Flights to and from the USA sell out quickly around Christmas and Easter, so book well in advance to avoid excessive costs.
La Costa del Bálsamo is as close to the airport as San Salvador, so it is easy to avoid the capital if you so desire.
Airports & Airlines
Departure tax is included in the price of tickets.
Unless you arrive by plane, you will already have the CA-4 visa when you arrive at an El Salvadoran border.
There are four border crossings from Guatemala: through San Cristóbal, from where buses run to Santa Ana, through Las Chinamas close to Ahuachapán, through La Hachadura, near the Pacific coast, and through Anguiatú near Metapán in the north.
Getting to Guatemala: Las Chinamas to Valle Nuevo
The Las Chinamas–Valle Nuevo border is open 24 hours but it’s best to cross in daylight. Buses leave Ahuachapán from Parque Menéndez every 15 minutes (US$0.50, 5am to 7:30pm) for the Guatemalan border. After crossing the border it's 300m to the bus stop for service to Guatemala City via Cuilapa. Tica bus passes every half-hour and is safer than 2nd-class service. The last bus from the border to Ahuachapán is at 5:45pm.
Getting to Guatemala: San Cristóbal to El Progreso
The San Cristóbal–El Progreso border is open 24 hours but you should cross during daylight hours. From Santa Ana, take bus 236 to San Cristóbal (US$0.50, one hour, every 20 minutes). Buses on the other side of the border go to El Progreso. The last bus back from San Cristóbal is at 6pm.
Getting to Guatemala: La Hachadura to Ciudad Pedro de Alvarado
The La Hachadura–Ciudad Pedro de Alvarado border is open 24 hours, but it’s best to cross in daylight. Bus 259 from Sonsonate (US$0.85, 1¾ hours) drops you right at the border; Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigration posts are at the far side of the complex. In Guatemala, the bus stop is 1km away; bicycle taxis cost US$0.50. Buses for Guatemala City leave every half-hour via Chiquimulilla and Escuintla. The last bus from La Hachadura to Sonsonate is at 6pm.
Getting to Guatemala: Anguiatú to Chiquimula
From Metapán, microbuses run every half-hour (40 minutes) to the Anguiatú–Chiquimula border (open 24 hours but more reliably from 6am to 7pm). On the Guatemalan side, buses run frequently to Chiquimula (one hour, last bus at 5:30pm) and onward to Guatemala City (three hours, last bus from Chiquimula at 3:30pm). This is the quickest route to Nueva Ocotopeque or Copán Ruínas, Honduras. In El Salvador, the last bus from the border to Metapán is at 6:30pm.
Getting to Honduras: El Poy to Nueva Ocotepeque
The bus from La Palma drops you about 100m from the El Salvador–Honduras border (open 24 hours) at El Poy, where you pay a US$3 administrative fee to enter Honduras. From El Poy, you can take a bus or colectivo (shared taxi) to Nueva Ocotepeque, Honduras. From there buses leave hourly for San Pedro Sula. For Copán Ruinas, transfer at La Entrada. The last bus to El Poy from La Palma (bus 119, US$0.50, 30 minutes) leaves at 7pm. The last bus south from El Poy to San Salvador leaves around 4pm.
Getting to Honduras: Santa Rosa de Lima to El Amatillo
From San Miguel's main bus terminal, bus 330 (US$2, one hour) via Santa Rosa de Lima drops you 50m from El Amatillo on the Salvadoran border. From here a bridge crosses into Honduras; you pay US$3 to enter. Honduran buses then go to Choluteca (1½ hours) and on to Tegucigalpa (3½ hours). The last bus from El Amatillo to San Miguel goes at 6:30pm.
From La Unión bus terminal, take bus 342 (US$1, one hour) to Santa Rosa de Lima and take the 330 bus from there.
Getting to Nicaragua
From El Amatillo in Honduras, microbuses run from 5:30am to 5pm across the southern tip of Honduras to the Nicaraguan border town of Guasaule (US$6 depending on number of passengers, two hours). Walk 200m for the connections which reach León and Managua.
Car & Motorcycle
If you drive into El Salvador, you must show a driver’s license (an international driving permit is accepted) and proof that you own the vehicle. You must also fill out extensive forms. Car insurance is available and advisable but not required. Vehicles may remain in El Salvador for 30 days. If you wish to stay longer, it’s best to leave the country and drive back in rather than attempt to deal with the Transport Ministry.
El Salvador shares the Golfo de Fonseca with Honduras and Nicaragua. Boats occasionally ferry passengers between La Unión (El Salvador), Coyolito, Amapala or San Lorenzo (Honduras), and Potosí (Nicaragua). Going by sea does not save time since there are no scheduled passenger boats and land crossings are relatively close.
La Tortuga Verde offers boat crossings from La Unión to Potosí (Nicaragua).