San Salvador, El Salvador Report of what it's like to live there - 11/22/17
Personal Experiences from San Salvador, El Salvador
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This is not my first post.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Florida. Two hours from Miami.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Houses with a few apartments. Housing is less than a mile from the US embassy. Comfortable homes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
We have Pricemart (like Costco). You can find pretty much everything. Just bring special spices etc.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Spices, clothing for adults and kids. Take advantage of your trips to the US to buy clothes.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are many typical restaurants. Pizzas, burgers etc. will deliver.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
A few ants.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Diplomatic pouch is reliable and quick.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
$200 per month for a live-in maid.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The US embassy has a great gym, pool, running track, soccer field with personal trainers etc. We also do the FUSE program where you can take one hour to workout at the gym. Great idea for everyone to imitate.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Yes and we have a tax-exempt card for the vendor to deduct your taxes at the till.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Should speak some basic Spanish.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, third world construction.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
We have Uber and taxis, stay away from the buses.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
High clearance vehicle. The roads are OK in El Salvador but in bad shape in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, up to 200 Mbps.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
The US embassy provides all US employees with iPhones. For family members we have a few options, TIGO, CLARO, others.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Yes, plenty of dogs at the embassy.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
None at the moment with the US embassy. A few are teaching but salaries are extremely low.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Being in the wrong area at the wrong time can be extremely dangerous. The area where we spend out days is very safe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Air quality is not great.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Sugar cane burning season could create some respiratory issues. This is not India or China but is not Miami either.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Think Miami weather.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Many options: the community pretty much goes to the American school or the Britanica. Britanica appears to be the choice for lower grades and American for upper.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
The American school apparently has a program and we have a full-time medical officer at post to assist.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes, many have nannies at home for kids under three years old.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, plenty at school or outside.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large and growing. Morale is high, it's a great place to work, and a great team at post at least until 2020. Many extend their tours a few months after arriving.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Parties, clubs, restaurants, beach houses, lake houses.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families, it is becoming a family post, not much to do for singles or couples without kids.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Local are very traditional and extremely religious people but they do not confront you. Just respect the culture and try not to hold hands or kiss in public.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Surfing world-class waves, traveling around the region, short trips to the US, hiking volcanoes, great people.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Surfing, hiking, weekends at the beach or lake, travel.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
A few; the quality is not great and expensive at times for the location and quality.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You can save money, it's a good family post, you can have help at home, etc.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Beach gear, suntan lotions and surf boards.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Do you have any other comments?
If you have kids come in a heartbeat. There is an excellent CLO, good community, plenty of events, etc.