Esteli Nicaragua to El Tunco El Salvador via Honduras

Published: April 5th 2014
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Next we wanted to go to El Tunco beach in El Salvador. This meant from Esteli we would have to get a bus to the border with Honduras, go through Honduras and go through another border crossing into El Salvador. It looked like it would take us a couple of days to get to El Tunco so we asked at Ticabus to see how long that bus would take to see if it was worth doing. They quoted us $37 and said we would arrive in San Salvador at 5pm which would be too late to go to El Tunco that same day. As both options would take 2 days we decided to go with the chicken buses. Here is how we did it:

1. Catch a bus to Somoto. On the main highway in Esteli opposite the UNO garage in between Hard Bar and Calle Transversal you can wave the Somoto bus down. It arrived at 6:40am cost C$28 and got into Somoto around 8:30am.

2. Catch a bus to El Espino. This leaves from the same bus station in Somoto. If left at 8:50am, cost C$10, and took 40 mins.

3. Exit Nicaragua. Walk through the barrier and show your passport to the police. Walk towards a big round building on your left. Walk around the building (to about 12 o clock) and there is an immigration window. They asked us where we were going in Honduras so we told them we were going to El Salvador. It cost $2 and there was no exit stamp just a receipt. We questioned this and they said we would only need a Honduras stamp. During this process we completed a survey about our time in Nicaragua with some tourism workers. We also changed our remaing cordobas for some Honduran Lempira at a good rate with the cambio man (the only tout there).

4. Enter Honduras. Walk up the hill. Show your passport and receipt for exiting Nicaragua at the check point. There is a yellow building on the right. On the left hand side of the building is a immigration window where you can get entry forms. It cost $3 to enter and we were asked again where we were going. Again we just said El Salvador. This time we got a stamp and a copy of our immigration form. Walk through the barrier and enjoy the view. We were through by 10am.

5. Catch the bus to San Marcos De Colon - the bus stop is on the left just through the barrier. It was a packed minibus and we had to wait until 10:35am before it left. It cost L$17 and arrived at 11:05am.

6. Catch the bus to Choluteca - when the minibus was driving into the terminal to park, bus guys were yelling Choluteca through the window. The bus was parked on the road right next to the terminal, left at 11:15am and cost L$30. There were lovely views but it was so slow. It kept stopping and picked up about 100 giggling school children which left us wishing we had taken the directo bus instead. It arrived in Choluteca at 1pm.

7. Catch the bus to El Amatillo - as we were getting off the bus we were approached again by bus guys yelling destinations. The bus going to El Amatillo on the El Salvadorian border left at 1:30pm. It cost $3 each (we had run out of Lempira at this point but they were happpy to accept US$) and arrived at the border at 3:45pm.

8. Exit Honduras. On the left in a caged building is the immigration window. We had to give them the copy of our entry form along with our passport and got a free departure stamp.

9. Enter El Salvador. Walk over the bridge and follow the signs to the immigration window. There was no charge, we were asked no questions but didn't get an entry stamp. Again we questioned this but they said it wasn't needed. Just after the window we got randomly selected for a police question and bag check. They asked where we were going, where I live, what job I did and did a superficial search of my handbag.

10. Catch a bus to Santa Rosa. The bus stop is down the road a bit from immigration. The bus had San Miguel/Santa Rosa on the front but only went as far as Santa Rosa. It left at 4:20pm, cost $1 and arrived at 4:50pm. When I say 'arrived' I mean it dropped us on the side of the road by a Burger King. There were other people standing around who looked like they were waiting for a bus and the bus driver made some 'wait here' type hand gestures whilst mumbling in Spanish so we stook around there.

11. Catch a bus to San Miguel. The bus showed up about 5 mins later and left about 5 mins after that. It cost $1 and arrived at 6pm.

12. Stay the night in San Miguel. It was starting to get dark so we decided to stay in San Miguel. We stayed in Hotel Inn El Guanaco just behind the bus station. It was $20 for a double with hot water showers, air con and TV. There was a supermarket over the road from the bus station where we bought some beers and broke a $20 for bus change and we had a chicken sandwich from a seller on the road. The sandwich was good and came with a bag of chicken gravy as well as vegies and a hard boiled egg however it was ruined slightly as the chicken was still on the bone which doesn't really work in a sandwich.

13. Catch a bus to San Salvador. There was a super fancy express deluxe bus at the entrance to the bus terminal that was going to San Salvador. We asked how much and he said $5 so we said no and walked off. He was yelling after us that it would only take 2 hours and then changed the price to $4. We had already moved on by then and were approached by another guy who said his bus was $3 so we hopped on that.It left at 8:45am (before the express bus) so we thought we were on to a winner until it stopped around the corner for about 15 mins. It arrived in San Salvador at 12:15pm.

14. Change bus terminals. The bus into San Salvador arrived at Terminal de Oriente and the bus to La Libertad left from Terminal de Occidente. When we got off the bus we were met by a swarm of taxi drivers which we dismissed determined to get a bus across the city. There were buses parked and travelling on both sides of the road in front of the bus station. I had read that we needed to get bus number 34 or possibly 7c. Over the road there was a 7C driving along so we chased it, jumped on when it was stuck in traffic, pushed through the turnstile and squashed onto a seat. This is when we found out you are supposed to pay the bus driver as you board the bus. It cost 20 cents and took 25 mins. Get off when the conductor shouts Occidente and most people get off.

15. Get a bus to La Libertad. We got off the bus and walked through the market to the bus station. We then walked around trying to find a sign for buses heading to La Libertad. After failing we tried to ask someone where the bus stop was. We managed to figure out from the response and some hand gestures that the bus stop was actually outside the terminal but couldn't really understand where. We walked out of the other side of the bus station to the road and asked someone else. They gestured up to the right and said "next corner" in English so we started heading that way. I'm not sure where the actual bus stop is but a 102 bus to La Libertad drove past us and stopped for us to jump on. We caught the bus at 1pm, it cost 60 cents and arrived at 2:25pm.

16.Catch a bus to El Tunco. We got off the bus from San Salvador on the main road and waited there until a 80a bus drove past. It took less than 15 mins and cost 25 cents. The conductor told us when we had reached El Tunco.

It took a couple of days and 11 buses but to get from Esteli Nicaragua all the way to El Tunco in El Salvador only cost us about $13 each for the transport.


15th February 2015

interesting report
I'm going to do the trip vice versa. But I'm not sure wheater I want to take 11 buses :-) Could you recommend to spend some days in Honduras?
28th February 2015

Hi, as you can see from our blog we didn't spend much time in that area of Honduras so can't really recommend anywhere to go there. However the places we visited further North later in our trip were good and the people seemed friendly enough.
3rd December 2017

Thank you so much for the detailed info!! Honduras isn't safe a.t.m. or just one big disaster after elections. So I hope your schedule will work for me to get from Nicaragua to El Salvador. Gracias!

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