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A primer for those traveling/volunteering/possibly relocating to El Salvador, Guatemala and the rest of Central america for the first time.
features photo gallery and travel tour information of every country in Latin America
and a good section on El Salvador, in Spanish, English and French,
click on El Salvador section http://www.viajero.com.sv/
Another good resource online is the Alfa Travel Guide (English, Spanish, Swedish) based in El Salvador for all Central America click on
Finally refer them to Roberto's (El Gringo en Suchitoto) websites based in Suchitoto, El Salvador, both in perfect English and Spanish.
Roberto has the cybercafe and hostel in Suchitoto. CS Member.
This information 'bloq' courtesy of:
'Welcome to Cinquera in El Salvador'
Rural Eco and Cultural Tourism, Native Crafts and more... contact our
organization, non profit, registered in el Salvador, via e mail if interested..message
me in English or Spanish for contact info. and more information if
E mail elsalvadorinfo at g mail. com for more information
If traveling alone or in a pair, especially Women, join the "Hospex" (Hospitality Exchange) non profit portals
Hundreds of bi and multi lingual members in Central America, some of whom will host you
in their homes a night, two or more, others will meet up with you and
gladly show you around their area...avoid taxistas, travel hustlers,
scammers and cheap "local guides" in and around bus stations, parks and
travel destinations, hotel employees rarely have much information
The 'Really Real' El Salvador we know and love!
Don't miss this super travelouge!!!!!
A bit of what you may need to know.
"The rest is showing up!" Woody Allen.."80% of life is showing up..."
*****About Central America..mostly facts.
WikiPedia Central America Travel Guides
http://wikitravel.org/en/Costa_Rica ; Costa Rica
http://wikitravel.org/en/El_Salvador ; El Salvador
http://wikitravel.org/en/Guatemala ; Guatemala
http://wikitravel.org/en/Honduras ; Honduras
http://wikitravel.org/en/Nicaragua ; Nicaragua
http://wikitravel.org/en/Panama ; Panama
To those traveling on to South America:
GoCentralAmerica Portal and Forums
GoSouthAmerica Portal and Forums (join on www.about.com/)
Best Ex Pat and Traveler's Forums in South America
Why not El Salvador and Guatemala??
Guatemala - The Director of INGUAT, Institute of Tourism of Guatemala,
estimates that is possible for the country to reach an increase of 3
to 4 percent in the tourism industry for 2009.
The current financial crisis in developed countries could make
Guatemala, neighboring El Salvador and the rest of Central America a
very attractive travel destination suiting all budgets.
World renowned publications like
Forbes Magazine and others have described how much
'bang you get for
your travel buck' in Guatemala.
Guatemala's advantage is that we are
considerably cheaper than Costa Rica and we have much more to offer.
Pacific Ocean destinations like Monterrico are a favored tourist hot
spot. The new surfing madness brings young visitors to the beaches.
There is sports fishing, a newly developed industry that is taking of
with great success, so are the newly discovered opportunities for
For water and adventure lovers there is river rafting in river Cahabon
and many others.
Guatemala will have the usual culture travelers. The Mayan culture is
a magnet that brings hundreds of people from all over the world to
explore Tikal, Chichicastenango and many archeological sites all over
the country. One of the favorites is Tak alik ab Aj, down on the
pacific coast near Rethaluleu.. There are so many sites that the time
is usually not enough to visit them all.
El Salvador boasts 'The Pompei of the Americas' Joya de Ceren, the
Pyramids of San Andres and Tzumal and the recently excavated Ruins of
Ciuhatan, City of Women.
Back in Guatemala, for nature lovers, Bird watching tours are also a
trend that is
developing, so is the visit to the natural reserves like Laguna del Tigre
and la Lechua.
In El Salvador don't miss the nature preserve of Parque
El Imposible and the Cloud Forest of Montecristi in Parque El
Trifunio, summit is located where the borders of El Salvador,
Guatemala and Honduras meet. On a clear day one can view the Heart of
Central America from the Carribbean to the Pacific! Awesome! No
Lake Atitlan in the Highlands of Guatemala is more majestic than ever,
it is recommended as a
phenomenal natural wonder and some funky tourist towns like Panajachel
and San Marcos, a pristine Lake village, where continental travelers
have a lot of fun and rub shoulders with our "Living Maya". And
Antigua is as beautiful and charming as ever.
In El Salvador 330 km. (220 miles) of unbroken pristine Pacific
beaches, bays, islands and mangroves await, along with World class
surfing, and yes El Salvador boasts charming colonial towns such as
Suchitoto, indingenous villages of Panchimalco and Santo Domingo de
Guzman , volcanoes, cloud forests and much much more. Uncrowded.
The world is in crisis, so is Guatemala, so is El Salvador, so is the
rest of Central America, so what!
Tourism, travel must go on. Tourism is a
motor for development.
The recommendations or precautions to not visit Guatemala and even
more so El Salvador are unfair
and geopolitically motivated.
The following lists of countries are
promoted to the wazoo by "the powers to be" and they share every
single problem that both Guatemala & El Salvador possess; some of them
terrorism. Really. Sad but true.
China, India, Mexico, Colombia, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia, Vietnam,
Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, are all on the list of
the 50 most visited countries in the world. Last time we checked they
had crime, drugs, human rights violations, organized crime, poverty,
So what makes Guatemala and El Salvador different from these other
thing: the patronage they have, the promotion they get. "PR" Rumors
and bad press are nothing more than cheap online gossip, written
mainly by those who never even have traveled to Guatemala, El Salvador
or the rest of Central America!
There are of course security issues, as everywhere one will travel way
from home, however out of thousands of visitors evey month only a
handful experience problems and even some of those are preventable by
using common sense and being aware!
Entonces, le esperamos……
*The week that Mumbai in India was taken hostage by terrorist, 'CNN'
ran advertisements to promote "The exotic adventure of India".
Colombia, who still exports the same amount of drugs as 10 years ago,
is also being promoted in the US, sponsored by the US. The same
applies for Mexico, never mind the atrocities of the internal drug war
that is now spilling over its borders.
*So, if anyone can give me a specific reason to not visit Guatemala or
neighboring El Salvador, or Honduras or Nicaragua if you prefer, using
comparative objective criteria, I will listen. ¡Digame!
The Myth: "El Salvador is the most dangerous country for travelers in
The Reality: NOT SO, even in the congested capital city of San
Salvador are many small and affordable Guest Houses, Bed & Breakfast
and small Hotels catering to budget travelers on pleasant tree lined
streets, in fact, next to San José in Costa Rica, San Salvador, El
Salvador turns out to be the safest and most pleasant capital city to
base in, in all of Central America, the Beaches of La Libertad are a
45 minute drive or less and Suchitoto is about an hour. Slightly more
time on public transportation. The entire country can be seen in a few
days, no 'all day' bus rides or drives, where you arrive exhausted.
People are friendly here in El Salvador, willing to help out travelers
in a pinch. There exist now in El Salvador dozens of CS members, so if
traveling here try to contact a few CS hosts well in advance of your
arrival, especially if arriving holiday seasons such as December & New
Years. Neighboring Guatemala and nearby Costa Rica boast many CS
members while the number of members in Nicaragua has almost tripled in
'Traveling to Central America made easy'!
I the writer, a long term El Salvador and Guatemala resident, am suprised myself, despite the
ongoing 'bad press' and 'bad rep' of El Salvador, how many travelers
are now making El Salvador their first or second Central American
destination. Few go away dissapointed.
Of course there exist serious security issues in many parts of Latin
America so be aware, especially when traveling alone, and use common
The more Spanish you know, the easier AND less expensive your journey becomes.....
A stressed, lonely and tired traveler is a VULNERABLE traveler to pickpockets, thieves and scammers, one can only do and see so much in one day!
If requiring a bi or multi lingual local guide, driver/owner..pay by the day or hour, no
liabilty as in Car rental, unique lodging places, free travel advices
then log onto to:
Localyte.com (170 countries, so site is in English)
http://www.localyte.com/ type in your destination and ask a question of locals!!! Trumps those 2 year old "Lonely Planet Guidebooks". LOL.
CENTRAL AMERICAN LINKS
region and country to view tips, i.e.
(Student Travel, has Student Airfare Booking on line)
Good Airfares, Bootsnall can
help you 'plan' your trip RTW or just to one city and return!
http://www.exitotravel.com/ Consolidator, Airfares, Hotels,
Tours , Latin America only. US Based consolidator website with toll free number USA/Canada.
http://www.goodtimebob.com/buseslinks.htm Central American Bus Links
http://www.ticabus.com/ Tica Bus International serving all
http://www.kingqualityca.com/ King Quality International buses
Guatemala to El Salvador , Honduras and Costa Rica
Website in Spanish only. Excellent Service.
http://www.hedmanalas.com/ Hedman Alas 1st Class Buses, Services all around
excellent services to major cities and destinations in Honduras and
GENERAL TRAVEL INFORMATION
Excellent Guatemalan Web Portal based in
All you need to know about Lake Atitlan in Guatemala
All you need to know about Antigua , Guatemala
Walking tours of the Colonial City of
Antigua and more.
http://www.nimpot.com/ All you need to know about Guatemalan Textiles,
Portal based in Antigua .
http://richarddetrich.wordpress.com/ Panama Weblog for
Ex Pats and Travelers alike.
Everything you need or
want to know about Costa Rica , common sense advice, no bull.
http://www.ticotimes.net/ Costa Rica 's weekly newspaper
http://www.amcostarica.com/ Costa Rica's on line Daily News Mon.-Fri.
http://www.insidecostarica.com/ Costa Rican Daily News and Travel Information.
http://www.hondurasthisweek.com/ The Weekly English Language Newpaper of
Honduras , on line edition.
Tips....a complete guide to traveling Honduras
Moon's Nicaragua travel planner.
http://www.vianica.com/ Best Travel Portal for Nicaragua English & Spanish
Also check out:
'Living Abroad in Nicaragua '
Central America Information and Maps:
Lots of links on this site:
Surf this lengthy and informative website for Central
America only information:
in English, Spanish, Svenska
*Surfing these websites, then if you wish, posting and asking questions on
the various travellers forums and asking questions
should be a good start. Most of the websites feature an array of links
to other local and regional travel sites.
I, the the writer, am a long term resident in El
Salvador, Guatemala and some time as well in Honduras
and Nicaragua since 1985. So I know the local customs,
culture, language and many subtle things travelers may have
not have the time to learn.
presently I am a volunteer co
ordinator/translator working with small projects based in El Salvador
assisting these small
non profit organizations to implement their receptive
eco and rural tourism projects as well as native crafts
projects. More information contact me by private
message or e mail / message me.
in English, Spanish, German, Italiano or Portuguese. I or another
volunteer will try to answer your inquiry within two (2) working days
when possible. IT and web design advice and assistance always
MORE ON TRAVEL…..
Hotels and Lodgings…depends on your budget, upscale
2-5 Star accommodations in Central America may be
easily booked on line, http://www.tripadvisor.com/
For those travelers on Medium Budget, Low/Moderate Budget
to Upscale I would also recommend the 'Alpha Travel Guide
to Central America ', a no nonsense, practical portal
about and for all the Central American countries in
English, Spanish and Swedish (see list above also)
No "bells and whistles"
LOW BUDGET TRAVEL
If traveling on a low/backpacker budget you'll find
many small hotels and other unique lodging places in
El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, as well Costa Rica & Panama
(a bit more expensive)
that are quite economical
compared to European/North American prices, for
comfort and safety I would check out the B and B's
and Guest Houses in the cities and large towns and
even cheaper 'hostel/backpacker' style
accommodations are plentiful in travel destinations
such as Antigua and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala , Granada
in Nicaragua and many of the popular beach and mountain
destinations in Costa Rica .
EL SALVADOR, CENTRAL AMERICA'S HIDDEN GEM..
There are many lodging
bargains in El Salvador , but make sure you do not stay
in the crowded, dangerous and polluted 'Centro' or
Downtown, when in San Salvador , stay in the western
part of town near Metrocentro Mall and the National
University, the lodgings located on pleasant tree
lined streets in nice areas, near San Salvador 's
'Bohemian District' for overview of nightlife check out:
La Luna Casa y Arte in San Salvador.
View the articles and all the ads on the El Salvador section of Revue Magazine in English:
in pdf format.
View www.theotherelsalvador.com/ ;
excellent bi lingual website for El
Salvador with dozens of links. English & Spanish
Click on http://www.gaesuchitoto.com/ f
for information on the Colonial City in El Salvador.
http://elsalvador.travelreality.com/home.asp en español!
San Salvador city guide….An amazing city with lots of cultural and night life!
Upload in pdf the 'Guatemala Revue Magazine' online….
You shall view many, many Adverts and a few very excellent
Articles on this on line edition, same as print edition, which will
give one a good overview of
Guatemalan and El Salvadorian travel, all the articles
pdf format online.
The Guatemala Revue Magazine boasts large Guatemala
section, El Salvador section and smaller Belize and
Honduras sections. Monthly, in English.
Now, here's where your Guidebook(s) come in!! Unless
you've been here a dozen times or have a Salvadorian
or Central American spouse and planning on a family
visit, you'll require a good up to date Guide Book
or two or three, which I recommend you read and study
and re-read again before your arrival, magically on
arrival you'll know more about the native culture,
customs, history and getting around El Salvador ,
Guatemala, etc. than most natives. I lived in New York
City 12 years and never took the time to visit many of
the 'touristic' sites.
Guide Books and Maps, regional and country specific for
Central America usually available in travel section of
large bookstores or Amazon.com
www.footprint.com/ The Mexico & Central America
www.lonelyplanet.com/ Lonely Planet Guide Books
http://www.moon.com/ Moon Travel Guides - Excellent
Rough Guides to Central America
TO THOSE INDEPENDENT TRAVELERS WHO SPEAK SPANISH
**When Central Americans do travel within the region,
usually on weekends or holiday periods, they travel
with family members in large groups. This is called
'turismo interno' - internal tourism. There are
many fine local guides, tour operators and
driver-owners in El Salvador that advertise locally
and will take visitors on tour with advance notice at
reasonable prices. If you speak Spanish you are able
to save a lot of money rather than go with the more
expensive inbound tourism outfits, as well as meeting
and travelling with locals, at times the locals may
invite you to their home after the tour, especially in
El Salvador or Nicaragua ! The local tour operators
advertise in the classified sections of the daily
newspapers and on Spanish language local Internet
portals.During holiday periods El Salvadorian
operators conduct excursions in Mexico , Guatemala ,
Honduras, Nicaragua , Costa Rica and some go as far as
Panama, prices and quality vary so check around,
always ask to inspect the vehicle first and inquire
with local friends as to which companies are
reliable or contact writer of this bloq.
Many locals in El Salvador often travel weekends to
make pilgrimages to Catholic Shrines in Antigua and
Escuintla, Guatemala, etc. Religion is practiced here
in El Salvador by a large majority of people, Roman
Catholic or Evangelical, be polite and respectful of
other's beliefs and opinions at all times.
TO THOSE LEARNING TO SPEAK SPANISH
***Speaking Spanish. .If you don't at all start
learning at home before your departure, tapes, a
tutor, conversation club, classes, whatever, if on a
basic conversation level or above find someone to
practice with, it is my opinion that if you are
traveling, say 3-4 weeks in the region, it is really
useless to spend the first week or two in a "Spanish
School". If worse comes to worse bring a very good
phrasebook and do a lot of pointing. A tip: I've
lived down this way, way down south, 21 years and used
to escort a lot of visitors to the highlands/carib
coast/honduras/el salvador out of Antigua, Guatemala,
some couples had studied for several weeks at
Antigua's best Spanish Academies, in school proper
Castillan Spanish is taught, no "street lingo" nor
slang of any kind, as soon as we were in the
countryside, my clients froze up, when I ordered for
them and used the word 'vos' (slang familiar for
'you' in El Salvador and Guatemala ), these poor
gringoes asked what 'vos' meant! They were taught
to use Usted and Ustedes (formal) at all times and in
the Indian Markets in Chichicastenango and Panajachel
these people 'flipped out' literally when I began
speaking the local native Kak'chiquel and Quiche
I am listing a few good resources for Spanish
also click on to:
http://www.123teachme.com/ List of Spanish Schools throughout Latin America &
Spain excellent resource!! Free Spanish lessons online.
** Visit Webmaster of http://www.xelapages.com/ (Tom, long term Ex Pat and Wife, native of Xela), when in
Quetzaltenango Guatemala, address of office-cybercafe on the website. All are welcome
****SAFETY AND SECURITY ISSUES
Recommend not to travel alone to rural or remote areas or in large cities, especially via public transpotation, with expensive digital
cameras, videocam, ipods, blackberries or other electronic
toys… a small digital camera will often do…
unless you are a Business or Upscale Traveler, staying
in a Hotel or resort with a room Safe and filming while traveling on
organized tour with security escort, best locals and native guides.
common sense, be aware on the road and start learning
Spanish TODAY..HOY MISMO if you don't speak any!
Check out 'Live Mocha' http://www.livemocha.com/ for free tutorials
from native speakers online, a social network for language students
and teachers alike
www.123teachme.com/ ; for free, on line
tutorials. List of Spanish Schools in Latin America and Spain.
From www.goodtimebob.com/ travel site……
"This is the number one question. Way over hyped.
I've been going to Guatemala since the 70's. Even
with the current economic and political issues it is
still a lot better than back a couple decades. You do
all the common sense stuff listed in the Lonely Planet
guide (or any other Guidebook)…it increasingly reads
like it is written by someone's
grandmother…lawyers must do the editing. Some
paranoia is worth while….
Here are the don't
"Don't hike between villages around Lake Atitlan in Guatemala . Too
many spots where folks can watch you coming and make
sure no one else is around. There have been well
documented robberies and rapes.
Don't EVER go up a volcano alone. Tours are cheap and they
have some kind of guard."……"
NEVER NEVER CAMP OUT WHERE THERE IS NO SECURITY, NOR IN AREA
WHERE YOU HAVE NO PERMISSION FROM PROPERTY OWNER....
If planning to camp in Central America, and not driving nor renting a
vehicle best to have a travel companion or two or three and carry
durable tents..if on a low budget and taking 'chicken buses' in and
out of remote areas this may be often a difficult task...in some cases
best to pool funds and rent a 4WD for a few days or a week..
Best site to contact locals who know camping spots in or near their
local area www.couchsurfing.com/
Two websites with informating on camping and 'boondocking' (may
include parking lots of Shopping Malls or Luxury Resorts!) in Central
http://www.99DaystoPanama.com/ Has list of campsites Mexico & Central America
http://www.panamaorbust.com/ Good information and links on traveling Central America.
Also check out http://www.drivemeloco.com/
More information on driving through Mexico, Central & South America and forums on http://www.southboundtravels.com/
Remember you are not at home, where you know where and when to go or
NOT to go..locals on the street in many places in Latin America will
often give contrary advice and directions if you are lost, usually
just to be polite…
The writer's own Words…..
For El Salvador and the rest of Central America the
warnings about the same, same old, same old:
**don't walk alone or in pairs after dark and take a
taxi home (if you don't have a ride)even if your
lodging place is only three or four blocks away,
sometimes it only takes 50 meters outside the bar or
night spot if thieves are following you and they hit
hard and fast.
**Be especially aware, never paranoid, in second/third
class bus terminals, crowded outdoor markets and city
bus stops, never carry a digital camera or laptop on public
transport unless concealed. Between countries take the
international Tica Bus or other first class bus lines,
remember all of the thieves now have cell phones, most
travelers do not carry cell phones away from home so try and
keep a low profile, blend in if possible, got it?
THIS IS IMPORTANT, SAD BUT TRUE.........
"The Police don't really care much if you are not
injured in a crime, just as at home, the police
usually have more pressing things to deal with, and
the Consuls at the Embassies have seen hundreds of
Police Reports and issued many new Passports for a
hefty fee! Never carry your passport unless leaving
the country, carry a photocopy."
* At your own risk accept drinks, favors, gifts, lodgings or rides home from
total strangers, say those met in a 'bar', café or nightclub,
especially young women traveling alone or in pairs,
never tell strangers your itinerary and travel plans,
nor where you are staying. Guys, never take a 'bar
girl' you do not know back to your lodging place.
Guys, avoid those exotic red
light district nightclubs alone, you may wake up half
naked, broke and very confused the next morning, In
fact if you go out late night in any large Latin American city stick the main
entertainment districts, usually called 'Zona
Viva' or 'Zona Rosa', well lit and fairly safe. Every upscale Bar or
disco will usually sport an armed guard inside or outside
View the city entertainment guides above.
*Taxi Drivers and Hotel Employees are usually the
worst people you can ask about where to go out,
you'll usually always be directed to the most
expensive places, especially if you don't speak
Spanish. Start learning!
IF TRAVELING ALONE YOU HAVE NO 'FRIENDS' ON THE BUS NOR IN OR AROUND THE BUS
STATION...MAKE 'FRIENDS' ELSEWHERE!
Many many humanitarian aid organizations exist in Central America and
require long or short term volunteers, with or without special skills,
all year around..view these non profit portals for no cost or low cost
opportunities, contacting yourself any and all organizations you are
interested in working with well in advance of your departure..from
another bloq of mine…"volunteering abroad, especially in the
developing countries, as a volunteer, long or short term, you'll make
valuable and lifelong friendships as well as trusted local contacts
which may lead into full time employment in your chosen field locally.
Ordinarily you'll have to pay your airfare and room and board to
volunteer with many small projects as most have barely enough money to
stay above water. Fundraising, a year round effort, often takes up
much of paid staff's time and energy! The 'pro' is you'll be there in
your target country or region and not online behind a computer screen
at home! The smiles of a child or family in need we have assisted
beats any computer screen or laptop for me by a wide mile!
More information view these web portals:
http://www.idealist.org/ in several languages.
http://www.volunteersouthamerica.net/ English, Spanish
. Social & Environmental Volunteer Exchange Network
http://www.volunteerlatinamerica.com/ ; English
If traveling to El Salvador , meetup with us and we'll point you in the right
*Often traveling on a very low budget in Central America is not for
either the inexperienced idealist,
the bleeding heart, nor the faint of heart, nor
recommended for lone females not familiar at all with the
customs and local language. Poverty and street crime exist side by
side in many underdeveloped or impoverished areas of
the countryside and in city slums, called 'zonas marginales' or
marginal areas where gang activity is endemic, some,
though not all, police/security force members are
corrupt and the judicial systems in Central and Latin
American countries generally are weak.
(*When conducting a vehicle with US or CAN plates) a small bribe to get out of an untenable
be preferable than the alternative, especially if
involved in an accident or altercation where there is no bodily
harm..either in your own vehicle or a rental. If driving with US or
Canadian plates YOU WILL attract attention..keep a low profile and be
**This travel Information primer Courtesy of:
'Welcome to Cinquera in El Salvador'
Rural Eco and Cultural Tourism, Native Crafts and more... contact our
organization, non profit, registered in el Salvador, via e mail if interested..message me in English or Spanish for contact info. and more information if desired.
¡Le Esperamos….con gusto!
Pass this information on to others if not useful to you.
Buen viaje y buena suerte.