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Expat Exchange - 10 Things to Know Before Moving to El Salvador
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El Zonte, El Salvador


10 Things to Know Before Moving to El Salvador

By Joshua Wood, LPC

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Summary: If you're planning a move to El Salvador, here are 10 things expats living there wish they had known before moving to El Salvador.

El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America, is a hidden gem that's gaining popularity among expats. With its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and friendly locals, it's no wonder why more and more people are considering moving to this tropical paradise. However, before you pack your bags, there are a few things you should know about life in El Salvador. Here are the top 10 things to know before moving to El Salvador.

1. Understanding the Cost of Living in El Salvador

One of the main attractions for expats moving to El Salvador is the low cost of living. Rent, groceries, and services are significantly cheaper compared to North America and Europe. For example, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center may cost around $300 per month. However, it's important to note that wages are also lower, so if you're planning to work locally, make sure to factor this into your budget.

2. Embracing the Local Cuisine

Salvadoran cuisine is a delightful blend of indigenous and Spanish influences. The national dish is pupusa, a thick corn tortilla stuffed with cheese, beans, or meat. It's a must-try for any expat. Additionally, El Salvador is known for its coffee, so be sure to indulge in a cup of locally grown brew.

3. Navigating the Language Barrier

Spanish is the official language of El Salvador. While English is spoken in tourist areas and by some younger Salvadorans, it's beneficial to learn some basic Spanish phrases before you move. Not only will this make daily life easier, but it will also help you connect with the local community.

4. Preparing for the Climate

El Salvador has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: the dry season (November to April) and the rainy season (May to October). The temperature remains fairly consistent year-round, averaging around 30°C (86°F). Be sure to pack lightweight, breathable clothing and a good-quality rain jacket.

5. Getting Around in El Salvador

Public transportation in El Salvador is affordable and widely available. Buses are the most common form of transport, but they can be crowded and often lack air conditioning. Taxis and ride-sharing apps like Uber are also available. If you're planning to drive, be aware that road conditions can be poor in some areas and traffic rules are not always strictly enforced.

6. Understanding the Healthcare System

El Salvador has both public and private healthcare systems. The public system is free, but it can be slow and overcrowded. Most expats opt for private healthcare, which offers higher quality services and shorter wait times. It's recommended to have comprehensive health insurance that covers medical evacuation, as some complex treatments may not be available locally.

7. Appreciating the Local Culture

Salvadorans are known for their warm hospitality and strong sense of community. Family is highly valued and social events often revolve around food. Soccer is the national sport and a major part of the culture. By participating in local traditions and events, you'll quickly feel at home in your new community.

8. Dealing with Safety Concerns

While El Salvador has made significant strides in improving safety, it's important to stay informed about local conditions. Avoid displaying signs of wealth and be cautious when traveling at night. Always follow the advice of local authorities and stay updated on travel advisories from your home country's embassy.

9. Exploring the Natural Beauty

El Salvador is home to stunning natural beauty, from volcanic landscapes to pristine beaches. Outdoor enthusiasts will love hiking in El Imposible National Park or surfing at El Tunco. Don't miss the chance to explore the country's biodiversity and take advantage of the year-round warm weather.

10. Adapting to the Pace of Life

Life in El Salvador moves at a slower pace than in many Western countries. This laid-back lifestyle can be a welcome change, but it may take some getting used to. Embrace the "mañana" (tomorrow) culture and remember that things may not always happen as quickly as you're used to.

Moving to a new country is always an adventure, and El Salvador is no exception. By understanding the local culture, climate, and cost of living, you'll be well-prepared for your move to this vibrant Central American country.

Expats talk about Moving to El Salvador

"I live in a gated community. There are many in Nejapa and the surrounding cities. 24k will buy you a 2 bedroom single story house. Very little land but it is yours. Nejapa is safe and quaint for small towns. Everyone is friendly to foreigners. Do you homework and make contacts with local Americans or Expats. The cost of living is very cheap and dentistry and doctors have many cheap clinics to go to if you need assistance," said one expat living in Nejapa.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


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El Zonte, El Salvador

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SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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