El Salvador uses the US dollar and has done for more than a decade now. It is represented by the usual symbol - $ - and is sometimes preceded by the letters US.
As you might expect, the coins and notes you will see and use while in El Salvador will be the same as you would see in the United States. There are half a dozen coins in circulation at present. These range from the cheapest coin – the one cent coin – to the most expensive one, which is a $1 coin. In between there are 5, 10, 25 and 50 cent coins as well.
As for the banknotes, there are seven of these, each featuring a different US President on the front. The smallest one is the $1 and the biggest in value is the $100 bill. In between there are the $2, $5, $10, $20 and $50 bills, although the $2 bill is pretty rare today.
The US dollar has been around since 1792 but the history of its use in El Salvador is slightly different to that known in America. Indeed it has only been in use since 2001. Before this the country used a currency known as the colon. This was divided into 100 centavos.
The reason behind the change was the unrest that was occurring in El Salvador at that time. Poverty was rife and people started to protest at the conditions they were forced to live in. eventually demonstrations led to the decision to get rid of the colon and bring in the US dollar instead. Choosing this strong currency – the world’s main reserve currency – proved to be a good decision.
Obviously it is easy to get some US dollars prior to your trip to El Salvador. You can get them from any bureau de change quite easily and you shouldn’t need to order them in advance either, although you should check first.
When you get there it should be almost as easy to get cash whenever you need it. You can access cash machines in many towns and cities in many different places. The one thing to bear in mind is to notify the providers of all cards (credit and debit) that you wish to take with you to El Salvador. Let them know when you are going and where, so they know the card is being used legitimately by you.
One piece of advice applies here that applies to almost all countries too – the need to stick with smaller banknotes as opposed to larger ones. If you walked into a small shop or café and tried to pay with a $100 bill you might have problems trying to do so. You are better off withdrawing smaller amounts from cash machines on a more regular basis than making large withdrawals less often. This minimises the odds of running into problems in this way.
Since the US dollar is in use in El Salvador you will find it incredibly easy keeping up with the latest exchange rates. You only need look for the US dollar on any currency exchange website or information site to find it. The US dollar is normally top of the drop-down list but if not you only need to type the letter U to speed down to that section and find the dollar. You can then compare it to your own currency by looking for the latest exchange rates.
You can find out more about El Salvador at their official website for the country at http://www.rree.gob.sv/.
When you visit El Salvador it pays to be very careful and alert to your surroundings. Crime rates here are high and it makes sense not to make yourself a target. Most people who visit don’t encounter any problems but if you are not careful you may be an attractive proposition for someone to rob.
San Salvador is a popular place for tourists to visit, and thus it is also a hotspot for crime. It is always best not to go out alone and travelling at night is also not a good idea. This holds true if you are travelling by car as well as on foot.
If your hotel has a safe make sure you use it. Don’t carry anything with you that you don’t absolutely need to have: put it in the safe instead. Money belts are a great idea because they keep your valuables safer and out of your pockets, which can easily be picked. It might also be a good idea to split your cash between your pockets if you don’t have or want to use a money belt. If you do get your pocket picked at least it means only one amount of cash will be taken.
El Salvador is in Central America. It borders the countries of Guatemala and Honduras. It capital city is San Salvador, which is very densely populated along with the rest of the country.
A visit to this country is a very intense experience. There are many both natural and manmade sights here and it is well worth finding the time to see as many of them as you can.
For example the Coatepeque Caldera is a must-see. This was created thousands of years ago when the land collapsed after a volcano erupted. As such it is an incredible natural feature of the country and far bigger than you may think. It even has half a dozen lava domes, hot springs and a crater lake.
Another area you may want to visit is El Bouqeron National Park. You will find this in a rather unusual place – namely on top of a volcano! It’s true – a stratovolcano called the San Salvador volcano looks over the city of the same name. It hasn’t erupted for nearly 100 years which may make you feel a little easier about climbing up it to visit the park itself. You can see a huge crater there and enjoy hiking around a variety of trails in the park. If walking is your thing you will definitely enjoy your visit here.
Maya ruins are quite common in this part of the world and if you would like to visit some of them, head straight for Tazumal. This is the name of a site in Chalchuapa and it was excavated some 60 or 70 years ago. The hard work done during the excavation meant the site was restored for people to see today. There are pyramids here and various other structures, and you can also visit a museum that reveals more about the site and its history.
Of course it would be a shame to visit the country without seeing more of its capital, San Salvador. There are many day trips that offer organised tours and hop-on, hop-off buses to help you get around the city more easily. The city has its fair share of monuments, impressive buildings and remnants of the past, so it makes sense to learn as much as you can about it.
Wherever you go in El Salvador you have an opportunity to sample some of the country’s best and most famous dishes. Its cuisine is well worth parting with a few dollars to sample, and you’ll find much to interest and tickle your taste buds too! One of the more familiar dishes you may come across frequently is called pupusa. These are tortillas made by hand using a corn-based dough, and you’ll usually find a filling of some kind to fill you up as well, such as cheese. They’re easy and tempting to eat and with several fillings to choose from they make a handy lunch or snack on several occasions.
Look out for carne asada as well, which you may guess (correctly) has something to do with beef. This is basically steak grilled using a Mexican method, with citrus flavours and onions. You’ll come across many variations on this but each person tends to have their own flourish. What better reason could there be to try it more than once?
You’ll find much to see, do and enjoy during your stay in El Salvador. Wherever you happen to end up you can sample the local wares, wander round the markets, streets and attractions and see some of the finest and most famous sights around. Be prepared to spend a few dollars while you are there, although in reality you can spend little simply by enjoying the many natural sights the country has to offer. Where will you stay and what will you do while you are there to make the most of your trip?