Expat moving to El Salvador? Common questions answered
FAQ about living in San Salvador or the beaches of El Salvador. A Guide for expats considering moving to El Salvador.
Here at HomeFinder El Salvador Real Estate Brokers we work with people coming to El Salvador for the first time: expat teachers working in the international schools, diplomats, private industry foreign executives, Salvadorans abroad reconnecting with home, investors, developers, STR owners, digital nomads, surfers, entrepreneurs and much more. We’ve heard all sorts of questions and have answered some of them here on the HomeFinder blog.
Visit our main website for El Salvador real estate listings at : https://homefinderinmobiliaria.com/ where you can find beach homes, city property, land and investment properties for sale. Contact us for information on any of our real estate listings in San Salvador, or the beaches of El Salvador nationwide. Barra de Santiago, Los Cobanos, Barra Salada, Mizata, El Zonte, El Palmarcito, El Sunzal, El Tunco, all of Surf City in La Libertad, the Costa del Sol and the Wild East and every beach in between!
Things to do in San Salvador, El Salvador
What do you enjoy doing? Chances are there’s people here who like it too! San Salvador offers tons of activities and things to do and all the services you’d expect from a large city. Movie theaters are located throughout the city and offer movies in their original language with Spanish subtitles, or dubbed to spanish. Often both versions of the movie are available. There are also movie theaters in Santa Ana and San Miguel, the other major cities.
The main city parks would be Parque Cuscatlan, Parque Bicentario, and El Cafetalon. All parks are open to the public daily, there’s a parking fee of $1 on weekdays and $2 on weekends if you arrive by car. They’re all safe parks for families, they’re pet friendly, and are a fun safe environment for joggers, cyclists and to escape the city life. The Plan de La Laguna area offers the San Salvador botanical garden and Japanese garden.
Next to the botanical garden, you’ll find a bier garten run by Premio, one of the many breweries in San Salvador. ILC Industrias La Constancia is the main brewer in the country and brews both the Pilsener and Suprema commercial lagers; they do offer a tour of their Lutecia bar. They also manufacture the Regia brand of beer, one of the most popular lagers in the country. Cadejo Brewing Company in Zona Rosa is the main independent craft brewery and they have factory tours at that location but have several spots nationwide including the airport and have expanded to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Squirrel Eye Brewers also offer plant tours and beer flights.
If you’re a bowler San Salvador has a bowling alley, Galaxy Bowling, located in Escalón offers 20 lanes, a sports bar and a casino on the same complex. If you enjoy a night in the casino, Casino Colonial, located in Antiguo Cuscatlán offers slot machines, roulette, video poker, and table games.
There are several art galleries and museums including MARTE the national art museum and MUNA the national anthropology museum in the San Benito area. Downtown San Salvador offers guided tours of the National Palace, the cathedral and the national theater.
If you are a theater fan the main National Theater in downtown San Salvador offers the major plays, ballets and concertos by the San Salvador ballet, acting company and the National Philharmonic band as well as international performers. The Teatro Luis Poma located inside Metrocentro mall, in front of the Intercontinental hotel, offers weekly theater performances. There’s a newly set up theater in Galerias mall called Black Coyote currently in season. The Presidente theater, located next to the Sheraton hotel, is another option.
Ever wanted to ‘fly’ a real airline flight simulator? It can be done. Escape rooms? Several cool ones in town. Billiards (pool) is also popular, tennis courts, squash courts, football (soccer) fields, gyms, swimming pools and plenty of other recreational activities are available. There are three main golf courses in the country, all in or around San Salvador. Club Campestre Cuscatlán is a members only club in the Escalón neighborhood of San Salvador, Club Salvadoreño at Corinto offers 18 holes next to Lake Ilopango, and El Encanto has a golf course halfway between San Salvador and the beaches of Surf City.
Things to do at the beach in El Salvador?
The Salvadoran coastline and its beaches offer different activities all year round and some seasonal activities. Even though El Salvador is a small country we have a great variety of beaches. From the west to the east of El Salvador you can find fine sugar sand beaches, golden coral reef beaches, black magnetic volcanic sand beaches, white sand beaches, rocky surf beaches, cliffs, sea stacks, islands, inlets, mangrove forests, bays, estuaries, and even a Gulf await.
Some selected activities at specific beaches would be:
At Los Cobanos during the early summer season (summer in El Salvador is the dry season running from november through april) there are whale watching tours going out daily with plenty of tourists from all over El Salvador and the world. The Los Cobanos beach is also home to a coral reef and calm waters for ocean kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving. Royal Decameron Salinitas is a large all inclusive resort located at that beach and the Las Veraneras beach community.
At La Costa del Sol beach you have several activities available: most marinas in the country are located on the Jaltepeque Estuary on the other side of the Costa del Sol beach. Marina Jaltepeque and Bahia del Sol marina being the largest. Boats up to 65 ft in size can dock in Bahia del Sol directly and they host the El Salvador International Billfish tournament: its 28th edition happening November 2022. In the 2021 El Salvador Billfish tournament over 400 sailfish were caught and released by the top 5 boats alone! Costa del Sol also offers boat and jet ski rentals, mangrove tours on Jaltepeque bay, bird watching, fishing and much more. Great restaurants in the area include Beto’s, Acajutla and La Pampa Costa del Sol.
In El Zonte, Bitcoin Beach, great hotels, restaurants and a growing vibrant beach crypto community awaits you. Great restaurants include COVANA, Garten, Olor de Mar and many more. Make sure to have a Bitcoin Lightning wallet loaded with some sats before you head to the growing crypto beach town. Tons of activities happen in El Zonte, as one of the Surf City beaches, including surf and other ocean sports, diving, nightlife, great food, sea turtle releases (seasonal) and it’s close to El Tunco and the rest of La Libertad. El Tunco, probably the main area for tourists in La Libertad is a vibrant beach surf town with a growing hotel and restaurant scene.
Does Amazon deliver to El Salvador?
Yes . Amazon offers Amazon Global Shipping which, if offered for the particular item, sends it directly to your home with taxes and fees prepaid through UPS, FEDEX or DHL in 3-5 days. They have a deal with these companies to deliver door to door but will charge you VAT and Import taxes in advance on your Amazon checkout. Depending on the item it might or might not make sense to get it through Amazon, small things with low value generally are better to buy in-country. For most things though, electronics included, the prices once you count taxes are almost identical to buying in-store or online from a Salvadoran vendor.
For some other items, like books, Amazon delivers using the USPS and local El Salvador mail, it works and it’s more affordable however the average delivery time is 3-4 weeks. Local Amazon dropshipping companies like Mercandu exist, and many things can be found locally. We suggest you purchase from local vendors whenever possible. In the cities of San Salvador, San Miguel and Santa Ana there are large malls, department stores and large supermarkets where you can find most items. Smaller cities still have plenty of commerce and local El Salvador mail is readily available, affordable and reliable for online local sellers to ship.
Another option is the use of a parcel forwarding service, there are many companies that collect packages on a US address and ship them all on commercial airline and cargo flights generally from Miami or Los Angeles to San Salvador. Aeropost, TransExpress and several other companies provide parcel forwarding services that are fast and reliable.
Can I purchase real estate with bitcoin in El Salvador?
Providing the seller is willing to accept bitcoin, then yes, a notary would draft the paperwork and the transaction would be sent wallet to wallet directly. Generally speaking a set amount of U.S. Dollars are agreed upon and the bitcoin amount varies depending on the exchange rate at the time of the transaction.
Sellers are free to accept bitcoin or not as they are more often than not private individuals and not companies. There are companies that provide bitcoin to dollar exchange locally for a small fee and can issue a dollar cashier’s check in exchange for bitcoin. This option is open if the seller just wants USD and the buyer wants bitcoin. As with any real estate transaction taxes and fees would fall on the buyer. HomeFinder El Salvador Real Estate does not provide any exchange services or handles transactions.
For more general information on purchasing real estate in El Salvador as an expat (be it a resident, temporary resident or even a tourist) please contact us. We recommend getting legal advice from a Salvadoran lawyer and we have law firms we know and work with due to their high regard and reputation in the industry.
Do I need a car in El Salvador?
The short answer is yes, we would highly recommend you get a vehicle or have access to a vehicle when in El Salvador. Uber and taxis are plentiful and completely safe in the main cities, but they’re not generally available in the coastal areas. In coastal areas and small towns the Bajaj Qute, a small Indian car, is a common means of transport and is often used as a taxi in rural and small town El Salvador. It’s a cool experience but they are small cars so luggage or even a surfboard might be hard to transport.
While driving in a foreign country can seem intimidating, the road network in El Salvador is in pretty good shape with modern highways connecting you to all the main sites in the country. El Salvador drives on the right, a foreign driver’s license is accepted (as long as it has latin characters, if in a different alphabet we recommend getting an international driver license before you arrive), and you can buy a car as a citizen, resident or even a tourist.
As far as cars some of them are the same you might be familiar with from home, some are different, some are the same rebranded or rebadged with a different name for the market. New car dealerships include: Honda, Nissan, Jeep, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Volvo, Audi, Ford and Chevrolet. Motorcycle dealerships include: Yamaha, Honda, BMW, Harley-Davidson and Triumph. The used car market is plentiful on Facebook marketplace and user car dealerships and lots.