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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.
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