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The Mayan World of Central America

Very friendly, very near to you and not so 'foreign' as you may think!

sunny 26 °C

The Mayan World of Central America

Very friendly, very near to you and not so 'foreign' as you may think!

Guatemala offers to the vistor the must-see and awesome Ruins of Tikal, a 'must see'
for
any 'Mayaphile', located in the steamy jungles of the Peten province
located
in the northern part of the country, not far from the border with
Belize, a
former British Colony and the only English speaking country in all of
Central America, where the interesting ruins site of Caracol (Spanish
for
'Snail') lies buried far into a forested area, reached by a bumpy two
lane
unpaved highway. Nearby in honduras, just a few 'klicks' (kilometers)
across
the border from Guatemala lie the 'Jewel of the Mayan World', The Ruins
of
Copán, perhaps the most accesible major site in Central america, as the
Ruins and National Park lie only 2 kilometers, a brisk 20 minute walk
outside the bustling town of Ruinas de Copán, Honduras. When I first
visited
Ruinas de Copán some 25 years ago, it was a sleepy little Honduran
border
village, with the only means of communication with the outside world
being
the Radio-Telephone at the local 'Hondutel' (Honduran National
Telephone
Co.) office, the National Park was just beginning to be developed and
the
two local bi lingual guides often waited days for a client or tour bus
to
show up. today over 20 professional guides, some often speaking several
different languages, await eager clients at the entrance. Today, during
the
high and holiday seasons, often hundreds of visitors will enter the
ruins,
for a glimpse of a highly advanced culture that mysteriously
disappeared
some 1200 years ago, long even before the Spanish Conquistadors arrived
to
loot and plunder in the name of the name of the Spanish Royal Crown.
The
present descendants of the Maya, many still of pure blooded indengious
stock, live on, especially in the Highlands of Guatemala and The
Mexican
State of Chiapas bordering Guatemala and once a part of that
country..They
are called "The Living Maya" and in total throughout Central America
speak
over 35 indingenous dialects, some, almost extinct, being revived
through
special educational programs, as in El Salvador, where the ancient
Nahuat
tounge, a few years ago spoken only in a few small indingenous enclaves
in
Western El Salvador, due to massacres and persecutions in the early
1930s,
(also spoken as Nahuatl in Southern Mexico by the Aztecs, who, as
mercenaries arrived in El Salvador with Spanish Conquerers and found
their
adversaries in the battlefield speaking their own language!)El Salvador
offers the totally unique NON-Royal Mayan site of 'Joya de Ceren', a
typical
Mayan village buried by volcanic ash some 1400 years ago during a
Volcanic
eruption.. (such as Pompeii in Italy)..where one can view how the
ordinary
Mayan family constructed shelter, prepared food, kept house and
conducted
day to day commerce, nearby, only 5 kilometers distant, lie the Royal
Mayan
Temples of San Andres and further west, the interesting Maya-Pipil
(Nahuat
speaking) temples and monuments of Tazumal) all the 'Mundo Maya' countries from
Mexico
with Palenque, Tulum and Chictzen-Itza through Guatemala, which offers
a
grand variety of Mayan, post-Mayan and Colonial treasures to enjoy and
enthral, into Belize and out to El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua
where
new sites have been discovered and still under excavation. Alas, Costa
Rica
is not part of our 'Mundo Maya' or Mayan World, however that country
excels
in offering eco tourism journeys and stunning national parks to all
visitors. I have lived and labored in Central America for atotal of
over 23
years and do not envy those of you who live in lands of broad highways
and
strip malls, although would love it if we had at least "Wal Mart" here!
So
in case you are wishing to trade your dull humdrum for a week, two,
three or
more in Central America here's some practical advice.

  • From the USA and Canada served by TACA, American, Continental, COPA,

Delta
or United airlines, depending your gateway city: Atlanta, Miami,
Chicago,
New York, Los Angeles, Wahington, D.C. or Toronto. A few Flights direct
from
Europe via Caribbean stpovers to Guatemala and Costa Rica, most others
via
Miami. Flight time to most Central American cities from Miami less than
3
hours, from Los Angeles or New York around 6 hours. Very near!

  • US, Canadian and EU/Other Citizens require a Valid Passport to enter

by
Air, no Visas (US, Canada and EU Citizens) required except for Work,
such a
Teaching for salary, or extended 1 year stays such as Mission or
Volunteer
work. In such a case contact your target country's nearest consulate.
All
travelers given 90 Days tourist permit stamp on arrival good for
Guatemala,
El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua together. Belize has separate
immigration laws and $18.50 Tax to exit Belize by land.

  • Central America offers lodgings as well as guided tours for adventure

and
eco travelers to suit just about any budget. Hotels range from 2 Star
Basic
often $20/$10 p.p. per night double occ. and up to 4-5 Star luxury hotels and
resorts, ll inclusive, often from under $100 per night double occ. if
reserved in advance for off or low season travel!

  • All major Rent A Car companies have offices at Airports or in Cities

or
insured vehicles with local driver and guide can be hired at reasonable
rates, with no deductibles nor liability for you if not wishing to
drive.

  • First Class and Luxury Bus Transport exists between all Central

American
countries and in Guatemala between Tikal, Belize points and Mexican
Connections north, much of this region is far more developed than you
may
think, not so foreign!

  • Most towns of any size in Central America boast at least one "Internet

Cafe" and most 3 Star Hotels and above offer Internet connections, no
need
to carry Laptops unless travelling for business or long term. Most
Public
Computers now have skype and internet messenger software uploaded with
audio
and sometimes video. Remember there are almost 5 Million Central
Americans
living and working in North America, Australia and Europe, th monthly
remittances they send home represent over 25 per cent of GNP in some
countries and many persons you meet enroute, especially El Salvador,
will be
friendly and eager to practice their English with you. Very friendly!
Which lead us to...

  • Safety and Security Issues..

Don't believe all you read in the Press and on the Internet written by
casual travellers! Some folks who either by misfortune wind up in the
wrong
place at the wrong time or by sheer stupidity or lack of cultural or
language skills don't use common sense at all in certain situations may
wind
up as victims of a crime..usually petty theft to armed robbery..never
resist..rarely are people harmed in Latin America who do not resist
robbers
(The local Police are usually not 'kind' to those caught robbing or
swindling travellers). Don't brag about your itinerary or tell
strangers
where you are staying or plan travelling especially if you are driving
your
own a rental vehicle! (To USA Citizens) "Don't make a habit of putting
down
your own country or government in public, many poor people living here
don't
understand, some have family up north and would trade places with you
in a
New York second! I keep my opinions on religon and politics to myself
or
among close friends in private."

If planning some trekking and rigorous outdoor excursions, such as
Volcano
Climbing, in remote areas not patrolled by national, park or tourist
police,
best to contract expert native guides, most National Parks, such as in
countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua often provide eco
guide
or Tourist police escorts at designated areas in park sites, not
optional.
Guatemalan tour operators often provide private security for extra fee,
not
optional. Be aware, but never paranoid in crowded bus terminals,
urban/large
town intercity bus stops, crowded outdoor markets, especially the
tourist
markets such as Chichicastenango and Solola near Lake Atitlan in
Guatemala,
for pickpockets and purse snatchers, these theives are pros and they
are
fast! Never fall asleep on second or third class public transport where
your
luggages are in full view on a rack above. Guatemala and Costa Rica the
worst countries for petty theft of this kind. In South America take
special
caution with your valuables on crowded public transport in Colombia,
Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

To enhance your journey you should:

  • Do your own homework and research well before arrival:

good research MIGHT be:
1) Learn about the country or countries/their culture/customs you
target to
visit.
2) Learn about the places you wish to visit/ the things you want to do
3) Check this plan with natives you may be in contact with, residnt ex
pats,
long term volunteers, travelers who stayed awhile, recommendations from
good
travel user groups and forums online.
4) Join on of the two 'hospitality sites' on line, non profit and free
to
join and be hosted by bi/multi-lingual locals or resident ex pats or
long
term volunteers who know their way around. Contact for details. Learn
about
alternative ways of travel off the beaten path, often tourist
destinations
and the crowds wear one out quickly. I also belong to traveller's
portals
and to user groups dedicated to assisting those driving to and through
Central America in RVs and other types of vehicles, detailed How to
books
are available for purchase from their moderators.
5) Prioritize!
6) Learn the language, at least the basics. In Central America,
especially
Guatemala, exist hundreds of Spanish Schools offering one on one
instruction
on a weekly basis, home stay with local family and volunteer ops.
7) Be flexible..don't be disappointed if required to change plans, say
due
to bad weather, remember Central America has a long 6 month rainy
season,
and occasionally earthquakes, hurricanes, with flooding in some low
lying
areas.
8) Purchase at least two (2) up to date Guidebooks, one regional
(FOOTPRINT
'Mexico and Central American Handbook' I recommend highly for the
detail**)and one or two country specific such as Rough Guide or Moon's,
budget travellers prefer often the Lonely Planet series. Also purchase
detailed country and regional maps. If not in your local bookstores,
Amazon.com is your best resource.

  • *For South American travel utilize

FOOTPRINT's 'South American Handbook' as well as purchasing country
specific
Guidebooks and Maps for those countries you wish to visit in South
America.
There are a lot of details to sort out, but in the end as Actor Woody
Allen
once stated "80% of life is showing up". The best Guidebooks and
Websites,
the finest Travel Bloqs and 'How To Travel' books in the world cannot
compare with the unforgettable journey, sights, smells and sounds
included
at no extra cost, you'll experience on the road from Guatemala in the
north
through to Argentina and Chile in the south! Remember, travel is
basically
about PEOPLE, their customs, culture and language and not about
destinations, think about that one for a while.
Know before you go!
If you require any more information, please feel free to contact the
writer
via this web portal and include at least your first name, country, city
or
town and indicate what specific information or assistance you require
in
regard to Central/South American travel and the best and most
economical way
to hop over/ship your vehicles from Central to South America, up to and
including those adventurers traveling in their own vehicles, RV to
Jeep/4x4
onwards to South America.

I plan to author and/or assist locals and long term residents edit several country and regional specific 'Pocket
Guides' focusing on "Central and South American Travel made simple"
any of
you with EXTENSIVE Central or South American experience, Long term
travel
and/or volunteer, Ex Pat, Mission work, Teaching ESL/EFL and other
skills,
etc. are urged to contact me, this you may do by e mail message or the
forums on South America for Visitors. (such as www.gosouthamerica.about.com/)

Only a small percent of
travellers
from North America, Europe, Australia and Asia have made their way to
Latin
America, most visitors from North America head for tourist destinations
in
Mexico or the Caribbean, partly due to cheap flights and tour packages.
The
most popular destination in Central America remains Costa Rica, an
excellent
choice for Eco Tourism with magnificent national parks and reserves
along
with beautiful scenery, especially along the Pacific coast.
All information, articles, travel bloqs or photos used with permission
will
be credited to the original author/photographer

I especially like to assist volunteers planning to travel, volunteering
their time, long or short term, to the Latin American region.Either
faith
based or secular folks. To contact Central and South American
humanitarian
aid projects that do not charge fees to those wishing to volunteer
(although
often short term volunteers pay their own room, boad and living
expenses
while on site) visit: http://www.volunteersouthamerica.net/

For a virtual tour of less visited El Salvador view:

http://www.4elsalvador.com/

For more information, feel free to message the writer.

Le Esperamos. We await you.

Posted by dbloom 14:38 Archived in Guatemala Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

WHY NOT EL SALVADOR?

DISCOVER THE UNDISCOVERED EL SALVADOR.. AN EXOTIC AND SUPRISE DESTINATION!

semi-overcast 27 °C

WHY NOT EL SALVADOR?

(GOOD BEFORE OR AFTER GUATEMALA)

Group Page: http://www.couchsurfing.com/group.html?gid=1277

More and more...folks are beginning to discover the beauty, charm and friendly people of El Salvador, "Central America's Hidden Gem"

EL SALVADOR...

DISCOVER THE UNDISCOVERED EL SALVADOR.. AN EXOTIC AND SUPRISE DESTINATION.......!

The following suggestions are put together for anyone traveling to El Salvador, whether it be to visit friends or relatives, for business or just for a visit of the country.

How to Pack: El Salvador is hot and humid any time of the year. Rainy season begins usually at the beginning of May and runs through October, so plan accordingly. Bring light weight clothing, but appropriate clothing. In many rural areas it is still inappropriate for women to wear pants and especially shorts so be sure to pack some skirts, sisters, just in case! You’ll see few bikinis on El Salvador’s public beaches as in the resort areas of Costa Rica and Mexico.Good shoes. Please bring comfortable shoes. Even if you hire a driver or tour operator to transport you or rent a car in El Salvador some hiking and walking will be required to explore off the beaten path, and it won't always be down paved sidewalks, more often mountain trails, so bring some good, sturdy and comfortable hiking shoes. Leave all your valuables you will not need at home. No flashy jewelry, no fancy watches, nothing that will make you stand out in the humble villages you are bound to visit. Remember, the contents of your luggage could contain more than a humble person may possess in a lifetime.

Travelling around: In the modern cities of San Salvador and San Miguel as well as in Santa Ana you will find the modern "MetroCentro" malls boasting everything from supermarkets to tattoo parlors where the young imitate US dress and styles, chatting endlessly on the cellular phones! ATM machines and Banks are located in the modern shopping centers and accept most all international credit and debit cards, paying out in USD, the currency of legal tender in El Salvador since 2000. The shopping malls have their own private guard services avoid using ATMs on the street or outside buildings alone at especially at night. When travelling to to beach or countryside bring only as much cash as you feel you'll need for meals and small purchases, some of the larger coastal restaraunts and all of the resort hotels accept credit cards. For large purchases in the city, use credit card. Never leave valuables unattended in a parked vehicle unless locked securely in the trunk. Never discuss your travel itinerary with overly friendly strangers nor tell anyone where you are lodging.

Getting There: There are several flights daily into San Salvador from the US Gateways of Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, New York, and Miami (as well as from Montreal and Toronto and other Central and South American cities, Flights direct from Europe into Cancun & Mexico City, Guatemala and San Jose, Costa Rica)). Shop around and start early and you may actually find a good deal. Don't rule out the national airline, Grupo Taca. View: www.taca.com Their international service is now at a par with the US carriers, often even they usually run a little cheaper. I the writer, work specifically with those planning to travel to El Salvador, Guatemala and the rest of Central America. If you notify me at least 15 days in advance of your departure I am able to give you some valuable information, either if you are travelling in a group or independently, whatever you budget. There is also a website, www.skyauction.com, that generally has a couple of tickets to San Salvador up for auction, but we cannot vouch for their service, reliability, etc... we have only seen that when a ticket is available, they offer cheap rates. Read the fine print and study before making any purchases. The Consolidator, Exito Travel, based in the USA and dealing only with Latin Travel can be very helpful in planning a trip anywhere in Latin America, view: http://www.exitotravel.com/

US and Canadian Citizens no longer need to purchase a $10.00 tourist card when they arrive in El Salvador. 90 days is given by immigration and this includes stay in the rest of Central America as well, except Costa Rica and Belize, those wishing to stay more than 90 days must spend 72 hours out of the 'CA 4' ...Belize, Costa Rica or Mexico and then return. The approximate international airport departure tax leaving El Salvador is generally $27.00-$34.00USD cash, check with your airline. (may or may not be included in the price of your ticket usually). Remember that the airport for El Salvador is near the coast, actually 45 kms. or 28 miles due south from the capital city of San Salvador (about a 45 minute ride to the capital). Those planning beach or coastal vacations in El Salvador will be happy to hear that resorts and hotels on the Pacific Coast are all accesible, some within 15 minutes drive, from the airport by the newly paved Carretera Litoral or Coastal Highway CA2, no need to drive into or through San Salvador unless you wish.

There exist in El Salvador several excellent tour operators/drivers and transportation companies who will arrange in advance to pick you up at the airport and transfer you to your Beach, San Salvador or Countryside lodging place, or when travelling by first class or luxury bus services from either Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua/Costa Rica, tansfer arranged at the appropriate international bus terminal direct to your lodging place.

Where to Stay San Salvador There are several unique places to stay in and around San Salvador.

Business and Upscale Travel: If you are a business person looking for first class hotels with world business class service try the Hotel Princess, El Presidente, Raddisson, or Holiday Inn located in the upscale San Benito, Escalón and Santa Elena neighborhoods of Metro San Salvador. Also some excellent 3 star hotels such as the Hotel-Casino Siesta offering discounts with advance reservations..have no fear, if you wish we’ll assist you to handle all the detail work for you in advance, and save you a bundle off the rack rate! Some of these 4 Star hotels are located in or near the Zona Rosa, a trendy area with expensive boutiques and restaurants.. It is quiet and very safe in the surrounding areas by day. The Holiday Inn is the newest large hotel in San Salvador. It is in the neighborhood of Santa Elena, just 3 blocks away from the U.S. Embassy. It is at the edge of town and will allow you to leave San Salvador for the western part of the country without having to fight the traffic of the capital city. Prices in these hotels range from $65-$100+ per night rack rate depending on how many occupants you will be traveling with. Book ahead in high seasons & weekend/holiday periods.

Budget and Independent Travel: No doubt, if you are an independent traveller you are looking for something nice but less ritzy, try one of the many unique lodging places, bed and breakfasts and guest houses associated with us in and around San Salvador. They have private rooms and bathrooms, but are not as large as the hotels, generally with less than 15 rooms. Prices for the bed and breakfasts/guest houses range from $25-$75 per night depending the establishment and on how many beds you require. Cheaper accomodations can be found at some of the smaller hotels closer into town and around the National University area, which boasts a thriving "Bohemian" style nightlife. Most of these small hotels and guest houses offer excellent basic services for our travellers, especially those who wish to mix and socialize with natives and other travellers and of course, do not mind taking a cold shower in the early morning! Prices range from $6.00 per person in dorm rooms to $20.00-$25.00 double in some small guest houses offering breakfast, cable tv and hot water! . for anyone who wishes to stay on in El Salvador for a time and either work or volunteer in one of the ongoing relief projects or in humanitarian aid, before and after your arrival we are willing and able to assist you in finding home stay or long term room or apartment rentals from $60 month+. Home stay with native families in Indingenous Studies (Nahuat) and Spanish Language programs is also recommended and arrangements may be made with them on a weekly or monthly basis. If travelling to El Salvador to volunteer or study contact me via http://www.couchsurfing.com/ non profit hospitality site join with a 'Couch Surfing' ID: Mine is TROPICALGUIDE Country: El Salvador City: San Salvador Moderator of the CS Group 'Why Not El Salvador'?

Getting Around: Transport - Public Transportation The buses in El Salvador are a thrill for those who have never experienced our "guanaco" mode of transport. If you enjoy a thrill, feel free to use the public bus system on your free time to get around. It can be slow at times, but it is extremely cheap. Even if you choose not to use the public transportation, you should take one bus ride just for the experience. There's nothing quite like it... believe us! All the organized tours for travelers are in insured vehicles with driver for your comfort and safety..and theirs as well! Taxis within the city of San Salvador are reliable. Do not walk alone nor take public transport after 8PM within San Salvador unless you are familiar with the area and route. Simply flag a taxi down on the street if you require to and determine the price to your destination before you get in the cab. There are also dispatch services that you can call from your lodging place and have pick you up. Most dispatch drivers have their own cell phones and you are able to contact them later for pick up. Try to avoid the "taxistas" at the luxury hotels, unless you are able to negociate in Spanish, or if not, try and have a native negociate price for you if possible. For visitors in San Salvador there are safe and sound city nightlife trips if desired: casas de arte, gallery showings, theatres, bars and restaurants with either a Salvadorian or international flavor, in the countryside (small towns) in El Salvador there exists little "night life" but the "right life" with El Salvadorian native guides or friends introducing you to our culture, cuisine and customs.

Rental Cars: If you don't wish to drive contract transportation which is insured, with a local bonded company driver who knows the conditions and terrain, however for certain specialized archaeological, off the beaten path and ecological trips it may be necessary for your group to rent a 4WD vehicle, one of several qualified native guides is able to conduct you if desired. Remember that rental car companies in Central America offer you two insurance options: 1. Basic: with a $1,000 to $1,200 deductible on your Credit Card at approx. $17 per day up plus daily insurance charges or 2. Full insurance, including all collision damages, fire and theft at approx. $60 per day total IFI were you, venturing to remote areas with rough terrain I would choose full insurance, a friend of mine recently did so in Nicaragua and saved $1,200!

Above the rental price the customer pays insurance and 13%sales tax (IVA).

What to see n' do: There are a few things you shouldn't miss while you are in El Salvador. Here are a few activities that you could do Either on your own or with a guide.

For those independent travelers wishing to take public transport to all of their destinations while visiting El Salvador, be advised to leave the bulk of your luggage, passport and valuables at hotel or friend's home. If going far leave early in the morning, most buses are running by 5AM. Buses are generally crowded, especially after 3PM and on weekends, there is excellent service on main bus routes such as San Salvador to Santa Ana (Ruta 201), San Salvador to San Miguel (Ruta 301) and San Salvador to Puerto Libertad (Ruta 102), however to more remote areas and smaller towns bus service can be sparse, in areas where there exists little or no public transport, you may need to hitchhike a ride on a pick up truck, giving driver a tip at arrival. Many of these pick ups often act as "public transport" for locals anyway.

Cerro Verde and Lake Coatepeque: These two destinations are beautiful, close to each other and not to be missed.

Cerro Verde National Park: a lush verdant park on a summit soaring above the lake with the famous view of Izalco’s Volcano and its still smoking cone. The lodge, where you may stay overnight, with volcano or lake view rooms, is run by the national tourist commission, reservations required. We obtain your permits to enter the park. The lake is very scenic with boat trips with local fishermen to the small island "Teopan" in the middle that is a holiday and weekend retreat for wealthy Salvadorians. Most of the island is a nature preserve and hiking on the trails is allowed, thousands of Monarch Butterflies in mating season and a bird sanctuary. Lake Coatepeque is a volcanic crater lake and there is a nice hotel and some small restaurants along the lake edge.

Montecristo Cloud Forest: This is one of the most beautiful hikes in all of Central America from the summit, which is reached by 4WD, coaster or minibus (standard vehicle not recommended) by winding dirt road 23Km. above the town of Metapan, located 35 Km. north of Santa Ana, near the Guatemalan frontier, a 1.5 hour drive from San Salvador. One of the few remaining cloud forests in Central America, Montecristo winds to the top where Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are all visible from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Orchid Gardens near to the Camping grounds… local tou operators provide camping and equipment on organized tours for those able, others may opt for country hotels. ..The park is administered by an NGO from the EU. Open Nov. - May only.

Life is a Beach!

Ocean Highway - Calle Litoral from La Libertad to Acajutla This coastal highway runs along the ocean front for seventy or eighty kilometers. It is a beautiful drive that winds along the hills and through a set of five tunnels. Take time to snap some photos and have lunch in La Libertad or Sonsonate. If you're eating in La Libertad try La Curva one of the nicer oceanside restaurants with a great view and wonderful food. Acajutla is a thriving port city and the nearby Los Cobanos Beach offers the adventure traveller deep sea fishing and diving excursions. For more detailed information on El Salvador's coastal desinations, unique lodging places and resorts contact the writer. At present, besides the 'Decameron' there are several new resorts very close to to the International Airport under operation and several more new unique lodging places along the coast, as well, tourism in the colonial and crafts villages and the countryside is increasing (see below):

Ruta de Las Flores - Carreterra from Sonsonate to Ahuachapan Stop off in Nahuizalco and buy a few wicker souvenirs. The nahuizalqueños set up their shops right along the highway, but if you have time, go into the small town and visit some of the shops. The handicrafts are worth a few minutes of your time as is the market. Drive through Salcoatitan and take the detour into Juayua. If you're driving through on a weekend, they often have a market with traditional dishes set up around the central plaza. These are generally very clean and safe to eat. After Juayua visit Apaneca where you can have a bite to eat at the Cabañas de Apaneca and take in the view of the coffee fields and surrounding mountains. Continue to escape the heat by passing through Ataco on your way down to Ahuachapan. Chorros de Juayua: The Chorros de Juayua are a set of waterfalls outside of the town of Juayua. The hike down is not difficult, but the path is not easy to traverse. It is definitely worth it, though. The secenery around the waterfalls is beautiful and the hike down is also very scenic. **If a single or a couple alone..Ask the local police in Juayua if they would be willing to provide an escort as local thieves occassionally hide out along the trail. If you do encounter a thief, however, simply give him some money and be on your way. They are usually local teens that do not intend to harm anyone, but are looking for an easy buck. If you are the type who would rather be "safe than sorry" then The El Salvadorian National Tourist Police are also able to escort small groups on day tours, including eco tours, anywhere within El Salvador if you give them about two weeks notice, there is no charge, however tipping is expected. Police are very helpful to tourists, and if driving a rental car and are stopped, show your licence and car papers and you'll be on your way

Mayan Ruins: San Andres and Joyas de Cerén San Andres and Joyas de Cerén are two Mayan ruin sites. San Andres has a new museum that is excellent and offers free tours before examining the pyramids. If you have seen the majestic temple ruins in Copan, Mexico or Guatemala, don't expect much in "size" from these ruins, but more in "quality" We know native guides who are experts in every aspect of our Maya-Pipil culture..We ourselves are associated with 'Mundo Maya' (The Mayan World) organization. Joya de Cerén is the only "non royal" Mayan site existing in MesoAmerica, an ordinary village buried under volcanic ash some 1400 years ago after an eruption of the nearby volcano, Joya de Cerén is referred to as the "Pompeii of the Americas". It is a very interesting site for academics and a "must see" for visitors who wish to understand fully our pre-Hispanic culture! with some displays explaining what has been unearthed, but is not completely finished yet. Well worth the effort is a visit to Cihuatan, a ruins north of San Salvador, still under excavation, called "The City of Women"….

Santa Ana: Cathedral and Theater in the Central Plaza of Santa Ana The catedral in Santa Ana is famous throughout El Salvador for its classic gothic design. Be prepared for the pigeons and local photographers trying to snap your photo and sell you a picture. The theater on the other side of the park is a rare work of art in El Salvador. They are attempting to restore it, and it seems very "out of place" for Santa Ana with its classic design and architecture. There is a nominal fee (less than 50¢) to get in, but it is an interesting stop if you are in Santa Ana.

  • Guatemala, just over the border: We are able to recommend tour operators, native guides, hotels and lodging places located in in Guatemala, only 4.5 hours by vehicle or first class bus from San Salvador. Antigua, where most travellers choose to base, is only 45 minutes southwest of Guatemala City (42 Km.) by paved divided highway. For budget travellers buses to Antigua leave Zona (Zone) 3 in Guatemala city every 10-15 minutes during the day. A taxi from Guatemala City to Antigua is approx. $40USD duing the day, more at night.

No No's: Do not plan JUST for a "vacation". Plan for AN UNFORGETTABLE CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE! Do not bring expensive gifts to give out to beggars or street children... This sets up false expectations for other families and trravelers when they come to visit in the area. Many of the people you visit will be extremely poor, but the best thing to do is not to give them money, ESPECIALLY STREET CHILDREN, if you wish to donate, arrange to do so quietly with your native guide and a village leader or priest. Please do not offer anyone promises of visas or work in the United States, etc... Always respect local culture and customs, never become argumentative nor critical and always have your native guide smooth out any disputes that arise.. Do everything possible to make all your own arrangements leaving from the United States, Canada, etc. and not burden others with those little minute travel details that you should be able to handle on your own. If I do not know the answer to a question I shall try and find out for you. Invaluable to bring along with you are PRINT Guidebooks, up to date, such as Footprint, Lonely Planet and the 'On Your Own in El Salvador' (the only country specific guidebook for El Salvador) and detail maps available in bookstores and on the Internet..... so Let's Go Amigo!…

ZONA AZUL - EL SALVADOR & CENTRAL AMERICA Tourism Newspaper and Web Portal. Puerto de La Libertad, La Libertad, El Salvador, C.A.

Arts and Crafts, Cultural, Eco and Ethno day tours available in El Salvador.

For a broad overview of El Salvador & Guatemala (lots of advertisements but a good selection of articles monthly and in the archives) on pdf format http://www.revuemag.com/ Guatemala Revue Magazine/El Salvador Section (English)

Saludos and enjoy El Salvador..le esperamos.

Posted by dbloom 11:15 Archived in El Salvador Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (2)

El Salvador..an exotic destination

Discover the Undiscovered Heart of Central America...'If you've missed El Salvador then you've missed Central America!'

sunny 29 °C

Anyone wishing to visit and explore El Salvador 'in depth' should purchase a copy of On Your Own In El Salvador, as well Footprint's Mexico and Central America and Lonely Planet Central America as well before departure. Visit amazon.com :
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1929377061/103-8087514-2193453?n=283155 (or try your local bookstores - travel section)
Editorial Reviews
Midwest Book Review
On Your Own In El Salvador is the first traveler's guidebook to cover the country inside and out. It's the book of choice for exploring El Salvador, whether you're going on your own, passing through, or just thinking about visiting. On Your Own In El Salvador includes an in-depth, clearly-written historical and cultural sections. Comprehensive travel information for cities and towns across El Salvador are included along with 47 clear and detailed street and regional maps. Dozens of culture boxers that examine every aspect of Salvadoran life, from politics to mythology. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Book Description
On Your Own in El Salvador is the most comprehensive guidebook to El Salvador, a reference for travelers and anyone interested in the history and life of this fascinating country, however the book has become a bit out of date. Thorough and easy-to-follow guides to lodging, transportation, museums, shopping, and entertainment are couple with detailed and insightful descriptions of El Salvador's history and culture. Includes practical information a traveler might need regarding safety, visas, and vaccinations. No other publisher, including Lonely Planet, Moon, and Fodor's has a guidebook to this country.
Product Details
Paperback: 290 pages
Publisher: On Your Own Publications; 2nd edition (October 1, 2001)
Language: English
I have known the author, a long term resident and his wife, a native of El Salvador for many years..the only guidebook just for and about El Salvador..no 'back burner' pages here!

EL SALVADOR

..Central America's Hidden Gem...An exotic destination..so discover the undiscovered heart of Central America.

WHY GO?
25 volcanoes, one-Izalco-which can be viewed from nearbyCerro Verde Park - is still smoking!: A cloud forest with a stunning view of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras from the Summit: Museum of the Revolution and El Mazote-Arambala Civil War Memorial Massacre sites: 200 miles of unspoiled and uncrowded Pacific Coast beaches, coves and bays; The best surfing in Central America; Colonial and indigenous villages where time has stood still; humungous arts and crafts, visit several towns dedicated over to the making of these native crafts, such as La Palma in the North and Ilobasco in the East of the country; You will find throughout all of El Salvador friendly and industrious people, always ready to assist you and to practice their English(almost 60% of El Salvadorians have relatives living and working abroad). Most importantly, El Salvador is an uncrowded, exotic and suprise destination: no tourist hordes here!

WHEN TO GO?
Best time of year is the dry season from November through March. The weather is very hot and humid in April and May. Rainy season is late May through October, usually raining during the evenings. The sun shines 350 days a year in El Salvador! Don't go Easter Holy Week(Semana Santa), the first week of August(religious holidays) or mid-December through early January.(Christmas-New Years) unless you have family to stay with or prior reservations.

GETTING THERE
By Plane
Flights are available from gateway cities in US: NY,DC, Atlanta, Miami, NO, Houston, Denver, LA and SF on TACA, Continental, Delta, American or United Airlines. Get a "Coupon Ticket" abroad for Central & South America on TACA www.taca.com and stop over in El Salvador from Guatemala, Honduras ,Costa Rica, Mexico or South America at no extra charge. El Salvador has the most modern and efficent Airport in all Central America and therefore is the Hub of TACA Central American airlines. Also first class and luxury bus services from Tapachula, Mexico via Guatemala City daily (TICA BUS and TRANS-GALGOS)from the south KING QUALITY, TRANS-NICA & TICA BUS ply daily from San Jose, Costa Rica via Managua/Granada, Nicaragua or Tegucigalpa, Honduras to San Salvador.

GETTING AROUND
The country is small, 21,500 K2, about the size of the State of Massachusetts in the USA, and most attractions within the country can be visited within 3 to 4 days by bus with early departure, with rental car or driver or on Tour. Local transport is cheap, but generally very crowded and there are no luggage racks. Avoid public transport during 'horas picas' 6-9AM & 4-7PM weekdays if possible, also Saturday noon and Sunday evenings. If traveling around on public transport leave luggages and backpacks secure in hotel. Carry only a photocopy of passport and leave valuables at home. If you'll be here here for a while learn the city and intercity bus systems, all buses (outside remote rural areas) run normally every few minutes from 0430 to 2000 hours daily, less frequent weekends. Luxury, first and second class international bus services to and from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica daily with space for luggage. View: http://www.ticabus.com/

BEST ATTRACTIONS
Montecristo Cloud Forest in Triunfo International Park, with views from the summit of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Orchid Farm. Guides. Camping. Permit required for vehicles 4WD recommended. Best dry season November-April.
Cerro Verde National Park, with its view of the smoking cone of Izalco Volacano. See item on ISTU below. Nearby Volcanic Lake Coatepeque with boat excursions and charming lodges.Beaches, Beaches and more Beaches. 300 Km.(200 miles) Of them including Bays, secluded coves and Mangroves. World Class Surfing at La Libertad’s Punta Roca, Sunzal and El Zonte Beaches, Deep Sea Fishing (Sailfish, Tuna, Dorado, Marlin) and Deep Sea Diving from Los Cobanos Beach in Western El Salvador and Sun Surf and Fish in Eastern El Salvador also from the famed Costa del Sol onwards to El Cuco and the exotic pristine pacific haunts of the “Wild East”.

BEST UNUSUAL ATTRACTION
Museum of the Revolution in Perquin, the former "Rebel Capital" during the Civil Conflict 1980-92. Located in Northeastern El Salvador near the Honduran border, tour the Musuem, Town and nearby massacre sites(1981-1982) of Aramabala and El Mazote, where there is a memorial to the fallen, Guide and 4WD vehicle recommended. The area is a 4 hour drive one way from El Salvador, so if planning a day trip best to leave at dawn and return before dark.

BEST ACTIVITY AND GUIDE
For the Eco Traveler we recommend El Imposible National Park with Visitors Center-Camping Areas-Nature Trails and Crystal Clear Rivers in a protected enviroment with guides on site. The guides do not charge fees but work on a basis of tipping from the client. Reservations and permit for each visitor required in advance. Camping and cabins at visitor center for overnight stays.

BEST ALTERNATIVE
If a little bit nervous about visiting El Salvador for the first time due to it’s undeserved reputation and in a group of 3 or more persons, the author can hook you up with ISTU (Salvadorian Institute of Tourism) with a bi lingual Guide and Tourist Police escort at no extra charge (tipping is expected as guides receive minimum salary) to either the Nature Preserves of Cerro Verde in Western El Salvador near the volcanic Lake Coatepeque or Walter T. Denninger Tropical Forest at the slopes of the Pacific Ocean with it’s amazing bio diversity. No mass tourism Costa Rican style here enjoy but reservations ARE required in advance. National Tourist Police escorts are available for ALL groups of travelers ALL YEAR, ANYWHERE in El Salvador, however we must be notified at least 3 weeks in advance of your departure in order to make your arrangements. No charge for Police escort, however tipping is encouraged.

BEST EATS
• The Salvadorian "Pupusa" is a must try, Pupusa places are everywhere, the best Pupusas come from “Olocuilta” south of San Salvador and are sold in the city.
• There are lots of the familiar fast food spots in San Salvador, but try the Bohemian Zone near the National University for best specialty restaurants such as La Ventana, the most popular in town. Open late night on weekends to 3AM. For those with a taste for upscale international fare and late night disco dancing check out Colonia San Benito, San Salvador’s “Zona Rosa” patrolled by the PNC Tourist Police.

BEST CULTURAL ENTERTAINMENT
La Luna Casa de Arte- Ongoing Art Exhibitions and many, many cultural, artistic and musical endeavors. Stop by La Luna any night but Sunday to get oriented or check the Arts, Culture and Entertainment section of the local news papers. The "Bohemian District" is near the National University take city bus 44 or 30 or 30B by day and taxi it by night. City buses are few and far between after 8PM and walking alone any distance at night not recommended. Take taxi back to lodging places.

BEST LOCAL HAUNTS
La Ventana near the National University. With a European cafe atmosphere, they do not mind if you sit and chat, nursing a beer. Located in the heart of San Salvador’s “Bohemian” district. For a listing of bars, restaurants and other entertainment in and around San Salvador check out the El Salvador section of the ‘Revue’ Magazine (English) go to: http://www.revuemag.com/

BEST SHOPPING
There are two great arts and crafts markets in San Salvador, The “Ex-Cuartel” a huge crafts bazaar located in downtown San Salvador and the smaller “Mercado de Artesinias” near the San Salvador Fairgrounds(be ready to bargain hard at both locations) along with dozens of towns dedicated to elaboration of arts and crafts throughout the country, such as Ataco, Ilobasco, La Palma, Nahuazalco and San Sebastian. Knock yourself out!
There are several large modern Shopping Malls, with security patrols, such as MetroCentro, MetroSur, Gallerias and Las Cascadas located in and around San Salvador. There are also newer MetroCentro Malls in the cities of Santa Ana, San Miguel and Sonsonate.
If shopping in the Mercado Central in the downtown (Centro) of San Salvador near the Cathedral and “Ex Cuartel” crafts market, you’ll find bargains, however take caution, very crowded, be aware of pickpockets and purse snatchers.

MONEY AND COMMUNICATIONS
US Dollar, including small change, is now legal tender and circulating in El Salvador since January 2001. All Credit Card transactions are in USD. No need to change money to/from US Cash. ATM Machines give dollars on Cash Advances. The local currency, the Colon, which as of this writing has almost disappeared, is pegged at 8.75 to 1USD Fixed Rate and interchangeable in stores, on transport etc.

HEALTH AND SAFETY
El Salvador is the most densely populated nation in the Western Hemisphere and, as a result, 97% of the country has been deforested in the last 30 years. Litter and garbage abound on highways, roads and in slum areas. Salvadorians are hard working and aggressive people, some cases of rudeness have been reported in the crowded and very densely populated capital city of San Salvador, however the traveler will find the people in the countryside exceptionally friendly and corteous, eager to please and practice their English. If heading to Beaches to relax, the Comalapa International Airport is located on the newly paved Litoral(Coastal) Highway less than an hour from La Libertad and Costa del Sol Beach points, so the visitor need not even transit the capital city os San Salvador if so desired. Take caution when driving a rental vehicle here, as there are many cases of hit and run in minor accidents (fender benders) especially scrapes in crowded parking areas. Most motorists in Central America drive uninsured and one has an $800 deductible upon your rental contract, which means you pay for any minor damages to the vehicle on report to the rental car company. It is often better to form a group and take a Tour in an insured vehicle with Driver, as then the company has liability. There are driver-owners for singles or couples and alternative tour operators to serve small groups, no liability in case of accident or theft.

anyway come on down..."If you've missed El Salvador, you've missed Central America"
Virtual tour of El Salvador:
http://www.4elsalvador.com/
6 virtual tours with accompaning English and Spanish text.
For culture and folklore buffs
‘Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen
http://www.museo.com.sv/ (Spanish)
El Salvador Ministry of Tourism
http://www.elsalvadorturismo.gob.sv/
Site now only in Spanish, offers a lot of information, links and a video

Studying Spanish, volunteering or relocating/retiring in El Salvador? A nice place to spend a few days or weeks and the locals are quite hospitable. Despite what you heard and read in the media El Salvador is quite an economical and pleasant place to live and work and there are many foreign residents who have come to settle with El Salvadorain born spouses they’ve met abroad..in fact over 2.5 Million El Salvadorians live and work in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Italy, Spain, Sweden and several other countries: called ‘Hermanos Lejanos’ (Brothers Far Away) they send almost $3,000,000,000USD a year in remittances (remesas) to family here in El Salvador, this money accounts for nearly 30% of GNP yearly and many recipients start up small business ventures..as well San Salvador is more cosmopolitan than one would believe with large Arab, British, Canadian, German, Jewish, Italian and Spanish communities as well as a thriving US Citizen ex pat community:

In San Salvador is an American Society, Canadian Society, The 'British Club' is now a Pub, The Arab Club, Jewish Synagouge and Community Center, German Club, Italian Club and the huge Spanish Society where travelers of those nationalities will feel welcome.

By Ms. Kristie ------, native of USA, resident in San Salvador, El Salvador

“After leaving the USA due to lack of job prospects, I discovered a new world in El Salvador - a land of opportunity for the ex-pat entrepreneur..at first things appear difficult: the language: the lack of connections(which is mandatory to get things done here) and being in a country where ex-pat Women are on sight noted as different. However, with perserverance and a postive attitude both in business and traveling about, El Salvador can be a world like no other. I have found that being an “outsider” has its advantages too - I look upon this country with fresh eyes and have traveled over more of the land than the majority of those who have lived their entire lives here. From the Volcanoes, to the Beaches to the quaint Colonial Towns, there is so much to do and see, and all is possible within in short day drives on newly paved roads out of the capital city. At first I was worried about the “reputation” of El Salvador and the State Department warnings regarding traveling around, but so much has changed here since the Civil War ended in late 1992, over a decade ago. The economy is strong for business investors and just keeps moving upward and the Government is currently working on funding for Travel & Tourism to attract more visitors. El Salvador may be considered remote and “ground level” now but like the Stock Market - always best time to buy in” If you wish to E mail me please do so at (e mail address upon request)." Kristie now has a new Baby Boy and operates a successful catering business in San Salvador.

Those coming to volunteer are of course more than welcome, simply contact us in advance at E mail centralamericatraveltips@yahoo.com

(View the website of our non profit organization serving Nicaragua http://www.cindurma.org/)
Special assistance for those involved in any humanitarian aid projects traveling to El Salvador or the rest of Central America.

By David Bloom
Long term residnt of El Salvador & Guatemala

Posted by dbloom 13:31 Archived in El Salvador Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (1)

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