Travelling in El Salvador: 5 useful tips for tourists

Jul 23, 2020 | Travel, El Salvador

from Henning

Henning lived for several years in El Salvador, working as a teacher. He is Co-Founder of the SAY ZONTE! project. Writing for this blog is his way to give s.th. back to “el pulgarcito.”

Travelling in El Salvador

How to get around in El Salvador as a traveler? Travelling in El Salvador can be a bit more tricky than in other countries, mainly because there are always several options.

It also depends on your available time and budget.

Please don’t hesitate to write us a message if you have any more questions.

There are five options for transportation in El Salvador that we can recommend to you:

  • Use public transport (cheap but sometimes unreliable and less comfortable)
  • Get a rental car (expensive & comfortable, but you’re fully flexible)
  • Travel with tour operators (full comfort, no stress but more costly than public transport)
  • Rent a scooter for short distances.
  • Get an UBER especially if you need a spontaneous ride in the capital San Salvador.
travelling in el salvador

Travelling in El Salvador by public transport

If you use public transport, we can recommend the following site: www.centrocoasting.com/elsalvador.  They offer accurate information about bus stations and bus schedules in Central America. For example, if you want to go from El Tunco to El Zonte, public buses are leaving almost every 20min from 6 am to 7 pm.

You pay about US$ 0.50 -1.00 one way. It is the cheapest way to get around in El Salvador, but also it’s not very comfortable sometimes, especially when you travel with a surfboard or a lot of luggage.

The bus drivers always seem to be in a rush: “Time is money – or driving fast is cool!” seems to be their slogan. If you’re are a very anxious person, better don’t try these “Chicken Buses.” Anyway, we think it’s an experience by itself using these buses, don’t miss it.

We don’t recommend traveling El Salvador by public transport if you have many valuables. It’s rare, but there have been reports of buses being robbed. No need to get in a panic, as we said: It’s rare. But have it in mind! El Salvador is a beautiful country but still has its problems because of poverty and social inequality.

If you want to travel to Guatemala, Nicaragua, or Honduras, www.ticabus.com is the best option. The buses usually leave from the capital of El Salvador: San Salvador.

We can also recommend Surfo’s & Tiki Travel in El Tunco. “Patiño” in El Tunco can arrange your tickets from www.ticabus.com to almost every place in Central America. You will find his office next to “La Guitara” on the main road in El Tunco.

travelling in El Salvador

Travelling in El Salvador with a rental car

You can get a rental car directly at the airport or try one of San Salvador’s companies. They are often a bit pricy. Be sure to have a valid driver’s license and that your rental contract covers proper insurance.

Don’t pick the cheapest offer; ask first!

If you have a car accident in El Salvador and the car hasn’t any insurance, you might get in serious trouble. Call your country’s embassy when you are involved in a severe car accident with injured people!

The best option is to rent a car from an official company, a hotel, or a person you trust. Do not rent a car from a random private person you don’t know or without a contract.

Prices vary a lot, also depending on the car you rent. At the airport, prices start around $30 per day (but you won’t fit a surfboard in the car).
Driving in El Salvador can get a bit tricky, especially when it’s dark and your car hasn’t proper lighting. The streets in the rural areas are often in bad shape.

We can recommend a rental car if you want to travel around in El Salvador a lot and if you don’t travel alone. If you only want to visit a few tourist destinations, you better save the money for the rental car and ask a reliable tour operator.

travelling in el salvador

Travelling in El Salvador with tour operators

The easiest and most comfortable way of traveling in El Salvador are tour operators. There are some tour operators with good services, and most of them offer the typical tourist destinations in El Salvador. You can find them in El Zonte or El Tunco. Prices sometimes vary, also the service.

If you don’t speak Spanish and want to learn more about the place you visit, you should ask first if the tour operator also offers an English-speaking guide. We can strongly recommend using a tour guide for two reasons. First, you will get a lot of interesting extra information from a tour guide, and second, you will support the local economy!

travelling in el salvador

Scooter Rental in El Salvador

Scooter rental is not that common in El Salvador as you might know it from other countries. They are helpful if you need to get from one surf spot to another and if the scooter has a surfboard rack. But we don’t recommend them for longer distances. The drivers in El Salvador, especially the bus and truck drivers, don’t seem to accept “weaker” people in the traffic sometimes. There are some excellent hospitals in San Salvador, but it might take some time to get there! So be careful!

Greg and Vane in El Tunco rent scooters. They also can bring the scooter to your place if you don’t stay in El Tunco. You need to fill out a contract and leave your passport as a deposit. Prices are US$ 10 for one hour, US$ 15 for half a day, and US$ 25 for 24 hours.

You can also ask for a special discount if you rent a scooter for more than one day. Opening times are from 10 am to 6 pm every day and on Saturdays until 11 pm. You can find Vane & Greg’s place on the main road in El Tunco.

travelling in El Salvador

Travelling in El Salvador with Uber

Yes, there’s Uber in El Salvador – and it works! We don’t recommend it for longer distances, though. But it’s a good option if you want to get from A to B in San Salvador, especially if you don’t want to use public transport, which is sometimes slow and unreliable.
In general, using Uber in El Salvador is safe and as reliable as you might know it from your country. There’re regular taxis, too, but some drivers tend to charge you an “extra fee” for not having a Salvadoran passport.

We don’t recommend using an UBER to get from the airport to your destination to El Salvador. They probably will rip you off.
If you need more information about how to get from the airport to El Tunco, for example, please read out our blog post.

If you have any more questions about traveling in El Salvador, don’t hesitate to write us a message!

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