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Oct 11, 2008

No doubt some of you may wish to reloc<te, retire, work or volunteer here one day!


**Common Sense Travel Advice for El Salvador and the rest

of Central America for Sensible People!


**Remember, advice is cheap, it usually takes me a few

minutes of my time to answer some sensible travel

questions and to point you in the right direction, as

well don't just take my word for it, check with

others who have traveled to the areas you wish to

visit, usually you will find these persons, eager and

willing to aid you, on the travelers forums such as:


Join free: Thorntree Travel Forum*
 Check out the non profit hospitality portals to make local contacts in each and every country you wish to visit:

Couch Surfing

Be Welcome

Hospitality Club

region and country to view tips, i.e.

(Student Travel, has Student Airfare Booking on line) central-america/
Good Airfares, Bootsnall can
help you 'plan' your trip RTW or just to one city and return! Consolidator, Airfares, Hotels,
Tours , Latin America only. US Based website with toll free number.

BUSES Central American Bus Links Tica Bus International serving all
Central America King Quality International buses
Guatemala to El Salvador , Honduras and Costa Rica
Website in Spanish only. Excellent Service. Hedman Alas 1st Class Buses, Services all around excellent services to major cities and destinations in Honduras and Guatemala

 GENERAL TRAVEL INFORMATION Excellent Guatemalan Web Portal based in
Quetzaltenanago All you need to know about Lake Atitlan in Guatemala All you need to know about Antigua , Guatemala Walking tours of the Colonial City of
Antigua and more. All you need to know about Guatemalan Textiles,
Portal based in Antigua . Panama Weblog for
Ex Pats and Travelers alike. Everything you need or
want to know about Costa Rica , common sense advice, no bull. Costa Rica 's weekly newspaper
 on line edition, Central America 's oldest English Language Paper. The Weekly English Language Newpaper of
Honduras , on line edition. Honduras
Tips....a complete guide to traveling Honduras
Moon's Nicaragua travel planner. Best Travel Portal for Nicaragua English & Spanish

Also check out:
'Living Abroad in Nicaragua '

Central America Information and Maps:

Lots of links on this site:

Surf this lengthy and informative website for Central

America only information:

in English, Spanish, Svenska

*Surfing these websites, then if you wish, posting and asking questions  on
the various travellers forums and asking questions
should be a good start.
I, the the writer, am a long term resident in El
Salvador, Guatemala and some time as well in Honduras
and Nicaragua since 1985. So I know the local customs,
culture, language and many subtle things travelers may have
not have the time to learn.

presently I am a volunteer co
ordinator/translator working with small projects based in El Salvador assisting these small
non profit organizations to implement their receptive
eco and rural tourism projects as well as native crafts
projects. More information contact me by private
message or e mail welcome_to_elsalvador at
in English, Spanish, German, Italiano or Portuguese. I or another volunteer will try to answer your inquiry within two (2) working days when possible. IT and web design advice and assistance always required!


Hotels and Lodgings…depends on your budget, upscale
2-5 Star accommodations in Central America may be
easily booked on line,
For those travelers on Medium Budget, Low/Moderate Budget
to Upscale I would recommend the 'Alpha Travel Guide
to Central America ', a no nonsense, practical portal
about and for all the Central American countries in
English, Spanish and Swedish (see list above also)

No "bells and whistles"
If traveling on a low/backpacker budget you'll find
many small hotels and other unique lodging places in
El Salvador and the region that are quite economical
compared to European/North American prices, for
comfort and safety I would check out the B and B's
and Guest Houses in the cities and large towns and
even cheaper 'hostel/backpacker' style
accommodations are plentiful in travel destinations
such as Antigua and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala , Granada
in Nicaragua and many of the popular beach and mountain
destinations in Costa Rica .

There are many lodging
bargains in El Salvador , but make sure you do not stay
in the crowded, dangerous and polluted 'Centro' or
Downtown, when in San Salvador , stay in the western
part of town near Metrocentro Mall and the National
University, the lodgings located on pleasant tree
lined streets in nice areas, near San Salvador 's
'Bohemian District' for overview of nightlife check out:
La Luna Casa y Arte (español)
and the ads on the El Salvador section of Revue Magazine in English: in pdf format.

View excellent bi lingual website for El Salvador with dozens of links. English & Spanish

 Nice virtual tour of El Salvador on...


A great site for Budget-Moderate travel has many other
El Salvador city pages such as: Suchitoto, the
Colonial City where this website is based….

San Salvador city guide….An amazing city with lots of cultural and night life!

Upload in pdf the 'Guatemala Revue Magazine’ online….
You shall view many, many Adverts and a few very excellent
Articles on this on line edition, same as print edition, which will give one a good overview of
Guatemalan and El Salvadorian travel, all the articles
Are archived.
 pdf format only, url:
The Guatemala Revue Magazine boasts large Guatemala
section, El Salvador section and smaller Belize and
Honduras sections. Monthly, in English.



Now, here's where your Guidebook(s) come in!! Unless

you've been here a dozen times or have a Salvadorian

or Central American spouse and planning on a family

visit, you'll require a good up to date Guide Book

or two or three, which I recommend you read and study

and re-read again before your arrival, magically on

arrival you'll know more about the native culture,

customs, history and getting around El Salvador ,

Guatemala, etc. than most natives. I lived in New York

City 12 years and never took the time to visit many of

the 'touristic' sites.


Guide Books and Maps, regional and country specific for

Central America usually available in travel section of

large bookstores or The Mexico & Central America

Handbook Lonely Planet Guide Books Moon Travel Guides - Excellent
Rough Guides to Central America

**When Central Americans do travel within the region,

usually on weekends or holiday periods, they travel

with family members in large groups. This is called

'turismo interno' - internal tourism. There are

many fine local guides, tour operators and

driver-owners in El Salvador that advertise locally

and will take visitors on tour with advance notice at

reasonable prices. If you speak Spanish you are able

to save a lot of money rather than go with the more

expensive inbound tourism outfits, as well as meeting

and travelling with locals, at times the locals may

invite you to their home after the tour, especially in

El Salvador or Nicaragua ! The local tour operators

advertise in the classified sections of the daily

newspapers and on Spanish language local Internet

portals.During holiday periods El Salvadorian

operators conduct excursions in Mexico , Guatemala ,

Honduras, Nicaragua , Costa Rica and some go as far as

Panama, prices and quality vary so check around,

always ask to inspect the vehicle first and inquire

with local friends as to which companies are

reliable or contact writer of this bloq.


Many locals in El Salvador often travel weekends to

make pilgrimages to Catholic Shrines in Antigua and

Escuintla, Guatemala, etc. Religion is practiced here

in El Salvador by a large majority of people, Roman

Catholic or Evangelical, be polite and respectful of

other's beliefs and opinions at all times.



***Speaking Spanish. .If you don't at all start

learning at home before your departure, tapes, a

tutor, conversation club, classes, whatever, if on a

basic conversation level or above find someone to

practice with, it is my opinion that if you are

traveling, say 3-4 weeks in the region, it is really

useless to spend the first week or two in a "Spanish

School". If worse comes to worse bring a very good

phrasebook and do a lot of pointing. A tip: I've

lived down this way, way down south, 21 years and used

to escort a lot of visitors to the highlands/carib

coast/honduras/el salvador out of Antigua, Guatemala,

some couples had studied for several weeks at

Antigua's best Spanish Academies, in school proper

Castillan Spanish is taught, no "street lingo" nor

slang of any kind, as soon as we were in the

countryside, my clients froze up, when I ordered for

them and used the word 'vos' (slang familiar for

'you' in El Salvador and Guatemala ), these poor

gringoes asked what 'vos' meant! They were taught

to use Usted and Ustedes (formal) at all times and in

the Indian Markets in Chichicastenango and Panajachel

these people 'flipped out' literally when I began

speaking the local native Kak'chiquel and Quiche


I am listing a few good resources for Spanish

Schools: El Salvador ** &
Guatemala List of Schools in Latin America &

** Visit Webmaster of (Tom) when in
Quetzaltenango Guatemala ,



Recommend  not to travel to rural or remote areas with expensive cameras, videocam or other electronic
toys… a small digital camera will often do…
unless you are a Business or Upscale Traveler, staying
in a Hotel or resort with a room Safe and filming while traveling on
organized tour with security. Tour groups of four or more persons in El Salvador, through any licenced tour operator or the ISTU (Salvadorian Institute of Tourism) may make arragments in advance for National Tourism Police officers in uniform to accompany your group, no charge,  however tipping per diem expected and polite. Same with native eco and cultural guides who charge low fees compared to guides in developed countries..


1. Is El Salvador , Guatemala , etc., dangerous ?

2. To quote our friend "Good Time Bob" and old

Guatemala hand.. see



 "So and So on this forum/bloq got robbed in ——-,

will I be robbed?"

Quick Answer:

4. I am neither Nostradamus nor The Prophet


common sense, be aware on the road and start learning

Spanish TODAY..HOY MISMO if you don't speak any!

Check out and  for free on line
tutorials. Hoy Mismo.......

From travel site……

"This is the number one question. Way over hyped.

I've been going to Guatemala since the 70's. Even

with the current economic and political issues it is

still a lot better than back a couple decades. You do

all the common sense stuff listed in the Lonely Planet

guide (or any other Guidebook)…it increasingly reads

like it is written by someone's

grandmother…lawyers must do the editing. Some

paranoia is worth while….

Here are the don't


Don't hike between villages around Lake Atitlan . Too

many spots where folks can watch you coming and make

sure no one else is around. There have been well

documented robberies and rapes.

Don't go up a volcano alone. Tours are cheap and they

have some kind of guard.



If planning to camp in Central America, and not driving nor renting a vehicle best to have a travel companion or two or three and carry durable tents..if on a low budget and taking ‘chicken buses’ in and out of remote areas this may be often a difficult some cases best to pool funds and rent a 4WD for a few days or a week.


Best site to contact locals who know camping spots in or near their local area


Two websites with informating on camping and ‘boondocking’ (may include parking lots of Shopping Malls or Luxury Resorts!) in Central America are: Has list of campsites Mexico & Central America

and Good information, though some outdated, links.


New camping group online:

Remember you are not at home, where you know where and when to go or NOT to go..locals on the street in many places in Latin America will often give contrary advice and directions if you are lost, usually just to be polite…
The writer's own Words…..

For El Salvador and the rest of Central America the

warnings about the same, same old, same old:

**don't walk alone or in pairs after dark and take a

taxi home (if you don't have a ride)even if your

lodging place is only three or four blocks away,

sometimes it only takes 50 meters outside the bar or

night spot if thieves are following you and they hit

hard and fast.

**Be especially aware, never paranoid, in second/third

class bus terminals, crowded outdoor markets and city

bus stops, never carry a digital camera on public

transport unless concealed. Between countries take the

international Tica Bus or other first class bus lines,

remember all of the thieves now have cell phones, most

travelers do not carry cell phones away from home so

keep a low profile, got it?


“The Police don't really care much if you are not

injured in a crime, just as at home, the police

usually have more pressing things to deal with, and

the Consuls at the Embassies have seen hundreds of

Police Reports and issued many new Passports for a

hefty fee! Never carry your passport unless leaving

the country, carry a photocopy.”

* At your own risk accept drinks, favors, gifts, lodgings or rides home from

total strangers, say those met in a 'bar', café or nightclub,

especially young women traveling alone or in pairs,

never tell strangers your itinerary and travel plans,

nor where you are staying. Guys, never take a 'bar

girl' you do not know back to your lodging place.

Guys, avoid those exotic red
light district nightclubs alone, you may wake up half
naked, broke and very confused the next morning, In
fact if you go out late night in any large Latin American city stick the main
entertainment districts, usually called 'Zona
Viva' or 'Zona Rosa', well lit and fairly safe. Every upscale Bar or disco will usually sport an armed guard inside or outside
 View the city entertainment guides above.

*Taxi Drivers and Hotel Employees are usually the
worst people you can ask about where to go out,
you'll usually always be directed to the most
expensive places, especially if you don't speak
Spanish. Start learning!



Many many humanitarian aid organizations exist in Central America and require long or short term volunteers, with or without special skills, all year around..view these non profit portals for no cost or low cost opportunities, contacting yourself any and all organizations you are interested in working with well in advance of your departure..from another bloq of mine…”volunteering abroad, especially in the developing countries, as a volunteer, long or short term, you'll make valuable and lifelong friendships as well as trusted local contacts which may lead into full time employment in your chosen field locally. Ordinarily you'll have to pay your airfare and room and board to volunteer with many small projects as most have barely enough money to stay above water. Fundraising, a year round effort, often takes up much of paid staff’s time and energy! The 'pro' is you'll be there in your target country or region and not online behind a computer screen at home! The smiles of a child or family in need we have assisted beats any computer screen or laptop for me by a wide mile!
More information view these web portals: in several languages. English English, Spanish.


If traveling to El Salvador , meet us and we’ll point you in the right direction!



**For those desiring to retire or relocate, do business or work in Central America …

There sadly exist, as in any form of business (and purchasing land and real estate or establishing a small business with financing abroad way top of the list!) many relocation scams, volunteer

scams, real estate scams, and wannabe ex pat coaching and highly priced ‘seminar’ scams eminating from the Internet.


It is always better to travel first to your target
country or region, look around with your own eyes and
make contacts and hopefully friends who have already made the transition before you make
any decision to sell your house at home and make the move to &lsquoaradise’ Never pay an on line based agency a fee to be placed as a
volunteer, nor sign up on the net for expensive real estate tours promising land deals and honest legal assistance, always try to meet these persons face to face and be cautious before signing any kind of contract or using your credit/debit card on line.

Our organization has a long term ex pat resident relocation specialist who will gladly give you a short and concise common sense assessment communicating via e mail, IM or telephone. Take it from there. You decide. Then… Read! Read! Read up on your target country, city or region!
Check out the links, read your guidebooks, make contacts and
and do your own homework! There exist several fine websites by long term ex pats for ex pats and wannabe ex pats

*Often traveling on a very low budget in Central America is not for either the inexperienced idealist,
the bleeding heart, nor the faint of heart, nor
recommended for lone females not familiar at all with the
customs and local language. Poverty and street crime exist side by side in many underdeveloped or impoverished areas of
the countryside and in city slums, called ‘zonas marginales’ or marginal areas where gang activity is endemic, some,
though not all, police/security force members are
corrupt and the judicial systems in Central and Latin
American countries generally are weak, so often paying

*When conducting a vehicle a small bribe to get out of an untenable situation may
be preferable than the alternative, especially if
involved in an accident or altercation where there is no bodily harm..either in your own vehicle or a rental. If driving with US or Canadian plates YOU WILL attract attention..keep a low profile and be aware!


**This Bloq Courtesy of:

‘Welcome to Cinquera in El Salvador’
Rural Eco and Cultural Tourism, Native Crafts and more... contact our
organization via our webpages if interested.

¡Le Esperamos….con gusto!


  This section for those contemplating relocating, retiring or working in Latin America

*Ten Things You Should Know Before You Move To Central or South America .....


Mexico and Central America are but a few days drive or bus ride from much of US/Canada..some retires are now driving down in RVs or 4WDs to explore or settle. It is now also possible, with RORO on container from Panama to drive to South America for the more adventurous, with lots of information online as well as print guides on 'how to' from those who have been there and done that...


I have received many emails over the years from readers of my Bloqs who are interested in
moving to Central or South America from the US or other 'developed' countries'. The majority of people who requested
information are involved in cross-cultural relationships. I have
first-hand experience with a cross-cultural marriage, however, for Women I recommend
that you investigate lagringasblogicito and hondurassprouts. These are
blogs written by excellent women writers who are married to Honduran Citizens. As well, join an interactive world wide ex pat sites with links to ex pat life and bloqs everywhere.


Here are some tips that I picked up from years of actual cross cultural
communications as well as first-hand experience, a grand total of 24 years residence in Mexico and Central America .


1. Be informed (Know) before you go. Read! Read! Read! Surf the Internet and purchase up to date print Guidebooks, country specific to where you wish to relocate. Talk to as many people

that you can who have lived in Central & South America. I spoke to, worked with and knew personally, counting some as friends, many
Latin Americans living in the USA long before I moved here.

Always travel in person at least 2-3 weeks to your target country, city or region before deciding on making the move. Seeing is beleiving. Never rely on Internet Ex Pat sites, user groups, forums or bloqs as your primary source of information, never arrange to purchase Real Estate abroad from any Internet website nor contract expensive Real Estate & Relocation tours online, one Woman I know spent $200 USD a day in Costa Rica on 'Real Estate Tours', returned home broke and bitter after a week. Always go and see for yourself, if you do not have a friend or relative in your target country you are able to stay with (never stay in a Resort or Luxury Hotel unless on a genuine vacation) take this advice: "I would recommend for meeting locals. You don't have to couchsurf (Stay) with them you can meet for a coffee / drink, local tour or whatever. They'll show you around and you'll get to do things most tourists don't do. Insider information as
 well on their area. Also try out Both organizations are non profit hospitality portals boasting thousands of local, some ex pat, bi or multi lingual, Latin American members. Save hassles, avoid pitfalls floundering around on your own.

Start taking some Spanish or Portuguese lessons online and also in frontal classes or with a native speaking tutor at home well before departure. Build a language 'basic' foundation then stepping up to intermediate and advanced is easy once in a Spanish speaking country, in all Latin American countries, excepting Belize and Guyana, former British Colonies and parts of the Caribbean coasts, only a small percentage of your local neighbors will speak English. Also understanding avoids often costly, in time, money or hurt feelings, misunderstandings! 'Malentendidos'

2. Find a cultural mentor. Long term resident or trusted bi lingual local. I befriended a couple of younger, less experienced ex pats during my
first years living in Guatemala . Upon arrival to Central America many years ago I was lucky enough to have a relative and was introduced into a small social network of both ex pats and locals..invaluable.
These people were very gracious in helping me with many
day-to-day tasks in the beginning, teaching me to be independent step by step and not to rely on locals to 'hold my hand'. A good mentor can and often will point out errors in judgement

Social contacts and personal relationships are very important throughout Latin America .

3. Choose your home and neighborhood carefully. Look for one that will
accept you, and where you will feel comfortable. Cheap rent in a poor
neighborhood may sound great, but in the long run, you may be robbed
or worse.

Keep a low profile and never divulge your personal or work information or give out your address to overly friendly strangers.


4. Go slow at first. Don't expect to work at the same pace as you did

in the US/Canada/UK, etc.. Things are just simply harder to get done in Latin America . And slower. Always. Often people show up late, very late, for appointments.Never reprimand locals for this, unless they are in your employ and have business commitment with you. 'Life in The Tropics' amigo mio!

Don't take yourself too seriously and keep a sense of humor.


5. Try not to make general assumptions about Latin Americans. Just as you

would not want those in the country you are relocating in to assume that every US or Canadian citizen is rich,

white, and arrogant, you should not assume that all Latin Americans are alike. Listen to locals and ask questions.

6. Expect a testing period. Friends, contacts and co-workers need time before

you are accepted into their trust. Once you are deemed trustworthy, the doors will fly open.

7. Expect life to be a bit annoying in the beginning. Cold showers are the

norm in many areas. Air conditioning is most often a luxury. Water and electricity

sometimes fail on a daily basis. In some areas Internet Connections are slower than at home.

8. Try not to complain. Accept that Central or South America is different than the US/Canada/UK.

9. Look for the good things in your adopted new country, such as the beautiful mountains,
rustic rural national parks or beaches.


10. Be humble. One of my favorite phrases in Spanish, " I don't
understand." "Yo no lo comprendo" A humble attitude goes a long way in getting along with
co-workers and friends. Even if you feel you 'know', always get a second opinion from a native or long term ex pat resident friend. Never try and 'one up' or be arrogant with newer relocating arrivals, I know a woman in my country, from US, who will break into and dominate any conversation in Spanish, even though her Spanish is lacking, she tells new arrivals she is 100% 'fluent'.

So, if you choose to live in a gated community or 'condos' with other ex pats from your country, be advised that gossiping and one upping (what a person who feels inferior does to make themselves feel superior) is a fairly common pastime in any and all ex pat communties, far better to 'go native' and live among locals, if at all possible for you. The phrase 'the good, the bad and the ugly' has been used in ex pat lore for generations. Recommend against instant friendships or trust on sight simply because a person is from your home country. Proceed with caution, as you would at home.


I hope these tips help some of you who are contemplating relocation and/or retirement to
Central or South America .

The writer has assisted dozens to relocate in the Central American region in the past, however I answer only common sense questions and urge wannabes to travel first to their target area and do their own research..sadly, no free lunches..if you have a spouse or partner (cross cultural relationship) native to the country you plan to relocate in, by all means try and stay with his/her family there, even better if family are humble or so called 'poor' people, you shall learn far more in a short time than taking the 'upscale' ex pat route, where you just may be another 'blank white face' looking for real estate, spending Dollars, Euro or Sterling. Again proceed with caution, the Internet is virtual, guidebooks are in black and white and face to face: family, friends and contacts are priceless!

Buena suerte. Buen Viaje.
Information Courtesy  of "Welcome to Cinquera" in El Salvador

Pilot project development of sustainable rural cultural, crafts and ecotourism 'off the beaten path' in El Salvador.

Feel free to contact us via the website at any time.

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Saturday October 11, 2008, 4:06 pm
Tags: world travel america guatemala el mayan central salvador nicaragua [add/edit tags]

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Sean N. (351)
Sunday October 12, 2008, 5:46 am
WOW, Donald!! Thanks so much for posting this... great info, links and advise. Your time and effort are really appreciated! Smiles, Seán


Donald L.
male , single
San Salvador, San Salvador, El Salvador
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