Updated in 2021! Recently we reached out to friends backpacking in El Salvador to confirm that this journey is still up to date and running. And it is! We always want to provide current information, so if you’re taking the trip please continue to leave comments if anything changes. Gracias!
Traveling to El Salvador? Looking for a Guatemala to El Salvador bus that’s cheap? Here’s the perfect solution! Find out how to do it for $10 instead of $30. Cheap, authentic and adventure all rolled into one, and at a third of the price.
When you start off chances are you’re departing from Lago Atitlan, because it’s amazing, a central location and everybody stops past it. You don’t want to pay $30 to take a shuttle, we don’t blame you, every dollar counts when you’re backpacking! If you wanna get to El Salvador on the cheap there’s no need to head back to Antigua to find a connection, or even brave Guatemala City for buses. Follow this easy step by step guide and you’ll be eating delicious El Salvadorian pupusas in no time. Also, if you need an El Salvador to Guatemala bus, just reverse the steps. It’s that easy.
Click on the photos to find more helpful El Salvador travel articles!
San Pedro, Lago Atitlan to Cocales
From San Pedro in Lago Atitlan it’s an early start. You”ll need to leave at 5am from up at the central Catholic church. It’s still dark when you get up there, but the market people are already starting to set up, so it’s safe to walk around. Grab a couple of things for the breakfast trip. 1Hr – 10Quetzales – $1.25
Cocales to Escuintla
In Cocales the bus drops you off at the change over intersection, so you won’t need to lug your bags around too far. Just make sure you tell the driver where you want to go. At the intersection there are also some cheap meals (15-20Q) on the side of the highway if you want a bit more of a breakfast. 2Hrs – 20Q – $2.50
Escuintla, Guatemala to the El Salvador Border (la frontera de El Salvador)
This bus will literally take you to the border of El Salvador. Esquintla isn’t the safest place, so don’t go wandering off. The transfer is really close, despite what the taxi drivers will tell you, so just ask a police officer or an elderly for some advice, they’re usually pretty trusting. 2Hrs – 40Q – $4.50
Walk to the El Salvador Border Crossing
Get off at the small border town, walk across and disregard the peddle tricycles that tell you it’s too far to walk. There’s something rustic and authentic about crossing a foreign border by foot, be sure to enjoy it.
Entry into El Salvador from Guatemala
This will be swift. You won’t get an entry stamp (sorry passport), and they’ll just let you in based on how many days you have left from your last C4 entry stamp. 30Mins – Free
Welcome to El Salvador!
First point of call, lunch. If it’s your first time in the country be sure to stop for some pupusas. They’re a national dish and absolutely delicious. Cheese, beans, meat or a combination of all stuffed into a ball of corn masa, flattened out and then fried on a hot plate. Served with a shredded cabbage side and hot sauce. At 35c a pop you can’t go wrong. Grab a few and kick back for half an hour. 30Mins – $1 for 3 (El Sal uses American dollars in case you’re not aware).
El Salvador Border to Sonsonate or Acajutla
Walk a few minutes past the border and you’ll hit a local chicken bus depot. Don’t hang out there for too long, as you always seem to find the dodgiest looking characters at the border. 90c will get you to Sonsonate. If you’re headed to La Libertad you can try and get a bus to Acajutla for around 70-80c, then find a connection. If you’re going to Sonsonate you can easily organise buses to Juaya, Santa Ana or San Salvador. 1 1/2hr – 90c
Sonsonate to Juayua
For us it was off to Juayua, just in time for their famous food festival that happens every weekend. This festival should not be missed if you’re in the area! Prepare to stuff your face full of delicious El Salvadorian food, which you don’t hear a lot about, but is really really good. 1Hr – 50c
Other Things to Do in El Salvador
The country is well known for the famous surf beaches, but El Salvador beaches are also top quality. Check out this El Tunco vs. El Cuco write up to see a couple of the best beaches in El Salvador on offer, or maybe just a beautiful photo gallery of the beaches, to help convince you more!
Other activities in El Salvador include the bustling capital San Salvador for the perfect combination of history, culture and relaxation, or taking a hike up Santa Ana, the highest and most active volcano in El Salvador to see the turquoise crater lake.
So there you have it. Skip the $30 shuttle to El Salvador and take a cheaper route and more exciting one. San Pedro will feel like a world away after 8 1/2 hours of travel (with waiting time it’s probably more like 10-11 hours) and you’ll spend less than $10. That means an extra $20 towards some hard earned beers!