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EL SALVADOR TRAVEL GUIDE

Country Introduction

El Salvador, officially the Republic of El Salvador, is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. Plagued with years of internal strife, El Salvador has a long and bloody history. In recent years, El Salvador is slowly but surely tottering back to its feet. El Salvador's commitment to growth and security has transformed it into a must-visit destination, offering a unique blend of natural splendour and cultural richness.


El Salvador of today is a vibrant country with a rich cultural heritage and stunning natural landscapes. From the surfers' paradise along the Pacific coastline to the majestic volcanic peaks and lush coffee plantations, there's an adventure for every kind of tourist. Discover the ancient ruins of the Maya civilization, dive into the local cuisine, or simply relax on the sun-kissed beaches. With a renewed commitment to safety and infrastructure development, El Salvador is blossoming into a must-visit destination for those seeking an authentic Central American experience.

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Quick Facts

El Salvador, known as the "Land of Volcanoes," is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America.


Capital: San Salvador

Currency: El Salvador adopted the U.S. dollar as its official currency in 2001

Population: 6,421 million (2024)

Language: Spanish as official language and a unique dialect, Nahuatl, still spoken by some

Electricity:120-240V, 60Hz (US plug)


El Salvador is also known for its significant seismic activity, being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and experiencing frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.


IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL TO EL SALVADOR?

As of the latest updates, El Salvador has made significant strides in reducing violence and crime, with some sources noting it as one of the safer countries in Latin America. However, it is still advisable to exercise caution due to the potential for violent crime and the risks posed by natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. It's always recommended to check the latest travel advisories from your government, stay vigilant, and have comprehensive travel insurance when visiting El Salvador or any other destination.

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SEASONS AT A GLANCE

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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Peak Season

Shoulder Season

Off Peak Season

JANUARY

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FEBRUARY

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MARCH

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APRIL

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MAY

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JUNE

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JULY

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AUGUST

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SEPTEMBER

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OCTOBER

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NOVEMBER

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DECEMBER

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Climate Chart with avergae monthly temperatues and rainfall

BEST TIME TO VISIT EL SALVADOR

Best time to visit

The best time to visit El Salvador is generally during the dry season, which runs from November to April. This period offers sunny weather, minimal rainfall, and pleasant temperatures, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as beach outings, hiking, and exploring the country's natural and cultural attractions. However, it's also the peak tourist season, so one can expect higher prices and a vibrant social atmosphere.


Dry Season (November to April):

  • Weather: Warm and dry, with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F).

  • Activities: Perfect for beach visits, surfing, hiking in national parks, and exploring archaeological sites.

  • Events: Includes festive celebrations like Christmas, New Year, and Semana Santa (Holy Week).


Wet Season (May to October):

  • Weather: Hot and humid, with frequent afternoon showers and occasional heavy downpours.

  • Activities: Rain can affect outdoor plans, but the landscape is lush and green. Surfing is still popular as the waves are often bigger.

  • Events: Fiesta de San Salvador in August and various local festivities.


Recommendations:

  • For Surfing: While the dry season is popular, surfers might prefer the wet season (especially May to August) due to larger and more consistent waves.

  • For Hiking and Nature: The dry season is preferable for clear skies and easier trekking conditions.

  • For Cultural Experiences: Plan around major festivals and holidays to experience local culture and traditions.


Ultimately, the best time to visit depends on your preferred activities and tolerance for different weather conditions.

BEST TIME FOR:

Hiking and trekking

El Salvador offers a variety of hiking and cycling opportunities, especially within its national parks and along volcanic trails. Notable hiking trails include the Santa Ana Volcano, which is the most popular and challenging, and the scenic routes around the Coatepeque Lake. For cycling enthusiasts, the Bicentennial Park Ecotrek Route is highly recommended.


The best time to visit for these activities is during the dry season, from November to April, when the weather is warm and sunny, providing ideal conditions for outdoor adventures.


The Santa Ana Volcano, also known as Ilamatepec, is an active volcano in El Salvador that offers a challenging yet rewarding hiking experience. The trail to the summit provides hikers with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, the valley, and the Coatepeque Lake. At the peak, adventurers are greeted by the sight of a stunning emerald crater lake. The hike is approximately 4.3 miles out-and-back and takes an average of 2 hours and 52 minutes to complete. It's a popular destination for its natural beauty and the unique experience of ascending an active volcano.


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EL SALVADOR TRAVEL COSTS

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El Salvador really supports the budget traveller. Food and accommodations are great value, while the bus network is cheap and reliable.


When compared to other Central American destinations El Salvador can be quite economical. On average, daily costs for a visitor can range from $16 to $96, depending on the travel style and activities chosen. This is relatively affordable, especially when considering that El Salvador is often compared to Guatemala in terms of expenses, both ranking high for affordability in the region.

GETTING AROUND EL SALVADOR

El Salvador is small and pretty easy to get around by bus, car and taxi. Mostly due to its size, flying within El Salvador is neither cost effective nor easily accessible.


  • Arriving via the airport, Aeropuerto Internacional Comalapa, San Salvador Buses run to the city centre every 60 minutes, but it can be a challenge to the location, especially if you have a lot of luggage.

  • Public buses, known locally as 'Chicken Buses,' are the most common and affordable means of transport, connecting all parts of the country. Routes to some eastern destinations have different categories: ordinario, especial and super especial. The last two options cost more, but they are faster and more comfortable. In San Salvador, the most popular long-distance buses arrive in fashionable Zona Rosa (Tica Bus Terminal - map). From here, taxis can take you anywhere in the capital for US$10 or so.

  • For more comfort and flexibility, taxis, shuttles, and services like Uber are available, especially in larger cities like San Salvador and Santa Ana.

  • Renting a car is another option, offering the freedom to explore at one's own pace, while for shorter distances, renting a scooter can be both fun and convenient.


El Salvador is the last country to embrace Uber in Central America, launching in May 2017. Embrace might be putting it too strongly though as like everywhere else, everyone loves Uber unless they’re a taxi driver. In the post-launch months of 2017, the government asked its citizens to stop using Uber and threatened to seize drivers’ cars. As expected, most people love the service as it's cheap, convenient and safe - government thankfully stopped short of criminalizing the service. You can get around San Salvador for less than $5 and out to the beach for less than $20. Uber in El Salvador is available in San Miguel, San Salvador and Santa Ana.

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TRAVEL TIPS FOR EL SALVADOR

Embrace the Great Outdoors: El Salvador boasts a variety of natural landscapes, from the Montecristo Cloud Forest with its diverse flora and fauna to the surf-friendly beaches of El Tunco. Don't miss the chance to visit the Trifinio Fraternity Biosphere Reserve, where you can hike to El Trifinio, the point where El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala meet.


  • Cultural Richness: The capital, San Salvador, is a bustling city with a mix of modern and historical attractions. Visit the National Palace, Art Museum of El Salvador, and the striking El Rosario church. For a taste of local life, explore the cobblestoned town of Suchitoto.

  • Travel Smart: Plan your trip during the dry season from November to April for the best weather. Be mindful of peak travel periods like the winter holidays and Holy Week when prices may rise. For a hassle-free experience, consider hiring a driver for multi-city itineraries.


  • Safety First: While El Salvador has made significant strides in improving safety for tourists, it's still important to be cautious. Avoid walking alone after dark and stay aware of your surroundings. Follow local advice and check the latest travel advisories before your trip.


  • Savor the Flavors: Salvadoran cuisine is a delight, with dishes like pupusas (stuffed tortillas) and tamales. Coffee lovers will enjoy the rich, locally grown coffee, a staple of the region's agricultural output.

Travel Tips Section

REGIONS & HIGHLIGHTS OF EL SALVADOR


  • Ruta de las Flores - Track your gourmet coffee from plantation to cup, swim in natural springs and hangout at weekend food fairs.

  • La Costa del Bálsamo - Kick back at Playa El Tunco: surf, party, repeat.

  • Parque Nacional los Volcanes - Get steamy hiking the park's active peaks.

  • San Salvador - Gallery-hop and rub shoulders with the young party set in flash Zona Rosa.

  • Playa Esteronb - Tackle the wild east, starting in the poorly kept secret of Playa Esteron, before venturing by boat to the deserted islands near Nicaragua.

  • Tazumal - Enjoy Maya ruins all to yourself, then gaze at the finest architecture in the country at nearby Santa Ana.


SAN SALVADOR & SURROUNDS

Surrounded by green-tipped volcanoes, San Salvador is handsome compared to some other Central American capital cities. Its leafy suburbs are pleasant to explore on foot, while its galleries and museums stand out for such a small city.