El Salvador  is a country in Central America and, geographically, is part of continental North America. It is bordered on the southwest by the Pacific Ocean, and lies between Guatemala and Honduras.
El Salvador is gaining a reputation of having some of the best surfing in the world. Tourists all over the world are discovering the surfing meccas of La Libertad (near San Salvador), El Sunzal, El Zonte and the wild El Este (the east), transforming El Salvador into the fastest growing surf tourism hot-spot in Central America. The countryside of El Salvador is breathtaking, with volcanoes and mountains offering "green" adventurers exactly what they are looking for. Many of the environmentally-oriented community-based organizations promote eco-tourism, and there are a number of beautiful and secluded beaches and forests scattered throughout the country. An already well-maintained and practically deserted national park is found in the west at Bosque El Imposible. Additionally, there is Montecristo Cloud Forest, and a quaint fishing village with incredible local hospitality and remote coconut islands in La Isla de Méndez. Isla de Olomega in the department of San Miguel is an excellent eco-tourism destination, as is the beautiful Isla El Cajete in Sonsonate, Isla San Sebastian, Conchagua, Conchaguita, Isla Conejo, Isla Teopan, and Isla Meanguera. One should also visit the colonial towns of Apaneca, Juayua, Panchimalco, and Suchitoto as well as the Mayan sites of San Andrés, Joya de Cerén (The Pompeii of Central America and an UNESCO World Heritage Site), and Tazumal, whose main pyramid rises some 75 feet into the air. The on-site museum showcases artifacts from the Pipil culture (the builders of Tazumal), as well as paintings that illustrate life in pre-Hispanic El Salvador. Souvenir hunters will find some of the best artisans in San Juan el Espino and La Palma (The artisan capital of El Salvador). The capital, San Salvador, is a cosmopolitan city with good restaurants highlighting the country’s fresh seafood, as well as plenty of shopping, entertainment and nightlife.
El Salvador covers an area of about 21,040 square kilometers (the smallest country in central america), although it is the most densely populated. El Salvador is home to more than 6,500,000 people. It is divided in 14 sections. It has 25 volcanoes, 14 lakes, and four large cities. Its capital is San Salvador. Its origin comes from the ancient civilization of the Pipils.
The civilization of El Salvador dates from the pre-Columbian time, around 1500 B.C., according to evidence provided by the ancient structures of Tazumal in Chalchuapa.
The Spanish Admiral Andrés Niño lead an expedition to Central America and disembarked on the Island Meanguera, located in the Gulf of Fonseca, on May 31st, 1522. This was the first Salvadoran territory visited by the Spaniards. In June, 1524, Spanish Captain Pedro de Alvarado began a predatory war against Cuzcatlán (land of precious things) that was populated by the native tribes of the country. After 17 days of bloody battles many natives and Spaniards died. Pedro de Alvarado defeated, and hurt in his left hip, abandoned the fight and ran to Guatemala, appointing his brother, Gonzalo de Alvarado, to continue with the conquest of Cuzcatlán. Later, his cousin Diego de Alvarado stablished the villa of San Salvador on April, 1525. King Carlos I of Spain granted San Salvador the title of city in the year 1546. During the following years, El Salvador developed under Spanish rule.
Towards the end of 1810, a feeling of a need for feedom arose between the people of Central America and the moment to break the chains of slavery arrived at dawn on November 5th, 1811, when the Salvadoran priest, Jose Matías Delgado, sounded the bells of the Iglesia La Merced in San Salvador, making a call for the insurrection. After many internal fights, the Acta de Independencia (Act of Independence) of Central America was signed in Guatemala on September 15th, 1821.
On December, 1931, the corrupt and incapable regime of the Labour Party, headed by Araujo, was overthrown. General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez assumed the presidency. The fraudulent elections of January, 1932, were the detonating factor of the social outbreak. Several voting sites were suspended in populations in which the Communist Party had strong presence. The insurrection began. Two frustrated assaults to the Cuartel de Caballería (Cavalry Quarters) were conducted by the rebel forces. The government ordered martial law. Strict censorship of the press was implanted. In the following days thousands of farmers and workers, carrying machetes and some few "Mauser" rifles attacked police quarters, municipal offices, telegraph stations, warehouses, and wealthy landowners' properties. This insurrection was crushed. On January 31st, Manuel Antonio Castañeda sentenced Farabundo Martí to death. He was shot and killed on February 1st, 1932. Many Coup d'états followed, including the one that overthrew General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez.
Relations with Honduras deteriorated in the late 1960s. There was a border clash in 1967, and a four-day so-called Football war (Soccer War), as it was named by the international mass media, broke out in July 1969. The war ended with a cease-fire prompted by pressure from the United States and the Organization of American States. The Salvadoran forces that had invaded Honduras were withdrawn. They were just a few kilometers outside Honduras' capital.
A movement of organized leftist guerrillas was created in 1974 and 1975, increasing the political violence. In 1980, three of the leftist organizations united to coordinate a fight against the government. This movement was called FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional. english- Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front). On March of the same year. Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was killed while he was celebrating the mass. It is widely believed that the final order came from Major Roberto D'Abuisson, the founder and leader of ARENA, a right-wing party. D'Abuisson is best known for his suspected involvement in death squad murders. He died of cancer in 1992. On January 16th, 1992, the government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), signed in Chapultepec, Mexico, Los Acuerdos de Paz (Peace accords), putting an end to one of the most painful chapters in the history of El Salvador. The 12 years of armed conflict claimed the lives of over 75,000 people.
Today, El Salvador is stable and with a growing economy, leaving behind its painful history.
Tropical; rainy season (May to October); dry season (November to April); tropical on coast; temperate in the uplands.
Visa regulations can be found at the following website: http://www.elsalvador.org/home.nsf/consularinfo
Visitors traveling by plane arrive at El Salvador International Airport in Comalapa, located forty-five minutes outside of the capital's city limits. The airport code is SAL.
TACA Airlines is the national airline of El Salvador. TACA acquired the national airlines of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala so it also serves those countries. TACA flies a fleet of new A319s, A320s, and A321s throughout North, Central, and South America.
The Pan-American highway travels through El Salvador and is a safe route for entering the country.
Numerous buses also traverse the highways of the country. Domestic bus services are typically very cheap (not more than two or three dollars for even the longest rides) and difficult to understand. The buses themselves are often very well painted and adorned with all kinds of posters and trinkets, ranging from the religious to the pop-culture. Longer bus rides may include a stop in some town where plenty of mujeres, and sometimes their children, too, will board hawking mangos, nuts, water, and even sometimes fried chicken in a box. There is no central agency that coordinates bus routes and schedules, so it is best to just ask the cobrador where the bus is going and when. Most are very friendly and helpful, but do watch out for scams on the buses.
Anyone riding the buses (visitor or local) must take caution in riding the buses and microbuses that are seen around the country. The buses are often crammed and it is very easy to be robbed. The buses are cheap and are a great way to get around, but remember that as a visitor you are at a higher risk of being robbed. If you must ride a bus take extra care of yourself and your belongings.
If driving, rental car agencies include Alamo and Hertz. Buses and taxis also provide good ways of getting around. Distances between sights make walking an unpopular option, as does the street layout in the city; San Salvador is not a square city, but has long avenues that are straight and streets that aren't. That said, in some areas walking is a great option, such as in Zona Rosa.
A US$32.00 departure tax must be paid upon departure.
Depending on the airline, the full amount or part of the tax may already be included in the price of your ticket and the amount you must pay will vary from US$0 - US$32.00.
The official language in El Salvador is Spanish. And some people in Izalco and other towns with a population of Indians speak Nahuat, the Pipil language. This is rarely seen because of the cultural impact to be called "indio". Most nahuat is spoken within a family household and not in public.
El Salvador's official currency is the US Dollar. It was implemnted in 2001 and some say it ruined the Salvadorean economy. Carry only $1, $5, $10 or $20 dollar bills. Most stores, supermarkets and department stores won't accept $50 or $100 bills. If you need to exchange to lower denominations, you can go to any bank.
El Salvador has the largest malls in the region (MetroCentro - MetroSur), especially in San Salvador, with many trendy international stores. Goods can also be purchased from markets, including national and international supermarkets.
San Salvador has a number of large modern shopping malls stocking the latest in international fashion, accessories & cuisine. These are generally found in the city's upscale suburbs such as Escalón, Santa Elena, and their surroundings. These malls include:
El Salvador is very cheap! Expect to pay $8-10 for a room in a hostel, $2-4 for a simple meal, $0.25-0.35 to ride a San Salvador city bus, $1/hour to use the Internet, and $0.25 for a bag of sliced mangos. The one drawback to this is that large bills ($50 & $100) are almost unspendable. Get change wherever you can -- gas stations are always a good bet. A good idea is to visit a bank and ask for small bills and nothing larger than a $20. Take note of the prices that street vendors sell their products because at times they will take advantage of people that look or sound foreign by raising their prices dramatically.
The restaurant scene in El Salvador is influenced by many different cultures. Food options include Italian, Korean, Japanese, French, Chilean, American, Peruvian, Mexican, Spanish, Middle Eastern, German, Chinese, Argentinian and others. You can also easily find American fast food chains such as Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC, Subway, Quiznos, Pizza Hut, Little Caesar's, and Domino's, in the largest cities in the country such as San Salvador, Merliot / Santa Tecla, and Santa Ana. Other franchises include Tony Romas', Bennigans and others. Some of the best restaurants are located in Zona Rosa (Paradise, Alo Nuestro, 503).
The typical Salvadoran diet includes lots of rice and beans, seafood (particularly among those who live on the coast), and the most common Salvadoran dish, the famous Pupusa, a round corn tortilla filled with cheese and other elements, usually chicharon (shredded pork meat). It's widely agreed that the best pupusas in the country can be bought in Olocuilta, which you can get to along the highway on the way to the Comalapa airport.
Also Salvadorans eat fried sliced plantains (platanos) usually with beans sour cream and cheese and sometimes with eggs, yuca con chicharron, pastelitos de carne, panes con pavo (turkey sandwiches), hand made tortillas among other very delicious Salvadoran foods.
Many large modern supermarkets are scattered throughout the capital and in large towns, such as La Despensa de Don Juan and Super Selectos, which sell local produce and a large variety of international products. Like anywhere else in the world, these are a cheaper alternative to eating out every night.
The trendiest night spot to visit is called La Zona Rosa. Some of the best hotels are located there, including the Sheraton Presidente as well as one of the most luxurious hotels in Central America, the Hilton Princess.
Although La Zona Rosa doesn't cover a large area (around 1sq mile), it's home to many exclusive, upscale bars and nightclubs (Code), and the best restaurants in town (Paradise, 503, A lo Nuestro).
If you want to visit a nightclub without the probable inconvenience of not being let in, you should visit Las Terrazas (Stanza, Envy) at Multiplaza Mall or La Gran Vía (Llenya, El Alebrije), a life style center.
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Colonial Hotels / Mountain Retreats
There are many private schools and universities, including numerous language schools.
Some of the best private schools are:
Finding employment in El Salvador is difficult for both Salvadorans and extranjeros (foreigners) alike, although bilingual schools are constantly looking for English speakers, as well as other foreign language teachers. Bilingual schools offer competitive salaries for foreign teachers. For current vacancies see the schools websites (above). Most foreigners find themselves volunteering with one of a number of local community organizations or NGOs. The Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (http://www.cis-elsalvador.org) is often looking to hire bi-lingual project managers and liasons, and offers both Spanish classes and numerous volunteer and cultural opportunities. The recent incursion of the call center business has raised the bar in the need for a bi-lingual workforce.
El Salvador has a bad reputation due to the civil war of the 80s. Studies reveal that Guatemala and Honduras have more criminality than El Salvador. Nevertheless, the Consular sheet from the US State Department indicates that "El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world". Crime is an issue, mostly caused by the MS-13 street gang that Salvadorans founded in Los Angeles and brought back to El Salvador when they were deported back to their country. These are mostly seen in industrial areas and some specific districts. You must use common sense and avoid entering into a zone that does not appear safe, just like you do in any country of the world. Avoid carrying fancy stuff if you are walking on the public streets, such as jewelry, expensive cameras, watches. Females should avoid travelling alone as they will catch the occasional cat-calling and perhaps get felt up here and there on tightly packed buses; however the police (PNC) are very professional and helpful there, and you can rely on them for help.
A good idea for any person visiting El Salvador is to keep only necessary forms of identification, such as a driver's license, when exploring the city or tourist locales. If you must keep your passport on you at all times, a traveler's pouch would allow you to have it safely with you. Most tourists prefer to stay within the safe areas of El Salvador such as La Zona Rosa where there is relatively no crime. In case you are not staying at one of the countries 5 star hotels, remember to ask if the city or town you are visiting has a high level of gang activity.
In 1996 San Salvador was considered the second most dangerous city in the world, according to statistics. Since the end of the civil war in 1992 El Salvador has not seen a reduction in crime rates. Today San Salvador, and El Salvador in general, experience some of the highest homicide rates in the world, it is also considered an epicenter of the gang crisis, along with Guatemala and Honduras. The homicides reported in 2006 reached up to 3,906, in 2005 3,779 were reported; 57.2 violent deaths per every 100,000 people.. Crime rates in general have been steadily growing throughout the years, from 2005-2006 crime rose 7.5%. The government tried controlling the gangs with a tactic called "Super Mano Dura" which means "Super Strong Hand", however it has not been successful and crime rates have continued to rise.
If you are not accustomed to food sold by street vendors, you'd probably be best off staying away from food sold on the streets. If you want to try a pupusa, you should try to find a restaurant to taste this popular dish rather than buying them from street vendors.
'Agua en bolsa' (water in a plastic bag) is very commonly sold in the streets and corner stores of El Salvador. Visitors should never drink 'agua en bolsa' nor tap water, period. Instead purchase sealed bottled water of a well-known brand. Likewise it's good to avoid food that has been washed with tap water such as lettuce or other vegetables sold on the street. Use common sense!
Pharmacies are easily found all over the country. Be sure to have a first-aid kit if you travel to the countryside and to archaeological sites. Mosquito repellent comes in handy.
Salvadorans are known for their great hospitality. They are among the nicest people in the world. They are friendly, industrious people always willing to help anyone. That is what has earned El Salvador the nickname of "the country with a smile". When speaking with people you don't know, it is customary to address them in a formal manner, using señor, señora and/or usted.
The international country code for El Salvador is 503.