Explore El Salvador Trip Notes

Explore El Salvador

Last Modified: 21 Jul 2015
Explore El Salvador
Trip code: QVSF
Validity: 01 Jan 2015 to 31 Dec 2015
Sitting quietly nudged in between Guatemala and Honduras, El Salvador is often bypassed by travellers fixed on getting from one big-name Central American attraction to the next. That's their loss. Bold but unassuming, feisty yet open-armed, El Salvador welcomes the intrepid traveller with allure aplenty. Running from the lush nature reserves near Ahuachapan down the Ruta de las Flores to the whitewashed village of Suchitoto and winding up in the surf hub of El Tunco, this trip serves as a lovely introduction to your next favourite country.
Table of Contents
StyleMoney ExchangeGroup leader
ThemesSpending moneyJoining point
MapTippingJoining point instructions
ItineraryDeparture taxArrival complications
Also available to purchaseImportant notesFinish point
We also recommendGroup sizeFinish point description
Itinerary disclaimerYour fellow travellersEmergency contact
Culture shock rating Single travellersEmergency funds
Physical ratingAccommodationVisas
Physical preparationMeals introductionIssues on your trip
Included activitiesMealsWhat to take
Optional activitiesTransportCarbon offset
  • Our Original style trips have a great balance of included activities with your group and free time to explore independently. Where we stay ensures we keep our travellers firmly entrenched in a region’s people and culture, and provides them with unique local experiences that benefits the community too. In most locations we stay in simple tourist-class hotels (i.e. 2-3 stars), plus on many trips you'll also get to experience a night with a local family on a homestay or something a little different like a Bedouin camp in the Sahara. Original style trips come with all manner of transport modes and use a mixture of local and private transport. You might find yourself sailing in a dhow in Zanzibar, jumping on a rickshaw in Sri Lanka or sailing on a yacht through the Galapagos. No matter the mode, it's all about minimising our environmental impact and making getting around part of the adventure.

Day 1 Antigua
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 7pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
The old colonial capital of Guatemala, Antigua remains the cultural centre of the country. Its cobbled streets, local markets, colonial buildings, and indigenous marimba music emanating from the many bars and restaurants create a fantastic atmosphere.
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop at ChocoMuseo - USD24
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD45
  • Antigua - Salsa lessons (per hour) - USD7
Posada Los Bucaros or similar (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Ahuachapan
Today we travel by collective shuttle and cross the border into El Salvador, to the town of Ahuachapan.
A mid-sized town near the Guatemalan border, Ahuachapan is known for its geothermal activity, which it uses to produce electricity for the rest of the country. It is also a handy jumping off point for some of the highlights of western El Salvador such as the Ruta de las Flores.
The following day we'll explore the Ruta de las Flores - a 36km-long winding trip through brightly colored colonial towns famed for lazy weekends of gastronomy and gallery-hopping, as well as more adventurous pursuits like hiking to waterfalls scattered throughout the glorious Cordillera Apaneca. Home to the country’s first coffee plantations, some of its finest indigenous artisans and a world-famous weekend food festival. We'll travel by local bus to explore some of the towns.
In the evening we'll have the option to visit the nearby hot springs for a relaxing dip.
Included Activities
  • Day trip along Ruta de las Flores
La Casa de Mamapan or similar (2 nts)
Days 4-6 Suchitoto
Today we head to the town of Suchitoto in northern El Salvador.
Along the way we'll make several stops to visit the Tazumal Ruins, enjoy spectacular views over Lake Coatepeque and explore the fascinating preserved ruins of Joya de Ceren - known as the Pompeii of the Americas.
Suchitoto is a reminder of El Salvador's past. A beautiful colonial town with painted houses and cobbled streets, it is a world away from modern El Salvador. The town overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande, also known as Lago Suchitlan, which is a haven for migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks.
The following days are free for optional activities such as boat or kayaking trips on Lago Suchitlan.
Included Activities
  • Tazumal Ruins
  • Joya de Ceren archaeological site
Optional Activities
  • Suchitoto - Lake Suchitlan boat tour - USD20
  • Suchitoto - Cinquera Forest hike - USD5
  • Suchitoto - Guazapa Volcano tour - USD60
  • Suchitoto - Cihuatan Ruins - USD3
El Tejado de Suchitoto or similar (3 nts)
Days 7-8 El Tunco
Heading south today, we pass through the nation's capital, San Salvador, and head for the beautiful black-sand beaches of El Tunco.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Roca Sunzal or similar (1 nt)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
  • QVSF Single Supplement (QVSF)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
  • Explore Mexico & Guatemala (QVSA)
  • El Salvador & Honduras Discovery (QVSH)
  • Nicaragua Discovery (QVSN)
  • Land of Belize (QVSE)
  • Land of Belize (QVSE)
Itinerary disclaimer
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.
Culture shock rating

Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
Physical rating

Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
Physical preparation
We recommend that you undertake regular aerobic exercise in the weeks before you travel, particularly if you are not in the habit of regular exercise. Walking, jogging, swimming or riding a bike are all good ways to increase your aerobic fitness, which will allow you to enjoy the trip to its fullest.
Included activities
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
Optional activities
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Money Exchange
The official currency of Guatemala is the Quetzal (GTQ).
The official currency of El Salvador is the US Dollar (USD).
With ATMs being widely available in major towns and cities, credit and debit cards are the best way to access money in Latin America (note though that charges are made for each transaction). Please check with your bank before departure that your card is accepted in the countries you are travelling to. Also ensure your bank is aware of your travel plans as - suspecting fraud - they may cancel your cards after the first few international transactions.
Be aware that your withdrawing limit may vary from country to country (regardless of your withdrawing limit in your home country) and it can be as low as the equivalent to USD100 per day.
It's also advisable to carry some cash in small denominations bills, for those times when ATMs may not be available. US dollars is the most readily changeable currency.
USD100 bills with serial number CB or BE and any other USD bills that are old, torn, written or stamped on will not be accepted by local banks.
Spending money
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest USD2-USD4 per passenger per day.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We suggest USD1-USD2 per day for drivers.
Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline USD2-USD4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
In total, we recommend you budget approx USD5-USD10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
Over the years we have found that many of our travellers find the need for tipping to be both tiresome and embarrassing, especially if they don't have the correct small change. To overcome this, we have established a tipping kitty system. At your group meeting, your tour leader may discuss the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members.
Departure tax
Please allow US$15 when flying into Guatemala City airport and a further US$15 if you are flying out of Guatemala City airport. These payments must be made in cash at the airport and are in addition to the US$30 international departure tax which may be included in your international flight ticket.
If departing Guatemala by land, please allow US$3 for departure tax.
Departure tax of US$32 from El Salvador is usually included in your international plane ticket.
Important notes
Please note that hurricane season is June to November in this region, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors such situations should they arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.
The minimum age for this trip is 15 at the time of travel. Any travellers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a legal guardian, or in lieu of a legal guardian, by an escort over the age of 18, appointed by their legal guardian. The legal guardian or their designee will be responsible for the traveller under the age of 18 day to day’s care. If a legal guardian elects to designate an escort in their lieu, they will be required to complete and sign a relevant document, to delegate their authority.
Group size
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
Single travellers
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
El Tejado de Suchitoto or similar (3 nts), La Casa de Mamapan or similar (2 nts), Roca Sunzal or similar (1 nt), Posada Los Bucaros or similar (1 nt)
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Meals introduction
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
No meals included
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
USD 160.00
Group leader
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Joining point
Posada Los Bucaros
7a Av. Norte, #94
Phone: +502 78322346
Joining point instructions
The easiest way to get from Guatemala City airport to Antigua is by taxi. The ride will take around45 minutes and cost you about 350 Quetzals (45 USD approx.). Make sure you negotiate the price before boarding the taxi
Alternatively, "Antigua Shuttle" buses are available hourly from Guatemala City airport to Antigua. This service is not provided by one company but by a number of freelance drivers authorized by Antigua Shuttle. The journey time is around one hour and the cost is approximately 80 GTQ (USD 10 approx) . Look for the sign reading "Antigua shuttle" as you exit the main hall
Should you have pre booked an arrival transfer through Intrepid make sure you go outside of the airport arrivals section. The driver will be waiting there with a sign with your name on it
Arrival complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Finish point
Roca Sunzal
42 Carretera al Litoral
Playa El Tunco
El Tunco
Finish point description
Our hotel is located in the El Tunco beach resort area, 45 minutes from the centre of San Salvador, and about 30 minutes from the international airport.
Emergency contact
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's local ground representative for Central America and Mexico, Viaventure, can be reached on +502 5778 4100 or +502 5778 4052
For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week. For further contact details please use the following page:
Emergency funds
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
Whilst for most nationalities a visa is not required, you may be required to purchase a tourist card on arrival, costing approximately US$10. If you do require a visa, please obtain this in advance from your local embassy or consulate.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
Night time temperatures can be low in the height of the winter months and at altitude so bring a set of warmer clothes. Thermal underclothes, being small and light, can be very useful. A light water and windproof jacket is useful and a hat essential.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.
Carbon offset
Carbon Offset C02-e 124.00 kgs per pax.