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Why Travel to El Salvador ?

Why travel to El Salvador?  Nobody goes to El Salvador. That’s what a family member said when she found out we were planning to visit El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America. It’s not your usual tourist destination, certainly not with kids, but we felt it was well worth a look. So where to go, what to see, where to stay, what to eat and more in our El Salvador travel blog section.

El Salvador cathedral of lights and coloured glass san salvador
This church in San Salvador, an incredible space filled with light and colour, is reason enough to travel. Iglesia el Rosario is one of the most acclaimed modern churches in the world. San Salvador’s old cathedral is pictured below, beautiful in a different way.

This post and our visit, came about several years ago now. Please check current situations and safety warning for El Salvador yourself.

Why Did We Visit El Salvador?

Our trip to El Salvador came by chance, we just needed a cheap, easy flight out of Florida at the end of a long USA trip. Our visa was out and we needed to leave,

Reasons to Visit El Salvador. San Salvadore Museum
Salvadorean history at San Salvador’s Museum National, this place is well worth a visit.

The flights out of Florida at the end of our USA road trip were the cheapest we could find as we searched for bargains and inspiration on Skyscanner. It was listed as $62 each on Spirit Airlines. Taxes and baggage fees bumped it up to $100 each, but still, it’s a good deal. It got us into Central America, an area which we’ve never had the chance to travel or explore. A new country is always a good idea particularly one that pushes your boundaries a little.

Is El Salvador Safe to Visit?

Guns in San Salvador, is it safe?
A sign outside a restaurant in San Salvador. Leave your guns at home please boys.

The USA has a travel warning in place for El Salvador, they tell people not to visit.

Once I started Googling travel safety, I discovered that the crime rate in El Salvador is lower than that in several US cities and that crime is mostly limited to gang members and drug production. The civil war ended over 20 years ago and El Salvador is trying to turn things around and develop a tourist industry. I even read an article from The Guardian recommending El Salvador as a good place to visit, so it must be OK.

Is El Salvadore a god place to visit? Church in San Salvador
The old Cathedral, Central San Salvador, the Historic District. We felt safe on the streets and in our accommodation, but you will see a lot of guns and razor wire.

I found a few travel blogs from intrepid travellers who have absolutely loved El Salvador, several of them family travellers like us.  There are a lot of surfers who come here, too, this coast was featured in the movie Big Wednesday.

In San Salvador, I felt totally safe in our accommodation. Guards with guns were everywhere in the city and there are a lot of high walls and razor wire, but our warm family guest house was a pleasure to be in. Salvadorean families live here, so why can’t we?

Don’t forget your guide book!  You may need help with Spanish, so the Lonely Planet’s language section will be your best friend. Few countries have language barriers these days, Central America is an exception. At the time of publication of this blog post there was no stand-alone Lonely Planet El Slvador that we could find, we had to get a Central America edition.

Why Visit El Salvador?

Resons to Visit El Salvador. Museum San Salvador
Salvadorean History from pre Spanish times to the present day at the Museum National in San Salvador
  • El Salvador has its own Mayan pyramid at Tazumal with a tiny admission fee compared to the big draws in Guatemala
  • It has volcanoes and crater lakes, treks and wildlife encounters.
  • It has Central America’s answer to Pompei. Ceren, a town buried in volcanic ash for 1400 years.
  • Surfing is big news and the beaches are beautiful. El Salvador has great breaks.
  • There are some beautiful buildings and churches.
  • El Salvador has interesting food, culture and people.
  • The Museum National  of anthropology in San Salvador has some spectacular Mayan displays.
  • El Salvador is not stuffed full of tourists. There are no tourist traps or ( in our experience) people waiting to rip you off. We have met some wonderful warm and happy people as we try to bumble our way around in our non-existent Spanish. Even the taxi drivers have done their best to help us out.

Costs of Travelling in El Salvador

Why Visit El Salvador street food
Great, cheap street food in El Salvador and hotels were fairly affordable too. It’s not Asia cheap, but it’s OK.

Prices are pretty good. A family room with breakfast cost us under $50 in San Salvador. As with all of Central and South America, it’s not cheap, if you want cheap go to Asia and Eastern Europe, but El Salvador is nowhere near as expensive as some South American countries.

Street food costs almost nothing, a dollar a head maybe and the supermarkets are cheap and extremely good. To be honest they are some of the best supermarkets I’ve ever seen in terms of variety, price and quality of produce.

A beer will cost you around $1.50.

Buses are cheap, 25c a trip around San Salvador. Taxis are reasonable, $30 from airport to San Salvador or to the coast, $4-5 around town

Admission prices seem fixed at $3. A great deal for Central America.

Family travel El Salvador. Street food Pupusas. San Salvador
Street food in down-town San Salvador. Don’t miss the pupusas con queso, a family favourite, yes, we travelled to El Salvador with kids.

We liked El Salvador a lot. It’s not the easiest place to travel and we were ultra careful when we’re out exploring. English isn’t widely spoken so you will most certainly need to buy a phrase book if , like us, you are totally inept at Spanish.

A good guide-book ( see above) will help you out too, we didn’t have one and it’s taken us days of online research to work out where we need to go and what to see, there is little tourist support available on the ground here or online.

Food and Street Food in El Salvador

food in El Salvador pupusas con queso
Pupusas, the most ubiquitous Salvadorean street food, can be vegetarian with cheese or beans or filled with pork. Great for hungry kids.

The food we enjoyed in El Salvador was very similar to that in Guatemala and other parts of Central America, pupusas, tamale, beans, fried bananas and more. Pupusas are probably the most uniquitous street food and they are ultra child friendly. These little pockets of hot bubbling cheese ( or they can contain meat or beans) fed us well.

Hostel in San Salvador

Family hotel San Salvadore. Hostel Dona Marta
We enjoyed amazing home cooked Salvadoren breakfasts at Hostel Dona Marta in San Salvador, we were staying with a kind doctor and his family and felt perfectly safe and secure.

We stayed at Hostal Donna Marta and would recommend it to other travellers.  We enjoyed a large family room with 4 beds in a quiet residential area. Our bathroom was shared but right outside our door and nobody else seemed to use it. Breakfasts were delicious, local and home cooked and our host and his family couldn’t have been any nicer or more helpful. The owner is a doctor, he even helped us out with buying medications for a child with a sore throat.

An en suite room was also available.

We took a taxi from the airport to Hostal Dona Marta, arranged by the owner, everything went smoothly and we had a great stay.

The main road and bus routes are a short walk from the hotel or taxis are great value.

You can check out other hotel options in San Salvador here, Agoda brings you latest discounts with the added benefit of reward points.

You can read more about how we got in and out of El Salvador to Guatemala and Florida in this post. The buses to Guatemala city were the best I’ve ever travelled in and that’s no exaggeration.  We only stayed in El Salvador for a week but it was great to have seen something of this little country. El Salvador certainly took me out of my comfort zone for the first time since we left Port Douglas. Travel around Asia, where everyone speaks English and whole countries appear set up with tourists in mind is a totally different experience. The best answer I can think of to that question, “Why travel to El Salvador?” is the simplest one. Visit to learn about it. That is enough.

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Iliana Alvarado

Wednesday 5th of May 2021

I am glad you enjoyed El Salvador, taking my children there this June. Thanks for the article. Enjoy it!

Miguel Flores

Sunday 21st of February 2021

Thanks for visiting my country and thanks again for beautiful things you said of El Salvador.God bless you travel beautiful family.?


Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

As a Salvadorean myself, it makes me feel proud to see that there’s still good people willing to venture on a nice and pleasant quest to my lovely and friendly country. And for those that are planning to visit, don’t miss the waterfalls in the city of Juayua..


Sunday 17th of June 2018

El Salvador was a country that i was sceptical about for months. We tracked there in Jan 18 with our 2 children 3 an 5 years. We do speak Spanish and I have been to other Latin American countries we really loved El Salvador the popusas were incredible! We went to all the sites you mantioned it was awesome prices and everywhere is easy to get to. We stayed in Cuco Beach- at Condado Cuculandia thr host name is Gustavo he is amazing- he can speak English too! Beautiful experience we recommended visiting Cuco - relaxing and the beach is lovely and waem. If you like horse riding they have gear activities there too! Check it out!!


Tuesday 16th of January 2018

Thanks for sharing. I’m going to El Salvador next month for a short program of volunteer.and these info will be useful for me!