Welcome to a brand new edition of Readers Q & A.
I hope you have enjoyed the autumn so far and month of October 🙂
It has been a real pleasure watching leaves turn yellow, then orange and red. It is one my favorite seasons of the year. Mother Nature sure knows how to put on a fabulous show and I’ve been capturing it 🙂
I was going through my emails this morning (l love receiving them) and one of them caught my attention. It came from a reader asking a very specific question about traveling in Central America in a special way.
He wrote the following (printed with permission):
I stumbled upon your travel stories, great reads!
I’m planning to bike around El Salvador for a few days in December, and then cross over to Honduras at La Palma, en route to Ruinas de Copán.
I would be traveling very light (20L /10 kg), but I would have to have everything on me. I couldn’t leave anything at the hotel. What do you think – safety and crimes wise – about being by myself on major roads between cities? Is this a completely suicidal idea, or something one could try to do?
Thank you for your help!
Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions. I will not be held responsible or accountable for any decisions or events. Just making that clear, Thank You!
Dear Hodge (very cool name by the way),
Thank you so much for sending your message and I am happy to read that my posts about traveling, specifically in El Salvador have inspired you!
What a bold, courageous and adventurous soul you are 🙂 The trip by bike you are about to undertake is quite an achievement and totally doable!
I’m actually glad you are not skipping the country as many people would do.
Now let’s discuss some very important factors.
As you are already aware, security is a big issue right now. Not only in the country but in the region and it has been for quite some time now but don’t let that stop you from going on an adventure!
You mention that you will be traveling with your bike and a light backpack. Let me ask you the obvious before we go any further, have you bought or thinking of buying insurance for yourself and to protect your belongings? I mean it is the very first thing I would get before going anywhere, locally or internationally. I don’t take chances anymore. As the saying goes: “It’s better to have and not need it than not having and need it”.
That extra protection may cost you a bit more but think about this, peace of mind is priceless right? So by all means insure yourself and your travel gear 🙂
I would also suggest contacting your country’s embassy or consulate over there and inquire what services are available to citizens like you traveling. You can always register and be counted for in case of any emergency.
Yes I know this may sound ridiculous, extreme or downright paranoid but hear me out (or read my story). Remember that at least it will be some form of backup protection!
Let me share something with you. Three years ago I was living and working in Seoul, South Korea. Being a citizen of Canada, I had the option of registering with the Canadian embassy which allows nationals to be included on a list in case of a major event. They can help you get out of the country and return home if need shall be.
As you know Seoul is not too far from the DMZ, which by the way is the most heavily guarded border on the planet, and there were only a couple of times when we heard the air sirens go off and the streets cleared in 2 minutes! That was impressive and scary too but for the locals, its part of life. The rest of the time I was only worried about how to come home after a night partying 🙂
Now back to what we were discussing. Make sure that you don’t carry valuable in your bags, which is a no brainer! Keep your personal docs and cards tucked away in a travel belt and always have a sturdy lock with you at all times.
Dress normally and try to blend in. Normally tourists are easily recognizable because they wear a t-shirt from the university they went to, have brand name shoes and what not. I’m not saying to look like a beach bum, just saying to dress as simple as you can. It does get pretty hot, so bring extra sunscreen!
I forgot to say thank you for sharing your itinerary with me. Wow! I see that you’ve planned it carefully which is awesome. It looks like you truly did your research, que bueno!
What suggest next, after your arrival at the airport, is to have someone transport you all the way to the capital, San Salvador. You didn’t mention if you’ll arrive during the day or at night, in any case daytime if preferable. It might take about an hour and it’s much safer. The road is in a good condition, however I strongly suggest for you to get to San Salvador then start your trip.
Things to visit but I see that you are heading towards the beaches of La Libertad and quite frankly, when your view is something like this
I don’t blame you! Kicking back with a cold drink in hand and watching this spectacular view is a great way to recover from jet lag. No contest!
The road to the Pacific Coast is downhill, so make sure your brakes are in good shape. The traffic can be quite something as it is the closest seaside towns for los capitalinos!
Some Salvadorans can be wild drivers, so please use precautions on the road. I sincerely wish that there was more public awareness from the government and educate population about sharing the road but that is another post on its own!
Other than those warnings, I would recommend you to stay on the main roads/highways and not venture out on small roads. As I previously mentioned, road conditions are pretty good and even signage is clear, so I don’t think you should be having any problem getting from point A to B or C and D. In case you have any doubt, you can always stop and ask officials or police officers who patrol the roads or even the small stores or roadside restaurants, they are always very helpful!
You will love the attractions you will find along your itinerary like El Boqueron National Park
(that’s uphill!) Ancient ruins like El Tazumal
Joya de Cerén, colonial towns like Suchitoto
and I am sure you will LOVE the amazing views in Chalatenango where you will be heading to La Palma (the art center of the country)
before crossing the border into Honduras and head to Ruinas de Copán.
Believe it or not I was there an entire month last time and simply was not enough. I shall return for more adventures and hope it’s soon!
To sum things up, I would simply encourage you to go with faith and confidence that everything is going to go great in spite of what everyone says. If it makes you feel safer, don’t hesitate to ask the help of local authorities and always update your family, friends and online. We want your well-being and we want to know that you’re safe.
As for me I’ve been there like 6 times (including my 1st solo trip at 15) and I will keep going back for more.
I realized that the majority of Salvadorans are kind, friendly and willing to give you what they have and welcome you with open arms (oh if I only began to tell you my (mis)adventures!).
I sincerely pray that you will have a fab time and do report back once you are there or after. Send photos!
I hope my words have helped a bit and can’t wait to hear/read about it.
Te deseo Felices viajes, I wish you happy travels!
All the best, todo lo mejor.
2 thoughts on “Reader’s Q & A: Is it safe to bike in El Salvador?”
Great advice Karla. Thank-you!
You’re welcome Katie. Glad you liked it 🙂