San Salvador

Photo © sabrinakam

Travel Guide Central America El Salvador San Salvador

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Introduction

San Salvador is the capital and largest city of El Salvador and one of the biggest in all of Central America with a population of around 2,3 million inhabitants living in the metropolitan area. The city itself has well over half a million people. San Salvador is home to 1 out of 3 people in El Salvador. It is located in the central parts of the country in a valley at an elevation averaging 560 metres on the skirts of the Quezaltepeque. It is an area with high seismic activity and as a consequence the city has been struck hard in history. The city is the cultural, administrative and economic heart of the country and is a lively mix of old and new, of rich and poor.

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Neighbourhoods

  • San Benito
  • Paseo General Escalon
  • Downtown, historical centre

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Sights and Activities

  • National Museum of Anthropology
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Catedral Metropolitana
  • Teatro Nacional de El Salvador
  • Palacio Nacional
  • Casa Presidencial

San Salvador has many beautiful monuments, some of them dating back to the early 20th century, while others are more modern. Some of the most important monuments include the National Palace, Plaza Gerardo Barrios, Plaza Morazan, Water Clock, Monument to the Sea, Atlacatl Monument and the Proceres Monuments (it has 10 monuments). One of the most recognizable monuments in El Salvador is the Monumento al Divino Salvador del Mundo, or "Monument to the Saviour of The World".

San Salvador has a large urban park, the "Parque de los Pericos". There is another park called Parque Cuscatlan (close to downtown), which is very elegant, with lights, trees and paths. Popular with locals, the beautiful botanical gardens of La Laguna (close to the U.S. embassy) showcase much native fauna. Zoologico Nacional (The National Zoo), and Parque Saburo Hirao (with a collection of native plants) are in the SE part of the city by the old Presidential House.

If you don't get a chance to visit smaller towns and villages outside the capital, a must see destination is Los Planes De Renderos. 1,000 metres above sea level, and it offers a spectacular view of San Salvador. This is a popular oasis for locals from the hectic city life. Check out the restaurants, and near-by parque Balboa, (Balboa Park) with lots of trees and green lawns, ideal for picnics. Indulge yourself eating the tasty salvadorean treat known as pupusas! Visit the nearby colonial town of Panchimalco, one of the few towns in the country with a large indigenous population. Another interesting spot not to be missed is the spectacular natural formation and viewing area known as Puerta del Diablo (devil's gate).

San Salvador has many museums, the two most important are "Museo David J Guzman" and "Museo de Arte MARTE". David J Guzman National Museum of Anthropology contains a variety of Mayan and Pipil artifacts, while Museo de Arte MARTE displays an extensive collection of international art. Both are located in the Zona Rosa district. There is also a children's museum, the Tin-Marin museum, where kids can experience the world in a fun way. The old national palace is being restored to house the "National Archives," and the "National Museum." Also a new display of early mammal fossils, including a giant sloth, mastodon and more than twenty other species is being set up in the "Museo de Historia Natural," or "Natural History Museum" situated in the SE section of Saburo Hirao park by the National Zoo. Close to the zoo is the "Museo Militar," or Military Museum which is housed in the old castle-like "El Zapote" barracks built in 1895. In the military museum you can find weapons and army uniforms from the 17th, 18th, and early 20th centuries, which were historically used by the Salvadoran army. Other highlights of this museum include the original copies of the 1992 peace accords and the Pope Mobile used when Pope John Paul II visited the country. Entrance is free and a guide service is provided at no charge.

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Events and Festivals

Holy Week

This important El Salvador Tradition is a religious festival known as Semana Santa in the Spanish-speaking world and features a carnival-like atmosphere across Latin America. Best experienced in San Salvador with street parades and performance art, the week-long event is usually held in late March through Easter Sunday.

August Festival

Of all El Salvador Holidays, Fiestas Agostinas, in early August is one of the most popular ones. Held in the capital of San Salvador, a marching band wakes the city up at 4:00am, after which parades, sports, food, and art exhibitions take place.

Independence Day

September 15 marks El Salvador's independence from Spain in 1821 with flag-waving, parades and fireworks on the beaches, in the cities and mountain towns. The biggest national day celebrations take place in San Salvador.

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Weather

San Salvador has a hot and humid climate with average daytime temperatures between 28 °C and 32 °C and night time temperatures of around 20 °C. April to September is the rainy season, although it is not as wet as many other places in Central America. Best time to visit is the dry season from November to March.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max30.3 °C30.1 °C32 °C32.2 °C30.8 °C29.5 °C30.1 °C30 °C29 °C29.1 °C29 °C29.6 °C
Avg Min16.3 °C16.8 °C17.7 °C19 °C20 °C19.6 °C19.1 °C19.3 °C19.4 °C19 °C17.9 °C16.9 °C
Rainfall5 mm2 mm9 mm36 mm152 mm292 mm316 mm311 mm348 mm217 mm36 mm10 mm

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Getting There

By 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 Car

If you drive to San Salvador from Comalapa, please exercise extreme caution. There are many residents who walk this highway as well as cross it. There are many accidents with vehicles speeding as well as people who are hit.

By Bus

Trans Mermex offers services between San Salvador and Guatemala, while Pullmantur has buses to Guatemala and Tegucigalpa in Honduras. Transnica has buses between San 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 San Salvador.

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Getting Around

If driving, rental car agencies include Budget, Alamo and Hertz. Buses and taxis also provide good ways of getting around. Negotiating the cost of your taxi, Before you step in, is common practice and expected. Carry small denominations of money and have exact change for your taxi fare. If you do not have exact change, taxi drivers will try to convince you to make the change a tip instead. Distances between sights make walking an unpopular option, as does the street layout in the city; San Salvador is not a square city but has long avenues that are straight and streets that are not. That said, in some areas walking is a great option, such as from Zona Rosa to Las Terrazas (Sheraton hotel) which are close together and within sight of one another.

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Eat

The restaurant scene in San Salvador is influenced by many different cultures. Food options include Italian, Korean, Japanese, Thai, French, Chilean, American, Peruvian, Mexican, Spanish, Middle Eastern, German, Chinese, Argentinian and others. Local food options include Tipicos Margot where one can purchase the famous Salvadoran Pupusas. Perhaps the biggest indictment against the quality of the San Salvador restaurant scene however is the sheer number of chain restaurants.

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Drink

San Salvador is well-known for its nightlife. Clubs and bars can be found in the Zona Rosa, Basilea Mall, La Terraza (Sheraton Hotel), Las Terrazas (Multiplaza Mall), Boulevard de Los Heroes, Temptation Plaza, and the bars and restaurants area in La Gran Via (Mall and night lifestyle center). These places have many bars, discos, restaurants, DJ centers and boutiques.

Visit the laid back bohemian bars (university crowd) around Calle San Antonio Abad to meet interesting locals or head to the Zona Rosa/Multiplaza Mall area to dance the night away with the city's style-conscious upper class youth.

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Sleep

  • Hostal Esencia Nativa, ☎ +503 2301-4322, +503 7737-8879, e-mail: esencianativa@yahoo.com. Surf lessons, laundry service, English spoken. Rooms with A/C and private bath available. Doubles from $15.
  • International Guest House, 35 Avenida Norte 9. Breakfast, internet, laundry, safety box. $16-$26.
  • Laguna Verde Guest House The dome shaped house is located at the border of an ancient, deep, secondary crater with vertical walls, the "Cuajusto" extinct crater in Apaneca town (1 hour from San Salvador). From here you can catch some impressive panoramic views and do hikes to the nearby Laguna Verde, Black Forest and other natural beauties. Ph +503 2262-0879, +503 7859-2865, +503 2260-2481, mailto:gpssal@intercom.com.sv. Dormitory rooms from $7 to $10 per night.
  • Mariscal Hotel & Suites, Paseo Escalón 3658 (comfortable), from $28
  • Hotel Tazumal House. The, 35 Avenida Norte, Casa 3. A/C, cable TV, free internet use. From $10 to $40.
  • Ximenas Guest House, Calle San Salvador 202, ☎ +503 2260-2481, +503 7981-4517 (Cell), e-mail: ximenas.guesthouse@gmail.com. A small guesthouse open for over 25 years. Located in a quiet residential area in the Blvd. de Los Heros district, it is within walking distance to malls, banks, pharmacies, post offices, coffee shops, bars and restaurants. The building is well-lit with a tranquil, homey atmosphere with a common area with cable TV, as well as a roof-top terrace with sparse vegetation. Services available include book exchange, modest cafe/restaurant, laundry service, safe deposit lockers, luggage storage and free tourist information. Wireless internet is also available, but there is a small one-time charge to obtain the access code. Computers are also available for $2/hr. Dorms $7, $9 w/hot shower, privates $18-35, varying by AC, number of beds, hot water, TV.
  • Ramada Inn, ☎ +503 2263-0033, fax: +503 2263-4099. 85 Ave. Sur y Calle Juan José Cañas, Col. Escalón San Salvador. The hotel includes air conditioning, king size beds, double bed rooms, restaurant, bar and many other amenities. 4-stars.
  • Quality Real Hotel Aeropuerto San Salvador, ☎ +503 2366-0000, fax: +503 2366-0001. Check-in: 12PM, check-out: 4PM. KM 40.5 Carretera Al Aeropuerto de El Salvador. Just 3 minutes from the airport and 20 minutes from the sandy beaches of Costa del Sol. In house restaurant. Room service, business center, bar and pool.
  • Hotel Happy House, fax: +503 22 60 15 68, e-mail: hotelhappyhouse@hotmail.com. Avenida Los Sisimiles, #2951, Colonia Miramontes, Phone and. Hotel includes air conditioning, double bed rooms and free wireless internet access. 3-stars
  • Siesta Casino-Hotel, ☎ +503 2-283-0100, fax: +503 2-283-0125, e-mail: info@hotelsiesta.com. Hotel Siesta Final Boulevard Los Proceres. The hotel includes air conditioning, king size beds,double bed rooms,restaurant, bar and many other amenities. 4-Stars.
  • Holiday Inn, ☎ +503 2-241-4000, fax: +503 2-241-4070, +503 2-241-4067. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Urbanización y Boulevard Santa Elena a 400 mts. de la Embajada Americana. The hotel includes air conditioning, king size beds,double bed rooms,restaurant, bar and many other amenities. 4-Stars.
  • Terraza Hotel, ☎ +503 2263-0044, fax: +503 2263-3223, e-mail: hterraza@terraza.com.sv. 85 Ave. Sur y Calle Padres Aguilar Colonia Escalón. The hotel includes air conditioning, king size beds, double bed rooms, restaurant, bar and many other amenities. 4 stars.
  • Hotel Alameda, ☎ +503 2267-0800, +503 2267-0801, fax: +503 2260-3011. 43 Ave. Sur y Alameda Roosevelt #2305. The hotel includes air conditioning, king size beds, double bed rooms, restaurant, bar and many other amenities. 3-Stars.
  • Hotel Alicante, Col La Sultana, calle las rosas y ave los Laureles #1, Ph:+503 2243-0889, +503 2243-5838. The hotel includes air conditioned, king size beds,double bed rooms,restaurant, bar and many other amenities. 3-Stars.
  • Hotel Casa Berlin, ☎ +503 2243-8877, fax: +503 2243-8872. Avenida El Espino Lote No 62-64, Santa Elena, Madreselva, Antiguo Cuscatlán. The hotel includes air conditioning, king size beds,double bed rooms,restaurant, bar and many other amenities. The staff speaks Spanish, English and German. 3-Stars.
  • Hotel Capital, ☎ +503 2247-7100, fax: +503 2243-8018. Autopista Sur, Boulevard La Sultana y Pasaje Monelca. The hotel includes air conditioning, king size beds, double bed rooms, restaurant, bar and many other amenities.
  • Hotel Good Luck, ☎ +503 2260-1666, +503 2260-1655. Avenida Los Sisimiles Pje. #5 casa 2943, Colonia Miramonte. We offer comfortable rooms with air conditioner, Chinese restaurant, private parking, free internet, excellent location, only two block from Metrocentro and many other amenities at very low price.
  • Hotel Grecia Inn, ☎ +503 2261-0555, +503 2261-0566, +503 2261-0577. Avenida Sisimiles 2922, Colonia Miramonte. A 50 metros de Hotel Real Intercontinental, frente a Metrocentro, the hotel includes air conditioning, king size beds, double bed rooms, restaurant, bar and many other amenities. The staff speaks English, Spanish and Greek. 4-Stars.
  • Hotel Mediterraneo Plaza, ☎ +503 2263-4592, fax: +503 2263-4612. 15 Calle Pte. No. 4319, Col. Escalón. The hotel includes air conditioned, king size beds,double bed rooms,restaurant, bar and many other amenities.
  • Hotel Mirador Plaza, ☎ +503 2244-6000, fax: +503 2244-6099. Calle El Mirador y 95 Ave. Norte Col. Escalón. The hotel includes air conditioned, king size beds,double bed rooms,restaurant, bar and many other amenities.
  • Novo Aparthotel, ☎ +503 2260-2288, fax: +503 2260-5053. Final 61 Ave. Nte. Col. Escalon. The hotel includes air conditioned, king size beds, double bed rooms, restaurant, bar and many other amenities. 4-Stars.
  • Hotel Merliot, Col. Jardines de cuscatlan, Polígono G, No. 24, Av. L-A, Ciudad Merliot. +503 2278-4417, www.hotelmerliot.com hotelmerliot@gmail.com. Our comfortable and elegant single, double and triple, with breakfast included (6AM-10AM) have cable TV, telephone, free wireless Internet, private bath with hot water, closet, executive desk, air conditioning.
  • Courtyard San Salvador, ☎ +503 2249 3000. Esquina Calle 2 y calle 3, Centro de Estilo de Vida La Gran Via.
  • Real InterContinental San Salvador, Boulevard de Los Héroes. San Salvador, 544. El Salvador, ☎ +503 2211 3333, fax: +503 2211 4444. The InterContinental San Salvador Hotel has 228 rooms, 6 suites and 2 Club InterContinental floors. It has 13 conference rooms, 3 restaurants, gym, spa, pool and business center. Prices range between $100 - $450.
  • Crowne Plaza Hotel, ☎ +503 2-257-0700, fax: +503 2-257-0710. 89 Avenida Norte y 11 Calle Poniente, Colonia Escalón. Rooms from $139 per person, per night.
  • Sheraton Presidente, ☎ +503 2-283-4000. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. San Benito (in front of El Chulon), Avenida la revolucion. edit
  • Suites Las Palmas Aparathotel, ☎ +503 2210-3111, fax: +503 2210-3100. Av. Las Palmas y Pje. 6 Col. San Benito.

View our map of accommodation in San Salvador or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Learn

There are many private schools and universities, including numerous language schools.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafes are available in pretty much every town and charge around US$1-2 per hour. There is almost always wifi (usually free of charge) in hostels, mostly in midrange and luxury hotels (but less so in budget hotels and guesthouses), but connection speeds and reliability varies dramatically. Be aware that many high-end hotels charge between $3 and $10 per day for internet use although some will let you log on and print an airline boarding pass free of charge.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The international country code for El Salvador is 503. The general emergency number is 911.

To place a call within El Salvador, simply dial the eight-digit number beginning with 2 for landlines and 7 for cellphones.

The main companies are Movistar, Tigo, Digicel, and Claro, with Tigo reputedly giving the best overall reception. When using your own cell phone, the roaming can cost anywhere between $1 and $4 a minute and internet charges are extremely high as well. It's better to buy a local SIM card, which can be bought for about US$25-30 and have much lower rates. Especially when you are in the country for a longer time and wish to use internet and make a call regularly, this might be a better option.

Pay-as-you-go phones can be purchased in the airport, the cheapest of which cost $60. Make sure to ask if the phone can take international calls and how much this costs, as packages vary and can be restrictively expensive. Look out for promotions such as free incoming calls and cheap international calls for US$0.10 a minute with certain networks.

Post

Correos de El Salvador is the country's postal service. Most towns in El Salvador have post offices marked by a blue sign reading correos. Post offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm in larger cities, and 7:00am to noon and 2:00 to 5:00pm in small towns. To mail a standard letter or a postcard from El Salvador to the United States costs around US$0.70 and US$1 to Europe and Australia. It might take anywhere from a week to the USA to a few weeks further afield. If you'd like to send a package, it might be better to use an international company like TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx, as they are fast, reliable and not overly expensive.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 13.703416
  • Longitude: -89.20733

Accommodation in San Salvador

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in San Salvador searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in San Salvador and areas nearby.

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This is version 19. Last edited at 14:23 on Aug 6, 18 by Utrecht. 24 articles link to this page.

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