Splette's Travel Blog


This is one of those stories that make traveling fun. After over three weeks in Guatemala it was time for me to move on to El Salvador. I booked a Pullmantur bus to the capital San Salvador. The bus trip turned out to be surprisingly comfortable with a free meal, soft drinks, snacks, the obligatory Richard Gere movie (‘Hachi: A dog’s tale‘) and free WiFi throughout the entire trip, yeah! You have no idea how happy it makes me to be able to email and blog throughout my bus ride. Hours pass like minutes. And this trip took an hour more than expected. Or did I enter a new time zone? Around 8:30 pm we arrived in zona rosa of San Salvador. Nope, that’s not the gay area. But it is the safest zone in the city. That’s relevant when you realize that El Salvador is currently the country with the highest murder rate in the entire world, 80 times higher than Germany! So, unlike some other bus stations I had seen during my travels there was nothing to worry about right here in front of the Sheraton Hotel in zona rosa. A bunch of taxi drivers were awaiting us. I asked how much? ‘Five Dollars’ (by the way US dollars are the official currency in El Salvador). I had no idea what a realistic taxi fare would be but figured that down the street prices might be lower than here in front of the Sheraton. I said no and started walking away. The taxi drivers though managed to change my mind. Only 5 steps of walking and the fare had dropped to $3. Fine. My driver spoke no English but who cares. First, I had to withdraw some cash. When changing my Guatemalian Quetzales to Dollars at the border I got ripped off by about $10. During the bus trip I had looked up nearby ATMs of Scotiabank online and the closest was still too far to walk, so the cab had to get me there. The driver asked if he should wait and I said yes, because this place looked deserted and I didn’t see any other taxis around. I withdrew a few hundred Dollars (they are, without question, the most useful currency in Central America) and got back into the car. The driver was talking on the phone with someone. I asked the guy to bring me to my LonelyPlanet-guided choice of accommodation for tonight. He didn’t know of any ‘Casa Huéspedes de Australia’ though, so I gave him the address. We drove for about 5 min; the area looked dark and industrial, not very much like the neighborhood with restaurants, parks, and a major shopping center around which the hostel was supposed to be located. How strange… Then the driver indicated that he is going to take a shortcut – at least that is what I understood from his Spanish-speaking and hand-waving – and turned into a small and pitchblack side street. Oh no, that couldn’t possibly be the shortest way to the hostel. I had studied the map and the hostel is very close to a big boulevard. That was the moment when I got a little nervous.
The driver knew it’s my first time in town, I don’t speak much Spanish, it’s dark and I had just withdrew a large amount of cash. Not good. Two minutes later (I am still alive by the way) we stop at a tiny run-down hotel which the driver presents me as the place I wanted to go. Only, that is wasn’t. This was not ‘Casa Huéspedes de Australia’, the ‘popular hostel in a relaxed and convenient neighborhood’ as LonelyPlanet advertised it. It looked more like ‘The Shag Palace’ in the industrial zone of the city where truck drivers have three-hour naps with their hookers. All I see around are gas stations. Not a single residential building. Upset about the incompetence of my driver, I tell him the street name again and he keeps driving. I have the bright idea to ask him to call the phone number that my guidebook provides of that place. This should solve the problem, right? He calls. Apparently, there was lots of confusion and misunderstanding between him and the person on the other end but I didn’t understand why. He turns the car around and drives me to the exact some place again: ‘Hotel Pasadena I’. WTF. He indicates the number on the house and guess what, the address is correct: Blvd Venezuela 3093. Perhaps the owner changed since my edition of LonelyPlanet was printed? I couldn’t care less. After all, I got a place to stay and I am still alive! The twenty-something guy at the reception unlocks the barred front door to let me in. The hotel seems completely dead. Am I the only guest? No other mochileros (backpackers). No dorm rooms. And with only $10 my single room is surprisingly cheap. ‘Precios economicos‘ (low prices) is printed on the business card of this place that I snatch from the counter.

Cheap hotel room in SanSalvador

Cheap hotel room in SanSalvador

I ask for WiFi but of course there isn’t any. Once in my room which is very basic but seems clean I look up this place on the map. Surprise. Indeed, I am at the address given by my guidebook. But it’s not the lively, convenient neighborhood and this isn’t – and never was – ‘Casa Huéspedes de Australia’. LonelyPlanet fucked up. The address and phone number they provide belongs to the wrong place. Oh dear, too late now. I bravely accept my fate and try to make the best out of it. Hungry as I am, I asked reception boy ‘Puede recommendar un bar o restaurante?‘. I am not exactly surprised when he shakes his head. No place to eat or drink around here. I glimpse a Shell gas station down the street and decide to walk over there. I wear my black shirt with a gun printed on it just to be on the safe side. They must have some food, right? Damn, the ice cream container was locked (seriously, who steals ice cream?) but they sell hot dogs, yeah. Possibly the best gas-station hot dog I ever had in Central America this year. I also get a sixpack of beer and some Coke Zeros. Back at the (wannabe-)hotel I offer reception boy a beer. He gladly accepts. Since he doesn’t speak English and the hostel is dead, I decide to take advantage of the situation – and practise my ‘un poquito‘ (= non-existing) Spanish. I realize that knowing only one out of three vocabulary in a sentence doesn’t exactly make for a great conversation. I learn that his name is Raul and that I am not the only guest in the hostel. But that’s about it. Back in my (internet-free) room I watch some dramatic telenovela on TV to further practice my language skills and realize I got another traveller’s diarrhea. Without the puking part it’s so much more enjoyable though. Oh, and stuck here I got a lot of time tonight, which I am going to use to write long blog posts such as this one.

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  • Comment by Jose C. — July 21, 2011 @ 2:34 am

    A good story, with a lot of tension and unexpected ending. I’m back from Thailand. About your diarrhea, ¿have you thought it could be the beer?

  • Comment by Splette — July 21, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

    Thanks Jose!
    When I got the time I invest more time in my writing.
    Diarrhea once every three weeks is acceptable. I don’t think it’s from the canned Heineken 🙂
    How was Thailand?

  • Comment by Jose C. — July 21, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

    Thailand? Well I still don’t believe what I saw. I have to reflect upon it to give some coherent opinion.
    I use to have diarrhea when I drink a number of beers. Even the good brands. That’s why I said…

  • Comment by Splette — July 22, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

    Haha, now I am wondering what you saw 🙂

    Ah okay, for me beer hasn’t been a problem for that. It’s like the thing with milk. Many Asians get diarrhea when they drink it but us Europeans have been adapting to it for thousands of years, so no problem. Same with Germans and beer… 🙂

  • Comment by Mel — August 18, 2013 @ 2:42 am

    Thank you for this. I just got to San Salvador and feel stranded. I just came off the high of amazing Guatemala and El Sunzal and I come here. Ugh. I thought I was the only one here in my “hostel” and even the pupusa girl was rude. I speak some Spanish but everyone here looks at me like I am speaking French. I know this post is old but it was much needed. Thanks.

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