A Primer for First time Travellers to Central America..A Surprise Destination!

A primer for those traveling/volunteering/possibly relocating to El Salvador, Guatemala and the rest of Central america for the first time.


features photo gallery and travel tour information of every country in Latin America and a good section on El Salvador, in Spanish, English and French,
click on El Salvador section http://www.viajero.com.sv/

Another good resource online is the Alfa Travel Guide (English, Spanish, Swedish) based in El Salvador for all Central America click on


Finally refer them to Roberto's (El Gringo en Suchitoto) websites based in Suchitoto, El Salvador, both in perfect English and Spanish.

Roberto has the cybercafe and hostel in Suchitoto. CS Member.



This information 'bloq' courtesy of:

'Welcome to Cinquera in El Salvador'


Rural Eco and Cultural Tourism, Native Crafts and more... contact our

organization, non profit, registered in el Salvador, via e mail if interested..message me in English or Spanish for contact info. and more information if

E mail elsalvadorinfo at g mail. com for more information

If traveling alone or in a pair, especially Women, join the "Hospex" (Hospitality Exchange) non profit portals

Hundreds of bi and multi lingual members in Central America, some of whom will host you in their homes a night, two or more, others will meet up with you and
gladly show you around their area...avoid taxistas, travel hustlers,
scammers and cheap "local guides" in and around bus stations, parks and
travel destinations, hotel employees rarely have much information

Click on:

Couch Surfing


Be Welcome


Hospitality Club



The 'Really Real' El Salvador we know and love!

Don't miss this super travelouge!!!!!



A bit of what you may need to know.

"The rest is showing up!" Woody Allen.."80% of life is showing up..."

*****About Central America..mostly facts.

WikiPedia Central America Travel Guides


http://wikitravel.org/en/Belize Belize

http://wikitravel.org/en/Costa_Rica ; Costa Rica

http://wikitravel.org/en/El_Salvador ; El Salvador

http://wikitravel.org/en/Guatemala ; Guatemala

http://wikitravel.org/en/Honduras ; Honduras

http://wikitravel.org/en/Nicaragua ; Nicaragua

http://wikitravel.org/en/Panama ; Panama

To those traveling on to South America:


GoCentralAmerica Portal and Forums



GoSouthAmerica Portal and Forums (join on www.about.com/)


Best Ex Pat and Traveler's Forums in South America



Why not El Salvador and Guatemala??

Guatemala - The Director of INGUAT, Institute of Tourism of Guatemala,

estimates that is possible for the country to reach an increase of 3

to 4 percent in the tourism industry for 2009.

The current financial crisis in developed countries could make

Guatemala, neighboring El Salvador and the rest of Central America a

very attractive travel destination suiting all budgets.

World renowned publications like

Forbes Magazine and others have described how much

'bang you get for

your travel buck' in Guatemala.

Guatemala's advantage is that we are

considerably cheaper than Costa Rica and we have much more to offer.

Actually factual.

Pacific Ocean destinations like Monterrico are a favored tourist hot

spot. The new surfing madness brings young visitors to the beaches.

There is sports fishing, a newly developed industry that is taking of

with great success, so are the newly discovered opportunities for

whale watching.

For water and adventure lovers there is river rafting in river Cahabon

and many others.

Guatemala will have the usual culture travelers. The Mayan culture is

a magnet that brings hundreds of people from all over the world to

explore Tikal, Chichicastenango and many archeological sites all over

the country. One of the favorites is Tak alik ab Aj, down on the

pacific coast near Rethaluleu.. There are so many sites that the time

is usually not enough to visit them all.

El Salvador

El Salvador boasts 'The Pompei of the Americas' Joya de Ceren, the

Pyramids of San Andres and Tzumal and the recently excavated Ruins of

Ciuhatan, City of Women.

Back in Guatemala, for nature lovers, Bird watching tours are also a

trend that is

developing, so is the visit to the natural reserves like Laguna del Tigre

and la Lechua.

In El Salvador don't miss the nature preserve of Parque

El Imposible and the Cloud Forest of Montecristi in Parque El

Trifunio, summit is located where the borders of El Salvador,

Guatemala and Honduras meet. On a clear day one can view the Heart of

Central America from the Carribbean to the Pacific! Awesome! No

'tourist hordes'

Lake Atitlan in the Highlands of Guatemala is more majestic than ever,

it is recommended as a

phenomenal natural wonder and some funky tourist towns like Panajachel

and San Marcos, a pristine Lake village, where continental travelers

have a lot of fun and rub shoulders with our "Living Maya". And

Antigua is as beautiful and charming as ever.

In El Salvador 330 km. (220 miles) of unbroken pristine Pacific

beaches, bays, islands and mangroves await, along with World class

surfing, and yes El Salvador boasts charming colonial towns such as

Suchitoto, indingenous villages of Panchimalco and Santo Domingo de

Guzman , volcanoes, cloud forests and much much more. Uncrowded.

The world is in crisis, so is Guatemala, so is El Salvador, so is the

rest of Central America, so what!

Tourism, travel must go on. Tourism is a

motor for development.

The recommendations or precautions to not visit Guatemala and even

more so El Salvador are unfair

and geopolitically motivated.

The following lists of countries are

promoted to the wazoo by "the powers to be" and they share every

single problem that both Guatemala & El Salvador possess; some of them

additionally have

terrorism. Really. Sad but true.

China, India, Mexico, Colombia, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia, Vietnam,

Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, are all on the list of

the 50 most visited countries in the world. Last time we checked they

had crime, drugs, human rights violations, organized crime, poverty,

inequality; etc.

So what makes Guatemala and El Salvador different from these other

countries? One

thing: the patronage they have, the promotion they get. "PR" Rumors

and bad press are nothing more than cheap online gossip, written

mainly by those who never even have traveled to Guatemala, El Salvador

or the rest of Central America!

There are of course security issues, as everywhere one will travel way

from home, however out of thousands of visitors evey month only a

handful experience problems and even some of those are preventable by

using common sense and being aware!

Entonces, le esperamos……

*The week that Mumbai in India was taken hostage by terrorist, 'CNN'

ran advertisements to promote "The exotic adventure of India".

Colombia, who still exports the same amount of drugs as 10 years ago,

is also being promoted in the US, sponsored by the US. The same

applies for Mexico, never mind the atrocities of the internal drug war

that is now spilling over its borders.

*So, if anyone can give me a specific reason to not visit Guatemala or

neighboring El Salvador, or Honduras or Nicaragua if you prefer, using

comparative objective criteria, I will listen. ¡Digame!

The Myth: "El Salvador is the most dangerous country for travelers in

Central America...."

The Reality: NOT SO, even in the congested capital city of San

Salvador are many small and affordable Guest Houses, Bed & Breakfast

and small Hotels catering to budget travelers on pleasant tree lined

streets, in fact, next to San José in Costa Rica, San Salvador, El

Salvador turns out to be the safest and most pleasant capital city to

base in, in all of Central America, the Beaches of La Libertad are a

45 minute drive or less and Suchitoto is about an hour. Slightly more

time on public transportation. The entire country can be seen in a few

days, no 'all day' bus rides or drives, where you arrive exhausted.

People are friendly here in El Salvador, willing to help out travelers

in a pinch. There exist now in El Salvador dozens of CS members, so if

traveling here try to contact a few CS hosts well in advance of your

arrival, especially if arriving holiday seasons such as December & New

Years. Neighboring Guatemala and nearby Costa Rica boast many CS

members while the number of members in Nicaragua has almost tripled in

recent months.

'Traveling to Central America made easy'!

I the writer, a long term El Salvador and Guatemala resident, am suprised myself, despite the

ongoing 'bad press' and 'bad rep' of El Salvador, how many travelers

are now making El Salvador their first or second Central American

destination. Few go away dissapointed.

Of course there exist serious security issues in many parts of Latin

America so be aware, especially when traveling alone, and use common


The more Spanish you know, the easier AND less expensive your journey becomes.....

A stressed, lonely and tired traveler is a VULNERABLE traveler to pickpockets, thieves and scammers, one can only do and see so much in one day!

If requiring a bi or multi lingual local guide, driver/owner..pay by the day or hour, no liabilty as in Car rental, unique lodging places, free travel advices
then log onto to:

Localyte.com (170 countries, so site is in English)

http://www.localyte.com/ type in your destination and ask a question of locals!!! Trumps those 2 year old "Lonely Planet Guidebooks". LOL.



www.worldtraveltips.net/centralamerica/ ;

Select your

region and country to view tips, i.e.





(Student Travel, has Student Airfare Booking on line)

www.travel-journal.org/ central-america/



Good Airfares, Bootsnall can

help you 'plan' your trip RTW or just to one city and return!

http://www.exitotravel.com/ Consolidator, Airfares, Hotels,

Tours , Latin America only. US Based consolidator website with toll free number USA/Canada.


http://www.goodtimebob.com/buseslinks.htm Central American Bus Links

http://www.ticabus.com/ Tica Bus International serving all

Central America

http://www.kingqualityca.com/ King Quality International buses

Guatemala to El Salvador , Honduras and Costa Rica

Website in Spanish only. Excellent Service.

http://www.hedmanalas.com/ Hedman Alas 1st Class Buses, Services all around

excellent services to major cities and destinations in Honduras and



http://www.xelapages.com/ ;

Excellent Guatemalan Web Portal based in


http://www.atitlan.com/ ;

All you need to know about Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

http://www.aroundantigua.com/ ;

All you need to know about Antigua , Guatemala

http://www.antiguatours.net/ ;

Walking tours of the Colonial City of

Antigua and more.

http://www.nimpot.com/ All you need to know about Guatemalan Textiles,

Portal based in Antigua .

http://richarddetrich.wordpress.com/ Panama Weblog for

Ex Pats and Travelers alike.

http://www.therealcostarica.com/ ;

Everything you need or

want to know about Costa Rica , common sense advice, no bull.

http://www.ticotimes.net/ Costa Rica 's weekly newspaper

http://www.amcostarica.com/ Costa Rica's on line Daily News Mon.-Fri.

http://www.insidecostarica.com/ Costa Rican Daily News and Travel Information.

http://www.hondurasthisweek.com/ The Weekly English Language Newpaper of

Honduras , on line edition.

http://hondurastips.honduras.com/index.htm Honduras

Tips....a complete guide to traveling Honduras


Moon's Nicaragua travel planner.

http://www.vianica.com/ 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. Most of the websites feature an array of links

to other local and regional travel sites.


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 / message me.

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




Hotels and Lodgings…depends on your budget, upscale

2-5 Star accommodations in Central America may be

easily booked on line, http://www.tripadvisor.com/

For those travelers on Medium Budget, Low/Moderate Budget

to Upscale I would also 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, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, as well Costa Rica & Panama

(a bit more expensive)

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 in San Salvador.

http://www.lalunacasayarte.com/ (español)

View the articles and all the ads on the El Salvador section of Revue Magazine in English:


in pdf format.

View www.theotherelsalvador.com/ ;

excellent bi lingual website for El

Salvador with dozens of links. English & Spanish

Click on http://www.gaesuchitoto.com/ f

for information on the Colonial City in El Salvador.



http://elsalvador.travelreality.com/home.asp en español!

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 online.


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 Amazon.com

www.footprint.com/ The Mexico & Central America


www.lonelyplanet.com/ Lonely Planet Guide Books

http://www.moon.com/ 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


http://www.salvaspan.com/ ;

El Salvador

http://www.xelapages.com/ **

& http://www.aroundantigua.com/ in


also click on to:

http://www.123teachme.com/ List of Spanish Schools throughout Latin America &

Spain excellent resource!! Free Spanish lessons online.

** Visit Webmaster of http://www.xelapages.com/ (Tom, long term Ex Pat and Wife, native of Xela), when in

Quetzaltenango Guatemala, address of office-cybercafe on the website. All are welcome



Recommend not to travel alone to rural or remote areas or in large cities, especially via public transpotation, with expensive digital

cameras, videocam, ipods, blackberries 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 escort, best locals and native guides.


common sense, be aware on the road and start learning

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

Check out 'Live Mocha' http://www.livemocha.com/ for free tutorials

from native speakers online, a social network for language students

and teachers alike

www.123teachme.com/ ; for free, on line

tutorials. List of Spanish Schools in Latin America and Spain.


From www.goodtimebob.com/ 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 in Guatemala . 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 EVER 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 task...in 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 www.couchsurfing.com/

Two websites with informating on camping and 'boondocking' (may

include parking lots of Shopping Malls or Luxury Resorts!) in Central

America are:

http://www.99DaystoPanama.com/ Has list of campsites Mexico & Central America


http://www.panamaorbust.com/ Good information and links on traveling Central America.

Also check out http://www.drivemeloco.com/

More information on driving through Mexico, Central & South America and forums on http://www.southboundtravels.com/



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 or laptop 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 try and

keep a low profile, blend in if possible, 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:

http://www.idealist.org/ in several languages.

http://www.truetravellers.org/ English

http://www.volunteersouthamerica.net/ English, Spanish

. Social & Environmental Volunteer Exchange Network

http://www.the7interchange.com/ English

http://www.volunteerlatinamerica.com/ ; English

If traveling to El Salvador , meetup with us and we'll point you in the right



*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.

(*When conducting a vehicle with US or CAN plates) 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


**This travel Information primer Courtesy of:

'Welcome to Cinquera in El Salvador'


Rural Eco and Cultural Tourism, Native Crafts and more... contact our

organization, non profit, registered in el Salvador, via e mail if interested..message me in English or Spanish for contact info. and more information if desired.

¡Le Esperamos….con gusto!

Pass this information on to others if not useful to you.

Buen viaje y buena suerte.

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