then 503 (country code for the El Salvador), and then the phone number (eight digits. All fixed numbers start with the number 2).
To call a cell phone in El Salvador from the U.S. or Canada you must dial 011 + 503 + phone number (eight digits, starts with the number seven).
In order to call the U.S. or Canada from El Salvador you must dial 00 + 1 + area code + phone number
Cyber-cafes are widely available in major cities and towns. Larger hotels and most private hospitals throughout the country offer Broadband Internet connection.
Emergency Telephone Numbers
- U.S. Embassy in San Salvador: (503)2501-2999
El Salvador is a naturalist’s paradise. La Libertad is 21 miles (34 km) south of San Salvador and is a popular tourist spot. It has beautiful beaches and offers some of the world’s best surfing. Just west of La Libertad is Zunzal, where international surfing competitions are held. Other nature sites include the cloud forests of the Parque Nacional Montecristo-El Trifinio, the Volcano of San Miguel, the Laguna Botanical Gardens (in San Salvador), and many hiking trails. Fans of Pompeii and Santorini will be pleased with the Joya de Ceren Archeological Site. In 600 AD, there was a volcanic eruption that buried the farming community of the Joya de Ceren, which was a prehispanic culture. The community is so well preserved that visitors to this site can see the day to day lifestyles and infrastructure of the Joya de Ceren people.
San Salvador has many markets including the Mercado Cuartel, which is the busiest market in the city; the Santa Tecla Market, where you can buy many items from food to piñatas; and the Ilopango market, which is ideal for shopping for handicrafts. If the hustle and bustle of the market does not suit your style, San Salvador has many shopping malls that are frequented by middle class and wealthy Salvadorians and international travelers.
Nightlife and the Arts
Upscale nightlife is localized to the Zona Rosa area of San Salvador, which features venues for salsa dancing, live music, and Mariachi bands. Popular night spots include Senor Frog’s, Stanza, Club Code, Guadalajara Grill, and La Luna. Make sure that you take a taxi to and from your hotel to the clubs. Do not walk or take public transportation, especially at night.
One of El Salvador’s most famous artists, Fernando Llort, who has galleries in the U.S. and Europe also has a gallery in San Salvador. Featured pieces are priced to fit all types of budgets and include original oils, ceramic tiles, tablets, prints, and framed prints. Those who enjoy a nice stroll through a museum should visit the David J. Guzman National Museum of Anthropology, The Museo de la Palabra y La Imagen (the Museum of Words and Images), The Natural History Museum of El Salvador, the Zoological Park, and the Museum of Art. For theater buffs, San Salvador is home to the National Theater, which is the oldest theater in Central America.
There are no print English language newspapers in El Salvador, however for up to date information about the country check out Tim’s El Salvador Blog and sansalvadornews.com
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