Yea, yea, yea, you will say that what what I've written below is SO EASY for me to write because I'm just another travel writer who does not understand real people's real situation.
I am leaving July 10, 2013, for Africa, and because of the way I purchased the plane tickets, I am able to stop in the Dominican Republic for a month for free. I saved enough money to live free for one month on a Caribbean Island, which many Americans only dream of. But most Americans just check for air ticket prices from one vendor, and then they get sticker shock. They give up, their travel dreams squashed forever.
In speculative traveler talk, I could say, “I have purchased 15 around-the-world plane tickets.”
And I Live Like a King!
I live large, the life of luxury – contrary to any misinterpretation of readers, who key in on the word, hobo, and not on how or where I live. I cannot remember the last time I did not have air conditioning in my room or was without a 24/7 high-speed Internet connection.
I am going to live in the Dominican Republic free for a month, mainly because I do not want to travel more than eight hours in one flight. Generally, I refuse to take longer than about four-hour land trips.
(The USA is outstandingly annoying: I have to sit in a car for one hour just to go shopping. I usually only sit in cars for five minutes, so this hour-long sit is really weird. And then they want me to pay for gas to boot!)
A Funny Travel Story
About two months ago, another travel writer wrote me an email. She is extremely famous and takes people on tours of the world. She wanted to know how to travel to Haiti, a place where I lived for a couple of months before the earthquake.
I tried to ignore her emails, but she was persistent.
In the course of two months, I wrote more than 10 soothing, no-substance emails, generally saying, you need to be careful. But in the back of my mind, I wanted to write, “Send $100 to my Paypal account. I get paid for talking.”
Six times, I offered to speak with her for free, writing, “Call me at +1-260-624-4414.”
I wanted a marker, not money; I wanted her to owe me. Plus, more importantly, I needed to be diplomatic, qualify her abilities, and truly help her.
She refused to call me six times, writing essentially, “I am too busy. Help me by email.”
Funny stuff: She indeed went to Haiti, and her friend had her phone stolen, and she thought she was being stalked.
What happened? While her friend was taking a photo, someone grabbed her cell phone and ran. She had the phone in an easy-to-grab location. This is how a person who never has traveled in his or her life gets robbed; it is the cliché travel theft.
My niece got robbed three times in Tanzania? Why? Because she thought she knew what she was doing. She went to volunteer. Yep, she volunteered in Tanzania … she volunteered to get robbed in one of the safest places on the planet to travel. But being a volunteer is like fresh meat in Africa; you may as well put a sign on your head, “NAÏVE.”
I get paid to talk, to write, to work and to help (except for my friends and family, of course). I earned roughly U.S. $2000 last year in travel-consulting fees.
I enjoy meeting new people. That is how I live my life. Yet generally, the advice I give over the phone cannot be written in a travel blog or even in email. I am no longer willing to get hate mail because I wrote the truth that some anonymous idiot did not want to hear.
Just keep telling me the truth. I love your blogs. When I ever get my situation where I can travel permanently and overseas, these are the truths that will keep me safe.
I remember a woman some years ago who was traveling first time to El Salvador and Guatemala, she wanted a lot of detail information which would have taken me hours to research, and constantly asking me if it was "dangerous", I gave her the typical caution with common sense e mails and copy and paste of my basic primer for first time travelers to Central America, which I will copy and paste below, this lady was middle aged, divorced, travelling alone with quite a bit of luggage so she figured out how to both 'save money' and meet 'the people' by ignoring my basic advice to leave luggages in hostal or hotel and enjoy chicken bus rides within countries travelling light, however, she 'went native' in a week and refused to take the First Class International Buses such as Tica Bus and King Quality over the borders, where your luggage is secured below, she was robbed of everything, luggage, passport, laptop, et. al. in Sonsonate, El Salvador's (Sonsonate is a hot and dirty El Salvadorian lowland city of 175,000) infamous and gang-infested local Bus Terminal, where there is a chicken bus to the El Salvador-Guatemala land border on the coast, almost 4 hours and on the other side a chicken bus to Guatemala City via Escuintla, in Guatemala, hot dirty agro-industrial city of 400,000 and the terminal in Guate City, in Zone 4 near centro (Downtown)is a very dangerous terminal in the heart of a city of 3,500,000 with a very high crime rate, getting to the Buses for Antigua or Lake Atitlan then require a Taxi ride of at least $6.00 US if you speak Spanish, if you don't, often up to $10-12 for the 3 km. ride over to Roosevelt Avenue, across from Peri-Centro Shopping Mall, Zona 11, where the Rebuli Buses pass to Lake Atitlan also the Bus to Antigua, doing this with a heavy bag is a real feat, I know, I did it once years ago! Often on the a/c First Class Buses you can find others going to Antigua or the Lake and are able to share a Taxi to the Bus stops or a Shuttle (take taxi to Aurora Airport if arriving by day) and get on a Shuttle actually a Coaster with a Driver, to Antigua or Lake Atitlan via Antigua, able to pay in USD, negociate with the Driver and your luggages will be secure all the way to your destination, in Central America you spend maybe $5 to $15 more to save maybe Hundreds of Dollars, and if you lose your US Passport and have no copy (fact, a certified copy is preferred) they hassle you before you fork over $85 replacement fee!!! Oh and you require a local Police report if the passport was stolen) Most people I now meet visiting El Salvador have no problems as the 'gringo friendly' infrastructure is growing by leaps and bounds, now there is Shuttle daily back and forth - 5 hours- direct to and from Antigua Guatemala to El Tunco Beach in El Salvador (our "Panajachel" by the Sea)for $35 one way, in fact one never even need to go to the congested capital city of San Salvador if Shuttling out or Flying out (The Comalapa International Airport is about 35 km. a 40 minute drive East of El Tunco by paved highway). Courtesy of join and post your bloq or your travel questions.
?Why Not El Salvador and Guatemala? Updated
Posted October 21st, 2012 - 7:17 pm by from San Salvador, El Salvador (Permalink)
"Why Not El Salvador and Guatemala?"
By Donald T. Lee, Asessor de Turismo/Tourism Specialist
Central American and Mundo Maya Region
Based in San Salvador, El Salvador, C.A.
"Guatemala - The Director of INGUAT, Institute of Tourism of Guatemala,
estimates that is possible for the country to reach an increase of 3
to 4 percent in the tourism industry for 2009.
The current financial crisis in developed countries could make
Guatemala, neighboring El Salvador and the rest of Central America a
very attractive travel destination suiting all budgets.
World renowned publications like
Forbes Magazine and other travel articles, bloqs and publications have described how much
'bang you get for
your travel buck' in Guatemala and El Salvador.
Guatemala's advantage, as well El Salvador, is that we are
considerably cheaper than Costa Rica and together we have much more to offer than Costa Rica!
Actually factual. Visit us and find out!
Pacific Ocean destinations like Monterrico are a favored tourist hot
spot. The new surfing madness brings young visitors to the beaches.
There is sports fishing, a newly developed industry that is taking of
with great success in both El Salvador and Guatemala, so are the newly discovered opportunities for
Whale watching on the coast of El Salvador
.For water and adventure lovers there is river rafting in river Cahabon in Guatemala, River La Paz in El Salvador among others with professionally trained White Water guides and safe equipment, many Canopy Tours have also been put into the budding tourism infrastructure in recent years, in both countries and both El Salvador and Guatemala boast magnificent Coffee Plantation Tours, Agro ecotourism off the beaten path and cultural experiences in both the countryside, towns and cities that beat culturally bland (The indingenous natives in Costa Rica were conquered and put on Reservations, as in US and Canada, years ago, no 'Living Maya' as one will encounter in the Indingenous Highlands of Guatemala!) Costa Rica.
Guatemala boasts the usual culture travelers. The Mayan culture is
a magnet that brings hundreds of people from all over the world to
explore Majestic Ruins of Tikal, Chichicastenango Indian Market among others, and many archeological sites all over
the country. One of my favorites is remote Ruins of Tak alik ab Aj, down on the South
Pacific coast of Guatemala near city of Rethaluleu..only 55 km. from the border with Mexico and some 70 km. due south of the bustling highland city of Quetzaltenango There are so many pre-Conquest Archaeological sites that time
is usually not enough to visit them all.
El Salvador boasts the most unique Archaeological site in the Americas: 'The Pompei of the Americas' Joya de Ceren, a normal Mayan village buried over 1400 years ago by Volcanic Ash after an eruption of nearby Volcano as in Pompeii in Italy, there fore Joya de Ceren, the only 'non Royal' major Archaeological site in our Mundo Maya has been named "The Pompeii of the Americas"!
Nearby Joya de Ceren, everything in El Salvador is close, and the entire country from West to East may be enjoyed in less than a week's time, lie the Royal Maya-Pipi Pyramids of San Andres boasting an excellent english speaking guide on the grounds, no charge, tipping recommended* *Many native guides in El Salvador working at Ruins and National Parks, such as Cerro Verde and El Imposible are residents of nearby villages and are not given a salary, so rely on tips from visitors for their services, they are enthusiatic young people willing to give their time and effort to make your visit to El Salvador a memorable one!
Some 40 km. further west from San Andres, located just 3 km. off CA 1, Pan American Highway, in the city of Chalchuapa are located the Pyramids of Tazumal and the recently excavated Ruins of Casa Blanca nearby, there ais a Musuem on the grounds of Tazumal and bi lingual local native guides are available for hire. There is a Jade finishing industry in Chalchuapa, the rough Jade is smoothed out and carved before going to the posh 'Jade Shops' in Antigua and Guatemala City, bargains of small 'seconds' can b e had here, some nice souvenirs, copies of artifacts can be purchased. Note it is illegal to export original pre Colimbian relics without permission..as ell in Guatemala, severe penalties.
Ciuhatan, City of Women is a newly excavated Ruin some 30 km. north of the city of San Salvador on the Troncal del Norte Highway which takes you to the mountains of Chaltenango where one can enjoy a day in the crafts towns of La Palma and San Ignacio before taking the road up the mountain to the El Pital village and nature preserve, the altitude is high here, it has been known to snow early mornings in December and January so bring a warm coat or sweater....El Salvador, small, yet diverse!
Back in Guatemala, for nature lovers, Bird watching tours are also a
trend that is
developing, so if that is an interest of yours do visit to the natural reserves in Guatemala such as Laguna del Tigre
and la Lechua. Ecotourism at it's finest!
In El Salvador don't miss the stunning nature preserve, a national park, of Parque
El Imposible, located 17 km. west on a dirt road off km.116 on paved highway CA2 coming directly from the Guatemalan border with El Salvador at La Hachadurra, some 35 km east, also the other side of El Imposible, a huge nature reserve may be reached from the charming city of Tacuba in Ahuachapan department, there are small hotels there with a savvy local bi lingual guide with a vehicle who the entire area, just inquire..El Imposible is about a 2.5 hour drive from capital city of San Salvador, if bsing there, cabins available for overnight stays, best go during the week, often crowded weekends with Salvadoran visitors.
The stupendous Cloud Forest of Montecristi in Parque El
Trifunio, whose summit , the highest point in El Salvador is located at the vortex where the borders of El Salvador,
Guatemala and Honduras meet. On a clear day one can view the Heart of
Central America from the Carribbean to the Pacific! Awesome! No
'tourist hordes'. A pick up or 4 x 4 is required to navigated the 22 km. rutted dirt road up to the park site, you may rent a 4 x 4 in San Salvador, go with a group and guide (recommended) or rent a pick up with local driver for a day in city of Metapan below, Metapan is 35 km, northof Santa Ana, another worthwhile destination only 65 km. west of San Salvador on divided highway, boasting a Gothic Cathedral and excellent local crafts markets, El Salvador's second largest city, if driving, find parking and walk since the center of Santa Ana has narrow streets with a lot of traffic. Charming city. Many hostals and budget to 4 star hotels if wishing to stay overnight.
Back in Guatemala.....
Lake Atitlan in the Highlands of Guatemala is more majestic than ever,
it is recommended as a
phenomenal natural wonder and with some funky tourist towns like Panajachel
and San Marcos, a pristine Lake village, where continental travelers have established a new 'beachead' with the over commercialization of Panajachel, the crossroads of the Lake region and transportation, banking and shipping center,
Have a lot of fun and rub shoulders with Guatemala's "Living Maya" There are 4 indingenous dialects spoken in and around the Lake Atitlan, boats to the Lake villages leave the dock in Panajachel every 15 minutes or so during daylight hours, at the end of this article will list some excellent websites and portals that will assist you in your journey to either El Salvador or Guatemala or both. The journey by First Class Bus from Guatemala City to San Salvador is less than 5 hours, depending time at the borders.
Antigua in Guatemala is as beautiful and charming as ever. A crowded and popular destination with both travelers from overseas and Guatemalans alike, best visit Monday through Friday and weekends head out to the countryside by Bus, Auto or Tourist Shuttle, Guatemala since the late 1980s boasts an excellent tourism infrastructure. There are no more civil wars in Central America, however there are security issues, usually involving petty crimes of opportunity in crowded markets and in and a round city bus stations, so be aware, never paranoid and use common sense, if you get lost, do not wave a guidebook asking questions on the street of passerby, attracting attention, go into a store or other business and quietly ask directions, people are very helpful, keep a low profile, do not brag and when out alone at night, especially women, take normal precautions, do not drive an drink to excess in either El Salvador or Guatemala, penalties are severe if caught, as well carrying illegal drugs with you a no no!!!!
Both countries now do not allow smoking in public buildings, including bars and restaurants, some places maintain an outside patio for smokers.
El Salvador boasts 330 km. (220 miles) of unbroken pristine Pacific
beaches, bays, islands and mangroves awaiting your visit, along with world class
surfing in the La Libertad Beach complex only 30 to 40 minutes drive from the edge of San Salvador! As well, El Salvador boasts charming colonial towns such as
Suchitoto,the enchanting indingenous villages of Panchimalco and Santo Domingo de
Guzman(Don't miss the waterfall) the native indingenous language of Nahuat still spoken here by a few , volcanoes and more volcanoes, cloud forests, national parks, 'Ruta delas Flores' with intersting village of Juyua at its heart, and much much more. El Salvador is Uncrowded. People are friendly and those who tell you that violent crime lurks around every corner are doomsayers who have never even traveled here! I have driven over 800,000 km. in Central Anerica, riden thousands of clicks on both chicken and first class buses and never have been robbed, this is since 1985 by the way, yes I lost spare tires, rear view mirrors, got my pocket picked once in the market because I was in a hurry, in fact 99.8percent of locals are peaceful, law abiding hard working people! Avoid that .02percent and I guarantee you a fantastic journey. When traveling within a country carry a copy of your passport and entry exit stamps, also leave credit cards and extra cash at hotel or home safe.
The world is in crisis, so is Guatemala, so is El Salvador, so is the
rest of Central America, so what!
Tourism, travel must go on. Tourism is a
motor for development.
The recommendations or precautions to not visit Guatemala and even
more so El Salvador are unfair
and geopolitically motivated.
The following lists of countries are
promoted to the wazoo by "the powers to be" and they share every
single problem that both Guatemala and El Salvador possess some of them
terrorism. Really. Sad but true.
China, India, Mexico, Colombia, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia, Vietnam,
Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, are all on the list of
the 50 most visited countries in the world.
Last time we checked they
had crime, drugs, human rights violations, organized crime, poverty,
inequality of women vs men etc.
So what makes Guatemala and El Salvador different from these other
thing: the patronage they have, the promotion they get. "PR" Rumors
and bad press are nothing more than cheap online gossip, written
mainly by those who never even have traveled to Guatemala, El Salvador
or the rest of Central America!
There are of course security issues, as everywhere one will travel way
from home, however out of thousands of visitors evey month only a
handful experience problems and even some of those are preventable by
using common sense and being aware!
Entonces, le esperamos……
*The week in 2010 that Mumbai in India was taken hostage by terrorist, 'CNN'
ran advertisements to promote "The exotic adventure of India".
Colombia, who still exports the same amount of drugs as 10 years ago,
is also being promoted in the US, sponsored by the US. The same
applies for Mexico, never mind the atrocities of the internal drug war
that is now spilling over its borders into the US and remote areas of Central America.
*So, if anyone can give me or you a specific reason to not visit Guatemala or
neighboring El Salvador, or neighboring Honduras or Nicaragua if you prefer, using
comparative objective criteria, I will listen. ¡Digame!
The Myth: "El Salvador is the most dangerous country for travelers in
The Reality: NOT SO, even in the congested capital city of San
Salvador are many small and affordable Guest Houses, Bed and Breakfast
and small Hotels catering to budget travelers on pleasant tree lined
streets, in fact, next to San José in Costa Rica, San Salvador, El
Salvador turns out to be the safest and most pleasant capital city to
base in, in all of Central America, the Beaches of La Libertad are a
45 minute drive or less and Suchitoto is about an hour. Slightly more
time on public transportation. The entire country can be seen in a few
days, no 'all day' bus rides or drives, where you arrive exhausted.
People are friendly here in El Salvador, willing to help out travelers
in a pinch. Ther are 'high seasons' for travel, so if
traveling here try to make reservations well in advance of your
arrival, especially if arriving holiday seasons such as December, Christmas and NewYears Day and as well avoid raveling to beaches during Easter Holy Week, Semana Santa and in El Salvador the first week of August, a huge religious holiday,
'Traveling to Central America made easy'!
I the writer, a long term El Salvador and Guatemala resident, am suprised myself, despite the
ongoing 'bad press' and 'bad rep' of El Salvador, how many travelers
are now making El Salvador their first or second Central American
destination. Few go away dissapointed.
Many are now relocating to El Salvador to retire, work or volunteer (2011 to present seen a huge increase in 'Ex Pats' as well as tourists and travelers.)
The more Spanish you know, the easier AND less expensive your journey becomes.....
A stressed, lonely and tired traveler is a VULNERABLE traveler to pickpockets, thieves and scammers, one can only do and see so much in one day! If arriving by bus at night to Guatemala City or San Salvador, get away from the bus terminal as soon as possible, avoid offers of 'rides' or 'cheap tours' from strangers, do not give out your itinerary or lodging place to unknown persons! Best have adresses of budget hotels in hand in spanish and take an authorized taxi, always negociate fare before you get in, if possible have a local assist you.
If requiring a bi or multi lingual local guide, driver/owner..pay by the day or hour, no liabilty as in Car rental, unique lodging places, free travel advices then log onto to:
Localyte.com (170 countries, so site is in English)
type in your destination and ask a question of locals!!! Trumps those 2 year old "Lonely Planet Guidebooks". LOL. Do be careful and check out several guides as I have found many on this site not to be professional and lacking in English language skills, others such as 'Quiver Surf' are highly professional trained bi lingual guides, some guides in both El Salvador and Guatemala, ex pats and locals, own hostals and hotels and operate tour operations. saludos y buen viaje. Escritor.
ALOJAMIENTO - UNIQUE LODGING PLACES
"DISCOVER THE UNDISCOVERED EL SALVADOR"
"FOR THE BUDGET TRAVELER WITH CHAMPAGNE TASTE"
"AT PRICES YOU CAN EASILY AFFORD........
EXCELLENT SERVICE, FRIENDLY PEOPLE AND ABOVE ALL,
AN UNFORGETABLE EXPERIENCE.........
IN AN UNIQUE AND STILL FOR MANY AN OFF THE BEATEN PATH DESTINATION!"
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------My Article in English is above for those wishing to travel to El Salvador and neighboring Guatemala.....
WHY NOT EL SALVADOR AND GUATEMALA?
FIRST CHECK OUT THOROUGHLY THESE WIKIPEDIA PORTALS IN ENGLISH AND SPANISH:
AND FINALLY, IF PLANNING ON VISITING ONE OR MORE OF THE OTHER CENTRAL AMERICAN COUNTRIES:
" Why Not El Salvador and Guatemala?"
"For the Budget, Moderate or even Upscale Traveler with 'Champagne Taste'"
Pay less for better service, come as a 'tourist' and leave as a Friend!
El Salvador Bosques/Rain and Cloud Forests
Dedicamos al ecoturismo rural y cultural en El Salvador y Centroamerica/
Sin fines de lucro.....Non profit group
Yo le invitado agregarse al grupo mio en fb - bilingue - sobre
eventos, turismo, viajes, noticas y servicios turisticos en America
Central. Ubicado en San Salvador, El Salvador.
Invite you to join my group, bilingual English-Spanish posts,
regarding events, tourism, travel, news and services for travelers in
Central America. Located in San Salvador, El Salvador.
open group, bilungual, join, post or ask questions.
Donald Leibowicz, asessor de turismo, nivel Centroamericano. Tourism specialist, Central America and Caribbean region.
San Salvador, El Salvador, C.A.
Some more helpful websites and portals, most are offered in English, many have Spanish language pages as well and a few offer pages in languages other than English or spanish.
First and foremost..low or no cost Volunteer opportunities in Central and South America....
Many many humanitarian aid organizations exist in Central America and
require long or short term volunteers, with or without special skills,
all year around..view these non profit portals for no cost or low cost
opportunities, ing yourself any and all organizations you are
interested in working with well in advance of your departure..from
another bloq of mine…"volunteering abroad, especially in the
developing countries, as a volunteer, long or short term, you'll make
valuable and lifelong friendships as well as trusted local s
which may lead into full time employment in your chosen field locally.
Ordinarily you'll have to pay your airfare and room and board to
volunteer with many small projects as most have barely enough money to
stay above water. Fundraising, a year round effort, often takes up
much of paid staff's time and energy! The 'pro' is you'll be there in
your target country or region and not online behind a computer screen
at home! The smiles of a child or family in need we have assisted
beats any computer screen or laptop for me by a wide mile!
More information view these web portals:
in several languages.
. Social and Environmental Volunteer Exchange Network
all in English.
both sites bi lingual
Spanish, English texts poorly written. Great photos!
Learn to surf in La Libertad!
Adventure Travel and Surfing English
All inclusive Surfing Vacations and Tours
Cinquera - Rain forest tour, monuments to Cinquera-s 1981 civil war massacre, short term volunteers welcome, uniformed guides for rain forest trails, extensive, safe, friendly small town, all welcome! Less than 2 hours drive from SS, Bus daily to and from Suchitoto 18 k,. each way.
,8599,1940497,00.html Guerrilla Tourism in El Salvador, Article, English.
Bloq on Guerilla Tourism, English
Forum, from some who took the actual 'guerilla tours', English
More information. English
. Rain Forest/Guerilla Tourism, Guide Services Espanol
Good El Salvador overview. English.
Chalatenango Extremo, Adventure Travel in Mountainous Northern El Salvador, rural tourism, Espanol.
in 6 languages, but alll but Spanish are Google translations, so edit if need be.
"Making Sense of Living in Central America" English and Spanish.
Excellent Central American portal! Webmaster, native of Sweden, resides in El Salvador, no "Bells or Whistles" straight information in English, espanol and Svenska!!!!
Great guide for San Salvador city and environs, lots to see and do! English, Spanish and Swedish.
Excellent El Salvador Bloq Spanish
and#820652 hostals, hotels, beach houses and other unique lodging places in El Salvador listed from $10 a night up.........
English article on Central American Travel and Transportation
Bus Schedules in El Salvador English
Ecotourism in El Salvador English
West of el Salvador English
Ruta de las Flores English
Indingenous village of Panchimalco English
Hundreds of other fine web sites and portals regarding traveling in El Salvador, still an exotic destination!
Guatemala Portals and Websites.....
Walking Tours of Colonial Antigua and Much more!
very important resource in English
Hotels and Hostals in Guatemala
Free and low cost Volunteer Opportunties
Volunteer in and around Quetzaltenango
Mayan History of Guatemala
Tica Bus Guatemala City to Panama
Buses Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and CR, en Espanol
First Class Buses serving Honduras and Guatemala
Bus Schedules in Guatemala
Spanish Schools in Guatemala
Spanish Schools in Quetzaltenango
Ecotourism in Guatemala
Deep Sea Fishing
Tours in and around Lake Atitlan
Hundreds of more fine web portals and sites on Guatemala Travel!
--------------------------------------------------------! Le Esperamos con gusto !