After Charlie flew home to see her family, I immediately signed up to a language school in Guatemala. The problem was that I was currently in Nicaragua, 766km south of my destination, leaving me to answer the question: how could I get from Nicaragua to Guatemala in one piece?
I decided to take the Ticabus as they had got me from Costa Rica to Nicaragua without any problems, and at a reasonable price. However, when I saw that the ride would take a mind numbing twenty-seven hours, a completely unplanned few days in San Salvador to break up the journey seemed like a better idea.
Having uncharacteristically done little to no research on the San Salvador beforehand, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived. The streets of San Salvador, though sticky and bustling, cried out to be explored – a feeling that I had missed in both Managua and San Jose. Austere cathedrals rubbed shoulders with market stalls that overflowed with exotic fruits, and everywhere was alive with the sound of reggaeton and people going about their business. I spent two days wandering the streets, and in that time I didn’t see a single tourist apart from those few that stayed in the same building as me.
Where to Stay in San Salvador, El Salvador
When my Ticabus dropped me off in San Salvador in the early hours of the morning, I was glad to have booked a room in Hotel Meson de Maria, the hotel owned by Ticabus and located next door to the San Benito terminal. My room was small and the price a little high, but it was clean, comfortable and convenient place to catch some sleep for the night. You can book rooms, or buy tickets, for any Ticabus hotel or bus at one of their stations.
However, what really made my time in San Salvador special was staying at ALI’S Guest House, which is run by the amicable Edwin. Edwin rents out rooms in his home to travellers through AirBnB, listed as a “Beautiful House Near Downtown.” But Edwin went the extra mile by picking me up at the Ticabus station, providing an authentic home cooked breakfast in the morning, lending me tourist maps and even taking me on a walking tour of the downtown area. It’s thanks to him that I learned a little more about the history of his city, and I recommend staying with him if you are in the area.
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What to Eat in San Salvador
I ate only street food from vendors because it was both cheap and delicious. Pupusa is a completely unmissable thick corn tortilla stuffed with cheese, refried beans, and meat for the carnivorous. I know it sounds similar to other Central American fare, but it manages to taste completely and authentically San Salvadorian. For best results, ask a local where their favourite pupuseria is! Many guidebooks, and some locals, advise against eating street food. It’s a risk that you have to weigh up for yourself, I can only say that I only had positive (vegetarian) experiences. However, I might have been lucky, and your own experience may vary!
How can I stay safe in El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador?
On my last day, a North American arrived at Edwin’s home in the room opposite mine. The very first question he asked was “is it safe to walk the streets round here?” Edwin said sure, so long as you don’t go over there, as he indicated toward an area that made up roughly half the city with his arms. This came as news to me, as I had just spent the last two days walking up and down the streets of San Salvador without a care in the world, simply soaking up the atmosphere, acting as I do almost anywhere in the world. Everyone I had met had been so friendly, though the security guards did tend to carry fairly heavy duty weaponry.
I later learned that San Salvador is widely considered to be a relatively dangerous place, largely due to several gangs that operate in the country. Had I known that, would I have enjoyed my time there less? Probably so. Maybe I wouldn’t have left my room to discover what turned out to be my favourite Central American capital. Perhaps I was lucky, perhaps I was foolish, but in a way I’m glad I only found out that San Salvador has the potential to be dangerous on the day that I left!
How to get from Managua, Nicaragua, to San Salvador, El Salvador
As mentioned before, I took the Ticabus service. Unlike the Ticabus service from San Jose to Managua, the one from Managua to San Salvador ran many hours late, and the border-crossings poorly managed. I did arrive in one piece, and it wasn’t the worst journey in the world, but I can’t really recommend Ticabus for this particular route. Remember that lots of buses have intense air-conditioning, so you should bring some warmer clothes as well if you plan on making the trip.
Cover Photo | Diego Brito