el salvador cheat sheet

Want to know some of the basics before you travel in El Salvador? We've got you covered!


6.3 million

main cities

San Salvador (capital), Santa Ana, San Miguel

bordering countries

Honduras, Guatemala

top tourist spots

The beach town of El Tunco has been a long-time favourite whilst the Ruta de las Flores is becoming increasingly popular. 


languages spoken

Spanish. Due to the number of El Salvadorians who have lived or been brought up in the States, it's not too uncommon to meet people who speak English. 


currency and 2015 exchange rates

El Salvador's official currency is the US dollar. Some coins will be in the former local currency (colon) but they retain the same value as USD. 

£1 = $0.6 |  €1 = $0.8


our route

We wish we had explored a little more of El Salvador in our 3 weeks there. However, at that time in our trip we weren't too keen on more volcanoes, some towns in the north didn't appeal too much to us and transport difficulties prevented us from reaching a few spots.

Our route is therefore pretty standard for someone only passing through and hitting the main spots. 

must-try food and drink

Pupusas are the national dish of El Salvador and we couldn't get enough of them! Handmade fried corn tortillas which can be stuffed with cheese, pork, re-fried beans and more, served with a type of coleslaw and smothered in homemade hot sauce. Although locals seemed to only have one or two as a snack, we gorged on 4 or more each as lunch or dinner. Expect a decent one to cost around $0.75-$1. 

We had some awful ones in San Salvador but the best by far was at a little shack in El Tunco. 


good for vegetarians?

One word - papusas. Wherever you go, you will find a veggie friendly option. Other than this there will be more of the expected - rice, beans and some semblance of a salad. Our recommendation? Take advantage of the great fresh fruit and veg, and cook in your own hostel!


transport options

As with Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua, the trusty and sometimes rusty revamped school bus was our transport method of choice. On more established routes, buses may be a little more modern but don't expect anything fancy. 

Shuttle buses are also growing in popularity but cost more and aren't half as entertaining.


can i see it in a month?

Yes. El Salvador is Central America's smallest country and you could easily zip around it and see most of the sights in a few weeks, and still leave yourself enough time for some lazy days by the beach.


can I drink the tap water?

No, bottled water is advisable for drinking.


is malaria present?

Rarely, there are a few cases along the Guatemalan border with a very low risk throughout the rest of the country. Generally mosquito avoidance is all that is required, but make sure you have an appointment with a travel nurse before you leave. 


vaccinations needed?

In addition to the recommended childhood vaccinations, it is also advisable to have Typhoid and Hepatitis A immunisations. If you are going to be in the country for a long period of time, or undertaking high-risk activities, you should also consider a rabies vaccination as it is in the country. Please attend a travel clinic for further information.

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