Costs of Budget Travel in El Salvador 2017

LashWroldTour near summit of Santa Ana Volcano - El Salvador

near summit of Santa Ana Volcano – El Salvador

Costs of Budget Travel in El Salvador 2017

In late 2017 I spent five weeks exploring beautiful El Salvador. Truth be told, I ended up sick with bronchitis for 10 days, holed up in a San Salvador hostel while I took a course of antibiotics to recover. So I actually spent four weeks actively traveling around the country.

I liked El Salvador. It has many beautiful natural places and a variety of great outdoor adventures available for appreciating them, including inexpensive to reasonably-priced tours.

I joined a wonderful half-day 7 waterfalls tour, climbed Santa Ana volcano, had a free police escort to unusual waterfalls near Suchitoto and lounged around a near-wild surfers beach near the border of Honduras for a week.

colorful murals in Ataco - Ruta de Flores - El Salvador

colorful murals in Ataco – Ruta de Flores – El Salvador

El Salvador’s towns and cities are mostly nothing to write home about, save perhaps cute colonial Suchitoto and a couple mountain villages on Ruta de Flores in western Salvador, which could be worth a few days’ visit. I recommend primarily visiting the country for it’s great outdoors, rather than its urban areas.

I wrote articles on most of the destinations I visited and the tours I joined, as well as general articles on El Salvador. You can find them all in the El Salvador section here.

I found the costs of traveling around El Salvador on a budget quite reasonable and about the same as traveling in SE ASia. I stayed at great little guest houses & hostels, ate a variety of tasty food and visited nearly all the country’s well-known destinations.

crater lake inside Santa Ana Volcano

stunning crater lake inside Santa Ana Volcano

One thing surprising and rather unique about El Salvador is that they only use $US currency. They don’t have a Salvadorean currency! Everything in the country is priced in $US. And ATMs dispense $US. No need to do any money exchange if you’re carrying $US.

That certainly makes it easy for Americans. And I’m pretty sure it’s nearly as easy for Europeans, Australians, Brits and Canadians, who are generally aware of the value of $US against their own currencies.

Daily costs in El Salvador for accommodation and food are certainly higher than in Mexico, but a bit less expensive than in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

enjoying a guest house garden in Juayua - El Salvador

enjoying a guest house garden in Juayua – El Salvador


Dorm beds everywhere in El Salvador cost $8-10 US per night, though those $8 beds are far and few between. Nearly every night during my 5-week trip I paid either $9 or $10 for a bed, averaging $9 over all.

This is a bit higher than in Mexico, where I could generally find beds for $7-8 US per night, though many areas in Mexico have cheaper beds while others cost more like $9 US. In Guatemala I generally paid $7-10 US for a bed or private room, depending on the location.

pupusas - El Salvador

pupusas – El Salvador

Food and Drink:

Meals in El Salvador, too, cost more than in Mexico but less than in Guatemala. I could easily find breakfasts for about $1-1.50 US (same as in Mexico) and other meals for about $2-2.50 US. I mostly ended up cooking my own breakfasts, out of convenience rather than cost, and ate my other meals out.

One fantastic, unique meal option in El Salvador are pupusas, dough filled with various combinations of vegetables and/or meats & cheese then grilled, making a kind-of hot filled tortilla. Not only are pupusas delicious but they are very cheap. They usually cost $0.60-1 US. Two pupusas fill me up. Other travelers may need three.

I found food prices quite consistent throughout the country, regardless of town, city, beach or rural area. My daily food total averaged between $6.50-7.75 from week to week. Over all, during the five weeks, the daily average was…

One thing I found quite odd in El Salvador is that hostels charge guests for drinking water. In most other countries that’s included in rates. But in El Salvador, they generally charge a fee for bottle refills from their large purified water bottle. Alternately, you can buy gallons of water (basically 3 liters) for $1 US.

public buses in El Salvador

public buses in El Salvador


Public buses in El Salvador are insanely cheap – averaging $0.50 US for a 30 minute ride anywhere, $1 US for a 1-2 hour trip or $2-3 US for a somewhat fancier overland bus. Since El Salvador is a tiny country (smallest in Central America, in fact) bus rides rarely take more than 1-3 hours. As you can see, traveling around the whole country only amounts to a few dollars, all told.

Budget Travel Cost Totals and Averages:

Following are the total costs for my 5-week travels around El Salvador.

Total costs for 5 weeks = $725 US

Average weekly total = $145 US

Total for one month, based on above averages = $580 US

Total Daily average = $20.13 US

Daily average food cost = $6.80 US

Daily average dorm bed cost = $9 US

These totals include all accommodation, food, transportation, miscellaneous personal expenses as well as a plush shuttle van to get to El Salvador from Antiqua, Guatemala and two guided adventure tours.

More specifically, these additional costs were:

Shuttle van from Antiqua to drop off for Ruta de Flores = $22 US / 160 Guat. Q

Half-day 7 waterfalls tour at Ruta de Flores = $17 US

Guided hike up Santa Ana Volcano,including park entries = $10 US

Miscellaneous personal expenses = $20 US

LashWorldTour at waterfall on Ruta de Flores

enjoying waterfalls on Ruta de Flores

Upon departure from El Salvador to Honduras via a more upscale international a/c bus, I counted the cost of that trip towards my costs in Honduras.

So that’s my report on costs of budget travel in El Salvador.

I anticipate that costs will remain about the same for the near future. However, the word is quickly getting out about El Salvador’s beautiful natural places, great adventures, safety, friendly people and low costs.

So I suppose prices will gradually go up as more and more budget travelers in Central America take time to explore El Salvador as they pass through en route to/from neighboring Guatemala and Honduras. Now is a very good time to visit, before the hordes arrive and prices accelerate, like they already have in nearby Nicaragua.

You might also find the following articles useful:

Introduction to El Salvador

The 7 Waterfalls Tour

Ruta de Flores

Climbing Santa Ana Volcano


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