El Salvador

El Salvador FlagTo understand more about this troubled Central American country one only needs to watch the movie Salvador, about the brutal civil war that tore the country apart in the 1980s. The civil war is now over in El Salvador, and its beauty and splendor–including active volcanoes and cloud forests–are starting to show again.

Traveling in El Salvador isn’t like in other Central American countries, where independent travel is the norm. Currently, most people come to El Salvador to participate in the redevelopment and restoration of this post-war country. Organizations from all over the world bring people here to help with education, healthcare, and other initiatives that will put El Salvador on the road to recovery.

A recent blow to El Salvador’s revitalization, a massive earthquake hit the region in early 2001 causing a state of emergency. Not all the areas of the country were affected, but the area around the capitol San Salvador suffered greatly, and much is still needed to be done to help El Salvador recover from this latest tragedy.

Traveling in El Salvador
El Salvador MapThe 2001 earthquake disrupted all travel in El Salvador, so public transportation in the country is unpredictable. Some raods are still washed out so there is no way to tell how easy it is to travel around the entire country. But there is a good bus system, and if the roads are open, buses will run frequently. Renting a car is also possible, but it is best to discuss with someone first where you are headed so you know how the road is or if it’s passable.

U.S. and Canadian citizens do not require a visa but must buy a tourist card–valid for 90 days–upon arrival. Citizens of Australia and New Zealand need a visa; citizens of most Western European countries do not require a visa or tourist card.

Health Risks in El Salvador
Health risks include cholera, dengue fever, malaria, hepatitis, typhoid, and dysentery. It is advised that you consult a doctor about what shots you may need before traveling to El Salvador.

What to Know
In 2001, the U.S. dollar became the official currency in El Salvador, but places still accept the old currency the colón. Things are more expensive here than in other Central American countries, but it is still comparatively cheap for most travelers–$25 to $30 dollars a day will get you reasonable accomodations and meals.

Weather in El Salvador
The optimal time to visit is the dry season, which is from November to April. The roads are in the best condition and most of the cultural festivals take place during this period. But during the main festival season, as well as before Easter and after Christmas, traveling is most expensive. The wet season–May to October–can still be nice, but expect daily rain showers.

El Salvador Information
North / Central AmericaPopulation:6,122,515
Government: Republic
Square Miles: 8093 sq mi (20,752 sq km)
Capitol: San Salvador (pop 1 million)
Official Languages:Spanish
People: 94% mestizo (Spanish-Indian), 5% Indian, 1% European descent
Religion: 75% Roman Catholic, 20% Protestant
Major products/industries: Textiles, coffee, sugar, beverages, petroleum, chemicals, fertilizer, textiles, furniture, light metals, cotton