While I am currently in Thailand and yet relatively disappointed, how the land of smiles has become after 9 years of travel abstinence in this place, I want to review my travel adventures this year.
If someone asks me about my previous highlight in 2018 up to now, I deliberately answer with El Salvador.
The small Latin American Country is worth to visit and I would like to use this post to show you consciously that El Salvador is much more than violence and murder.
I’m always looking for authentic destinations that offer good weather conditions, mountains, sea and nice friendly people. If you are looking for those motives, I would like to advise you a bit more. I think it’s time to take a look at this fascinating little country; a report about my personal experiences in the so-called most dangerous country in the world.
What brought me to the point to travel in El Salvador?
There’s definitely a lack of good reports about El Salvador. Currently, I think that you didn’t meet travelers who have been there before. What should you do there? Poor people, poor country. Nothing going on. But above all, it is too dangerous.
Kidders make it always easy to joke about countries where they haven’t been. Those guys just read one page of the book, maybe not even completely.
They believe in Daily News much more than their own brains and hear often more than they should.
I do not like to let them believe that they’ve eaten the truth with spoons.
Therefore it was time to see behind the scenes of this picturesque country to convince you about a much better place.
Consequently, then usually always the same thing happens: You try to convince those guys who were just doubting about countries like El Salvador. They do not want agree and try to bash you from them.
“Hey Alex, good to know. You have to tell me.”
Finally, it never happens and they like to live with prejudices instead of accepting errors and generalizations.
Are you feeling the same? Then it could be that this post does not interest you any longer.
For all of you who like to broaden their horizons, it’s time to break barrier thinking.
El Salvador is not an everyman’s experience and therefore we should be free of limitations to enjoy such a beautiful place, where I did not experienced fear.
In upcoming blog posts I want to inform you more about safety, security and places to go.
I would like to give you a better understanding to demonstrate you in an best manner that El Salvador is one of the most authentic places that you should go now or soon.
Not many places like El Salvador are out there anymore.
El Salvador was also my inspiration to visit Thailand again. But how did that happen? Where is the connection between the most dangerous country in the world and the land of smiles? An explanation attempt.
The right feeling of Salvadorian Authenticity, when the rest is Smartphone-addicted
Traveling for me does not mean to visit a country and place a checkmark anywhere. For me it’s always important to go back to those places and to see how cultures change.
Thailand was always on my list again and I wanted to spend as much time as possible.
That’s why I’m back here now in Thailand and trying to understand what attracted me so much about this country when I visited this place in 2009.
I recognized Thailand as the destination with the consistently friendly people, the chaos, the rush and yet the authenticity.
What I can no longer find so truly in the beloved country, I experienced, however, in July 2018 in El Salvador.
It always makes me curious to know more about something and so I continued my research on El Salvador and the notorious gangs that frighten all of Latin America from there.
With a clear conscience, I traveled to El Salvador, after a lady from the hostel in Granada told me that just this notorious Latin American country was safer than the war-torn in Nicaragua at the moment.
It was really like she said and I almost came out of the country without an unpleasant experience …
When you travel, you will experience a lot, but I strongly suspect that years ago, travel experiences were much more intense than now.
I used to write detailed e-mails to my relatives at home or gave them short calls from telephone cells; nowadays people only communicate via Whatsapp or send semi-selfie self-evidences as proof of their superhuman powers from mass tourist places. Traveling got more comfortable in the last years, but also lost identity.
As with the communication of people as individuals, for the most part the countries as a whole have changed.
I experienced this in Thailand, Cambodia as well as Mexico and Costa Rica this year and in many other countries the years before.
Traveling has become much more frustrating sometimes, lumbering, and no longer as authentic as before. The funny thing, I notice little of it in Europe or the States, but rather in the destinations, which I traveled for years because of the otherness.
At home, we like to speak about wthe so-called Third World countries, developing countries or whatever.
At these very places, I am currently experiencing people and cultures that are just becoming more and more similar to the things in my home country that I was still determined to run away 10 years ago.
I experienced Thailand, Peru or India gradually authentic.
Each of these countries was unique and worth the trip alone.
After so many years, I also have to realize that these addictive smartphone cultures are becoming a worldwide trend.
Where is the more pronounced lightheartedness with a manner to refer in something identitarian instead of cities like Bangkok to Mexico City while scrolling down on your touchscreen?
These exotic destinations have more to do with my original boring home village in German wasteland than with their original heir and culture, I think.
Is there still something else? Or is it all equally?
Exactly, there was this little El Salvador, hidden between Guatemala and Honduras and so far completely ignored by the travel-friendly audience.
As I told you, El Salvador has it all: Wild beaches, fishing villages, traditional village, brilliant climate and amazing people in one place. El Salvador is everything, but not dangerous if you do not look for it!
Anyone who has once did the border crossing from Honduras had already managed the worst part of the trip.
If you are interested in one of those authentic destinations where you get it all from a 360 days-long shining sun , or people who are still able to connect with you but mainly without smartphones,
then give El Salvador a try!
Despite the introduction of the dollar, it is additionally really cheap to get around while the choice of local food belongs to the best in Central America (including Mexico).
Although you will not experience any Full Moon Parties on the Pacific or any of the very important Must See Places, you will find a relaxed culture and probably the most unadulterated mentality in the whole region.
These reasons should be sufficient that this journey is worth it. Much more you’ll experience on the route.
Solo San Salvador is always worth a trip
For its density of attractions, such as jungle temples, volcanic lakes, tropical beaches and exotic animal habitats, travelers adore Central America.
Instead of all these sights you have not lost a little in this region, if you are focused on city trips.
Costa Rica’s capital San Jose is my personal most hated city while it is a prime example of grotesque architecture par excellence. Nevertheless the city’s builders were never jailed for their failed work in the Central America’s most favorite and overrated country.
Nor Managua in Nicaragua or Guatemala City impresses their visitors, not to mention Tegucigalpa.
In Central America there is still a lack of good cities a la Bangkok.
Accordingly, I did not expect much from San Salvador. Finally, I was completely surprised.
Please do not misunderstand me: San Salvador is not a city with particularly beautiful sights and it does not belong to the list of the absolute Must Visit Cities on earth.
But in particular for a region with just a few city highlights, San Salvador is my personal gem.
After all, the capital of El Salvador has to offer a unique flair and ambience instead of the multitude of tourist highlights. Personally for me, that makes up the appeal. In this aspect, San Salvador offers a lot!
If you dare to head to the city center, you will see a relatively dilapidated building substance.
Maybe you will feel the same, that there is not much for the lens of your camera.
Otherwise, I was fascinated by the riot of market stalls around the central plazas.
That will be the first place for you, if you want to look out for exotic fruits and garments.
Anything from useful to less useful that your head desires, can be found there.
Between this hustle and buzzle you will see some of these higher buildings that seem to be lost here.
Particularly, this place let me feel like in another world.
It felt like something that I have experienced so many times before in South America.
It seems that there are some parallels to South American cities in San Salvador.
The city is more reminiscent of Lima than Mexico City.
Or maybe El Salvador has been lost too long and apparently it still is.
“Libertad” draws the lettering of one of the buildings on the Plaza de Armas.
In El Salvador, this has more to do with historical aspects than the problems of today.
In 1821, El Salvador became independent and sought the independence from the clutches of the Spanish crown, which then finally was invalidated in 1839 of all areas in Latin America.
But even in San Salvador, these consequences of colonization can be felt: Pure poverty next to absurd prosperity and hard drug wars in recent years.
Usually as an overseas traveler you will not come into contact with those gangs and narcotraffic unless you are explicitly looking for it.
There are probably a number of significantly more dangerous cities than San Salvador.
Do you prefer nightlife until the late hours, a visit to marvelous San Benito is recommended. This northern quarter is littered with modern bars, restaurants and shopping malls.
If you are looking for cheap hostels or other backpacker-friendly accommodation, you should go to this place. San Benito offers more than the city center and, surprisingly, it is clean and very safe.
The quarter is known for a very well-kept atmosphere with amazing places to try delicious Ceviche or the well-known Micheladas, originally from Mexico.
The local cuisine of San Salvador is in no way inferior to all Mexican cuisine and is, despite the dollar, really cheap.
Travel Cheap in El Salvador
Speaking of cheap travel in El Salvador -The boheme San Benito is ideally located in San Salvador and from nearby you can start your trip with local buses through the whole country.
El Tunco, El Salvador’s most famous place by the sea, should not be missed. Local buses are easily accessible and you can travel from the San Salvador bus station in San Benito for a dollar to El Tunco.
Of course I wanted to travel as cheaply as possible and just had a small budget and therefore came up with idea to use minibuses across the country. From the big cities like San Salvador, San Miguel or La Libertad you can take them to every direction.
Otherwise Uber is quite usual in this country. From any point you can get without problems to the next bus station or travel destination.
Depending on the distance within the city area in San Salvador, you should calculate with 2-4 dollars per trip.
El Salvador is a very small compact country and due to the central location of San Salvador, trips to other worth seeing cities such as El Tunco and La Libertad only cost around 1-2 dollars.
In general, I recommend you to use booking platforms such as Booking.com before you go to San Salvador.
While hostels in San Salvador are still very rare and centralized around San Benito, there are many more in the surfer Mecca of El Tunco.
Nevertheless, I advise you that you should know before you go.
El Tunco seems to be small by itself, but the place draws immensely in length. Cheap hostels and backpacker accommodations are not centralized in any place over there, but more spreaded around the whole coastline area and often anywhere in the lush-green countryside. A wonderful piece of earth and worth a visit!
Therefore please book an accommodation in advance and prevent chafing!
Essential El Salvador Tips before you go
Book beforehand via Booking.com They simply have the unbeatable prices in this region and you can even find good deals for El Salvador.
Alternatively, I can also recommend hostelworld
Download the apps Uber and Maps.me, because these are essential tools for traveling through the country. Maps.me is for better orientation and laso offline available. Especially in El Salvador there are even unknown touristy places that you should share with world. In Maps.me you can mark these still unknown places.
On the other hand there is Uber, which you use to reserve rides with carpools.
This is also significantly cheaper than haggling with the taxi drivers on site.
By the way, if you do not feel safe with the small buses, it’s best to take a Uber from San Salvador across the country. For example, to El Tunco as the second most important tourist resort of El Salvador for a whopping 15-30 dollars.
A last tip before you use Uber: Try to avoid rush hour or rainy hours, because then the price buckles up significantly.
With both essential tools you get a good overview of the locations of the hotels, the attractions and you can handle your budget on transportation to do not pay a fortune.
How much does El Salvador cost?
- Accommodation per night
Almost everywhere you find hostels for around 12 dollars or 10 euros per night, mostly with Air Con.
Hotel prices are different and range between $ 30 or $ 40, if you need more luxury.
Booking.com has some good deals and I found there some good deals from $ 20 per night.
- Transportation with Uber and Local Buses
Just in downtown area of San Salvador you pay around 2-4 dollars per Uber Ride.
From San Salvador to El Tunco or La Libertad via Uber it’s between 15-30 dollars one way.
An affordable SEAkend deal from the big city, right?
Local buses each distance between the bigger cities cost between 1-3 dollars
A better understanding to know how to get from A to B
- Local Meals and Drinks
Menus are available between $ 3-10 in the restaurants, local beers and Micheladas for around $ 1.50 to $ 2.50.
You should try out the local known Pupusas and other Salvadorian food from the market stands for around $ 1.50 to $ 2.50
As you can see, El Salvador is really cheap and I could just repeat how beautiful it is.
It is frustrating to see that El Salvador is still associated with murder and manslaughter.
Problems of this kind are still there, but as a tourist it is very unlikely to get caught in the hands of criminal gangs.
Nobody is waiting for you at the border crossing. Be careful, careful and trust in your inner feeling!
There is so much more that the country has to offer you.
Fear will be the wrong guide for you in El Salvador.
If you feel confident enough and you left your fears behind you, nothing should stand in your way and you will enjoy this amazing country called El Salvador.
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