TRAVELING TO EL SALVADOR: Your concerns and the reality
El Salvador is a tiny Central American nation known for its Pacific Ocean beaches, surfing and mountainous landscape. As of 2013 El Salvador had an estimated population of 6.34 million people. El Salvador has seen a very steady increase in the number of international tourist visiting the country in the last five years. These visitors come to El Salvador for a number of reasons. There are surfers who come because of the numerous uncrowded world class waves that the country hosts. Backpackers come because of the many low price options for food and accommodations. There are eco and historical enthusiasts that wish to experience the many natural, cultural and historical wonders that can be found in this lovely little tropical nation. Whatever your reason to come you are sure to be surprised by what you find on your first trip to El Salvador.
As of late there has been much reporting in the international news outlets about the rise of violent crime in El Salvador. At the same time we have been receiving nothing but great comments from the international guest that we have been able to host here at Boca Olas Resort Villas in Playa El Tunco during the last year. Why is there such a drastic difference between what people are reading in the news about El Salvador compared to the experience that travelers are sharing with us about their time in our country? In this editorial we will try to inform you as to the situation as we have experienced while living and working here El Salvador.
There is no question that El Salvador has been experiencing an increase of crime at the hands of the gangs in the last year. These gangs are most active in two very small poor sections of the capital city of San Salvador and some of the more remote and rural areas of the countryside. It is a very unfortunate fact that the residents of these areas have been caught in the middle of this increase of gang activity. Furthermore the working class poor are all too often the targets of the gangs ire. At the end of 2014 the government had adopted a “mano duro”(heavy handed) policy to combat the gang issue. What has followed is an increase of arrests of suspected gang members across the country and a subsequent increase of violent incidents between police and gang members. We hope that in the near future there is a quick resolution to this problem that has marred the reputation of our beautiful country.
Boca Olas Resort Villas is located in Playa El Tunco. El Tunco is at the forefront of tourism development in the country with hundreds of international tourist visiting every week with those numbers steadily rising every year. El Tunco may very well be one of the safest, most secure areas in the whole country. With its own dedicated police force and strong grassroots community watch the residents of El Tunco have worked hard to create a beach community where everyone can visit and live free from worries of crime. The streets of El Tunco are lined with a wide variety of restaurants, shops, and cantinas frequented by nationals and tourists alike. The people of El Salvador are very friendly and eager to share their country and culture with the international tourists. Many guest are surprised to find out how many Salvadoreans speak English. The locals tend to be very engaging and eager to practice their conversation skills with guest. To put it simply there is no gang problem in El Tunco. While here it is easy to forget that we do in fact have a crime issue in the country at all. Furthermore there are many other amazing pueblos in the country with rich cultural history and natural beauty that are completely safe to visit that we offer professionally guided tours to. Of course when traveling to any new destination it is best to practice common sense and be aware of your surroundings. As we stated earlier however it is very rare that we don’t hear from our international guest describing how different their experience was compared to the perception they had from reading all the news about El Salvador prior to their trip. We would like now to share some of these testimonials with you as we feel their words may carry more weight than ours.
“My husband and our 9 year old son recently traveled to El Salvador for a vacation and to visit family. Since I am not from there, many friends and family members were concerned about me travelling there due to negative news surrounding El Salvador. I was pleasantly surprised with how safe I felt throughout our entire trip. A highlight was definitely staying at Boca Olas. The staff was extremely kind and helpful, the rooms were tastefully decorated and clean, and the ambiance was relaxing. The location was beautiful overall! It was the perfect spot for a family vacation. The security there was outstanding, and I felt very safe staying there with children. We will definitely be returning in the future. Thanks Boca Olas!”
Mariah H. / United States
“I myself can honestly say I felt free walking the streets of El Tunco towards the beach, the bars and restaurants. Everyone here is very friendly. Most of the people are surfers and beach lovers. They even offer advice at times if you want to know where is the best place to go on a certain day. It totally changed my perspective in regards to the country and the violence issues that we tend to see on the news in America. I can say it is NOTHING like what I pictured when coming out here. It’s well worth it and I would definitely visit the country again.”
Jessica D. / United States
“It was great chatting with you at the bar yesterday afternoon, wish we got to meet you earlier, would have been fun to surf with you. I just wanted to let you know how much we loved Boca Olas, and La Libertad in general. I’d been to the area 4 or 5 times in the past but things in town seem to really have cleaned up and I felt nothing but good vibes from everyone I encountered. Walking around La Punta, the town of La Libertad, or El Tunco even at night all felt safer than ever to me. And during the day, it didn’t hurt that the waves pumped either. We had such a good time. The folks at the hotel were all eager to help, capable, and really concerned with making sure we had the best possible experience. It’s a rare thing to feel like such an appreciated customer at the lower Boca Olas price point. Please thank your staff again. I look forward to coming back again and hopefully very soon.”
Andy G / United States
PREPARING FOR YOUR TRIP
We have some suggestions that will help insure a smooth trip. It is good to inform your bank and or credit card company that you will be traveling to El Salvador. It is very common for credit card companies and banks to freeze accounts if there are charges outside of your home country. There are three ATM’s in El Tunco. One accepts both Visa and Mastercard, the other two only accept Visa. Traveler’s checks are not accepted because of banking policies here in El Salvador. Boca Olas accepts Visa, Mastercard and American Express here at the hotel. However we can only take reservation deposits with Visa and Mastercard. Our bank only accepts charges from American Express cards if the card is physically here. There are several cell phone service providers in El Salvador. We recommend calling your cell provider before you trip to inform them that you will be traveling to El Salvador as you might have the option of using your cell phone here without incurring roaming charges.