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El Salvador

Photo © campeador

Travel Guide Central America El Salvador

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Introduction

Sunset at El Tunco

Sunset at El Tunco

© All Rights Reserved A-Team

Tortured by a violent past, El Salvador has been on the reparatory path since a long and arduous civil war was resolved in 1992. And despite the additional hardship of a disastrous earthquake in 2001, El Salvadorians maintain a warmth and hospitality that is refreshing.

With 300 kilometres of coastline in its domain, El Salvador has recently become recognized as something of a hot-spot for surfers. But El Salvador's real attractions lie beyond its beaches. Inland, monumental volcanic peaks dot the landscape; the mystifying Montecristo cloud forest captivates visitors; and the ancient Mayan ritual sacrifice site of Tazumal bears testimony to the central significance of El Salvador in a past era.

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Brief History

Before the Spanish conquest, the area that now is El Salvador was composed of three great indigenous states and several principalities. The indigenous inhabitants were the Pipils, a tribe of the nomadic people of Nahua settled down for a long time in central Mexico. The region of the east was populated and governed by the Lencas. The North zone of the Lempa Hi River was populated and governed by the Chortis, a Mayan people.

The first Spanish attempt to subjugate this area failed in 1524, when Pedro de Alvarado was forced to retreat by Pipil warriors. In 1528 he sent a second expedition, which succeeded, and the Spanish founded their first capital city in El Salvador at a place known today as Ciudad Vieja, the first site of the Villa de San Salvador, 10 kilometres south of Suchitoto. This capital was occupied from 1528 until 1545 when it was abandoned, and the capital city moved to where modern San Salvador is today.

The first "shout of independence" in El Salvador came in 1811, at the hands of criollo elite. Many intellectuals and merchants had grown tired of the overpowering control that Spain still had in the American colonies, and were interested in expanding their export markets to Britain and the United States. In 1821, El Salvador and the other Central American provinces declared their independence from Spain. In 1823, the United Provinces of Central America was formed by the five Central American states under General Manuel José Arce. When this federation was dissolved in 1839, El Salvador became an independent republic. El Salvador's early history as an independent state was marked by frequent revolutions.

During the 19th century, the coffee industry grew inexorably in El Salvador and provided the bulk of the government's financial support through import duties on goods imported with the foreign currencies that coffee sales earned.
Between 1931, the year of Gen. Maximiliano Hernández Martínez's coup, and 1944, when he was deposed, there was brutal suppression of rural resistance.From the 1930s to the 1970s, authoritarian governments employed political repression and limited reform to maintain power, despite the trappings of democracy. During the 1970s, there was great political instability.

In 1979 the reformist Revolutionary Government Junta took power. Both the extreme right and the extreme left now disagreed with the government and increased political violence quickly turned into a civil war. The Chapultepec Peace Accords marked the end of the war in 1992 and FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) became one of the major political parties.Economic reforms since the early 1990s have brought major benefits in terms of improved social conditions, diversification of its export sector, and access to international financial markets at investment grade level, while crime remains a major problem for the investment climate.

From 1989 until 2004, Salvadorans favored Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, voting ARENA presidents in every election. On March 15, 2009, Mauricio Funes, a television figure not associated with left-wing militias, became the first president from the FMLN party. He was inaugurated on June 1, 2009. One focus of the Funes government is revealing the alleged corruption from the past government[

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Geography

El Salvador border Guatemala to the west and Honduras to the north and east. It is the only Central American country that does not have a Caribbean coastline. It covers around 21,040 km2 and, together with Belize is one of the smaller countries in the western hemisphere. The highest point in the country is Cerro El Pital at 2,730 metres above sea level and which is located on the border with Honduras. There are several rivers flowing through El Salvador into the Pacific, such as the Goascorán, Jiboa, Torola, Paz and the Río Grande de San Miguel. The Lempa River is the only navigatable river in the country and flows from Guatemala and Honduras across El Salvador to the ocean. Volcanic craters enclose lakes, like Lake Ilopango and Lake Coatepeque. Lake Güija is El Salvador's largest natural lake but there are larger artificial lakes created by the damming of the Lempa, of which Embalse Cerrón Grande at 135 km² is the largest one.

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Regions/Departments

El Salvador is organised into 14 departments.

  • Ahuachapán
  • Cabañas
  • Chalatenango
  • Cuscatlán
  • La Libertad
  • La Paz
  • La Unión
  • Morazán
  • San Miguel
  • San Salvador
  • San Vicente
  • Santa Ana
  • Sonsonate
  • Usulután

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Cities

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Sights and Activities

El Salvador, together with Belize, is some of the smallest country in Central America, but still has a lot to offer on culture, nature and beaches.

Beachlife

Martin Perez Island, gulf of fonseca

Martin Perez Island, gulf of fonseca

© All Rights Reserved joaco

The beaches in El Salvador are a great spot to relax, enjoy the local atmosphere but above all the coastline of El Salvador is gaining a reputation of having some of the best surfing in the world. The best spots include La Libertad (near San Salvador), El Sunzal, Playa Las Flores, El Zonte and the wild El Este, which make El Salvador the fastest growing surf tourism hot-spot in Central America.

Suchitoto

Suchitoto is located in the Cuscatlán department and is known throughout El Salvador for its cobblestoned streets and its famous historic Church. In fact, Suchitoto is one of the few places left in the country were one can still find cobblestoned streets. On top of that, it also is surrounded by some great landscapes and has an excellent view of the Suchitlán lake. Both among foreigners and Salvadoreans it is a very popular destination for Salvadoreans and besides its picture perfect looks it has some wide activities and sights including art galleries, handicrafts markets and cultural centers.

Suchitoto - Church at Parque Centenario

Suchitoto - Church at Parque Centenario

© All Rights Reserved sabrinakam

Joya de Ceren Archaeological Site

Joya de Ceren Archaeological Site is one of the highlights of the country and is placed on the Unesco World Heritage List. It is known as a former pre-Hispanic farming community that was buried as a result of an eruption of the Laguna Caldera around 600 AD. One can call it the Pompeii of El Salvador. Because of the exceptional condition of the remains, they provide an insight into the daily lives of the Central American populations who worked the land at that time.

Other sights and activities

  • Ruta Las Flores - or "The Flower Trail"
  • Santa Ana volcano
  • La Palma - the handicrafts capital of El Salvador
  • Montecristo Cloud Forest
  • Mayan sites - San Andrés and Tazumal

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Weather

El Salvador's climate is like most of the other countries in Central America. Tropical conditions with high temperatures and humidity are the norm. Temperatures are generally around 30 °C during the day, while nights are around 20 °C , a bit higher along the coastline, a bit colder more inland. At higher altitudes temperatures can drop significantly, especially at night. The wet season lasts from May to November, thus making December to April a better time for a visit. This is also the time that hurricanes sometimes strike the country, leaving with it torrential rains, powerful winds and mud slides.

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Getting there

Plane

Cuscatlán International Airport (SAL) near San Salvador receives a number of international flights, for example with the national airline TACA, which is actually comprised of 5 different Central American airlines. It mainly flies to cities in the United States, Canada and countries in Central America, but also has flights to Bogota in Colombia, Lima in Peru and to Madrid in Spain.

By Train

For the time being, there are no rail links to neighbouring Guatemala.

By Car

El Salvador has four border crossings with Guatemala and three with Honduras, where you can enter by car. You must have proof that you own the car of have your rental documents ready. An international driving permit is sufficient to enter the country and you have to leave the country within 30 days.

By Bus

Trans Mermex offers services between El Salvador and Guatemala, while Pullmantur has buses to Guatemala and Tegucigalpa in Honduras. Transnica has buses between El Salvador and Managua in Nicaragua. Ticabus has a wide range of services, from Tapachula in Mexico through Guatemala and on to San Salvador and buses from San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa in Honduras to San Salvador. There are even buses from as far as Panama, through Costa Rica and Nicaragua to El Salvador.
Another big operator is King Quality, which travels on the San José de Costa Rica - Tapachula (Mexico) route, with buses between the capitals of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

By Boat

You might be able to catch a boat to neighbouring countries like Guatemala, Honduras and even Nicaragua, but these do not include scheduled passenger services, rather irregular boats now and then. La Libertad and La Union are your best bet to shop around.
Although you can theoretically cross the Golfo de Fonseca to Nicaragua, this is not a regular crossing (you'll need to hire a private boat) and you should talk to immigration in Managua or San Salvador before attempting it. The price is US$ 65 for the 2-hour trip.

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Getting Around

By Plane

There are no domestic flights, as distances are small.

By Train

For the time being, there are no regular passenger services by rail in the country.

By Car

Getting around by El Salvador by rental car is a good option and roads are generally in a relatively good shape. You can rent cars from both international and local agencies at the international airport or downtown in San Salvador. Driving is on the rights side of the road and try to avoid driving when it's dark, as car jackings are quit common. A national or international driving permit is required when renting or driving your own car for less than a month. Otherwise, you need to buy a El Salvadorian permit, or just cross borders and come back again.

By Bus

There are regular bus connections all day long between all major cities and towns. Services are cheap and reliable in general, but when the weather is bad, delays can be the case. Buses are old American school buses and bus stations are not a fancy place, to say the least. Many buses originate and terminate in San Salvador and services start early in the morning but become much less frequent after 6:00 or 7:00pm. For an overview of schedules and connections, also international ones, see thebussschedule.com.

By Boat

There are regular passengers boats around the Bahía de Jiquilisco and a passenger and car ferry across Lago Suchitlán.

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Red Tape

Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Norway, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, other Central American countries, Israel, UK and other EU member countries do not need an advance visa, but must purchase a single-entry tourist card for US$10 when entering the country. It is typically good for 30 days, but you can request up to 90 days but be sure to ask when you step up to the immigration counter. All other nationalities need a visa which costs $30.

Note that since 2006 a 90-day stay actually means a stay within the Centro America 4 (CA4) region, including Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. You can extend the stay with another 90 days, after which you have to leave the region, for example to Belize, Mexico or Costa Rica.

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Money

See also: Money Matters

The US Dollar, or "greenback", is the national currency of El Salvador. One dollar consists of 100 cents. Frequently used coins are the penny (1¢), nickel (5¢), dime (10¢) and quarter (25¢). 50¢ and $1 coins also exist, but are rarely used. Frequently used banknotes are the $1, $5, $10 and $20 notes. $2, $50 and $100 notes can also be found, but are rarely used.

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Study

As in other Spanish-speaking countries, the opportunities for taking classes are countless, but include:

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Language

Related article: Spanish: Grammar, pronunciation and useful phrases

Spanish is the official language of El Salvador.

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Health

See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to El Salvador. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering El Salvador) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to El Salvador. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Malaria is prevalent in the country and it is recommended to take malaria pills and take other normal anti-mosquito precautions as well. Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Quick Facts

El Salvador flag

Map of El Salvador

[edit]

Capital
San Salvador
Population
6,240,000
Government
Republic
Religions
Christianity (Catholic)
Languages
Spanish, Nahua
Calling Code
+503
Nationality
Salvadoran
Local name

Contributors

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El Salvador Travel Helpers

  • i c e

    I'm 19. I just drove the panamerican highway With my family, to panama and back and spent good time in each country. If you would like any help or reliable info just ask!! Love this part of the world!! Speak Spanish! Been all over the world!

    Glad to help in any way!!

    Josh

    Ask i c e a question about El Salvador
  • Luis28

    Born in el salvador i can help with any info about the country

    Ask Luis28 a question about El Salvador
  • Quiversurf

    We're a Surf and Eco tour company that offers travel services for Seniors, Families and Surfers interested in exploring this beautiful place in Central America.
    Trying to spread a more Environmentally conscious way of living.

    Ask Quiversurf a question about El Salvador
  • rpbroz

    General travel information, help with contacts, local tours or just meeting travelers. Also work with local NGOs and volunteering.

    Ask rpbroz a question about El Salvador
  • campeador

    just ask any thing about you want in el salvador and i´ll answer you.
    I live in el salvador

    Ask campeador a question about El Salvador

Accommodation in El Salvador

This is version 40. Last edited at 2:33 on May 14, 13 by Peter. 21 articles link to this page.

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