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Driving in El Salvador

3 posts
Driving in El Salvador

My wife and I are planning to drive from San Salvador to Copan Ruinas and later from Antigua Guatemala to San Salvador. Has anyone had experience in driving these areas of El Salvador and could advise of road conditions, road safety and border crossings?

San Antonio, TX
1 post
1. Re: Driving in El Salvador

In the summer of 1997, while working at the US Embassy in San Salvador, my family and I drove from San Salvador to Antigua, Guatemala (2 nights), on to Panajachel on Lago Atitlan (3 nights), on to Puerto Barrios (2 nights), on to Copan (2 nights) and then back to San Salvador after crossing the border near La Palma. Being the rainy season we did encounter flooding problems near Lake Izabal. In fact we did not stay there because we couldn't find a cheap hotel that wasn't getting water in the rooms. The roads were typical CENTAM roads -- you just have to take your time and enjoy the scenery. We only had 1 flat tire and the five of us did the trip in a 1995 Ford Escort stationwagon. I do not recommend Puerto Barrios for anything. Other than the boat ride over to Livingston, there was really nothing to do: there is no beach, the water is muddy and the town is very run-down. Copan is great ! Though the ruins are not as spectacular in size compared to those of Tikal, the stone carvings are much more intricate. While in Copan you must seek out the "Turi-centro" with the thermal pools, located about 30 minutes out of town. We were the only visitors that day and they adjusted the water in the 2 pools so that one was cool and swimmable for the kids and the other was super hot for us. Ask the locals how to get there. Coming south from Pto. Barrios there is only one East-west road to Copan and it was rough and unpaved. The border closed at 6:00 pm which we made with 10 minutes to spare. We were lucky because the closest accomodations on the Guatemalan side were an hour back over that dirt road. The Honduran road from Copan back to La Palma was one of the best stretches of road we ever traveled in CENTAM. The road from LaPalma was rough until you got down out of the mountains. Hurricane Mitchin Nov 1998 made it even worse; however, I believe it was supposed to have been improved since the hurricane. Throughout this entire adventure we stayed in small hotels frequented by the locals and the young college age backpacker crowd. Average nightly room price was about $7-9 (1997) and we always met great people. We carried one suitcase with a small pillow and 2 sheets for each of us because sometimes the pillows are very lumpy and the linens are worn and scratchy. We usually cooked breakfast on our Coleman stove (eggs, oatmeal, french toast), ate sandwiches for lunch and would eat dinner at an inexpensive restaurant. It was an incredible adventure which we truly enjoyed and will never forget. The next summer we went through Honduras by the Gulf of Fonseca, into Managua Nicaragua and on to Costa Rica and back -- another unforgettable trip. CENTAM is great ! Get out there and enjoy it. I spent a total of 4 years in El Salvador on 2 assignments. It is a great place -- the people are wonderful (I married one), the countryside is breathtaking and it has its own unique charm.

La Ceiba, Honduras
Level Contributor
557 posts
2. Re: Driving in El Salvador

BW -

You'll be doing this in your own car right? I don't think you can do it with a rental. You may want to pick up a good CA travel guide (Lonely Planet, Rough, LetsGo or Fromer).

Road conditions between major cities are OK, stay off the roads at night, road safety is marginal (mostly because of local drivers) and really study up on what documentation you'll need for your car at border crossings.

Consider luxury bus travel as a good alternative. Check out the Hedman Alas bus line which covers your itenerary (http://www.hedmanalas.com/index.htm).

It eliminates a lot of worries and its cheap.

Have fun.

Charlie Meador, La Ceiba, Honduras

Guatemala City...
Level Contributor
682 posts
10 reviews
91 helpful votes
3. Re: Driving in El Salvador

If you rent a car, more than likely you wont be able to cross the border with it. If so you can take the bus

Hedman Alas or King Quality cover these routes.

King Quality from Guatemala City to El Salvador is nice especially if you go first class.

The roads are ok...lots of hills and curves and just a 2 lane highway... stay alert from all the buses and crazy drivers that pass on curves. Police in both countries also like to stop random cars on the highway..so make sure you have all your papers in order.

Border crossing is pretty smooth. I have driven from Copan to Guatemala City, (border of El Florido) its about 2-3 hours... lately there has been cases of robbery. Theives will pull over cars in Guatemala that dont have Guatemalan licenses.... the same is happening on the road to Guatemala from El Salvador.

Best advise is to drive fast and or in caravan. Some of the borders close at 6pm..so make sure to plan your trip correctly.

From Copan there are 2 ways to go to Guatemala City, 1 is taking the Atlantic Highway and the 2nd is going on a new road that cuts across and you end up on the main highway that goes to El Salvador. I dont remember the name but the city of Jupita in Guatemala is near this highway.

I drive often from San Pedro Sula to Guatemala, and generally i feel very safe.

Hope this helps... let me know.

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