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El Salvador Travel Tips
El Salvador boasts:
El Salvador is a tropical country with year-long warm climate. There are only two seasons, Dry Season (November to April) and Rainy Season (May to October).
Temperature are hot on the coastal areas, ranging from the low 70's to the low 90's (20-30ºC). The mountain areas have lower temperatures, ranging from the mid 50's to the mid 70s (13-23ºC) . The main cities like San Salvador, Santa Tecla and Santa Ana have temperature ranging from 15ºC on the coolest mornings to 32ºC on the warmest afternoons.
El Salvador uses the U.S. Dollar as currency since 2001. Always use bills under $20. Many clerks won't risk receiving a forged $50 or $100 bill, thus they are rarely accepted stores, but you can exchange them at any bank. Because $2 bills, Half-Dollar coins and One-Dollar coins have never circulated in El Salvador they might not be accepted.
Euros and Quetzales can be exchanged at some Banco Agrícola branches. Make a phone call first (2210-0000) to check if a certain branch is exchanging foreign currencies. Banco Promérica exchanges Euros at their 'Century Plaza' Branch (Alameda Manual Enrique Araujo. East from La Zona Rosa). Some banks, like Citibank El Salvador, only exchange currency to their local customers. Don't forget to bring your Passport as banks will want to see it.
Bank queues are longer on 'payment days', usually during the end of the second week of the month and during the last days of each month.
All banks are closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays except the major branches Promérica Bank.
Credit Cards are accepted by most stores and restaurants in the main cities, especially those in shopping centers. Visa is the most widely accepted card. Master Card and American Express are also widely accepted. In most stores you will be asked to show an ID cardwhen paying with a credit card.
ATMs are located in shopping centres, major hotels, supermarkets and inside or outside banks.
There is a 13% Value Added Tax (IVA) on all purchases, it is included on most prices. A 10% tip is usually included in the invoice of restaurants.
El Salvador major telephone companies use the GSM standard in the 850, 900, 1900 Mhz frequencies. The roaming service might be available by your local mobile phone provider, but charges can be very high.
In order to avoid high roaming charges and over priced hotel calls, you can buy a pre-paid SIM card from any of the major cell phone providers (Tigo, Movistar, Claro and Digicel) and use it with your phone. Prepaid cards are usually cheaper than US$5. If your phone does not work with the Salvadoran network, you can buy a mobile phone at a very low price, usually less than US$15. You will be asked to show and ID Card or Passport when buying a SIM card or phone number.
If you need to call to the United States and Canada, do not hesitate, those calls are only 10 cents per minute, even cheaper than local calls. Local calls can vary from 15 to 30 cents. Calls to Central American counties vary from 30 to 40 cents. Calls rates to South America, Europe and the Rest of the World are still high, you might consider calling at night time when calls have a lower rate.
The electric system works in 120V/60Hz. Plugs are USA style. some plugs may work with the European two pin style.
Free wireless Internet is available in most hotels, major restaurant chains (like Pollo Campero, Pollo Real, Coffee Cup, Sushi Itto), some gas stations, and food courts on shopping centers.
Internet Cafés go by US$1 or less per hour. Internet Cafés located in shopping centres have faster connections and newer computers.
Most of the main roads are in good condition. The Panamerican Road crosses El Salvador and connects Santa Ana, Santa Tecla, San Salvador, San Vicente, San Miguel, the Western border with Guatemala and the Eastern border with San Miguel. The Litoral road connects all the beaches.
Driving in El Salvador is on the right, remember that speed limits are shown on kilometers per hour, the speed limit is 90 kph on freeways and 40 kph in cities. No matter what you see, drive always under the speed limit. The fine is only $57.14, but the last thing you want to happen is the hassle of having your driver's license taken by the police. Be careful with bus and taxi drivers, they are known for their erratic driving habits. It is recommended to avoid driving at night.
Car Rentals can be located in the capital and nearby the international airport. Be sure to check our list of car rentals in El Salvador.
Local Bus Service
Local bus service is cheap, but not all buses are in good condition. If you are going to use the local bus service, avoid peak times (early morning, and late afternoon) when the buses are most crowded, be sure to take care of your possessions. There are no maps or signs explaining the bus lines, but you can always ask. The price per ride is $0.20 or $0.25 for local buses.
National Bus Service
The national bus prices vary from $0.50 to $5.00 depending on the destination, there is no office that coordinates the bus schedule nationwide, in order to get information about bus destinations and departure times you may ask the bus driver or bus cobrador.
Take the Bus Especial or Super-Especial whenever possible, the price is higher but the buses are safer, in better condition, don't get as crowded as normal buses, do less stops and usually have air-conditioning.
International Bus Service
El Salvador is connected to all the main cities of Central America and the Mexican Border by bus service. For more information visit: Pullmantur (Guatemala and Tegucigalpa), Tica Bus (All Central America), and King Quality (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica). If you are looking for a less expensive bus to Guatemala, you may consider travelling by Melva Internacional.
Visa Requirements of El Salvador
People travelling to El Salvador with passports from the following countries do not need a visa:
Central American passports that do not need a visa
Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama.
Southern American passports that do not need a Visa
Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
European passports that do not need a visa
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Other passports that do not need a visa
Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea, Turkey.
Citizens with passports from Canada, Greece, Malaysia, Mexico,
Portugal, Singapore, and the United States of America, can enter the country without a visa but have to purchase a "Tourist Card" (US$ 10) at arrival.
For a more detailed and accurate list, please visit the website of the Embassy of El Salvador.
For a comprehensive list of Hotels in El Salvador, you can check our Hotel Directory
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