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Any advice for El Salvador?

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Hasn't anyone ventured away from Cancun and Costa Rica and visited El Salvador? I've done a search and found nada.

We're considering going in November and would appreciate hearing from anyone who's been.

Thanks in advance,
Sandy

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    Dear Sandy,

    Just an update I want to share with you about travel in El Salvador.

    I am a 61-year old engineer and my wife, a little younger, just vacationed in San Salvador from September 26-October 11th 2003.

    We stayed at Ximena's, a backpacker type hostel about 1km away from El Metro Centro, the largest shopping mall in Central America located along Boulevard de los Heroes in San Salvador.

    We passed our weekday mornings being tutored in advanced Spanish by a local college professor, Solomon Marinero de Paz.

    Our weekday afternoons we passed walking around San Salvador visiting the Guzman Anthropological Museum, a building so beautiful it would still be worth visiting if it were empty, the many local churches and Cathedral, and sometimes taking a day tour to a local archeological dig nearby.

    There are 28 volcanoes in El Salvador and nearly all are within a 3-4 hour drive from San Salvador.

    The shopping mall is filled with franchises so common to American tastes that there is no culture shock for American shoppers, i.e. Hush Puppies, Mr. Doughnut, etc.

    Across the street from the shopping mall is a nice multi-storied hotel, The Real, which has a pedestrian overpass between the hotel and the mall.

    In the mall are ample cash machines and banks where one can cash travelers check, etc. There is also a Galeria shopping center near El Salvador del Mundo monument, and many fine hotels nearby.

    The El Centro Metro mall also includes numerous internet cafes where one can hop on-line for a posted rate of $1/hour.

    Walking along the streets always calls for judgement whether one is walking alone in downtown Seattle late at night (yikes) or downtown San Salvador. Use your eyes, and always ask in advance about a particular neighborhood. The average Salvadoreno is eager to help.

    My wife and I passed several lovely evenings at Ximena's speaking in Spanish to travelers from Norway, the UK, France and Japan and elsewhere and we all had Spanish as a second language as the only common language between us. These were enthralling evenings which we shall never forget.

    There are loads of pyramids and volcanoes to visit and archeological sites as well. Many beautiful villages as well. We fell in love with Suchitoto, a serene village overlooking a man made lake behind a hydroelctric dam not far from San Salvador, to the east.

    The Pacific Ocean is so warm when I ran into it I had to look down to see if I was really in it. I swam until after the sun set at Barra de Santiago in the NW.

    There are so many beautiful beaches in El Salvador that to go west is to find one. It is that simple. Lots of wave action and some beaches have good reputations for surfing.

    Americans must get past cliched images of a war torn country. It doesn't exist any longer. Globalization has taken hold and created a new country. El Salvador has made a succesful transition to peacetime and is filled with european travelers, asian travelers, South American travelers, Central American travelers, and a scant few North American travelers. What a pity.

    You can crash on a dorm bed at Ximena's for $4/night. We rented a private room for $16/night weekly rate.

    Food is cheap if you eat local, i.e. $4/day should cover it. You can also eat at Tony Roma's, we did, and had some nice barbeque beef sandwiches for about $7 each.

    El Salvador is a bargain, and it is quite beautiful.

    John Lapham
    Shoreline, WA USA October 20, 2003

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    Thanks John . . . we were kinda playing it loose on our plans for Nov, seeing what might come up cheap and we got a deal on a Prague trip . . . so, we're putting El Salvador off until next summer.

    I have printed out your suggestions and am so happy to hear good news about ES.

    Thanks again,
    Sandy

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    Hi Sandy-

    I happened to see your request and although I read that your plans have changed, I just thought I'd let you know that I was working in San Salvador from March 2000 until May 2002 and I recently returned and am living here again.

    So, if you do decide to come visit, email me and I'd be happy to answer any questions you have. There's one travel guide book called 'On Your own in El Salvador' and it's the only one I've found that's specific to the country and it covers everything here pretty well.

    And, everything the other gentleman told you was great information. Some of my other favorite places outside of the city are the cloud forest called Montecristo and another protected forest called El Imposible. A couple of good beaches are Playa San Diego, Los Cobanos and Costa del Sol. They're all south of La Libertad and are generally less crowded. There's some great seafood to be had on the calle littoral (the main road along the ocean) as well.

    And, speaking of food, the most common thing you'll find here are 'pupusas'. There kind of a thick tortilla stuffed with beans, cheese, loroco (some green vegetable thing we don't have in the US), or pork. They're quite wonderful.

    So, I hope you do make it down here one day and like I said, I'd be happy to answer any specific questions if you do decide to travel here. Take care.

    Jen

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