Frequently Asked Questions About Travel in El Salvador
Travel and Costs
- How much will my trip cost and what does it cover?
- We charge a trip fee of $675 per person. This cost covers all in country transportation and housing for up to 7 nights. We also include all meals that are provided in your residence or at the work site. The Fuller Center also gets traveler’s insurance for each participant.
- What other costs can I expect while traveling?
- If your team chooses to eat at local restaurants or if you are eating out while touring around that will be on you so you’ll have to budget how many times you’d want to do that. Expect to pay for any tourism activities you choose that charge admission or parking (most are very inexpensive). You shouldn’t experience other costs unless you want them.
- How do I register and make a payment toward my trip?
- Trip payments and registration are handled through the Fuller Center for Housing. Make sure your team is registered through the Global Builders and then make payments for each team member.
- Is it safe to travel in El Salvador?
- As far as safety goes there are certainly unsafe things that go on in El Salvador, like any country, but especially developing countries. However, our organization is extremely cognizant of safety issues. These things are in isolated areas that don’t include our work site. We know where not to go and you will be housed in a relatively safe area.
- What do I need to know when going through the airport in El Salvador?
- You will purchase a tourist Visa in the airport. Make sure that every traveler has exactly $10 cash on their person when entering El Salvador.
- If you are bringing any tools or a large quantity of donations (other than clothing) if may be a good idea to spread these items out between people in your group to avoid a single bag full of medical supplies or something. It’s a good idea not to have any bags that will draw extra attention.
- As you exit the building you will encounter an overwhelming sea of people waiting for friends and family to arrive. Turn left toward the street and look for HFTH/FCH staff. We might have a sign with your name on it, we might be wearing a Fuller Center t-shirt, and there’s about a 50% chance we will be white Americans.
Working and Fun Stuff
- What will we be working on?
- In general you will help us in the construction of new homes although we sometimes have opportunities for Greater Blessings projects where we perform small repairs or improvements on existing homes. We also respond to emergency and disaster needs when we are able so please remain open to a variety of possibilities.
- Much of the volunteer work for these projects includes, but is not limited to, making and pouring lots of concrete, digging holes, and moving construction materials. Basically it’s the sweetest slave labor you will ever be subjected to.
- What tourism opportunities can we find?
- Most teams stay in El Salvador for about 7 days, giving them 1-2 non-working days. El Salvador has many fun tourism opportunities and/or relaxing activities in which your group can participate. Try to have some ideas of what your team may enjoy as some things (like surfing lessons) require some advance time to setup. Other things like volcanoes and parks can be more spontaneous and decided upon when your team arrives. Since you will be staying on the beach, most teams find it best to simply relax at home in the evenings after work days. Check out our tourism page for more details and ideas!
- Is it ok if nobody in my group speaks Spanish?
- While it is always helpful to have Spanish speakers on your team, it is not a necessity. Spanish skills on the worksite will always be beneficial but are never required because most of your instructions will come from English speaking staff. In other cases where Spanish speaking skills are necessary, translation services will almost always be available.
- Will there be opportunities for community interaction?
- While our work site is an active construction zone, it is also an active neighborhood with many families kids. Most of the time there will be a future home owner working on sweat equity hours working alongside your team.
- While some opportunities for interaction are provided (and kids are sure to follow you around), most interaction will require your initiative. Your group can plan activities with the community members or the kids or simply initiate casual conversations around the area. Even if you can’t speak the language, acknowledging community members with a smile or “Hola!” can go a long way in developing a relationship or making people feel special.
- Opportunities with other community organizations (local schools, churches, orphanages, etc.) can sometimes be arranged in advance if your group is interested.
Planning and Supplies
- Do you have a suggested packing list?
- Why yes, we do. Check out our suggested packing list. Please make sure everyone has sturdy work gloves suitable for concrete work and hand tools. Check out an example of the preferred type.
- What currency does El Salvador use?
- In 2001 El Salvador dropped its own currency, the Colón, and adopted the U.S. dollar instead. Lucky you!
- Will I need a power adapter?
- If you have U.S. electronics then no. El Salvador uses the same voltage as the United States although most outlets will not have the 3rd prong.
- What do I need to bring for bedding?
- You should count on bringing a set of sheets and a pillow for yourself. Most people won’t need blankets during most of the year as the coastal area is quite warm.
- What will the weather be like while we are there?
- Hot! Seriously, you can count on temperatures along the coast to be at least 80°F during the day. The San Luis Talpa project site might be the hottest place in El Salvador and you can count on day time temperatures in the mid-90′s. It’s generally pure hot, not so much humid like say an Ohio summer. However if you are in San Salvador or up any mountain area at night, or if you are riding in the back of a truck going uphill, it may get a little chilly so bring long sleeves or a sweatshirt.
- Can I bring things to donate to people El Salvador?
- If you can get it on a plane we can probably find someone who needs it. We have a relationship with a clinic near Villa Fuller and they always like receiving medicine and other supplies. We will also take any clothing, bed sheets, towels, etc. that you’d rather not take home, as long as they are still in decent condition. Other things are most likely welcome but feel free to ask.
Living and Getting Around
- Where will my team stay?
- Most teams will stay in a house either on or near the beach. Exactly which house depends on how many people you have and if other groups will be here at the same time. Don’t worry, you’ll like it. The homes have electricity, running water, showers, and internet access (Some services can be less reliable than in the United States so try to be understanding).
- How far away is my lodging from the work site?
- Check out this map to get a feel for the housing and work locations. If you’re staying in Playa Las Flores you will be about 35-40 minutes from the San Luis Talpa project. If you’re staying in El Zonte you will be about 1 hour from San Luis Talpa. However, we may do some work at other projects and you might not be staying in either of these locations but count on 30-60 minutes max.
- Is there a church we can attend while we are visiting El Salvador?
- Our staff regularly attends the Union Church of San Salvador and tries to bring any willing group there for Sunday worship. It is a non-denominational, internationally populated, English speaking service. We like it and you are welcome to join us there.
- What will be our method of in-country transportation?
- Assuming your team has at least 8 or so people, we will get you around in vans that seat about 15. This will include travel between the airport, your housing, the work site, and any tourism activities.
- Will I be able to contact family or friends in the United States while in El Salvador?
- We have, or can easily obtain, pre-paid Salvadoran cell phones for your team to communicate with our staff while in El Salvador. The cost of calls to the U.S. should be covered by each individual and are about $0.10/minute which is generally cheaper than obtaining an international plan for your U.S. cell phone. Internet service is provided at some of the housing locations.
- Will I get sick?
- Anything is possible. The best prevention is not to eat fruit unless you peel it, like a banana, and don’t drink the water, which you won’t. Make sure dishes you used are washed well. Most local foods are safe but if you have a light stomach don’t eat anything you find questionable. Even when being careful some people may have stomach problems but generally not for more than a day or so. If you do get sick stay out of the sun, get a lot of sleep, drink lots of clear fluids, the usual. We can get you some medications too if desired.
- Even if you are not normally susceptible to problems, different foods, weather, and hydration can all contribute to varies travel sicknesses. Take care when eating at local restaurants as the quality and preparation can not always be guaranteed.
- Are there medical facilities nearby?
- Most towns, including the San Luis Talpa area, have small clinics which can service minor issues and prescribe medicine if needed. There are better hospitals in the capital if anyone decides to have a really crazy adventure. The most important thing to do is to already know what medication you might need in a certain situation. In general we would rather know what we needed in terms of medication rather than to ask for an opinion. Make sure you bring whatever medications you already use or know you might need if possible.
All that and you still didn’t find the information you need? You’d better contact us!