Vacation in El Salvador?
November 11, 2013 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Two wonderful people - a Salvadoran and a Russian, both living in New York - just got married and have invited my girlfriend and me to join them on vacation in El Salvador this December. Carlos is very sweet, very generous, and very excited to show us his country of origin. It all sounds wonderful to me - beach, mountains, pupusas, family, etc. Plus monkeys! My girlfriend is also very fond of the couple and loves the idea of a tropical vacation, but is typically more cautious than I am and is concerned about safety. This seems to be a valid concern, given the overall crime rate, State Department travel warnings, and so on. El Salvador has a murder rate of 69 per 100,000 people, which is about the same as Flint, Michigan and twice that of Baltimore. I'm a fairly experienced traveler and am inclined to think we'd be safe as long as we stuck with Carlos and his family, but don't want to be foolish. Neither of us speaks Spanish terribly well and we could probably be identified as foreigners by our appearance. The same can be said for Carlos' wife. G/f and I decided to turn to the fine folks of MetaFilter for outside perspectives - thoughts, anecdotes, information, or advice - on the safety and advisability of traveling to El Salvador for fun. Thank you!
posted by jcrcarter to Travel & Transportation around El Salvador (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've been to El Salvador twice (2011 and 2012), both times for a week each with a volunteer group. It is a beautiful country and, while I might not recommend you visit by yourselves without speaking Spanish, I am inclined to think that you will be just fine with Carlos, his family, and your own travel experience knowhow. I would presume that Carlos knows enough about his country and his guests that he would keep you well out of harm's way and you would have a great time.

¡Buen viaje!
posted by pitrified at 1:56 PM on November 11, 2013

I backpacked through there for 3 weeks or so last year, and barely knew any spanish, and I was by myself, and I'm about as gringo looking as you get. It's fine. The murders are mostly concentrated in San Salvador, and really just in a few neighborhoods there. I spent a couple of days in the nice part of San Salvador, and It's basically like any big American city.

I would absolutely go. It's amazing. The beaches and pupusas are great, and the Ruta de Flores is lovely. The people are really friendly.

The only place I ever felt unsafe in El Salvador was in Santa Ana, and even that wasn't that bad, it was more just feeling really out of place because I was by myself and there weren't a lot of tourists there.

Where in the country were they talking about going to and for how long? I can probably give more advice if you ask about specific places.
posted by empath at 8:27 PM on November 11, 2013

Also -- spend a few weeks practicing on Duolingo before you go, it'll help you a lot, even if it's only reading signs and so on. And grab the lonely planet central america book.
posted by empath at 8:30 PM on November 11, 2013

I spent a month in Calatenango department this summer. I'd say that if you have a guide with local knowledge and are generally cautious- it's totally worth going and not a risky thing to do.

I was in a small Pueblo for that month. I visited a lot of towns with people I knew- we traveled by bus. You will stand out. Even Salvadorans who lived in the US for a period of time stood out, just by their clothing. Also, I had heard of buses getting robbed sometimes but the people I knew did not hesitate to use them nor bring me along. I'm tall and blonde and It's totally obvious to everyone that I'm a gringo. I never felt uncomfortable walking around or taking the bus, during the day.

I also was at a big parade in the Capital where I was the only gringo I saw all day out of 100 000 people and everyone was lovely.

People I trusted sometimes told me not to go down a certain road etc... it's basically the same if you were to visit a big city in North America. You don't wander alone in certain parts of town and you don't stay out drunk and alone in a strange part of town.

The only town I went to on the State Department's warning list that you linked to was Ilobasco which was an awesome place to visit. I was only there during the day and only in the central part of town. There was nothing that made me feel unsafe there, walking around for a day.

Also, if you are from the United States of America- people, in general, really like that country. They like United States of Americans, and will have lots to talk to you about because it's more than likely that they know someone working in one state or another.

I got in a bit of trouble for using the term "Americano" referring to people from the United States so it's better to say "Estadounidense".

Anyway, I think you should totally go. If you know someone who wants to take you, it's a huge privilege. PM if you might want to know more about visiting Chalatenango.
posted by beau jackson at 9:15 PM on November 11, 2013

Also, if you are from the United States of America- people, in general, really like that country. They like United States of Americans, and will have lots to talk to you about because it's more than likely that they know someone working in one state or another.

This is really true, too. Also, more than once, random people started talking to me in perfect American accents about how much they miss America since being deported. It's sad, really.
posted by empath at 9:20 PM on November 11, 2013

My blonde sister and her two young children had a lovely, safe time over a period of months in El Salvatore. They were in "dangerous" areas at times but nothing happened to them. They said it was beautiful and the people were very friendly.
posted by saucysault at 4:52 PM on November 12, 2013

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