El Salvador Central America El Salvador, San Salvador - 13-Aug-2003
DESTINATION MINI GUIDE El Salvador
By Donald T. Lee updated 12/08/2003:
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 GOBest time of year is the dry season from November through March. The weather is very hot and humid inApril and May. Rainy season is late May through October, usually raining during the evenings. The sunshines 350 days a year in El Salvador! Don't go Easter Holy Week(Semana Santa), the first week ofAugust(religious holidays) or mid-December through early January.(Christmas-New Years) unless you havefamily to stay with or prior reservations.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
By PlaneBy PlaneFlights 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 AroundThe country is small, less than the size of the State of Maryland in the USA, and most attractions within the country canbe visited within 3 to 4 days with rental car or on Tour. A word of advice - El Salvador is not kind to "low budget" backpackers or independent travelers. Local transport is cheap, but crowded and there are no luggage racks. If traveling around on public transport leave luggages in hotel, good and second class international bus services to and from Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua daily with space for luggage.Central America Language tours is able to provide either coaster or minivan with driver for small to medium size groups atmoderate prices. All vehicles are insured throughout Central America. Local guide service optional but suggested. Central America Language Tours for reasons of insurance and safety, does not accompany it’s clients on local public transport. Taxis are recommended in San Salvador, frequent. Fix price with driver before entering the vehicle, generally $1.00 per km. $1.50 at night. Minimum fare $3.00, all taxis are yellow and clearly marked.
Montecristo Cloud Forest in Triunfo International Park, with views from the summit of El Salvador,Guatemala and Honduras. Orchid Farm. Guides. Camping. Permit required for vehicles 4WD recommended. Best dry season November-April. Cerro Monte Cristo National Park, with its view of the smoking cone of IzalcoVolacano. See item on ISTU below.Beaches, Beaches and more Beaches. 300 Km.(200 miles) Of them including Bays, secluded coves and Mangroves. World Class Surfing at La Libertad’s Punta Roca, Sunzal and El Zonte Beaches, Deep Sea Fishing (Sailfish, Tuna, Dorado, Marlin) and Deep Sea Diving from Los Cobanos Beach in Western El Salvador and Sun Surf and Fish in Estern El Salvador too from the famed Costa del Sol onwards to El Cuco and the exotic pristine pacific haunts of the “Wild East”.
BEST UNUSUAL ATTRACTIONMuseum of the Revolution in Perquin, the former "Rebel Capital" during the Civil Conflict 1980-92. Located in Northeastern El Salvador near the Honduran border, tour the Musuem, Town and nearby massacre sites(1981-1982) of Aramabala and El Mazote, where there is a memorial to the fallen, Guide and vehicle recommended.
BEST ACTIVITY AND GUIDES 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. 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 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.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 firstname.lastname@example.org BEST ALTERNATIVEIf a little bit nervous about visiting El Salvador for the first time due to it’s undeserved reputation and in a group of 3 or more persons Central America Language Tours can hook you up with ISTU (Salvadorian Institute of Tourism) with a bi lingual Guide and Tourist Police escort at no extra charge to either the Nature Preserves of Cerro Verde in Western El Salvador near the volcanic Lake Coatepeque or Walter T. Denninger Tropical Forest at the slopes of the Pacific Ocean with it’s amazing bio diversity. No mass tourism Costa Rican style here enjoy but reservations required in advance.
BEST LODGINGS· For backpackers, try Ximenas Guest House in San Salvador. www.ximenasguesthouse.com Spanish language instruction available.· For moderate travelers, there are dozens of charming Guest Houses and small family run B & B's located in tree lined residential neighborhoods of San Salvador, the capital city, some with pool. Contact Central America Language Tours for information and reservations. Also countryside and beach hotel/beach house and long term rentals.· For business and luxury travelers, The San Salvador Marriott with a special rate if reserving in advance from Central America Language Tours
BEST EATS· The Salvadorian "Pupusa" is a must try, Pupusa places are everywhere, the best Pupusas come from “Olocuilta” south of San Salvador and are sold in the city. · There are lots of the familiar 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. For those with a taste for upscale international fare and late night disco dancing check out Colonia San Benito, San Salvador’s “Zona Rosa” patrolled by the PNC Tourist Police.
BEST CULTURAL ENTERTAINMENT La Luna Casa de Arte- Ongoing 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 and visit their site for schedules at http://www.lalunacasayarte.com BEST LOCAL HAUNTLa Ventana near the National University. With a European cafe atmosphere, they do not mind if you sit and chat, nursing a beer. Located in the heart of San Salvador’s “Bohemian” district.BEST SHOPPINGThere are two great arts and crafts markets in San Salvador, The “Ex-Cuartel” a huge crafts bazaar located in downtown San Salvador and the smaller “Mercado de Artesinias” near the San Salvador Fairgrounds(be ready to bargain hard at both locations) along with dozens of towns dedicated to Crafts aound the country, such as Ataco, Ilobasco, La Palma, Nahuazalco and San Sebastian. Knock yourself out!There are several large modern Shopping Malls, with security patrols, such as MetroCentro, MetroSur, Gallerias and Las Cascadas located in and around San Salvador. There are also MetroCentro Malls in the cities of Santa Ana and San Miguel.MONEY AND COMMUNICATIONSUS Dollar, including small 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 give dollars on Cash Advances. The local currency, the Colon, which as of this writing has almost disappeared, is pegged at 8.75 to 1US$ Fixed Rate and interchangeable in stores, on transport etc.HEALTH AND SAFETYEl 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, some cases of rudeness have been reported in the crowsed and densely populated capital city of San Salvador, however the traveler will find the people in the countryside exceptionally friendly and corteous. Take caution when driving a rental vehicle here, as there are many cases of hit and run in minor accidents (fender benders) especially scrapes in crowded parking areas. Most motorists drive uninsured and one has a $1000 deductible upon your rental contract, 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 Central America Language Tours we contract a Transportation Company based in El Salvador with fully insured Coasters and Mini-Buses able to transport you from El Salvador to Guatemala and Belize north and west or Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica south and east from their base near El Salvador’s international airport.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.centralamericalanguagetours.com A Central American Vertical Portal site based in El Salvador and Guatemala offering the client the best possible Tours, Transport, Guides, Lodgings and Spanish Language Training through our affiliates in the region,Copyright 2002. Donald T. Lee. All rights reserved.
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