10 Things You Need to Know Before Travelling to El Salvador
"I wish I had known this before" said Araceli, a Programa Velasco intern, before making a list of things that she didn’t know before coming to El Salvador for the first time. Araceli thought that a good way to celebrate National Volunteer Month was to share what she had learned during her time as a volunteer this past summer. It’s also a way to encourage someone who wants to be a volunteer or an intern in El Salvador and prepare them for their stay in the country.
Araceli, arrived in June 2018 to do a summer internship with the Women's Empowerment Project and this year, she returned for 6 months to support our fundraising efforts. Below are 10 things that Araceli finds important to share with someone visiting the country for the first time as a volunteer, intern or tourist.
1. Get ready for the heat
If you come between March-May, temperatures can reach up to 91° F in San Salvador and even higher in the coastal area.
2. Learn new Salvadoran words
Chivo, cabal, chucho. Whether you have 1 or 10 years of experience with Spanish, you should expect to learn a lot of Salvadoran jargon. If you are a dog lover, pay attention when someone talks about "chuchos".
3. Public transportation is very cheap!
A one-way trip costs between $0.20 to $ 0.35. The locals recommend not showing your valuables during the trip to prevent yourself from being a target. And don’t forget to hold on tight during the ride!!
4.Expect to take cold showers
Given the climate, many do not consider it necessary to install a water heater. But do not worry, if you are in a hotel it is very likely that you will have warm water.
5. Prepare yourself for delicious food
Tortillas, pupusas, atoles, tamales...it's all made of corn and you'll find it in almost any typical dish. Don’t be afraid to try new foods!
6. El Salvador is not extremely dangerous
Not every part of the country is a "high risk zone" as seen in the news and social media. You can go running, visit tourist sites and shopping centers, however, it’s never a bad idea to ask your Salvadoran friends for their opinion just to be sure.
7. Expect physical contact during a greeting, farewell or conversation
Salvadorans are very affectionate and kind people. They express their kindness and gratitude with a hug or a kiss even if you are meeting them for the first time.
8. Tour the country in a few hours
You can travel by car (without stopping) across the entire country in 5-6 hours. Every day you can explore and enjoy many beautiful places in a short time. Are you ready for an adventure where you can visit both the beach and volcano on the same day?
9. Get ready to hear the “vos” in spanish
Unlike the majority of Latin America where in Spanish the "tu" form is used for informal settings, here and in other Central American countries they use the "vos" form. Don’t worry, you can continue using the "tu", people will understand you!
10. Prepare to meet wonderful people
You are bound to meet really incredible people that are willing to share their culture, homes, and families with you. This is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to really get to know the day-to-day Salvadoran life. It’s a guarantee you’ll want to come back just like Araceli.
With these 10 things we hope that you become motivated to visit or volunteer (with Programa Velasco) in El Salvador. Just like it happened to Araceli, you too can have a life changing experience. Without a doubt, El Salvador is a country with many needs and problems but it is also a place where, knowing the reality of the country, can be one of the most rewarding and unforgettable experiences.
If you are interested in volunteering with Programa Velasco, don’t hesitate to contact us. We know that by the end of your time in El Salvador, you will wish you would’ve came sooner.