Cycling in El Salvador

When in El Salvador, you really appreciate the frequent train services from London Euston to Birmingham New Street.

Using my best Spanish I enquired about a similar journey in El Salvador:

“Hay un autobus para ir a Sonsonate?”

Turns out a journey 1/4 of the length, is going to take the same amount of time. Also, I’ve got a plethora of options.

I can either catch the 6am bus or the 2pm bus.

Needless to say, with such excellent transport options, the bicycle reigns supreme in El Salvador.

Inside view from a car showing road ahead with two cyclists

On the route from the airport, the road is wide enough to accommodate a lane of cars and a separate lane for bicycles, pedestrians and cows.

That’s good, as drivers here redefine reckless.

On a stretch of the road with a road side fire bellowing smoke and completely obstructing the view ahead, our driver decided this would be a great time to overtake. Speeding in to white smoke, with total blindness as to what might be coming on the other side of the road.

If I was a cat, I would have just lost one of my nine lives.

A woman sells clothes next to a bicycle which is for sale

Bicycles here are utility vehicles. These rusty old machines transport wood, families and animals.

A sign next to a taco stand advertised a Raleigh mountain bike for 220 US dollars. Enquiries were frequent.

Locals were busy lifting the bike to see how heavy it felt and commenting on the racks on the front and rear.

Whoever eventually buys it, I’m certain their first accessory purchase will be an old style bike horn. In El Salvador you awake to the sound of bike horns. El Salvadorians use them liberally.

Cyclist rides past in El Salvador

Is El Salvador a good place to cycle?

That depends on your answer to the below questions..

When are you going to visit?

Is it during the rainy season or during the dry season? Pick your time carefully to avoid the most extreme of the weather.

Are you fit enough to travel uphill?

El Salvador is very mountainous. Even if you follow a coastal route, you’ll still be travelling uphill much of the time. Of course, that makes the downhill time all the more enjoyable but be prepared for a tough ride.

Keep your eye out for the teenagers on single speed BMX bikes heading up steep hills. It’ll make your knees wince in pain!

Are you okay with cycling near heavy lorries?

Cars and trucks drive fast here. There’s not many cars but there’s plenty of trucks transporting goods around the country. They travel at high speeds and are not a pleasure to be around.

In many locations the road is wide enough so that you don’t have to be that near to them.

Most of the routes are well paved so you can use a road bike or a touring bike.

Do you enjoy camping?

A lot of places in El Salvador will offer you a spot to camp. It’s also incredibly inexpensive here. A private room in a nice hostel will set you back $25 per night. If you want to sleep in a dorm room you can generally find them for $10-$15.

Can I just rent a bike?

There’s not really much of a mountain biking scene here in El Salvador and I’ve yet to spot a bike rental place.

From volcanoes to empty coves

There’s a lot to love about this little corner of the world. The dramatic landscape offers up volcanoes next to fields of sugar cane the one day and deserted coves the next.

This is a less travelled route so expect to have to use basic Spanish to get by. The rewards are many, as the locals are very friendly to talk to and will quickly open up with a smile and a little Spanish.

El Salvador is also the perfect place to take some time out of the saddle and go hiking or surfing. There are plenty of mountainous routes to explore, taking you via waterfalls and up in to the clouds.

Anyway, I’ve got to scoot, time to get back to my hammock!

Taking it easy on a hammock in juayua

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4 Responses to Cycling in El Salvador

  1. SteveP 19/04/2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Whoopsie – “the bicycle rains supreme”? Well, I don’t want to reign on your parade, but…

  2. Neil S. 21/04/2013 at 8:41 pm #

    “drivers here redefine reckless” holy cow do they ever! The bicycle really is the work horse of their culture but I felt very uncomfortable riding one near any other human beings – crazy scary accidents waiting to happen. Go BMX and stay off road.

    • Andreas 22/04/2013 at 11:25 pm #

      Agreed Neil – saw a few cyclists doing a bike tour here – must say I didn’t envy them!

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