Traveling tips for El Salvador – what you should know before a trip to El Salvador

Are you planning a trip to El Salvador and wondering what to expect? Look no further! As you prepare for your adventure, it’s essential to know the ins and outs of traveling in El Salvador. From the best time to visit and entry requirements to packing essentials and cultural norms, we’ve got you covered.

El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America, offers a diverse range of activities for all types of travelers. With its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and impressive volcanoes, you’ll be spoiled for choice. But before you dive into the excitement, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the local customs, safety tips, and practical information that will make your trip a success.

We’ll cover everything from what to pack and how to dress to the top destinations to see and dishes to sample from local cuisine in this insightful article about traveling in El Salvador. Our professional guidance will help you explore El Salvador with confidence and get the most out of your trip, whether you’re an experienced traveler or starting out on your own.

What do I need to know before flying to El Salvador?

Here are some important things to know before flying to El Salvador:

About El Salvador:

  • El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America.
  • It’s known for its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and impressive volcanoes.
  • The country offers a diverse range of activities for all classes of travelers.
  • Some popular travel destinations include San Salvador, San Miguel, Ahuachapán, Santa Ana, Juayúa, Suchitoto, Concepción De Ataco, San Vicente, and El Rosario.

Planning Your Trip:

  • You can enjoy both a city and beach vacation.
  • Don’t miss out on volcanoes, forests, and ruins.
  • Brace for higher prices during peak periods.
  • Plan around the rainy season. The dry season, from November through April, is the best time for clear skies and mud-free hiking.

Flight Tips:

  • There are year-round nonstop flights from Los Angeles Airport (LAX), San Francisco Airport (SFO), Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), and Dulles International Airport (IAD) in Washington DC, among others.
  • Most flights from the US to El Salvador have one or two layovers en route.
  • The best time of day to fly to San Salvador is in the afternoon.
  • You can find cheap flights to El Salvador by signing up for free email alerts, setting your departure and destination.

Visa and Entry Requirements:

  • As a U.S. citizen, you are not required to obtain a tourist visa prior to your trip to El Salvador as long as your visit does not exceed 90 days.
  • However, all U.S. citizens not born in El Salvador must purchase a tourist card upon their arrival at El Salvador Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (SAN) in San Salvador.

What to bring when traveling to El Salvador?

When traveling to El Salvador, it’s important to pack smartly to ensure you have a comfortable and safe trip. Here’s a general packing list to consider:

  • Essential Documents: Passport, travel insurance, and necessary visas or tourist cards.
  • Medications: prescription medicines, travelers’ diarrhea antibiotics, and a basic first-aid kit including items like bandages and antiseptics.
  • Health Supplies: Hand sanitizer, water purification tablets (if visiting remote areas), insect repellent, and sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection.
  • Clothing: lightweight and breathable clothes for the warm climate, a hat for sun protection, and a sturdy pair of shoes for exploring.
  • Personal Safety Items: Consider packing items like earplugs and a medical alert bracelet if needed.
  • Technology: chargers, adapters, and any other tech essentials for your devices.
  • Miscellaneous: sunglasses, a reusable water bottle, and a daypack for excursions.

How much cash to bring to El Salvador?

When visiting El Salvador, it’s recommended to bring a moderate amount of cash for your expenses, but not too much, as carrying large amounts of cash can be unsafe. Here are some tips:

  1. Amount of Cash: It’s suggested to bring enough for small purchases, tips, and emergencies. A few hundred dollars in smaller denominations should suffice for most travelers.
  2. Small Bills: Bring bills no larger than $20, as larger bills like $50 or $100 are not commonly used and might be difficult to break
  3. Credit Cards and ATMs: Credit cards are widely accepted, and ATMs are available, though they may occasionally run out of cash. It’s a good idea to have a backup payment method.

How to dress in El Salvador?

El Salvador has a relaxed and casual atmosphere, so comfort is key. Here are some clothing essentials:

  1. Lightweight Clothing: Pack breathable fabrics like cotton and linen to stay cool and comfortable in the heat.
  2. Shorts and T-shirts: For both men and women, shorts and T-shirts are your go-to options for everyday wear.
  3. Swimwear: El Salvador boasts some of the best surfing spots in the world, so don’t forget your swimsuit.
  4. Hiking Gear: If you intend to hike volcanoes or explore national parks, bring sturdy hiking shoes, lightweight pants, and moisture-wicking shirts.
  5. Respectful Attire for Culture and Cities: When visiting religious sites or urban areas, it’s important to dress respectfully. In general, steer toward conservative attire, especially when visiting churches.

How do you greet someone in El Salvador?

When meeting someone in El Salvador, it’s customary to shake hands and say “mucho gusto” (nice to meet you) the first time you meet someone. It’s also courteous to preface your conversation with “buenos días” (good morning) or “buenas tardes” (good afternoon/evening). In many ways, El Salvador is a formal culture where only close friends and family use first names.

Can you use USD in El Salvador?

Yes, you can use USD in El Salvador. The US dollar is the currency used daily by Salvadorans and businesses to do their transactions. It has been the de facto legal currency of El Salvador since 2001. In addition to the US dollar, Bitcoin cryptocurrency is also a legal tender in El Salvador.

How much is $1000 US in El Salvador?

The US dollar is the official currency of El Salvador, so $1000 in US dollars is equivalent to $1000 in El Salvador.

Are things expensive in El Salvador?

The cost of living in El Salvador is generally lower compared to many other countries. Here are some average costs:

  • A family of four’s estimated monthly costs are around $2,288 excluding rent.
  • A single person’s estimated monthly costs are around $644.8, excluding rent.
  • A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district is around $17.
  • Monthly rent for an 85 m2 (900 sqft) furnished accommodation in an expensive area is around $1,170.
  • Monthly rent for an 85 m2 (900 sqft) furnished accommodation in a normal area is around $725.
  • Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) is around $41.58 per month.

Why do tourists go to El Salvador?

El Salvador is known for its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and impressive volcanoes. Tourists are attracted to its diverse range of activities and destinations. Some popular attractions include:

  1. Museo de Arte: An art museum located in San Salvador.
  2. Jardin Botanico La Laguna: A botanical garden located in Antiguo Cuscatlán.
  3. Iglesia El Rosario: A church known for its unique architecture in San Salvador.
  4. Salto De Malacatiupan: A natural hot spring located in Ahuachapán.
  5. Iglesia Inmaculada Concepcion de Maria: A historic church located in Ahuachapán.

What is not allowed in El Salvador?

In El Salvador, there are certain things that are not allowed or considered inappropriate:

  1. Dressing inappropriately: It’s inappropriate to go into shops shirtless or in a bikini. Also, Salvadorans are very conscious of appearance, grooming, and dress. Looking scruffy and unwashed is considered an offense.
  2. Offensive terms: Referring to indigenous people as “indios” is considered offensive. The word “indígena” for indigenous men and women is widely used.
  3. Certain imports: Military airplanes and ships, gas masks for military use, potassium nitrate, stamped paper for making cigarettes, postage stamps, and nickel coins for legal circulation are prohibited.
  4. Drugs: Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in El Salvador are severe

How safe is El Salvador for tourists?

El Salvador is somewhat safe to visit, though it has many dangers. You should be aware that tourist hotspots, restaurants, shops, and public transportation are places where most thefts and pickpocketing occur, and that violent crime exists on the streets. Here are some safety tips:

  • Always do your research before traveling to a destination.
  • Don’t dress in a way that shows off wealth.
  • Make sure that your cellphone is always fully charged before leaving your hotel.
  • Always ask before taking pictures of locals.
  • Never travel alone at night.7


What food is El Salvador known for?

El Salvador is known for its rich and diverse cuisine. Here are some popular Salvadoran dishes:

  1. Pupusas: The national dish of El Salvador. They are hand-made tortillas made of corn or rice flour filled with cheese, pork, beans, or Loroco (a local edible flower).
  2. Tamales: made using corn dough mixed with spices and filled with chicken, a slice of boiled egg, and tomato-based sauce.
  3. Yuca Frita: A wholesome dish of deep-fried cassava, sliced into piping hot, thick-cut wedges.
  4. Empanadas de Leche o Frijol: A sweet snack of fried plantains that can be found in bakeries and bought from food vendors.

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