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Preparing for El Salvador

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					Things to Research and Take Notes on Before Arriving:It is always especially helpful
to have a travel notebook, preferably one with some type of folder attachment (the
Moleskine 庐 notebooks while pricey - $8 and up, are perfect for just such an
occasion with an elastic closure and concealed back pocket). Whether or not you have
a minute by minute plan is of course, completely up to you and your style of travel but
it is always a smart idea to at least have some general background knowledge. Before
heading down, think about where you'd like to go while in El Salvador (at least the
regions, city, museums, ruins), your options for travel (locally and while touring the
country) and general tips you've picked up while doing your research. Maybe a great
restaurant name has popped up over and over again,maybe an exciting looking tour
company always seems to have great info. Take some notes and take these names and
numbers with you, not having to rely on constant use of the internet for research while
traveling is always more relaxing. Plus, having a few key points in mind is always a
great conversation starter!
Things to pack in your everyday pack you may or may not have thought of:
Travel size toilet-paper or a travel pack of tissues (keep several packs in your luggage
and make sure to keep one in your day pack).
Depending upon where you'll be venturing to, you can't always be sure that this will
be available and if it helps at least one time it's totally worth it. Conversely you can do
double duty and pack travel-size wipes. These handy moist towlettes are great not
only in a bathroom pinch but for cleaning hands as well. This brings me to my next
point, travel hand-sanitizer 鈥?again, easily replaced by double-duty wipes, but
always a good idea to have something as the availability of soap is sporadic as well.
Small slips of paper with your hotel name: Sounds a bit looney but there have been so
many situations where the adventure has gone further than was originally planned and
now all of a sudden getting back to the hotel has turned into an adventure on its own.
Having your hotel information handy will help you to communicate with locals,
especially if you don't speak the language. You'll at the very least (and/or in an
emmergency situation) be able to hand a taxi driver the card.
EmergenC is excellent to have on hand as it can both help with hydration and fight off
that nasty 鈥渁 irplane hangover 鈥?that tends to come with being stuck in a stuffy
airspace for too long. It's the easiest way to hit the ground running upon arrival. Try to
drink at least one a day and fight off colds before they even start!
EnviroSacks whether brand name or otherwise are super handy for tucking into
daypacks. Perhaps your journeys will take you past a fresh produce market, perhaps
you'll come upon some neat artesan crafts, whatever the case it helps to have the
option of extra room. By the same token, your handy notebook can be used to note
places you'd like to return to when you have more time.
At the airport:
As is with most countries in the world 鈥?it is generally a good idea to always go
with secure transportation. What is secure transportation
and what's the difference? Secure transportation generally is part of a large company
geared towards tourists.
What's the difference?
Could be nothing but could be something. Travelling in a non-secure taxi always has
its risks associated with it. Don't speak Spanish? No problem, but don't bank on them
speaking English. Do you really want to risk it and jump in a cab that may or may not
be secure that may or may not understand where you're going if you can't even
explain it to them?
People often say, 鈥淒 on't worry! My friend lived there and told me exactly what to
do!鈥?I say, don't bother. Your friend who lived there probably spoke the language
decently well, at least enough to understand more or less what they were saying to
him. Negotiating is going to be difficult as you are most likely wearing a big tourist
stamp on your head (it's that doe-eyed happy look we tourists have when exiting the
airport and entering into a new country). Get the secure cab, pay the slightly elevated
fee and go with it. This is not the part of your trip you should be skimping on.
When travelling around the city on a daily basis, having a hotel cab can definitely
start to get pricey, just make sure to flag a registered (yellow) taxi for transport around
the city. Public transport can certainly be attempted and even encouraged but should
in general not be taken in the evening. If you get off at the wrong stop, you never
know when the next bus could come along or where you might be!
Buy a map:
This seems crazy and at this point it probably sounds as though the 鈥渙 rientation
鈥?advice is getting a bit old. The easiest way to make a wonderful trip take a turn for
the worse is to be stuck in an area that's unsafe for you and your fellow travel
companions. Remember, there's certainly a fine line between adventuresome and
ignorant stupidity. Adventuresome would be walking around the Parque Pericos
during the day with your travel companions, ignorant stupidity would be going to the
Park at night, alone, to brood and take pictures with your fancy new camera. Be smart.
It has nothing to do with the place being so dangerous or the people being 鈥渂 ad
鈥?(although there really are some very risky areas) it's more that you don't know the
rules, norms, customs, your way around and/or common language. It's your first
maybe even second or third trip down! Get to know the people, observe, let them
guide you. El Salvadorians in general are extraordinarily sweet and helpful. Service
has always been wildly impressive and in general, people are more than happy to
help.
Stick some stickers on the map and pop it in your notebook. Write down some of the
places that seem interesting in your handy notebook!
With your plan of arrival tucked in your pocket, notebook, pack all packed and
stickers on the map, nothing to do now but arrive at your hotel, pop a beer, slip on
your koozie and let the good times roll.