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What We Spent In El Salvador


by Wenonah Beckman



Welcome to the land of vibrant cultures, stunning landscapes, and a rich tapestry of history – Central and South America. This region is a paradise for explorers, adventure-seekers, and travel enthusiasts. From the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru to the bustling colonial cities of Colombia, Central and South America offer an abundance of experiences that will leave you in awe.


As an SEO expert with in-depth knowledge of this region, I have had the pleasure of exploring many of its hidden gems and discovering the unique charm each country has to offer. In this article, I will provide you with a comprehensive guide on what to expect when it comes to expenses during your visit to El Salvador.


El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America, might be often overlooked by travelers, but it is a destination that holds plenty of surprises. Known for its pristine beaches, vibrant culture, and breathtaking volcanoes, El Salvador has recently gained popularity among tourists seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure.


This article will dive into various aspects of our trip, including accommodation costs, transportation expenses, food and drink prices, sightseeing and activities, shopping, souvenirs, and miscellaneous expenses. Whether you are a budget traveler or looking to splurge, this guide will help you plan accordingly and give you a good idea of what you can expect in terms of costs during your stay in El Salvador.


So, let’s embark on this journey together and discover the magic that lies within this small but magnificent country!


Background on El Salvador

Before we dive into the details, let’s take a moment to understand the fascinating background of El Salvador. Located in Central America, El Salvador is bordered by Honduras on the northeast, Guatemala on the northwest, and the Pacific Ocean on its south. With a population of approximately 6.5 million people, El Salvador holds a rich cultural heritage and a troubled history.


The country has a diverse landscape, characterized by its rugged mountains, volcanic peaks, lush forests, and pristine beaches. Home to over 20 volcanoes, El Salvador offers breathtaking hiking opportunities and stunning views from its summits.


El Salvador has a complex history marked by both ancient civilizations and more recent events. The indigenous Pipil people were the early inhabitants of the region and left behind traces of their culture, including archaeological sites such as Joya de Cerén, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Pompeii of the Americas.”


In more recent history, El Salvador endured a civil war that lasted from 1980 to 1992. The scars of this conflict are still evident in some areas, but the country has made significant progress in terms of stability and economic development since then.


El Salvador’s currency is the US dollar, making it convenient for travelers from the United States. The official language is Spanish, with English being less widely spoken, especially in more rural areas.


Now that we have a glimpse into the country’s background, let’s move on and explore the various aspects of our trip to El Salvador, including the costs associated with accommodation, transportation, dining, sightseeing, shopping, and more.


Our Accommodations

During our visit to El Salvador, we had the opportunity to stay in a variety of accommodations, ranging from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious beachfront resorts. The cost of accommodations in El Salvador can vary depending on the location and level of comfort you desire.


If you’re a budget traveler, you’ll be pleased to know that El Salvador offers a range of affordable accommodations, particularly in popular tourist areas such as San Salvador, El Tunco, and La Libertad. Hostels and guesthouses are plentiful, with prices starting as low as $10 per night for a dormitory-style room. These budget-friendly options often provide shared facilities and a social atmosphere, making them ideal for backpackers and solo travelers.


If you prefer more privacy and comfort, there are also mid-range and upscale hotels available throughout the country. Prices for mid-range hotels typically range from $50 to $100 per night, offering comfortable rooms, private bathrooms, and amenities such as swimming pools and on-site restaurants. Upscale resorts can cost upwards of $150 per night and often provide luxurious accommodations, spa facilities, beach access, and exceptional service.


During our stay, we opted for a combination of budget-friendly accommodations and mid-range hotels. In San Salvador, we stayed in a centrally located hostel with easy access to transportation and popular attractions. The cost per night was approximately $20 for a private room with shared facilities.


As we ventured to the coastal towns such as El Tunco and La Libertad, we found a range of accommodation options along the beachfront. We treated ourselves to a mid-range hotel with a sea view, costing around $70 per night. This allowed us to enjoy the convenience of being close to the beach and exploring the vibrant surf culture in the area.


Overall, our accommodations in El Salvador were comfortable, clean, and offered good value for money. Whether you’re on a tight budget or looking for a more luxurious experience, El Salvador provides options to suit every traveler’s needs.


Transportation Costs

Getting around in El Salvador is relatively affordable and convenient, thanks to its well-connected transportation network. Here’s a breakdown of the various transportation options and their associated costs:


Public Buses: Public buses are the most common mode of transportation for both short and long distances in El Salvador. They are inexpensive, with prices starting as low as $0.25 for short trips within a city or town. Longer journeys between cities typically cost around $2 to $5, depending on the distance traveled. Buses can be crowded, especially during peak hours, but they offer an authentic and budget-friendly way to explore the country.


Taxis: Taxis are readily available in El Salvador’s urban areas and provide a convenient mode of transportation, especially for shorter distances or when traveling with luggage. Taxi fares are typically metered, with an initial charge and an additional fee for each kilometer traveled. As a rough estimate, a 10-minute taxi ride within a city may cost around $5 to $10. It’s always a good idea to negotiate the fare or ensure that the taxi driver uses the meter to avoid any potential issues.


Ride-Sharing: Ride-sharing services such as Uber and DiDi operate in major cities but may not be available in more remote areas. These services offer a convenient and often more affordable alternative to traditional taxis. The fares are generally lower than those of taxis, and the payment is handled through the app, ensuring transparency and ease of use.


Renting a Car: If you prefer the freedom to explore at your own pace, renting a car can be a great option. Rental prices can vary depending on the type of vehicle and the duration of the rental. On average, renting a small economy car can cost around $30 to $40 per day. However, it’s important to consider additional expenses such as fuel and parking fees when budgeting for a rental car.


It’s also worth mentioning that El Salvador has a reliable and extensive bus network that connects different regions of the country. For longer distances, you can opt for comfortable express buses that offer reclining seats and air conditioning, albeit at a slightly higher cost.


Regardless of the mode of transportation you choose, it’s essential to consider factors such as travel time, convenience, and safety when planning your journeys in El Salvador. By doing so, you can make the most of your time and budget while exploring this beautiful country.


Food and Drink Expenses

One of the delights of visiting El Salvador is experiencing its delicious and diverse cuisine. From traditional pupusas, a type of stuffed tortilla, to fresh seafood and tropical fruits, there are plenty of flavors to tantalize your taste buds. Here’s a breakdown of the food and drink expenses you can expect during your visit:


Local Eateries: El Salvador is dotted with local eateries, known as “comedores,” where you can enjoy a variety of traditional dishes at budget-friendly prices. A typical meal at a comedor can range from $3 to $6, depending on the location and the type of dish you choose. Pupusas, which are a staple in Salvadoran cuisine, often cost around $0.50 to $1 each. These thick, stuffed tortillas filled with cheese, beans, or meat are a must-try when visiting El Salvador.


Mid-Range Restaurants: If you’re looking for a more varied dining experience or want to try international cuisine, there are several mid-range restaurants available throughout the country. Prices at these establishments can range from $10 to $20 per meal. These restaurants often offer a mix of local and international dishes, and the portion sizes are usually generous.


Street Food: El Salvador is renowned for its vibrant street food scene. You can find a variety of snacks and quick bites such as yuca fritters, plantain chips, and fruit salads. Prices for street food items typically range from $1 to $5, making it an affordable and tasty option for a quick meal on the go.


Drinks: When it comes to beverages, El Salvador offers a range of options. The cost of a bottle of water ranges from $0.50 to $1, depending on the size and where you purchase it. Soft drinks and canned juices are similarly priced. If you’re a coffee lover, don’t miss the opportunity to try El Salvador’s exceptional coffee. A cup of coffee in a café can cost around $1 to $3.


Alcohol: If you enjoy a night out or want to unwind with a drink, El Salvador offers a variety of alcoholic beverages. A local beer at a bar or restaurant typically costs around $2 to $4, while imported beers may be slightly more expensive. Cocktails and mixed drinks can range from $4 to $8, depending on the establishment and its location.


It’s important to note that prices can vary depending on the location and the type of establishment. Tourist areas and upscale restaurants may have higher prices compared to local eateries. However, no matter where you dine or drink, the flavors and culinary experiences in El Salvador are sure to leave a lasting impression.


Sightseeing and Activities

El Salvador boasts a wealth of attractions and activities that cater to diverse interests. Whether you’re intrigued by majestic volcanoes, ancient ruins, or stunning beaches, there’s something for everyone. Here are some popular sightseeing options and their associated costs:


National Parks: El Salvador is home to several national parks, offering opportunities for hiking, wildlife spotting, and enjoying breathtaking natural landscapes. Entry fees to national parks typically range from $3 to $10, depending on the park and the activities you plan to undertake. Popular national parks include El Imposible National Park, Cerro Verde National Park, and Montecristo Cloud Forest.


Archaeological Sites: Immerse yourself in El Salvador’s rich history by exploring its archaeological sites. Joya de Cerén, often referred to as the “Pompeii of the Americas,” provides a unique glimpse into the everyday life of the ancient Maya and is worth a visit. Entrance fees for archaeological sites usually range from $3 to $10.


Beach Activities: With its stunning Pacific coastline, El Salvador offers plenty of opportunities for beach lovers. Whether you’re looking to relax under the sun or partake in water sports such as surfing or snorkeling, you’ll find a wide range of options. Some beaches have public access with no entrance fees, while others may charge parking fees or require payment for loungers and umbrellas.


City Tours: If you’re in San Salvador, consider taking a city tour to discover its historic landmarks, museums, and vibrant markets. The cost of guided city tours can vary, ranging from $20 to $50, depending on the duration and the inclusions.


Adventure Activities: For adrenaline junkies, El Salvador offers thrilling adventure activities such as volcano hikes, zip-lining, and white-water rafting. Prices for these activities vary based on the provider and the duration of the experience. Hiking tours to volcanoes, for example, can range from $30 to $100, depending on the volcano and the level of difficulty.


Cultural Experiences: Immerse yourself in Salvadoran culture by attending local festivals, visiting art galleries, or experiencing traditional dances and music. Many cultural activities and events are free or have a small entrance fee, allowing you to appreciate the vibrant culture of the country.


It’s important to keep in mind that the prices mentioned are approximate and can vary depending on factors such as location, season, and the level of service provided. Additionally, some attractions may offer discounted rates for children, students, or seniors, so be sure to inquire about any available discounts.


With such a wide range of sightseeing and activities to choose from, El Salvador promises to be a destination where you can create unforgettable memories and immerse yourself in its natural and cultural wonders.


Shopping and Souvenirs

Shopping in El Salvador is a delightful experience, offering a wide range of unique products and souvenirs that showcase the country’s rich culture and craftsmanship. Here’s a guide to shopping and finding memorable souvenirs during your visit:


Local Markets: Explore the vibrant local markets scattered throughout El Salvador to find a variety of traditional handicrafts, textiles, and artwork. These markets, such as Mercado Central in San Salvador or the markets in Suchitoto, offer a treasure trove of souvenirs, including handwoven textiles, pottery, wood carvings, and paintings. Don’t forget to engage in friendly bargaining to get the best prices.


Pupusa Cloths and Hammocks: Pupusa cloths are colorful, handwoven fabrics that are often used as tablecloths, wall hangings, or even fashion accessories. These vibrant cloths make for unique and practical souvenirs. Additionally, El Salvador is renowned for its high-quality hammocks, which are not only comfortable but also a symbol of relaxation and leisure. Look for artisan markets or specialty stores to find these items.


Coffee and Chocolate: El Salvador produces exceptional coffee, known for its rich flavors and high quality. Consider purchasing locally sourced coffee beans or packaged coffee as a delicious souvenir. Additionally, you can find artisanal chocolate made from locally grown cacao beans, offering a sweet treat to take home or share with friends and family.


Artisanal Crafts: El Salvador is known for its talented artisans who create beautiful ceramics, woodwork, and jewelry. Look for handcrafted pottery, wooden bowls, and intricate silver jewelry to bring home as a unique memento of your trip. These artisanal crafts reflect the country’s culture and traditions.


Indigenous Art: El Salvador is home to indigenous communities that create stunning artwork using traditional techniques and motifs. From intricate paintings to handcrafted masks and textiles, these pieces are not only visually appealing but also carry a deeper cultural significance. Look for galleries or specialty shops that showcase indigenous art and support local artists.


When shopping and negotiating prices, it’s important to be respectful and mindful of the local customs and traditions. Always remember that supporting local artisans and businesses plays an essential role in preserving the cultural heritage of the country.


Lastly, don’t forget to anticipate additional costs such as luggage space and customs restrictions when purchasing souvenirs. Ensure that any items you purchase comply with your country’s regulations to avoid any issues when returning home.


With so many unique and handcrafted options available, shopping for souvenirs in El Salvador offers a wonderful opportunity to take a piece of the country’s vibrant culture and craftsmanship home with you.


Miscellaneous Expenses

In addition to accommodation, transportation, food, sightseeing, and shopping, there are other miscellaneous expenses to consider when planning your trip to El Salvador. These expenses can vary depending on your personal preferences and travel style. Here are some miscellaneous expenses to keep in mind:


Visa Fees: Depending on your nationality, you may need to pay a visa fee upon entering El Salvador. It’s essential to check the visa requirements and fees beforehand to ensure a smooth entry into the country. Some nationalities may be eligible for a visa-free stay or visa-on-arrival, while others may require obtaining a visa in advance.


Travel Insurance: It’s highly recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses, trip cancellations, and other unexpected incidents. The cost of travel insurance depends on factors such as the duration of your trip, coverage limits, and the provider you choose. Be sure to factor this expense into your budget for a worry-free and protected journey.


Tipping: While tipping is not generally expected in El Salvador, it is appreciated for exceptional service. If you receive outstanding service at a restaurant or from a tour guide, leaving a small tip as a token of appreciation is a kind gesture. In upscale establishments, a service charge may already be included in the bill.


Internet and Communication: Staying connected while traveling is important for many, and El Salvador offers various options for internet and communication. SIM cards can be easily purchased at the airport or local stores for a reasonable price, allowing you to have access to data and local calls during your stay. Internet cafes and Wi-Fi are also available in most tourist areas or accommodations.


Laundry Services: If you’re planning a longer trip, you may need to use laundry services to freshen up your clothes. Many accommodations offer laundry facilities or can assist you with finding nearby laundry services. The cost of laundry services can vary depending on the weight of your clothes and the location.


Emergency Funds: It’s always a good idea to have some emergency funds set aside for unexpected expenses or unforeseen circumstances during your trip. This can include things like medical emergencies, lost or stolen items, or changes in travel plans.


While these miscellaneous expenses may not be significant individually, they can add up and impact your overall budget. It’s important to consider these costs and allocate funds accordingly to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience during your visit to El Salvador.



El Salvador, with its natural beauty, rich culture, and warm hospitality, offers a truly unforgettable experience for travelers. From exploring ancient ruins to indulging in delicious street food, there is something for everyone in this Central American gem.


Throughout our trip, we discovered that El Salvador provides a range of options to suit every budget. Whether you’re a backpacker on a shoestring budget or seeking a luxurious getaway, there are accommodations, transportation methods, dining options, and activities to meet your needs.


From the affordable hostels and local eateries to mid-range hotels and diverse cuisine, El Salvador offers a balance between cost and quality. Additionally, the country’s natural wonders, historical sites, and cultural experiences provide ample opportunities for sightseeing and exploration.


When it comes to shopping for souvenirs, El Salvador’s markets offer a plethora of unique and handcrafted items that reflect the country’s cultural heritage. Whether it’s traditional handicrafts, indigenous artwork, or flavorsome coffee, there are endless options to commemorate your journey.


As with any trip, it’s important to consider miscellaneous expenses such as visas, travel insurance, tips, communication, and emergency funds. By planning for these expenses, you can ensure a smooth and stress-free adventure.


In conclusion, El Salvador delivers a truly diverse and captivating experience. From its stunning landscapes and rich history to its vibrant culture and warm people, the country offers a unique blend of adventure, relaxation, and exploration. By budgeting and planning accordingly, you can make the most of your trip and create memories that will last a lifetime.


So, pack your bags, prepare for an incredible journey, and get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty and warmth of El Salvador!