El Salvador an Exotic Destination Revealed!


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Central America Caribbean » El Salvador
November 26th 2004
Published: November 26th 2004
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LOCAL! GoNOMAD DESTINATION MINI GUIDE
El Salvador

By Donald T. Lee
updated 11/04

WHY GO
25 volcanoes, one-Izalco-which can be viewed from nearbyCerro Verde Park -
is still smoking!: A cloud forest with a stunning view of El Salvador,
Guatemala and Honduras from the Summit: Museum of the Revolution and El
Mazote-Arambala Civil War Memorial Massacre sites: 200 miles of unspoiled
and uncrowded Pacific Coast beaches, coves and bays; The best surfing in
Central America; Colonial and indigenous villages where time has stood
still; humungous arts and crafts, visit several towns dedicated over to
the making of these native crafts, such as La Palma in the North and
Ilobasco in the East of the country; You will find throughout all of El
Salvador friendly and industrious people, always ready to assist you and
to practice their English(almost 60% of El Salvadorians have relatives
living and working abroad). Most importantly, El Salvador is an uncrowded,
exotic and suprise destination: no tourist hordes here!
WHEN TO GO
Best time of year is the dry season from November through March. The
weather is very hot and humid in
April and May. Rainy season is late May through October, usually raining
during the evenings. The sun
shines 350 days a year in El Salvador! Don't go Easter Holy Week(Semana
Santa), the first week of
August(religious holidays) or mid-December through early
January.(Christmas-New Years) unless you have
family to stay with or prior reservations.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
By Plane
By Plane
Flights are available from gateway cities in US: NY,DC, Atlanta, Miami,
NO, Houston, Denver, LA and SF on TACA, Continental, Delta, American or
United Airlines. Get a "Coupon Ticket" for Central & South America on TACA
www.taca.com and stop over in El Salvador from Guatemala, Honduras ,Costa
Rica, Mexico or South America at no extra charge. El Salvador has the most
modern and efficent Airport in all Central America and therefore is the
Hub of TACA Central American airlines.

Getting Around

The country is small, about the size of Maryland in the USA, and most
attractions within the country can
be visited within 3 to 4 days with rental car or on Tour. El Salvador is
not kind to "low budget" backpackers or independent travelers. Local
transport is cheap, but crowded and there are no luggage racks.

Local tour operators provide a minivan and driver for small groups at
moderate prices. Otherwise, if planning on taking local transport, base
yourself in the centrally
located capital city of San Salvador and find a place to leave your luggage.

BEST ATTRACTIONS
Montecristo Cloud Forest in Triunfo International Park, with spectacular
views from the summit of El Salvador Guatemala and Honduras (22 km. north
of city of Metapan in northwestern El Salvador, dirt road, best dry season
Nov.-April, 4WD or Pickup Truck recommended).,. Cerro Monte Cristo
National Park, with its view of the smoking cone of Izalco
Volacano. (Permit Required)

BEST UNUSUAL ATTRACTION
Museum of the Revolution in Perquin, the former "Rebel Capital" during the
Civil Conflict 1980-92.

BEST ACTIVITY AND GUIDE
For the Eco Traveler we recommend El Imposible National Park with Visitors
Center-Camping Areas-Nature Trails and Crystal Clear Rivers in a protected
enviroment with guides on site. The guides do not charge fees but work on
a basis of tipping from the client. Reservations and permit for each
visitor required in advance from the FundaSalva offices in San Salvador.
Contact Central America Language tours for more information. Recommended
for physically fit, some trails are steep and involve strenuous activity.

For those who prefer cultural, historical and walking tours Central
America Language Tours will provide you with a native bi-lingual guide if
required to such marvelous destinations as Indingenous village of
Panchimalco the restored colonial city of Suchitoto, the Mayan Ruins of
Joya de Ceren (The "Pompeii of the Americas"), the Pyramids of San Andres
and Tazumal and the newly renovated Ruins of Cihuatán Archaeological park
all within a short drive of San Salvador. For Volcano climbing and visits
to Cerro Verde and Walter Deninger National Parks a permit is now required
from ISTU(Salvadorian Institute of Tourism)who shall also provide a guide
and two uniformed National Police Officers for Group Excursions. The
Guides and Officers are salaried and groups so there is no charge, groups
should tip at the end of the excursion as a courtesy.

Donald Lee, Director of Central America Language Tours offers visitors to
San Salvador a Free half day welcome tour including the Archaeological
Musuem, Botanical Gardens and Arts and Crafts Market(Mercado de
Artesinias) - guide service only - client provides admission fees and
transport - the three locations are all located within 3 km. (2 miles) of
one another. Reserve in advance donaldlee@thepolyglots.com

BEST ALTERNATIVE
Contact Donald Lee to arrange to visit off the beaten path towns and
villages in the countryside, if traveling by local bus, leave luggages in
San Salvador. Many local tour operators run budget excursions in minivans
all over the country, especially on weekends and also to neighboring
Guatemala, especially Antigua and Lake Atitlan. Take a bilingual guide if
you don’t understand Spanish, though. For more information, contact Donald
at donaldlee@thepolyglots.com

BEST LODGINGS
• For backpackers, try Ximenas Guest House in San Salvador. Located on
Calle San Salvador in a residential area not far from Metrocentro. For
more information on San Salvador lodgings and eateries view
http://www.revuemag.com

• For moderate travelers, there are dozens of charming Guest Houses and
small family run B & B's in residential neighborhoods of San Salvador, the
capital city.
• For business and luxury travelers, The Radisson Plaza Hotel 4 Star, The
El Presidente Marriot, and other great 3 Star Bed and Breakfast/Guest
House establishments all over town, with a discount if you contact the
guide, Donald Lee, to book in advance for you. E mail
donaldlee@thepolyglots.com

BEST EATS

• The Salvadorian "Pupusa" is a must try.
• There are lots of fast food spots in San Salvador, but try the Bohemian
Zone near the National University for best specialty restaurants such as
La Ventana, the most popular in town. Open late night on weekends to 3AM.

BEST CULTURAL ENTERTAINMENT
La Luna Casa de Arte, La Ventana Art Exhibitions and many, many cultural,
artistic and musical endeavors. Stop by La Luna any night but Sunday to
get oriented or check the Arts, Culture and Entertainment section of the
papers or visit the “El Salvador” section online of “Revue Magazine”(Print
edition available at “Ximena’s Guest House” or any of the advertisers)
http://www.revuemag.com (Monthly list of Cultural Events)

BEST LOCAL HAUNT
La Ventana near the National University. With a European cafe atmosphere,
they do not mind if you sit and chat, nursing a beer. There is also a
vibrant nightlife boasting a Bohemian flair in this area located on or
near the Calle San Antonio Abad take Bus 30B from Metrocentro – approx. 8
minutes.

BEST SHOPPING
There are two great arts and crafts markets in San Salvador and dozens of
arts and crafts towns, such as La Palma(woodcrafts and native art),
Ilobasco(ceramics), San Sebastian(hammocks) and Nahualizalco(wooden
furniture), knock
yourself out!

There are several large modern Shopping Malls, such as MetroCentro,
MetroSur and Gallerias located in San Salvador. There are also Malls in
the cities of Santa Ana and San Miguel. The Centro(Downtown) of San
Salvador not recommended, crowded, dirty and a bit dangerous if you do not
know your way around.

MONEY AND COMMUNICATIONS
US Dollar, including change, is now legal tender and circulating in El
Salvador since January 2001. All Credit Card transactions are in USD. No
need to change money to/from US Cash. ATM Machines, located in major
cities and large towns as well as the new Shell and Texaco 24 Hour Gas
Stations along the highways, give dollars on Cash Advances, all major
Credit and Debit Cards. Visa is most common. The local currency, the
Colon, is pegged at 8.75 to 1US$ Fixed Rate and interchangeable in stores,
buses etc. There are over 100 cybercafes in Metropolitan San Salvador and now even small villages boast a local Internet Cafe. Average $1.00 an hour or less. Usually open 8AM - 7PM most areas, except fewer open on Sundays.

HEALTH AND SAFETY
El Salvador is the most densely populated nation in the Western Hemisphere
and, as a result, 97% of the country has been deforested in the last 30
years. Litter and garbage abound on highways, roads and in slum areas.
Salvadorians are hard working and aggressive people, but cases of rudeness
have been reported.
Take caution when driving a rental vehicle here, as there are many cases
of hit and run in minor accidents (fender benders). Most motorists drive
uninsured and you have a $1000 deductible, which means you pay for the
damage to the vehicle on report to the rental car company.It is often
better to form a Group and take a Tour on an insured vehicle with Driver.
Contact El Sal Biz Tours

BEST RESOURCES
http://www.amerispan.com/resources/El_Salvador.html
Great links from a company that offers volunteer and learning vacations in
El Salvador
http://www.4elsalvador.com This fabulous site, designed by a
Salvadorian-American Travel Agent based in Los Angeles, USA offers 6
amazing virtual tours of El Salvador as well as in depth information on
travel in the Country in both English and Spanish.
http://www.thepolyglots.com A linguist’s paradise, site in 12 languages
including English and Spanish, whose Latin American operations are based
in El Salvador. Free intensive Spanish Course for English Speaking members
online as well as other bi and multi-lingual services including Latin
American Business and Travel Directory. Visitors are welcome to download
free the introduction and first three lessons of the Spanish
Course..Coming..Special section on El Salvadorian and Central American
Travel, Business, Language Schools and Volunteer Opportunties.

Update of November 24, 2004 to replace:
LOCAL! GoNOMAD DESTINATION MINI GUIDE
El Salvador



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