El Salvador was cause for some concern on our year-long trip, but not for the reasons you may be thinking. The country does have a bit of a gang-related reputation that, while not evidenced in the slightest during our two visits, would be difficult to deny. That is a hefty reality most people would rightly take into consideration before deciding to visit “El Sal”. This was not one of our concerns. What bothered us was what we read about how difficult border agents can make it on backpackers crossing into El Sal. on foot. It turned out to be one of our easiest border crossings, further driving home the point that what you often read or hear and how things really operate are two totally different things. It is best to just find out for yourself sometimes. Travel 101, baby!
It should not come as a shock, dear reader, that your Drifters fell hard for El Salvador, for she left such a good first impression. Right away we noticed how thoughtful the bus system was; the drivers must display on board the maximum fare for the route being served! How quaint! That maximum fare was so cheap we soon found our second concern of cost being put to rest, which we also read a bit too much about. Fear and worry are both best sellers! The national dish, the papusa, cost .35¢ and the U.S. dollar is the de facto currency. Our first destination was the wonderful Ruta de las Flores, where we ate gourmet food for $6 per plate and hiked up to some amazing vantage points overlooking mighty volcanic peaks.
The capital, San Salvador, was never meant to steal hearts, but somehow we fell victim. Our $12 hotel room had free coffee all day and night. It was in a great little area as well, nearby to some great eating options. We please with ease! There were so many day trips to do from San Salvador and we did them all. It must be said that the center of San Salvador was the most unappealing of places. The powers that be have a vision for their city and that vision does not include the center, which is often a place of pride for any city. The outer areas of the city are quite flashy and modern and would not look out-of-place in any thriving metropolis. The center is sadly forgotten about. Oddly, we were happy to have experienced such a run down place, for it was the first time we had seen such disregard in the middle of a capital city. We can now check off the box that says “Ugliest City Center”. Again, we just fell head over heels for the city and we would visit again in a heartbeat.
The size of El Salvador means you are never more than 2 hours from anywhere. It seems you can pick from several different places in which to base yourself for explorations, with San Salvador somehow being a good choice.