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Black, Woman, and Solo: A Guide to Traveling in El Salvador

Hey!! If you've stumbled across this blog post, you are probably considering a trip to El Salvador. I hope that after reading this, you'll feel even more confident and thrilled to book that trip and visit this beautiful country! In this 6 to 8 minute read, I will share information and insights on where to stay/where I stayed, how to get around, and fun activities to do while you're here.


Brief history of El Salvador

El Salvador is one of the smallest and densely populated countries in Central America. Like many countries that experienced colonization, El Salvador had some rocky years, from the civil war to social inequality to major earthquakes. Also, when many people hear about El Salvador, the first word that comes to mind is "Gangas" or gangs. It is true (and stated by many Salvadorans that I've spoken with) that gang activity and violence were major concerns in the country. It was to the point where many residents had to pay for their safety. However, since the 2019 installment of Presidente Nayib Bukele, gang activity, gang violence, and homicide rates significantly decreased. The country has since been described as more safe and peaceful than ever. Many natives have returned home in the recent years from U.S. states, like Texas and California. I can attest that El Salvador felt super safe! I'll share more about safety and precautionary measures soon. El Salvador is known for many things, but the three that I think are quite prominent are: 1) their active volcanos, 2) the best surfing spots, and 3) delicious food!


My trip to El Salvador

I visited San Salvador, El Salvador in the month of March, and it is said that the best time to visit this country is between November and April because that is their dry season. It was not too hot in El Salvador (average temperature was 89 degrees) and, surprisingly, I left without mosquito bites! It gets pretty cool at night, so I would suggest bringing a light jacket. San Salvador is the capital and considered one of the safest cities to travel to in El Salvador. The other cities that I have heard are safe are El Tunco, Santa Ana, and La Libertad.


Accommodations

If you're anything like me, you don't play about where you sleep! Location and cleanliness were extremely important to me while preparing my trip to El Sal. After almost a week of looking up hotels and researching and reading reviews, I settled on the Montreal Hotel in San Salvador. This hotel is a relatively small boutique in a local, yet very central area, and was about 40 minutes away from the airport. Below is a quick video of part of the Montreal hotel.



At Montreal hotel, there is a pool, about 12 rooms, several seating areas, and a restaurant that has delicious food for a low price. They also gave free breakfast...not sure if they have a start and end time, but I usually got my breakfast by 8:30 AM CST. The rooms are decent. If you decide to stay here, I would encourage you to thoroughly investigate your room to make sure it's up to your liking. I was not satisfied with my first room, but they took my complaint into consideration and put me in another room which was wayyy better. If you were interested in being more in a tourist-y area, I would suggest getting a hotel near El Tunco beach. While in El Sal, I connected with another solo traveler who paid about $50 a night for her room near the beach. Anyways, below is a video of my room in Montreal hotel:





How I got around

Uber! I felt super safe to take an Uber to get from point A to B. Of course, you always want to check the license plate and perhaps share your ride status with loved ones. One thing that El Salvador does is have you give the Uber driver a code to put in their app to start the journey. If they don't ask you for a code...that's probably not your Uber, sis. But...I felt safe. They were packed up and accounted for, but, thankfully, I didn't have to use my pepper spray or birdie alarm. I've had Uber drivers who spoke fluent English and drivers who only spoke Spanish, and while I think knowing a little bit of Spanish helped me, it was not an issue riding with native Spanish speakers. For the most part, I had no issues getting around and arriving to my exact location. There are taxis in the country and there will be many at the airport, but Uber was cheaper and most convenient. One of my Uber drivers was even kind enough to make a stop to get me fresh coconut on my first day!

If you do end up staying at another hotel, see if they have an airport shuttle. That seemed to have been the option for a lot of hotels in the area. I'm going to quickly talk about money here...El Salvador's currencies are the USD and bitcoin. I'm not really a big cash person (and you shouldn't travel with a lot of cash anyways) so I primarily used my credit card. I did not encounter any problems with using my card at the restaurants I ate at and stores I visited. The smaller and local stores may not take card and so having cash may come in handy then.


Excursions and activities

Now to the fun part! Disclaimer- this was not really a vacation. I came out here to be a digital nomad (shoutout to remote workers). So, doing lots of excursions wasn't at the top of my to-do list, but I did get some fun in! On day 2 of being in El Salvador, I visited El Tunco beach (pictured). That's where the tourism and parties are at. It was about a 35-40 minute drive from where I was staying, and Uber was around $30-32 roundtrip. El Tunco has a strip of restaurants, hotels/resorts, and stores. It's quite busy over there because that's also where a lot of folks go to surf. There were so many rocks in the water, so I didn't really go all the way in. At the beach, there will also be a few natives with horses just in case you want to go for a ride or take some pictures! I enjoyed my time there, mainly because of the food...soo many good restaurants!

If you wanted a less crowded beach with beautiful views, I would suggest you visit El Zonte beach. I met a solo traveler at El Tunco beach who showed me pictures of El Zonte, and it was BREATH-TAKING. If you are photogenic and love a good view, El Zonte is the place.


If you book through Trip Advisor, be sure to find a coupon on retailmenot.com. This 5-6 hour tour was very fun and informative! Rafael was my tour guide (it was just me) and he was the kindest and most knowledgeable guy ever. I learned so much about El Salvador and this country became even more admirable to me. We visited El Boqueron (to the right is a picture of me there), the rainbow slide, and many historical centers. Because it was just me, he showed me other places, like El Salvador's newest library and some market places. Before going to the rainbow slide, which was definitely an adrenaline rush, we ate at a local restaurant right outside of the entrance to El Boqueron (active volcano site). At the local restaurant, I ate pupusas, which is a must try in El Salvador! I am not sure if it's their national dish, but it is a dish that many Salvadorans recommend and eat themselves.


If you decide to do this tour, definitely wear a hat and comfy clothes and shoes. The sun was out and shining bright in the morning and early afternoon. When we got to the volcano, it was a little more breezy, so I had a light windbreaker with me. That rainbow slide was a little bit scary...not gonna lie! I think the steepness startled me, but it was no more than a 10 second ride. I wish I focused on the view, but was so focused on not falling off that tube...LOL. Having a video that my tour guide took was nice to look back at, though.





In conclusion

Add El Salvador to your list. I am almost certain that you will not regret it. I felt safe, but of course, there were several stares because they don't see many Black people often and we are viewed as "exotic." I was not uncomfortable, though. Many of the Salvadorans that I have had the pleasure of meeting were so kind and happy and welcoming.


Y'all...



This country is BEAUTIFUL, and I will be visiting again! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment! I hope this was helpful information for you.



Enjoy your future trip!

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