Three days ago we filled up our tank and crossed the border from Guatemala into El Salvador. Four days ago I knew exactly this much about El Salvador:
- Vague recollections of civil wars and CIA assassinations and stuff like that from back when I was a kid;
- I’d heard from other travellers that the used US dollars, which is pretty cool;
- The have some sort of Silicon Valley strongman running the country who made Bitcoin a national currency and who wants to build a Bitcoin city under a volcano;
- It’s either extremely dangerous or super friendly
We’ve now on day four in the country and I can say this. So far it’s an absolute delight. The first two days were spent on the Ruta de Flores, a scenic drive through coffee towns and pretty little mountain villages in the western side of the country. Nuihuizalco was our pick of those little towns for it’s great market and plaza area.
On the yesterday we hit the coast and drove the length of the country to a lovely campground in a beach village called El Coco. The people have been friendly, there’s a noticeable absence of gun wielding military types, the roads are excellent and everything is super cheap. Our campground is costing us US$10/night and a decent fish meal with a few beers costs around US$12. We’ve barely seen any other tourists here, and because of that there’s none of the pressure selling or people ripping tourists off that is so widespread in Mexico and Guatemala. And yes, Bitcoin really is a legal currency here. You can even use it to buy an ice cream.
It comes across as a pleasant little Central American country that actually does have it’s act together and which benefits from not having any big ticket tourist draw-cards.
In all we’ll spend 5 nights in El Salvador and spend the coming weekend tackling the Honduras and Nicaraguan border crossings, which are known to be tricky to get through in a van. After the stress of road blocks, land slides and corrupt police in Mexico and Guatemala it’s awesome to be somewhere as normal as El Salvador. And one tank of gas will get you from one end of the country to the other.