Essentials A-Z

Electricity

110 volts, 60 cycles, AC (US-style flat-pin plugs). Supply is far from stable; important electrical equipment should have surge protectors.

Internet

Internet cafés are widespread in the capital and are now commonplace in smaller places outside San Salvador. Most hotels will offer both internet service and wireless connection.

Language

Spanish is the official language and English is widely understood in business and travel industry-related circles.

Media

Newspapers
in San Salvador include
Diario de Hoy
(right wing), www.elsalvador.com, and
La Prensa Gráfica
(centre) every morning including Sun, www.laprensagrafica.com; both have the most complete listings of cultural events in San Salvador.
Co Latino
is a left-wing newspaper.
El Mundo
in the afternoons except Sun. US newspapers and magazines available at leading hotels.

Of the 80
radio stations
, 1 is government owned and several are owned by churches.

There are 4 commercial
television stations
, all with national coverage, and 1 government-run station with 2 channels. There are several cable channels, all with CNN news, etc. Most hotels and many guesthouses in San Salvador have cable.

Money

El Salvador adopted the dollar on 1 Jan 2001 and the national currency - the colón - is now totally replaced. All US coinage and notes are widely used, although you may have problems with US$20 bills and above. There are some small shops and street merchants that still price their products in colones, but they are in the minority.

Do not find yourself in the countryside without cash or credit cards; traveller's cheques (TCs) are of limited use outside the capital and major cities. You can use credit cards in pretty much any store (except small
tiendas
). Be aware that some banks will want to see your original purchase receipt. Credit cards are widely accepted and are charged at the official rate. There are international Visa and MasterCard ATMs in El Salvador and larger cities throughout the country. For cash advances on Visa or MasterCard, go to
Aval-Visa
or
Banco de America Central de El Salvador
.

All ATMs and banks give US dollars in cash (so no need for exchange). Pretty much all gas stations have ATMs.

El Salvador is reasonably priced and 2 people should be able to travel for US$40 per person per day. However, the range of services open to the foreign tourist is still limited (although growing) so the quality of hotels is not as good as in neighbouring countries for the same price.

Safety

Traditionally El Salvador has a reputation for violence and crime. In part this is a legacy of many years of civil war although this has been improved through a more active role of the police in later years. The reality is that most people visiting El Salvador return with reports of friendly, open people. Locals will talk incessantly about the country's problems and dangers but few actual examples materialize. Be cautious until you find your own level of comfort and always ask local advice. Statistically El Salvador has the unenviable distinction of having the worst levels of violent crime in the continent. This derives from Salvadorian gang culture (
maras
) and most visitors will see nothing of this activity. Since Mar 1996, the army and the civil police (PNC) have been patrolling the highways in an effort to reduce crime. Do not stop for lone gunmen dressed in military-looking uniforms. If renting a car, buy a steering lock. Visitors to San Salvador should seek advice on where is not safe both inside and outside the city.

Telephone

The
international direct dialling
code (to call out of El Salvador) is T00; 144+00 for
Telefonica
. There are no local area codes within El Salvador. There is a network of public phones for telecommunications companies - all use prepaid phone cards that only work in the company's particular machines. Available at most street corners, supermarkets, gas stations to small stores they can be used for local and international calls, but make sure the card is from the same company as the public phone. The cards come in several denominations. Mobile phones are very cheap.

Time

- 6 hrs GMT.

Tipping

In upmarket restaurants: 10%, in others, give small change. Check your bill as most now add the 10% at the end (if they have, an additional tip is not needed). Nothing for taxi drivers except when hired for the day; airport porters,
boinas rojas
(red berets) should get a small tip.

Visas and immigration

Every visitor must have a valid passport. No visas are required for European, US, Canadian, Australian or New Zealand nationals. The government website www.rree.gob.sv has a full list of country requirements.

Overstaying the limit on a tourist card can result in fines. Immigration officials can authorize up to 90 days stay in the country; extensions may be permitted on application to Migración, Centro de Gobierno . As of 2006, when El Salvador signed a Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement with Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, you have to visit a country outside of these 4 to re-enter and gain 90 days. Always check at a Salvadorian consulate for any changes to the rules.

Weights and measures

The metric system is used alongside certain local units such as the
vara
(836 mm),
manzana
(7000 sq m) and the
quintal
(45 kg). Some US weights and measures are also used; US gallons are used for gasoline and quarts for oil.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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