San Salvador, El Salvador Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from San Salvador, El Salvador

San Salvador, El Salvador 06/05/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

We have been to several posts including Mexico, Guatemala, Spain, London, and Jerusalem.

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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?

New York. There are direct flights on Avianca to NYC about 5 hours. Also 2.5 hours to Miami. DC is longer as there are no direct flights.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most folks live in houses near the embassy in the Cumbres area or outside of it. There are a couple other apartment options near the Multiplaza mall or in San Benito/Zona rosa. That involves a bit of traffic depending on the time of day. Sometimes it can take less than 10 minutes or during rush hour it can be 20. However, San Benito has lots of the best restaurants/bars/museums in El Salvador that you can walk to so that could be worth it.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries readily available for decent prices at Pricesmart (Costco) and at Super Selectos the supermarket chain. The latter offers imported American stuff at highish prices. Also, the Green Corner is an organic supermarket in San Benito area

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I order ethnic stuff like Indian curry pastes online as there is only one Indian restaurant here. Also, specialty flours are hard to find at a decent price. I also order non-sugary cereals. The embassy commissary gets in some of the above a few times a year.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are various restaurants in strip malls near the embassy to include Smash Burger, Koi sushi, and all the fast food chains. There is also pizza delivery. The better restaurants are in Zona/Rosa/San Benito areas.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants, gekkos, and mosquitos.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and pouch. The facilities and staff are very good.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Daily housekeepers cost about US$20 per day for maids who have been vetted. Gardeners are a staple at most houses and some have live-ins and nannies, too.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The embassy has a small gym and a running track. There is a Pilates type studio close to embassy. Zumba and yoga are offered at the embassy and nearby.

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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, yes and yes.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Various. I believe there are Catholic, Mormon, and non -denominational.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Some Spanish is a necessity in most situations. Tutors are available through the embassy, schools, and locally.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Getting around the neighborhoods may be tricky if a person is not very mobile. Our relative visited in a wheelchair twice and we made it work but some roads and sidewalks are in bad shape so it was challenging in areas.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Only taxis and Uber are used.

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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?

Folks have SUVs, small cars, trucks etc. It's a mixed bag w/ no reports (that I've heard) of carjacking. I have heard of a couple of tires being stolen off the back of SUVs.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, and not sure how long it takes.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local providers are Claro, TIGO etc who come to embassy weekly to help embassy folks. Very convenient.

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Pets:

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 lots of vets and animals at post. No quarantine. Just be careful about shipping animals during the summer heat embargoes.

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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?

Some telecommute, lots of EFMS work at post, and a couple do fitness training, etc.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots. The embassy global employee specialist can offer more info.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business attire. Casual on weekends and at the beach. Depending on your position at post could attend various receptions which are business/cocktail attire. Also at least one ball/formal event. You could attend more if you're involved w/ the military or local diplo community.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. It is rated a critical threat crime post, but rarely have there been any problems for embassy community. I heard of one guy who was robbed while he walked down the street. I also heard of another who was hiking and got his phone ripped off. The embassy guards patrol the housing areas constantly. We are told about areas we cannot go, but it does not affect our life at post.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The embassy has a good health unit. The hospital is in San Benito and is very good.

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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?

Air quality is okay. There seem to be a lot of cars with some bad exhaust issues but it doesn't seem to effect many people that I've heard, as no one lives downtown. Rainy season hits in May/June for a few months and clears out the air pollution. Best to ask health unit if breathing problems are an issue.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Sunny all the time and even during rainy season it peaks out for half the day.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Warm and sunny most of the year. Rarely cold. Wet season is May/June for a few months, but the rain usually hits later in afternoon. We can still go to beach without issues.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Post has an American School, British school, French, German and a couple of others. Post has kids at all of the above with most attending the British and the American. We chose the British school (ABC) for our kids because it had a more academic reputation offering the IGSCE and IB programs, both highly respected globally. The middle school/secondary (6th grade up) offers electives (French, drama, etc.) as well and the curriculum is very student-friendly and hands on. Also, the school was extremely supportive and accommodating for transferring students as my son was in the middle of a 2 year IGSCE program. We didn't feel the American school was trying to work with us and our individual situation.

Another thing we also really like about ABC is that they do a lot of performing arts, drama and music and film, digital video awards etc. which seems to be lacking at the other schools (according to friends). They also have Model UN, Steam, a week of work internship for 9th graders, Habitat for Humanity, and global trips. ABC has a swimming pool and offers various sports, BB, soccer, archery, track, etc. The American school has a more impressive track field but ABC uses it for meets. New folks should really check out all options and chat with the principals, etc., and take the kids for a tour. See which school gives you the best vibe and fit for your child. Don't assume you'll want to be in the same system as your last post as you may be surprised and have to switch later on as a couple families have done.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Both EA and ABC offer help for special needs. Best to discuss specifics with the school when you contact them.

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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?

There are a few offerings round town including ABC, and ACTON, (maybe EA? ) and some local options. Lots of embassy littles go to ABC and Acton is a new option for some.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, lost of options, surfing, gymnastics, karate, dance yoga, soccer, flag football, ultimate frisbee, rugby, etc.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The expat community is not so big. There are various embassies so you can get to know the folks at the Canadian, Spanish, Brit, French, and Columbian embassies. However, there are usually just a few people at each of their embassies. You can meet some of the expat parents at the schools (especially Brit, French and German schools) but this post doesn't attract a huge expat community like other places.

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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?

Besides meeting lots of Salvadorians at the embassy, you can meet folks at various other places. The beach is great if you surf or you can join the beach club. There are also churches, a local football club, and ultimate frisbee is usually played at embassy. The British school has a lot of the teachers playing, local bars, or clubs, etc.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great place for all types.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I believe so.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The beaches are our favorite, especially the surf beaches, and the volcanoes and lakes are lovely.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Some nice museums, a few quaint towns, some very good restaurants, and great beaches.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There are good wooden furniture and handicrafts, ceramics to be found up near Ataco and on road to beach, some artisan stuff as well and some very good artists can be found in San Salvador and in Ataco and Suchitoto.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Everything is fairly close to each other and you can find just about everything you need or like. ANd it's close to the beach or lakes or volcanoes. Something for everyone. And you can fly out to Nica, Costa rico, Mexico or Miami in a few hours. And can drive to Guate in 4 hours!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That driving would be so crazy to me. I hate it and use taxis all the time, but I have friends who drive all the time.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, surfboard, and umbrella for the rainy season.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Just some guidebooks and a bird book.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

In my opinion, it's not dangerous like some think. Housing is nice. Good food is easy to find. Local breweries, good coffee. Cheap help. Great embassy compound.

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San Salvador, El Salvador 03/15/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, this is our second post with the US government; we previously served in Lima. I have also lived in Asia and New Zealand.

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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?

There are direct flights to LA and NYC (5 hours). Miami and Houston are about 2.5 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years with one year left.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Amazing. Houses are huge, with tons of natural light. We have a small yard, but most embassy houses have large yards with fruit trees. Housing is generally great and people seem happy. It is a 15 minute walk to the Embassy.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get pretty much anything here, except organic specialty items. PriceSmart (similar to Costco) has most items you would want from the US, and local fruit and vegetable markets have a wide array of produce for very little. We also have a fruit/vegetable delivery truck that comes to our house once a week, as well as a guy who delivers fresh fish, and someone who delivers fresh milk.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Anything you can't find locally (specialty baking supplies, organic dry goods) you can order on Amazon. Maybe more food from Trader Joes?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Pupusas are delicious, plenty of American chain restaurants, as well as sushi, Indian and Chinese. We eat out much less than in our previous post, because the food scene is nothing spectacular.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

An occasional cockroach, but the embassy pest control has taken care of those pretty quickly. I have heard of people spotting iguanas or snakes in their yards but we haven't had that happen.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We have a live-in empleada, a day maid, a gardener, and a driver. Depending on experience, wages are usually $15-$20/day.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Pilates, Golds, climbing gyms, yoga studios, Crossfit, etc. The cost is less than in the US.

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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. We have had no problems.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are English language churches (Catholic, I think), but not many.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

There is a lot of English, but quality of life improves with Spanish. The embassy offers classes twice a week and there are also classes at UCA.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Easier than other cities I have lived in, because you do drive most places and if you don't drive its relatively easy to hire a driver. There are also plenty of caregivers.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are safe and cheap if you use an embassy company. Local buses are not recommended.

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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?

Definitely bring a 4x4 if you expect to travel. Some of our favorite places in this country are only accessible by four wheel drive.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, an internet connection is available. We switched from Tigo to Japi, although haven't noticed much difference in speed.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone, as iPhones are expensive here. If you are working for the embassy they will provide you with a phone. We use a local provider.

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Pets:

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?

We don't have pets, but most people do and seem happy with the options.

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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?

Most spouses work at the embassy or telework.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes, plenty of need for volunteers in El Salvador.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

The tropical climate means relatively casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, gang violence is a problem and you need to be aware of where you are driving. That said, we have traveled all over the country by car and have rarely felt unsafe. However, you will see plenty of armed guards which unfortunately becomes part of life here.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Zika and other mosquito born illness, although this hasn't been a problem for us.

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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?

Great air quality, perfect weather.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There can be mold in the houses (we haven't had a problem), allergies from pollen (lots of green spaces, lush surrounding).

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

I am not aware of any issues.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Perfect climate. Sun year round, cool breezes in San Salvador (hotter by the beach). July-September is rainy season, but rain rarely disrupts activities during the day. Wonderful downpour starting at 4-5pm and lasting throughout the night.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Our kids go to the British school, which is wonderful. Reggio Emilio inspired model through fifth grade, at which point they transition to the British model. People also like the American, French, and German schools. For an alternative educational system, Acton academy is close to embassy housing. It has a Montessori school up to age 5/6 at which point kids transition to Acton, which goes up to middle school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not great support, which seems to be standard for the FS.

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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?

Plenty of preschools--two Montessori preschools (including Acton) are a 5 min drive from the embassy. There is a Waldorf preschool about a 20 mins drive, and another Montessori and Reggio Emilia 30 mins away.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Plenty. My kids have taken ballet, dance, gymnastics, karate, swimming and tennis.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small expat community, mostly Americans. Close-knit embassy community with tons of activities. Relatively easy to make friends outside the embassy.

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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?

Most of our social circles outside the embassy come through our kids' schools.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

San Salvador is not a very interesting city. It has been great for us (we have small kids, but not babies) because of the amazing options for travel outside the city. We go to the beach a lot, the crater lakes are spectacular, and hiking the volcano is unforgettable.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There is an LGBT scene, but I don't have any experience with it.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I haven't experienced any, but it is a very Catholic country so their are religious prejudices.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The amazing beaches (and beach houses), surfing, fishing, the lakes, the awesome group of friends we have, regional travel to Guatemala and Nicaragua, the schools, the volcanoes, the people--I am already having anxiety about leaving and it's still a year away.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Rent a house at lago de coatepeque, a crater lake surrounded by dramatic volcanoes. Stay on Isla Teopan in the middle of the crater lake. Visit remote beaches like la Barra de Santiago, where you can kayak, fish, enjoy beach bonfires. Climb Santa Ana volcano. Whitewater rafting near Metapan. Surfing near El Zonte/Tunco.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Hammocks, tie dye. For better shopping, head to Antigua in Guatemala.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Good schools, great weather, access to amazing travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How much I would fall in love with this place. How kind Salvadorans are.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely, I hope to come back.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, bathing suits.

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San Salvador, El Salvador 01/25/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

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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?

Midwest. There are no direct flights with any of the American carriers, so the flight home with a connection in Atlanta, Houston, or Miami is about 8 hours. Avianca has a direct flight to Chicago though, so for non-US government travel, it’s very helpful.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The majority of houses are in gated subdivisions within a 5-minute drive to the US embassy. Some houses are near these subdivisions, but not within the gates. Another subdivision is about 15 minutes away. Houses are spacious and comfortable with backyards, some are brand new and have never been lived in before. Of course there are odd layouts (2nd floor living rooms) and most do not have bathtubs, which is annoying with small children, but this can be solved by using a toddler tub or teaching them to be comfortable in the shower.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get almost everything you need here in terms of groceries. There is a Pricesmart (same thing as Costco, even sells Kirkland branded items) two minutes away from the main neighborhood. Super Selectos is the grocery store near the embassy and they even have an “international” section. There are also other Selectos around town with even more variety. There is an organic produce truck that comes through the neighborhood once a week, and many people buy from him. Prices aren’t that far off from DC. The embassy also has a commissary that sells hard to find American products. Things people buy off Amazon: cake frosting other than vanilla or chocolate, Jet Dry dishwasher liquid, Bissell carpet cleaning solution.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I recommend shipping a Rubbermaid “reveal” mop. All houses are 100% tile floors and it will make your life and/or your housekeeper’s life easier.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are many American fast food and chain restaurants here. McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Dominos, Smashburger, Taco Bell, KFC, Olive Garden, Chili’s, Tony Roma’s. Every restaurant delivers, yes even McDonalds.



There are lots of steak houses, sandwich shops, cafes, Italian, Mexican, Seafood, Chinese, etc. You won’t go hungry, but there is nothing I would describe as amazingly delicious, when compared to a foodie city in the US.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We get ants occassionally, but nothing that ant traps can’t handle.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic post office and pouch for Embassy employees. There is a DHL and a UPS in town.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Whether you choose a live-in employee or a live-out employee, household help is plentiful. The majority do not speak English. Going rate for an "empleada" is between $15-$20 a day. Most people also hire a gardener to come once a week, or once every other week.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a decent gym at the Embassy and several fitness/sports classes are offered: yoga, aerobics, Pilates, swimming, tennis. There’s also a basketball court, soccer field, and paved walking/running track. I have heard of a few people using the local Gold’s Gym, which is nearby.

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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?

Credit cards are fine to use at most major retailers. They will bring the credit machine to the table and do the transaction in front of you. Most smaller businesses prefer cash. There is an ATM at the Embassy. Also, I’ve used the Scotiabank ATM down the street with zero issues.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I have gotten by just fine with my Spanglish. I took entry level Spanish lessons, but I actually learn more through day to day living. The locals are very forgiving as long as you are attempting to speak it and are polite. There are lessons at the embassy and at the local college.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses, no. Dispatch at the Embassy can call a taxi for you, and that’s your safest bet. Uber is now in full swing here, and it is approved to use.

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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?

I would not bring a brand new car here. It’s inevitable you will get into an accident, or someone will scratch up/dent your car. People bring all kinds of cars here, but according to our mechanic, it’s easiest to get Toyota parts locally. I think having 4x4 is helpful during rainy season, and also for driving up the volcano, or taking a road trip to the beach.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes high-speed internet is available. Most people choose Tigo or Japi for their internet service. Your sponsor can make an appointment for it to be setup when you arrive. Both companies have outages occasionally, but I rarely have problems streaming Netflix to the TV. As a side note, Tigo hardly has any English speaking channels (CNN, Fox News, HGTV, Food Network). We pay for USTVNOW to get American television.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked GSM phone. The mobile phone service representatives come to the embassy cafeteria once or twice a week so that you can pay your bill or setup service. Although, I actually recommend paying for Tigo at one of their stores in the mall. I’ve had too many issues where the rep at the embassy did not credit my account in the system until days later, and I had to go without service.

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Pets:

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 there are many veterinarians available, and it is very affordable. A rabies shot is $15. Most will come directly to your house for routine vaccinations or dog grooming. It is not uncommon to hire a dog walker, or have your empleada walk your dog. It seems to be a very pet friendly society with several pet supply stores. There is no quarantine needed, and no USDA stamp needed, just the APHIS form done by your veterinarian.

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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?

There are several EFM jobs at the embassy and they all require at least a basic level of Spanish. Some people teach at the local schools, some telecommute. Local pay is very low.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Same as DC, a mix of suits and business casual. Formal dress is needed for the Marine ball.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, gang activity does exist, but for the most part it does not affect the day to day lives of USG employees. Take the same precautions you would in any major city.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Zika, Chikungunyna.



The medical care locally is ok in my opinion, but not up to US standards. I have been in some situations at the local hospital that were questionable, but nothing life threatening. Many people have dental/orthodontic work done here very reasonably priced, and with good results. I’ve also known people to have a good experience with dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons.

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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?

It’s good. Some people complain during sugar cane burning season, but it doesn’t bother the majority of people.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Beautiful tropical climate. Rainy season comes in the summer through the fall, but it usually only rains for a couple of hours and then stops.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Plenty of school options: American School, British School, German School, and French School. I’d say most families are split between the British and American schools, with more kids at the British.

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2. 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?

There are several preschool options: Casa de Los Ninos, Acton Montessori, Arbol de Dios, and a Waldorf school (but this is a lengthy commute for most families).

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Swimming, dance, gymnastics, tennis, karate, piano, and I’m sure there are more that I don’t know about.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There are a good number of expats in El Salvador, embassy and non-embassy related. I would say morale is high, especially among families.

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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?

There are tons of sponsored activities like trivia night, teen night, monthly playgroup, an embassy camp out, farmer’s markets/local vendors/food trucks on site once a month, day trips to the city and other cultural sites, book club, cooking classes, art nights, and so much more I can’t think of at the moment. People do a lot of entertaining at home, since we have nice backyards for grilling, etc. There are also opportunities to go out to dinner, movies, events at CIFCO, school related performances, beach club, and country club.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think it is good for everyone. There is a good community here with lots of activities for families, enough to keep kids and parents entertained. Singles and couple will have the freedom to do a lot of inter-country and regional travel.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It’s a conservative country overall, but I have seen LGBT in public places showing affection, so it’s not unheard of, but usually only in more progressive or expat owned businesses.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I’ve really enjoyed the amount of beach time I’ve gotten to spend here.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Rent a beach house with friends or family. You can go all out and rent something fancy, or go more local and laidback and rent the bare minimum. Either way, it’s a good time. Visit some of the restaurants on the volcano, they have amazing views of the city.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There’s some artwork and furniture to buy, but nothing for which I would go out of my way.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Short commute time to work, and being able to have a lot of the comforts of the US available locally.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, in a heartbeat.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Snow boots.

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3. But don't forget your:

Beach chair, sunscreen, bug spray, and sun hat.

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San Salvador, El Salvador 11/22/17

Background:

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.

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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.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

A few ants.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch is reliable and quick.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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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.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, third world construction.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We have Uber and taxis, stay away from the buses.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pets:

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.

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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.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, plenty at school or outside.

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Expat Life:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter gear.

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4. But don't forget your:

Beach gear, suntan lotions and surf boards.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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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.

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San Salvador, El Salvador 07/14/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, we have lived in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

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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?

El Salvador is a regional travel hub so there are a lot of direct flights to the United States. United, Delta and American Airlines all fly here, but the real advantage is Avianca (when not flying for the USG) with over 10 direct flights to the U.S. For whatever reason, however, El Salvador tends to be the most expensive country in Central America to fly to...

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Almost all families are housed in a gated community very close to the Embassy (less than a mile away). There are some in another complex about 15 minutes away and others in apartments in a different part of the city. The traffic can be bad at weird times, but overall this has been a "traffic lite" post for us. The housing tends to be very nice for whatever family size/rank applies to you.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The grocery options here are amazing! After serving in many hardship posts, we were delighted the first time we went to the grocery store, which is well stocked with many of our comfort foods. There's also a PriceSmart, a subsidiary of Costco, where you can buy much -- but certainly not all -- of the selection in the U.S. By far, this has been our easiest post in terms of groceries.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Lite microwave popcorn, sourdough pretzels and tampons.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Though the grocery shopping options are great, the restaurants are sadly lacking. Most of the food is "just okay," which takes the pleasure out of going out. There are some upscale restaurants with pleasant ambiance, but the food is just bland or not cooked well.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Yes -- this is mainly due to the rainy/dry seasons (see below)

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through the Embassy mail facilities.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

This price varies a lot. Depending on the overtime, we tend to pay our live-in around $125/week for work from Monday morning through Saturday morning. Salvadorans pay a lot less and demand much more in terms of working hours.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Embassy has amazing facilities: a pool, tennis courts, a decent gym, a jogging loop, soccer field, etc. There are cross fit and pilates studios nearby too. There are groups of cyclists and runners to join. Given the security situation, it's not advisable to do these activities on your own.

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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?

My credit card was compromised several times so I stopped using it. There's an ATM at the Embassy but I'd be careful of using one outside.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There's an English Catholic mass and English Mormon services.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Many Salvadorans speak good English. That said, among themselves the conversation is always Spanish. Local classes are available. I couldn't imagine living here without at least some conversational Spanish.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably, but since you can't use public transportation or walk around, the difficulties are probably limited.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

U.S. Embassy personnel are not permitted to use public transportation. There's a taxi company, Acacya, that's reliable. The commissary also has transportation options for larger groups.

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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?

Anything works, but it's a hilly country so make sure your car can do hills/mountains!

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, they can often install it prior to arrival. The quality can be spotty so many people change it after they arrive.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local provider.

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Pets:

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?

Good vets and kennel services.

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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?

Most spouses keep their jobs (i.e. telecommute), work in the Embassy or teach. The local salaries would be far below what someone from the U.S. would expect.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes, plenty...

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Salvadorans tend to be more formal. Then again, the richest often dress down and the country's most powerful men wear guayabera shirts.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. It's mostly gang-related and USG personnel are not targeted, but a lot of "random" crime does affect us. Plus, it affects our Embassy colleagues, our domestic staff, and more. This is not a post where you can walk around or just spontaneously explore -- much has to be planned.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Zika, chickungunya and dengue are increasing concerns.

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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?

Very good, among the best posts we've been to.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

n

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It should start raining in May/June and end in November but each year we've been here has been very different.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

For such a small country there are lots of school options. Some people also send their kids to local (i.e. bilingual private) schools.

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2. 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?

Parents are spoiled for choice.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Surprisingly yes, from gymnastics to horseback riding to chess...you sometimes ave to work hard to find instructors what your kid likes to do but there are options.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

This is a very unique aspect to this post. There are expats, but they're very integrated here. There's no vibrant expats club or "Women's Society" clubs as other posts tend to have. The U.S. Embassy is way bigger than any counterpart (and even, sometimes, it seems the Government of El Salvador).

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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?

Salvadorans are super friendly and helpful and we have lots of Salvadoran friends. That said, we've had to make a huge effort. They're used to Americans coming and going and don't think to include us in ways we'd like to be included. Also, lots of people promise to invite us to their beach/lake houses and we're still waiting for those invitations....

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's a great couple/family post. It can be great for singles too.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

El Salvador is very conservative and a bit behind with LGBT rights.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Salvadorans tend to be religious, either Catholic or Evangelical with a growing Mormon population. Salvadorans tend to have a conservative outlook. Women's rights are not especially respected among some socieconomic groups.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I enjoy going to the beach, and the fish market and try to go every weekend. Amazing waves and surf! I also liked Morazan.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

I'm still looking for them!

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

This is the place where I've done the least amount of shopping. There's a trend to develop more "artisanal" pop-up markets and things so this is changing...

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Salvadorans are pro-U.S. and very friendly. It's close to the U.S. It's not the most exciting place I've ever lived, but it's very navigable once you know your way around.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How conservative people can be.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Tampons

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Innocent Voices.

Romero.

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San Salvador, El Salvador 12/08/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Many other experiences in Latin America, Europe, Asia.

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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?

DC. Huge number of flights between El Salvador and the U.S. Twice daily to DC, 3-4 daily to Los Angeles, and regular connections to Houston, Miami, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, and Toronto. Good connections to South America on Avianca or Copa as well. San Salvador is a hub for Avianca, so multiple daily flights everywhere in Central America. That said, prices tend to be steep for short trips, and it is often cheaper to fly to the U.S. (2-4 hours) than to Nicaragua (40 minutes).

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

USG folks used to be split between really nice apartments in the fancy urban part of San Salvador, and houses located a 10 minute walk from the Embassy. Now we all are put into houses near or relatively close to the Embassy. Houses are fairly new, large, and usually have decent yards. All come with maids quarters and usually a nice porch/lanai. And often mature fruit trees as well! Typical commute to the Embassy is never more than 20 minutes from the furthest place, and many folks are within walking/biking distance. Although the suburban feel really doesn't appeal to many people, the housing quality, location, and amenities are all quite good.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

We have decent grocery stores that stock a large selection of stuff, even gluten-free items. You can get pretty much everything you need, as well as imported items from home. The quality of the local meat is pretty bad, and the cold-storage facilities aren't great either (frozen/thaw/refrozen equals bad taste and a case of food poisoning). Great beer and liquor selection; only cheap and crappy wine available in country.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Olive oil, paper products (napkins, toilet paper, paper towels), and a good gas grill as it is grilling weather pretty much every day.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Every American fast-food chain is here. The restaurants are ok, and reasonably priced. You're not going to get too many gourmet meals here; remember you are in a small city in Central America and you will learn not to be too disappointed. Pupusas are filling, cheap, and very authentically Salvadoran. You'll find hundreds of pupusarias in Antiguo Cuscatlan and Olocuilta; finding your favorite is a fun pastime. And you can get everything delivered to your house.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

For being in the tropics, we've had minimal problems. Mosquitoes, especially in the rainy season, but nothing too terrible. Some ants that spray took care of.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Great availability and very affordable (US$300-400 per month). Nannys and maids within the embassy community are paid better, but also tend to be some of the best. Our nanny is fantastic, so great with the kids, and keeps the house spotless. Live-in is common.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Skimming cards is common here; but many places have cracked down on this and credit cards are much safer to use. Cash is best (we only use the ATM and bank at the embassy). El Salvador is fully dollarized, though you will see the one-dollar coins here more than the bills.

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4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

In theory you could get by with very little (1/5 of all Salvadorans live in the U.S, and many have spent time there). In practice, Spanish is essential for pretty much every transaction. Salvadorans are very patient with all attempts to communicate in Spanish, no matter how poorly one speaks it.

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5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

If you are unable to drive a car here, you'd have issues. The upscale malls and shops have accessible entrances and will make accommodations. El Salvador suffered through a long civil war, leaving many people with permanent mobility problems, so they are somewhat used to making accommodations as needed.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Local buses are incredibly dangerous, with high numbers of shootings, robberies, and sexual assaults. Taxis dispatched from the Embassy are safe, and our embassy American Association has shuttles available for hire for a reasonable price (about the same as a taxi to/from the airport).

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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?

The roads in El Salvador are the best in Central America by far. You really could get by with anything, no need for a massive SUV or 4-Wheel Drive. The biggest annoyance are the speed bumps, higher clearance is best if you can. Most major international car brands are here, and service is easy to get and cheap. Prepare to become an aggressive driver.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, far better than what we got in DC. US$60-100/month depending on the speed desired. The house walls are concrete and you may want an additional router/repeater if you want wifi throughout the house.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone. Tigo and Claro are the big providers here, with Movistar and Digicel trying to move into the market. Contract plans are cheap, as are rates to call the U.S.

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Pets:

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?

No and yes. Very easy to import a cat/dog, and many quality vets available. Embassy is super dog-friendly with a walking trail and poop bags.

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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?

Decent, yes. Well-paying, no. There is a chronic skill-set shortage in the country (brain drain because of the security situation), but the labor costs here are very low. Good for keeping a resume up to date, not a lucrative move financially.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty. Pick your cause (child poverty, environment, animals), you'll find something.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal at the embassy, business casual elsewhere. Only rich Salvadorans and expats wear shorts when not at the beach.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Short answer: yes. Long answer: it is very complicated. El Salvador will have the highest murder rate in the world (excluding active war zones) in 2015. Criminal violence, especially gang-related, is a serious problem in the entire country, and is by far the hardest/most difficult part of living here. There are multiple areas of the city that are entirely off-limits at all times. Within the diplomatic bubble, we aren't really directly affected by it as much (the gangs aren't looking to pick a fight with the USG). Yes, we can't just go for a walk at night, but then again, the roads (and drivers) here are completely pedestrian unfriendly anyway so it's kind of a moot point. We follow our security advice and feel safe here. The hardest part is that the violence affects everyone else in the country so much more. So while we feel safe, our gardener and nanny do have to worry about it as it directly affects their communities.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No malaria, but there is dengue and other nasties. Really good health care and good facilities. Several folks from the embassy have had procedures done here rather than medevac because of the quality/price of care.

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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?

San Salvador, and especially where the expats/diplomats live is up the mountains meaning cooler temperatures and decent air quality. Down in the city the diesel fumes can be bad, but this is mitigated by keeping your windows up. Nice fresh sea breezes make it over the mountains at around 5pm each day, except during the dry season when the trade winds keep it nice and cool all day long.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Dry/wet seasons. Dry season begins in November and lasts through April. The first part of the dry season is called the "windy season" because of the fresh breezes. In April and May it gets a bit hot before the rainy season kicks in. Rainy season means sunny in the morning with big afternoon/evening thunderstorms. When a hurricane is forming offshore (they don't hit us, but move north to Mexico), we get 3-4 days of light rain/mist and cool temps that make it feel more like Seattle than San Salvador. Highs in the mid-80sF, lows in the mid-60sF every day, year-round.

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Schools & Children:

1. 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?

Really nice preschool options, and a variety to choose from. Many are bilingual, and are reasonably priced. Most run mornings only. Salvadorans begin preschool as soon as they can walk, so age usually isn't an issue. Younger children almost always have a nanny, at least for the afternoons when they come home from preschool.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

At the international schools, and within the embassy community.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It's a big U.S. Embassy, and people are generally really happy here. The Embassy is very well-run, and there are lots of events to suit every age/interest group. The local expat population is pretty easy to meet as well.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a really perfect place for families with younger kids, especially infants and preschoolers (affordable and talented household help, and a culture that loves children). Couples do well, particularly if they like to travel and are adventurous. Many singles like it here; the dating culture apparently is pretty similar to the U.S. It is hardest on families with teenagers as the security issues preclude being able to go out much.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

San Salvador is a small city in a very conservative catholic country. From what I understand there is a very small scene, but the country as a whole is not very "out". Completely different within the expat/diplomatic community of course.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

90-95% of Salvadorans look the same (mixed European and indigenous); so there isn't as huge of a racial disparity that you see elsewhere in Latin America. Expats of all origins stand out as expats, and generally don't appear to have too many issues. There is certainly an undercurrent of Latin American machismo, but this affects local Salvadoran women far more than expats.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Hiking the volcanoes (Santa Ana, Izalco), weekends at the beach (40 minute drive), weekends at Lake Coatepeque, coffee sampling from the various fincas, finding the perfect pupusa, being able to grow pretty much everything (fruit, veg, etc) in our yard. And if you really get bored, Guatemala and Honduras are only 4 hour drives away. If you like to surf, you will be in heaven. You can surf world-class waves in the morning before heading to work, every day.

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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Weather is perfect pretty much every day of the year. People are warm and friendly, super family-friendly culture. The countryside is beautiful, with quite a bit to see and pretty much no other tourists. Excellent coffee.

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7. Can you save money?

Yes, tons.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How awesome it is!

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, this is one of the best posts in the world! You want to be here.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Heavy winter clothing, expectations and assumptions about El Salvador.

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4. But don't forget your:

Expert surfing skills, swimsuit, wine, hiking shoes, aggressive driving tendencies.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Most of the material is related to the horrible atrocities committed during the civil war. Useful for background, but won't tell you much about the current state of the country.

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San Salvador, El Salvador 06/09/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Also lived in Mexico City, Mexico.

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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?

Home base is complicated. To Newark, NJ, it is about 5-6 hour direct flight. To MSP it is a connection in Houston. Direct flights to Miami (lots). It can be a little expensive to fly out of here- more than I thought it would be considering how close we are to the U.S.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We have been here one year out of a two year tour.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

My spouse is part of the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We have a big, comfortable home. Commute time to Embassy is 4 minutes in car or 12 minutes walking.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries: depends on what you eat. If you want to eat like an American they can be expensive. But for local staples everything is cheap. There is a Pricesmart (Costco) and American-style supermarkets. Just be careful to check prices because sometimes something like shaving cream is US$12 a bottle for a US brand and US$1.50 for the Salvadoran brand.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Chocolate chips.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

The food here is a problem. Salvadoran cuisine (mainly pupusas) is good but just not super interesting. There are very nice restaurants here, but they are all sort of medium-good in terms of food. That said, if you like American chain food they have tons of that here. Probably similar to U.S. prices but I haven't eaten at any of them. There are lots of fun/funky restaurants to explore!

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes are a problem here because they carry dengue and chikungunya. But they aren't so bad that people use mosquito nets. You just have to protect yourself outside.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Via Embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Pretty cheap. I think US$15-$20 per day for full time help?

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are gyms all over. Even a few Crossfit gyms. The costs vary from about US$30 per month to... US$100? I think there are even US$10 a month gyms but I don't know the quality. There are also some sport clubs with more serious facilities (pools, tennis, etc.)

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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?

I use them. Always use caution.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can probably get by on little. But it helps to speak Spanish.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Not where we live. There are handicap spots, ramps, etc. I don't know what the reality would be like in other, less-affluent parts of town, though. I imagine those would be hard.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Can't do local buses here (safety), and there are no trains. Taxis are called via the Embassy- they are safe.

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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?

We like our SUV for the clearance. But the roads/highways are pretty great here. Plan to be in your car a lot- it is not really a walkable place (crime and layout) and so unfortunately we have to drive everywhere. Which is a bummer.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. We pay US$80 for internet and home phone.

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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?

Not really. Well, there are some good jobs but they pay very little. There are many good schools if you are a teacher.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. El Salvador is rated critical for crime. Gangs and violence are a terrible problem here and the country recently became the most murderous in the world. However, living where we do we do not see the violence. It is a concern but not one I see evidence of in my day-to-day life. This is good but sad- it is definitely the normal life for many locals but we do not see it.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Mosquito borne illnesses are the big ones. The medical care is very cheap and can be good, but it is definitely not U.S. quality. Double-check any advice you get here.

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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?

Eh. It is much, much cleaner than Mexico City, but when driving on the highways I leave my windows up and use recycled air due to the buses that chug out nasty emissions. But from my house I never notice bad air.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

The big grocery chain has a gluten free section!

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Rainy season in the summer, which usually means overcast morning, warm sunny afternoon, spectacular evening storms. October-December are the "windy" season- lovely breezes and clean fresh air. Starts to heat up in January until the next rainy season. But it wasn't oppressively hot until March...

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

International schools here are great. There are many international schools with good reputations and people all seem happy.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not so much on this one. But there is a school here that accepts kids with IEPs and behavioral problems. The families with kids there seem to be happy with it. Other schools do not really offer services/help to those students.

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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. Preschools/daycares usually run 7am to 12pm. They are about US$200 per month. Or a little more or less. Very good schools where people feel safe/happy to send their kids!

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. But it seems like a lot of dance for girls and soccer for boys. Which is a disappointment if you want your girls to play soccer.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The Embassy community is really great here- this is one of the best parts of our tour. Many regional offices are located here, so there are many USG departments and a very diverse community. We have also met other expats who are here for many other reasons.

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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?

Hang out with friends, go out to eat. There are concerts and an theater with plays/dances/musicals. Some people go clubbing. Go to beach, go on road trips, etc.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families with young kids, yes it is a GREAT post. Older kids (high school age) probably not so good- there is no freedom for those kids due to the security situation here. Singles/couples? Probably not the best. Although there are some great vacations to take from here! It is a small country, so everything is close, but the tourist infrastructure is not great. That said, there are a ton of road trips in easy distance...

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No. This country is VERY conservative.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. I think there are problems with racism here. It is a very conservative place.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We have met so many amazing people here- both locals and foreigners. It is a small country, very easy to get around. There is not a TON to do but we have little kids so for us it is perfect!

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

We hit the beach a LOT. World-class surfing, or just hang at the beach. Lots of biking here, both road/mountain. Climbing volcanos, exploring small towns.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Head to Guatemala to buy really lovely art. But there is some nice stuff here, too. Pottery, hand-woven hammocks, etc.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

We live in a very beautiful house in a lovely neighborhood. The country is very small and accessible- the beach is 30 minutes from our house. It is basically always beach weather. Weather is awesome- warm/hot but not terribly hot. Household help is cheap, and other labor as well. If you can live like a local, you can live fairly cheap here.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes. If you're careful.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes! We love it here. It is the perfect slow-paced life for our family.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Sweaters and coats.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen.

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San Salvador, El Salvador 03/23/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Not a first experience.

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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?

Midwest. About 7-8 hours. San Salvador is a very well connected airport with direct flights to LA, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, New York, DC, and others. About a year ago you could find sales for around US$400, however now the minimum seems to be about US$700 to get anywhere. Regional flights are ridiculous at about US$300-400 for an hour long flight. Using miles however for these flights is pretty reasonable.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Mostly houses. Most housing is located walking distance from the Embassy. Others have short commutes though it can vary based on construction projects. Houses are generally large and okay, though the finishings are never that nice. Houses are typically surrounded by 12+ foot high walls, razor wire, security cameras, and bars on every door and window. Sometimes it feels a bit prison like.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Very good. A brand new modern grocery opened across the street from the embassy and Pricesmart/Costco is a block away. Prices are similar to DC. Some items though like quality meat is expensive as well as a few American imports.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Cereal and brown sugar. Brown sugar is not available here and cereal is very expensive and is somewhat limited to very sugary options. Many people order flour and sugar from the States although versions of both are available here they just tend to be less refined.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything is here from McDonald's to Ruth's Chris. Prices are a little less than DC and the service is typically good.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes. Dengue fever is a real issue here along with Chikungunya.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. Typically 7 days. There is a pouch address available but that takes minimum 3-4 weeks.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very good. Prices are US$80-100/week for live in or live out.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Embassy has a gym, pool, two tennis courts, walking track, disk golf course and sports programs. There are also many gyms around the city that offer various classes (zumba, yoga, pilates). There is a large world gym just around the corner though I do not know the quality.

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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?

Credit cards are accepted everywhere. We've had no issue.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is an English Catholic mass and an expat non-denominational church.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Some Spanish will help, but you can get by without.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes! Sidewalks are uneven with huge steps and drop offs. Some establishments do have handicap spots and there are some elevators in some buildings.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No. RSO recommends one taxi company which is good. Besides that, everything else is prohibited.

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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?

Nearly everyone has an SUV, though for trips in country just about any car will be sufficient.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Speeds are usually slower than advertised, but I think a 10mb is US$100/month. We have a combo plan which includes cable, home phone, and 2mb internet for US$60/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

iPhone plan costs about US$30/month through the Tigo rep at the Embassy.

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Pets:

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?

No. Several vets including one across the street from the embassy. Vet care is very affordable.

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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?

No.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work is business casual. Public anything goes. All women wear 4 inch platform heals and tight spandex.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. This is a critical crime post though honestly it rarely impacts us. Overall, just be smart and stay out of the gang areas. Several folks walk to work and feel fine.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is okay. Anything mildly serious gets medevaced. Post has an RMO, local doctor, and several nurses. Dental service is good and fairly cheap

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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?

Pretty good. There are times when the air is somewhat dusty and during sugar cane harvest there is ash in the air. Overall, pollution hasn't seemed too bad.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Mold, dust, and pollen can be problematic.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Warm and relatively high humidity during the summer with afternoon showers. The rest of the year is dry with truly ideal temperatures.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Don't have much to say about the schools other than what I hear. Two major options: American School and British School. Schools cater to elite Salvadorean community rather than a true international student body. Students not speaking Spanish may have a difficult time assimilating.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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 and very cheap! There is a wide variety as well with many from the Embassy using the French or Montessori, each taking children younger than 2 years of age.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Embassy offers swim lessons. There are soccer and basketball programs at the schools, and the British school has a swim team.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The U.S. has the biggest presence by far ("battleship in the pond"). Most other Embassies have 2 or 3 people here. Lots of NGOs.

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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?

Dinners out. Malls. Nice movie theaters. Birthday parties at the embassy pool.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

All the above. There is a children's museum, beach, and zoo for families. Beach, clubs, outdoor activities for couples/singles.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

You shouldn't have too much problem.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

In general no...

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Renting beach houses, climbing volcanoes, visiting neighboring countries.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Playas Negras is a beautiful beach in the western part of the country where the surf is much more gentle and children are able to play in the water. There are very few houses on the beach, and it felt like we had the entire beach to ourselves.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The weather is great. The city sits about 3,000 feet above sea level and is about 10F degrees cooler than the beach/airport. Temperatures usually top out around 85F and don't dip below 60F even during the coolest part of the year. El Salvador is a small country with a relatively good road system. You can get just about everywhere in the country within three hours...great for exploring volcanoes, beaches, villages, and so forth.

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9. Can you save money?

A couple people here say no, however the vast majority would agree that you can live a great life here for less than the USA.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That you can get just about everything here.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. This is an easy tour a three-hour flight from the USA. Nearly everyone here has relatives in the U.S. so everyone has a positive impression of America.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bathing suit, sense of adventure to explore outside the city and of course an umbrella or two for rainy season.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Morale here is generally high to very high. Several choose to extend or do a second tour here.

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San Salvador, El Salvador 10/29/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

My first expat experience with the Foreign Service; although I have lived in Mexico and in Europe.

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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?

From the Southwest, I flew to Houston, then to San Salvador. 4 hours of flying and a very easy trip.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived there for two years from 2011-2013.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most singles and couples without children live in apartments in the center of town. Families live in houses about 5 minutes from the Embassy. Typical commute time is usually 5 minutes from the houses and can be up to 35 minutes from the apartments. Traffic (and the despised traffic circles) make morning and afternoon commutes a lot longer to the center of town.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

A little cheaper than in the U.S. and everything is available here. Produce is great and cheap. Most people shop in the Super Selectos.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing I was able to get everything there or through Amazon.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All of them are here, though KFC was shut out by the local Pollo Campero.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None that I can think of but I lived in an apartment so did not have any problems. Some people had ants in their house.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and pouch, both great. You could get anything you needed.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Great domestic help for US$15 a day.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes the Embassy has a great gym, so do most of the apartment complexes, and there are tons of gyms and yoga studios in the city.

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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?

You should not use credit cards in the gas stations and only use them when you can see the machine. Cloning is very common. Many people at the Embassy got their cards cloned; it was a nightmare. But, at the restaurants and Super Selectos markets, I used mine all the time with no problem. I never used them at the gas stations though.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a large Mormon temple, Catholic of course, lots of Protestant denominations and some Jewish services.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Some Spanish makes your life much easier but most people speak English

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, not many accommodations and it would be rough for people with disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Acacia taxi is what the Embassy recommends and it is safe and affordable. You can call day or night and they are very reliable and safe. The local buses are not safe and not recommended, but luxury buses to Antigua or Tegucigalpa are safe and very nice.

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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?

Any vehicle is good, though some prefer a 4x4 for going out of town. Most people had Toyota Corollas.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes and it is about US$75 a month through a bundle with cable and telephone service. Not sure what stand-alone costs.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Most people get Tigo and it is pretty cheap though customer service is terrible.

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Pets:

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?

No and there are great vets in San Salvador. Actually there is a great vet right across the street from the Embassy.

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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?

A few people got good jobs in the community, though most people worked at the Embassy. EFMs were generally happy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many NGOs and lots of opportunities.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Salvadorans are very sharp dressers. Women do their hair, wear heels and wear makeup. Embassy attire is business attire and there were no casual Fridays when I was there.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes many. El Salvador is a very high crime post. The RSO warns us often about restricted areas, and gangs and crime are a very real thing. That being said, I just followed the RSO advice and never had problems. I stuck to places where it was safe to go and walk, would not wear expensive jewelry in public, and did not go to the restricted neighborhoods. During festivals and events with lots of people standing close together, many Americans got pick pocketed. You just have to be vigilant.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is generally good, dentistry is excellent. For serious health problems and maternity care, you would be medevaced to Miami. A few women chose to have their babies in El Salvador and all was fine.

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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?

I thought the air was very clean and fresh, no pollution problems. My current post has terrible pollution problems so I can honestly say that San Salvador and El Salvador in general have very clean air.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Regular seasonal allergies affect some people in the spring and fall.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Best. Weather. Ever. There is a rainy season, which is pleasant. High winds in November are pretty surprising.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

American, British and International schools are where most Embassy employees take their children. There is also a French school and German school which offered good curriculum. I met a lot of people who had gone to the American school and received a very good education. Many of the high school kids got into great schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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 plenty, but you have to pay.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes all kinds through the schools.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large expat community and morale was very good. I can now compare it to my second post where morale is generally low, and I never met anyone who was unhappy there, but maybe because I was so happy people never showed that side to me.

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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?

Too many to count. Clubs, hiking, movies, great dining, weekend trips, dinners at home, book clubs, parties every weekend, walking at Paseo del Carmen, dancing in El Tunco. Heavy metal band at the seafood shop!

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for all! This is a great city for singles especially. In just one year, four Embassy women married Salvadoran men, and one man married a Salvadoran woman. It was a crazy year of weddings. Lots of people have fallen in love here, and lots of people have made life-long friends. There is a lot to do every weekend, from going to the beach 25 minutes away to dance at the beach clubs, to dinner and movies at the malls, to a far away beach resort, yoga on the beach, yoga retreats, to camping in El Impossible which is a large national park. Paseo El Carmen is about 20 minutes away, and the entire street is blocked off to cars and you can walk and eat at great restaurants and have a great time with friends. Lots to do in El Salvador.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes I thought so. I knew a few gay couples and they were fine. This is a conservative country but I never heard of hardships or discrimination of any type for gays.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes unfortunately.I heard that in the distant past, African-decendents were expelled from the country, so there are very few people of color and it is unsettling. That being said, my African-American friends all made great friends and some fell in love with locals.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

New Year's Eve fireworks, the entire country sets off fireworks and it is spectacular. Friends! The Bolas de Fuego (fireballs) on August 31. Proximity to other great tourist destinations like Roatan Honduras, Copan Honduras (with an amazing German brewery with spectacular food and beer), Antigua Guatemala. Lots of pre-Columbian destinations are relatively close, though not many in El Salvador. Going to El Tunco to watch surfing tournaments or just going dancing at the beach clubs. Great roads and highways so you can get away very quickly. Large and close embassy community. Great and very fresh food. Dancing at the shopping malls (it's a thing there) Nice art.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Copan, Honduras is a 4 hour drive away. There is a great German brewery and Copan is a spectacular little mountain town with really nice ruins. Also, the drive to Antigua, Guatemala is short and worth the trip. In El Salvador, Lake Coatepeque is great, and hiking the Santa Ana volcano, which has a sulfur volcanic bright green lake on top. It is like walking in another world. El Tunco surfer village is so much fun it can be too much fun. Great restaurants like Delikat, Ruth's Chris. Deep Sea fishing in Usulutan. Watching the famous heavy metal band at the local seafood shop. Just amazing! Too many to count.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Art from Francisco Llort, trips to other Central American countries, COFFEE!

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

This is such a beautiful country I could fill pages of the great things to do. There is a little something for everyone. If you are the outdoorsy type, there is gorgeous volcano hiking, surfing and surfing villages full of fun, zip lining, paragliding, swimming in crater lakes, deep sea fishing etc. For dining, there is everything from street pupusas to fine dining and amazing steaks and seafood for very reasonable prices. There are many malls for shopping, great beauty salons, lots of green areas, and the Embassy is absolutely stunning like Club Med. Pretty much the nicest Embassy anyone has ever seen. Also, the weather is perfect year-round (between 68-85 degrees F) so being outside is always a possibility. You can save money because prices are lower than the United States, and it is very easy to get back to the States when you get homesick. I would say the best thing is the weather though, it was absolute perfection.

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10. Can you save money?

Some, it is an inexpensive city to live in, though gas is expensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That it would love it so much! I had always thought of crime and gangs when I thought of El Salvador, and I was wrong. It is a vibrant, inviting and breathtakingly beautiful country with wonderful people. Had I known, I would have come here sooner and tried to say longer.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Without any hesitation! I loved it from the second I got off the plane and cried on my way to the airport when I left. These were the best two years of my life.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Heavy coats, flannel sheets, and your elderly shut-in desires. People will take you out and you will like it!

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, flip flops, high heels, bathing suit.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Like any other post, there are people who loved it and people who did not really care for it, but nobody hated it. If you have some Spanish, feel safe in Latin America, and like to dance and party, you will love El Salvador. If you have children, there may not be that many things for the kids to do that are safe. This is absolutely the best post for singles and couples. Compared to the place I am in now, some people here are so miserable they can't wait to leave, and there is a huge culture shock. El Salvador is a nice introduction to the Foreign Service and expat life.

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San Salvador, El Salvador 07/08/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

1st expat experience

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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?

Washington DC

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3. How long have you lived here?

10 months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign service Officer

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Mostly houses. The commute to the embassy is 5 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive compared to the USA.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Hair products.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All fast food places in the USA are available.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nothing major

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very cheap. US$15 a day.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. At the embassy there are many workout facilities (tennis courts, walking trail, swimming pool, gym, etc.).

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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?

Do Not Use them.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A lot.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No .

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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?

Any car.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Average cost.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Buy an open phone.

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Pets:

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?

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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?

NO.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes, if you speak Spanish.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Anything goes.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, major.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Yes. Dengue Fever.

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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?

Unhealthy

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Dry season and Wet season

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are three international schools. The American school is the best. There are also British, french and International schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

After school parties, after school activities. In my view accommodations are better than schools in the USA.

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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.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. At the school.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

I think it is good.

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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?

Going out to various restaurants, movies.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

YES.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There are no people of Color!. Not even one I could find. Kids of color are teased in school. Please be aware of this before coming to post! No gender prejudices that I have noticed.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Great Beaches

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Going to Children's Theme Parks in Guatemala, visiting the Volcanoes. Too many fun things to list.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

None.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great beaches, Good weather, schools, etc.

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10. Can you save money?

Only if you do not travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That there are no people of color.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

NO.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Your warm clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sun screen.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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San Salvador, El Salvador 04/28/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Barcelona, Spain.

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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?

NYC, 8 hrs w/ connections in ATL (Delta), IAD (UA) or Miami (AA).

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Educator (NGO sector).

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Rental options are limited and basic. Apartments are virtually non-existent, but 2-3 bedroom houses in gated "residencias" can be found in the $500-800 range especially in Santa Tecla and San Benito at the south end of town. Be advised that landlords have no problem retaining your entire security deposit on cooked-up reasons. Work through your employer or the embassy to find ethical landlords/owners.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Super Selectos and Dispensa Don Juan are the big chain supermarkets. My local Super Selectos charges slightly under what you would pay in a mid-sized American city. The Salvadoran diet ranges from rice to beans to pupusas and back again. There is very little spice or seasonings in anything. Thus, supermarket offerings are limited. Anything imported is marked up 50-100% and is often expired or near expiration.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All manner of incredibly unhealthy fast food, from McDonald's to a foul local chain called Biggest. Most are at or slightly below US prices. Heart disease and cancer rates are increasing due to dietary negligence.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

I know of no organic foods beyond the "female diet" aisle in Super Selectos where you can find TVP, marked up Wasa crackers, some soy protein, and stevia. The concept of organic, or simply eating healthily, does not exist here.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants and mosquitoes during dry season. Five-inch cockroaches in your house's nooks and crannies are not uncommon.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Postal System is reliable though DHL. El Salvador will charge you a fee for anything they possibly can.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap, $10 for a maid to clean house and garden.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

I've seen a few dark and dreary places operating out of old mechanics shops.

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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?

Visa/MC is widely accepted, but you will pay the associated foreign fees. Citibank is here, but has no connection to Citibank in the US. You will pay fees on any ATM transactions. Open a local bank account if you are here for any length of time at HSBC, Citi, or Banco Agricola.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

None

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Spanish is certainly helpful. Salvadorans who have spent time in the US can generally speak English at least phonetically.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Again, those with respiratory issues are forewarned.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses are regularly held up by gang members exacting bribes or just hungry people who ask a dollar from all passengers while wielding knife. Take the local taxis. Fares are reasonable, but negotiate in advance. It's 25 USD to the airport.

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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?

4x4s (Landcruisers, Monteros, Troopers) are plentiful.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Tigo again. About $19/month for reliable DSL.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Tigo is cheap and reliable.

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Pets:

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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative, vaguely reminiscent of the Soviet '80s.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

ES is one of the most dangerous countries on earth due to ongoing gang activity and drug trafficking. There were 4308 murders in 2011. Though this is unlikely to affect you directly as an expat, unless you are running narcotics, it casts a pale over the country's psyche that, to be brief, sucks incredibly.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Much of the diet is toxic. My local GP (good ones are based in Escalon) is good, and fixed me up affordably ($40) when I got a nasty URI.

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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?

San Salvador air pollution has exceeded the WHO's standards for the better part of two decades. The dry season cooks up a medley of dust, lead, arsenic, and mercury that will put the brakes on any daytime outdoor cardio-vascular activity. You can avoid some diurnal pollution by getting out before dawn if you run for example. Those with any pre-existing respiratory issues should think twice before coming.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Wet (approx late May to late September). Dry the rest of the year with the rare shower. Temps are mid 90s to high 60s in San Sal for most of the year. It's warmer at the coast and cooler in rural parts.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The British Academy has the best reputation ahead of the American school. There is no true international school here however. Students are 95% Salvadorans, most from the top 1% of society.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Miniscule. There's not even a Hash House Harriers.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Dance clubs, especially at the area malls, abound.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Decent for families, ok for singles. As a single gringo male, it can be hard/impossible to find educated, worldly women. There has been a marked brain drain to North America/Europe.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I can't imagine a society that is this conservative would welcome gays with open arms.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There are no ethnic minorities here.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The beaches from La Libertad north to Los Cobanos offer good surfing, cheap lodging and some nightlife for the backpacker set.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Beaches are nice. Black volcanic sand and epic surfing waves. Much of the primary forest has been denuded, so you need to head to Costa Rica for rainforest. The Santa Ana volcano makes for a nice day trip but you are forced to take a guide (totally unneeded).

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Indigenous culture is long gone in ES. For pottery, textile, weavings, head to Guate.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

I'm really stretching here, but saving money comes to mind.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes. A single can easily live on less than $500/month.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

bible!

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?


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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

ES has the third largest economy in the region but the ruling economic and political elite has overwhelmingly reaped the benefit of this. The country has not experienced any of the tourist boom that Costa Rica/Panama and to a lesser extent Guatemala has seen. This is a shame because it's about the only sector that could funnel significant revenue to a broad base of society.

Salvadorans, if I can speak generally, are warm, hospitable and helpful but also hampered by a long history of social stratification. The massive gang problem is rarely seen (and certainly not by the ruling class) as a side effect of poverty and educational disenfranchisement, but rather the natural extension of the inherent inferiority of the have-not's. This is social Darwinism at its worst and Salvadorans seriously need to dispense with this kind of thinking if they wish to address their country's ills.

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San Salvador, El Salvador 07/15/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, this is my fourth expat experience.

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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?

Washington, DC

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3. How long have you lived here?

two years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Embassy employee

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Families live in houses and couples/singles often live in apartments. Embassy employees frequently live very close to the embassy. Traffic is an issue if you live further out but the city is quite small and traffic isn't as bad as it is in other countries in the region.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Grocery prices are close to American prices.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

real vanilla extract, spices, brown sugar, any veggie/vegan food that can be shipped, toiletries, and children's books

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There is every flavor of American-style fast food here. It has flooded the country. If this is not your style, you will have to do some searching to find good food in San Salvador (even though there are a lot of restaurants).

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

There is an organic market next to Hospital Diagnostico (CLUSA).They get new produce on Wednesdays and Fridays (fruit, vegetables, honey, nuts, and other things).Yemaya is a restaurant that sells "healthy" food, not necessarily vegetarian. You can also find some things at the Merliot Market like chia seeds, cashews, flax, herbs, and various homeopathics. You can also buy a 50-pound bag of whole wheat flour from the mill near the botanical gardens.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes, cockroaches, and some other buggies.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

embassy DPO

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

locals pay $10/day and embassy people pay $15/day (labor is cheap here but be careful, you get what you pay for if you want to use a local nanny)

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are some gyms in town and yoga studios.

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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?

Be careful.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a Protestant Union Church that is popular among expats. There is also an English service at one local Catholic church.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You must have survival Spanish. The better your Spanish, the easier life will be for you.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The city is not wheel-chair friendly.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Do not use local transportation except for taxi companies that are commonly used by the embassy or your place of employment.

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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?

You really need to bring an SUV.It is amazing just how quickly you find yourself needing one even if you primarily stay in-town.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Everyone has TIGO.There are many complaints but it could be worse.

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Pets:

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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There some good veterinarian options in-town.

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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?

There aren't many jobs in the embassy and most are admin-focused. There are local NGOs that may hire or would appreciate volunteer help.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

This is a conservative culture and dress is important.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

You will never forget that you are living in a high security threat country. It will affect every aspect of your life.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Dengue is common.

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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?

OK for a developing country. Keep your windows closed and use recycled air when driving. The pollen can get out of control in the dry season.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Half the year is dry with not rain and the other half is very wet. It can be very hot but it is always much more comfortable in the shade. The rainy season can be tedious especially since there really isn't much to do in the city.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The British School has the best reputation in the country. In general the academics in-country are not that well regarded.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Arbol de Dios makes extensive accommodations for special-needs kids. Many kids have shadows and there is a nurse on-site.

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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?

Most embassy families choose Barquito de Papel. The British School or recommends the Montessori School. A few families use Arbol de Dios since it is close. In my opinion, the Montessori School is the best option.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

They are available for school-aged children primarily.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There is a small expat community even though there is a large American embassy.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. This is not an easy country for people who love their personal freedom and who would like a variety of activities during the day.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are a couple of movie-theaters, several bars, a few museums, and many restaurants. Security concerns put damper on the social life in the city in a significant way.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a good city for families with older school-aged children who are active in sports. It's rough on singles and families with small children.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Discretion is essential here.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There are very few people of African-American descent and I have heard of some horrible comments directed at young children in the international schools.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The beach and the countryside are lovely. Guatemala and Honduras as easy to visit and well-worth the trip.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The beach is close and is perfect for surfing. The volcano is right in town and is fun for a short hike. There are also some great day-trips (especially if you have an SUV) and travel opportunities.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

hammocks, local handicrafts, Llort art, and wind chimes.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Kind people, beautiful country, great weather for much of the year, and bountiful travel opportunities.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes. The bonus of a city in lock-down is that you do not have as many places to spend money.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

socks, sweaters, coats, and jogger stroller (unless you use it on a track behind walls).

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3. But don't forget your:

sunscreen, swim shirt, sun hat, pool equipment, toys/books for kids, and most of the clothes that you need (unless you will find a good tailor here).

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

The best advice I received was almost exclusively from long-term expats living in El Salvador. There aren't many of them, but do try to sniff them out. Stay safe but do whatever you can to not always follow the crowd of short-timers when planning beach and local trips.

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San Salvador, El Salvador 05/21/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Geneva, Switzerland.

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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?

There is one direct flight a day with Delta to and from Atlanta which takes about 3 1/3 hours. There are several other options with other carriers.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy people live either in houses in Escalon, about a 15-minute drive to the embassy, or in apartments in Escalon, or in a subdivision about 5 minutes from work. Singles are relegated to high-rise apartments with stellar views but no yards and longer commutes. People with kids or pets are given 1-2 story houses with yards. Escalon has more shopping and restaurants, but it also has the longer commute. The subdivision's commute can't be beat -- some people walk to work. But ALL your neighbors are co-workers, so you will never have any privacy. Got a loud, weird, embarrassing hobby? Ask to live in Escalon.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It depends on how you shop. You can go to the local markets and get fruits and vegetables for pennies, and while they have meat there too, it's sitting in open bins in an un-air conditioned room, so I don't buy any. The grocery stores have very low prices on locally-produced goods, but shopping like an American can get pricey, since all the foods we're used to are imported. Imported specialty food items are often close to their expiration dates or well past them; I've found families of spiders living in my imported Baker's chocolate on more than one occasion. American-brand products produced for the Central American markets are of lower quality than they are in the States. The meat is also sub-par, most noticeably the beef. Specialty foods like sour cream, whipping cream, lemons, and puff pastry are so seldom for sale that people buy every one available and hoard it.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I would bring as many frozen USDA American corn-fed rib-eyes, skirt steaks, NY strips, hanger steaks, flank steaks, and standing rib roasts as I could humanly fit on the plane. You also can't get lemons, orzo pasta, puff pastry, Kikkoman soy sauce, lemon olive oil, ant killer, backyard mosquito spray, Swiffer dusters, good furniture polish, makeup in any shade other than bronze goddess, cold-weather fabrics, and many craft supplies. The secret to El Salvador is that many things are available, even dry ice, you just need to know where to look. Which, unless you have a Salvadoran insider, you won't.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There is every major American fast food chain here except for Arby's and Chick-Fil-A.There is almost every cuisine available here with the notable exception of Indian food. The most expensive restaurant in the country is probably Citron, and that will run you about $100 a couple. Most restaurants are solidly mediocre at best, with few standouts. But it's cheap, with a 10% tip built in, so you don't feel heartbroken when you get a so-so meal for $12.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Dengue is an increasingly concerning problem. During the rainy season you will get chewed alive by every bug imaginable. Most houses also have a serious sugar-ant problem. One house was (famously) so infested with scorpions that the resident had to move out.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We have access to the diplomatic pouch and the DPO. There is not really an organized postal service in the country. There is DHL and UPS, but you have to pay exorbitant fees to pick up your package, (like $50), and it takes weeks. Woe to the person who doesn't have access to embassy mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Maids make upwards of $15 a day, and gardeners are about the same. Live-in maids make less for some reason. Don't be afraid to put people on a probationary period to make sure that you find someone you like.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a gym at the embassy. There is also a Gold's Gym around the corner, a Curves nearby, and several karate, yoga, and Pilates studios.

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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?

We only use our cards where we can see them being swiped, i.e. at the grocery or hardware stores. We only pay with cash in restaurants, as there have been an overwhelming number of identity theft cases traced back to popular restaurants. You can get cash at the embassy or almost anywhere in the city once you know where to look.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is an English-language non-denominational church, and they are building a monstrous Mormon temple. There is also at least one Synagogue. If you're a Catholic and speak Spanish, you're in luck.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There are no English-language newspapers, but many of the TV channels are in English. However, the feeds are often stolen by Salvadoran cable companies from the satellites in the States, so they can be unpredictable.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

If I did not speak some Spanish this would have been a much more difficult and less rewarding tour. You really do need at least a 2 in Spanish to make this post worthwhile.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I think a motile disability would be an almost impossible hurdle to overcome here. There are no wheelchair ramps, but there are steep hills and uneven pavement -- where pavement exists. Salvadorans are on the whole very kind and helpful people, (whether you want the help or not), and would try to assist, but someone with a physical disability would be very limited in their activities here.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Absolutely do not take any form of public transportation except for cabs, unless you really want to get mugged and/or shot. The embassy security dispatchers will happily call you a cab, though it's not a good idea to just hail one off the street since many are just dudes in yellow cars. To get from the embassy to the malls costs $6. On the plus side, the micro busses have these really cool neon shark fins on them.

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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?

Dear God, don't bring a Volkswagen! Any parts you might need have to be shipped from Guatemala at best, Germany at worst, or might not be available. The VW repair shop attached to the dealership is staffed with cheerful incompetents. While there are lots of capable mechanics, newer, computer-run cars are not the country's specialty. Bring a 10-year-old American-made SUV and you should be golden. Don't bring anything that needs special tires, oil filters, fluids, maintenance. Bring or buy a beater that you don't mind having the hubcaps, emblems, antennas, and spare tires stolen from.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

There is theoretically high-speed internet, but there are so many people on an unsure infrastructure that doing anything as resource-intense as streaming video can make you want to pull your hair out. Remember being "Tigo-ed?" Yeah, they run the cable and the internet, too.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Don't use Tigo! I don't know if you'll have a choice, but everyone here hates Tigo so much it's become a verb, i.e. "I've been Tigo-ed! "I don't know how available and reliable data plans are, but El Salvador is, across the board, 25 years behind the rest of the world. Your iPhone will not work here, but if it did, you'd only be able to watch the Thundercats and ALF on it.

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Pets:

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?

There is no quarantine required in El Salvador.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are several beloved vets, and they are competent and cheap. Most people choose to board their dogs with friends instead of using kennels, but they do exist.

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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?

Do not come here expecting a job of any kind. The embassy says that they have plenty of jobs for family members, but that's not exactly true. Because of the economic differential between the US and El Salvador, you can hire three Salvadorans for what it costs to hire one American. Jobs are written with language requirements so high that only locals qualify. What few jobs are leftover for spouses are administrative at best. Working on the local economy is really only possible if you are natively fluent in Spanish, and you would be extremely lucky to land a job making $15,000 a year. There is so little work for spouses here it was even suggested that I get to work starting a family instead. If you don't have kids and don't want to any time soon, bring a time-consuming hobby if your spouse will be working all day.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

It's pretty casual around here. However, in the city people rarely wear shorts. And while tight clothing is in, it's not usually too revealing. Inexplicably, polyester is king -- in the form of hot and itchy day suits.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

El Salvador is a critical crime post, and is often listed among the murder capitals of the world. There are frequent muggings, and most cars are missing their spare tires and brand emblems. The busses are a definite no-go zone, as are about 10 or 15 other towns and villages due to being gang strongholds. Homes have electrified razor wire atop 10-foot-high walls. The insane drivers could also get you killed. All that being said, I do not feel unsafe here. If you do get mugged and give people what they want, you will walk away from it. There have been a few attempts by inmates to call and extort some embassy staff members, but the security section handles them well. While you do have to be vigilant, keep an eye on your purse, avoid the ganglands, don't drive around with the windows down or leave anything visible in your car, I feel safer living here than I did for the 5 years I lived in New Orleans. There is incalculable violence going on between the gangs, but they're mostly too busy killing each other to bother with you.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Dengue fever is a nightmare no one should have to go through, and it is on the rise. You will become very acquainted with your bathroom, so pack lots of reading materials. Local health care is hit-or-miss, even at the hospitals, so ask around and get recommendations from friends. The health unit at the embassy does not enjoy a very good reputation, and many people choose to find their own healthcare elsewhere.

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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?

I am asthmatic and have not had too hard a time here. However, there are absolutely no emission standards, and people tend to burn their trash. They also burn the sugar cane around December. You should have a good pulmonologist on call.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It is gorgeous all year long. From October to May it's the dry season, i.e. "summer", and from May to October it's the rainy season, i.e. "winter". It rains like clockwork every afternoon from 5:00pm to 6:00 or 7:00pm, and then for 2 hours starting around 10:00 at night. It's sunny all day and in the 80's or 90's year 'round. You might actually find yourself wishing for some actual weather or a nice cool fall day, but you won't get it.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There's the British School and the American School, with various families finding various success with them. You do not need a teaching degree to teach at either of them or at any of the local colleges.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

While there are a few special-needs kids here, I don't think that it's a particularly good post for kids who have special needs of any kind.

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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?

No idea, no kids. Most people just get nannies for the daycare part.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

I know several kids that play soccer and tennis, and I know there are karate and judo lessons available.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Several hundred, but mostly Americans. Our embassy has famously been referred to as a battleship in a duck pond.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty high. This is just about the best overseas post that USAID has, and the compound is spectacular by anyone's standards. There's a gym, 2 tennis courts, a playground, a soccer field, sand volleyball court, basketball court, running track, kiddy pool, large pool, poolside snack bar and barbeque area. It's pretty hard to beat. The weather is spectacular, the locals are nice, and I think most people really like it here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There's always something going on, and the CLOs did a great job of organizing events. However, we will soon have a new CLO team in place, and due to budget cuts, they are getting their hours shortened. It remains to be seen how this will affect the community. The American Society plans about one activity a month, and there's always someone going whitewater-rafting, zip-lining, or to the beach.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think that the close-knit community at the embassy is good for families with young kids, though there are few teenagers at post. Singles in the Foreign Service often have a hard time anywhere, and that is true of El Salvador as well. There is such a desperate desire for visas that it can be hard to trust someone's motives. Also, almost no Salvadorans speak more than a few words of English, so there could be a language barrier. Young, adventurous couples, I think, will get the most out of the post because there's surfing, zip-lining, hiking, traveling, and night life.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

El Salvador is a VERY homophobic nation, and few locals are "out". I have gay Salvadoran friends in the States who refuse to return home to visit for fear of persecution. There is one gay bar though, and the embassy community counts several gay partners among its members. I don't think any problems would arise on compound, but they could in the community. Things are changing though, so we'll have to see.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

"La Matanza" in the 1930's resulted in the genocide of anyone of African or obvious indigenous ancestry, and anyone else who wasn't Spanish or mestizo. The result is a very homogenous group of people with little to no variation. There are no blacks, and very few Salvadorans will admit to having any indigenous blood whatsoever, even when it is impossible for everyone to be the 100% Spanish they claim. A *vast* majority of the country is Catholic, with some Mormons and very well-respected Jews thrown into the mix. Women definitely play second fiddle to men here, and it's not unusual for a woman to be completely ignored in a conversion on "men's topics" like cars and politics. I briefly had a gardener who wouldn't do anything I asked of him without checking with "el señor". He did not work for us for long.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

There is a new restaurant on the side of the San Salvador Volcano, called Las Brumas, which has good food and an incredible view of the city. The lakes and beaches are also wonderful.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Hiking, surfing, hanging out at the beach or the lake, going to rural villages, horseback riding, bowling, clubbing, fishing, lost of activities sponsored by the CLO and the American Society.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Black earthenware pottery, Fernando Llort art, hammocks, kitsch. There is MUCH better shopping to be had in Guatemala, and many of the nice things to buy here are actually copies of Guatemalan styles.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

El Salvador is a beautiful country with warm and friendly people. The cost of living here is generally very cheap. You can have a whole new wardrobe custom made for you for about $12 for a seamstress. Custom-made furniture, couch covers, paintings, and handicrafts are all ridiculously cheap by American standards.

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11. Can you save money?

Absolutely, if you don't travel too much.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely. I loved living here. The only thing I would really change about this post is the family member job situation.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Ski pants.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sun block, gastrointestinal soothing aids, favorite foods, bathing suits, bug spray, patience, sense of humor, English-language books, and aggressive driving skills.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Central American guide books are a must, but you can probably hire a real guide for less than the book would have cost.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Sin Nombre

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6. Do you have any other comments?

As long as you know what to expect and keep a situational awareness, San Salvador is a fantastic post. I will spend my first day back in the States rejoicing in Whole Foods, clothing stores, and Indian restaurants. I will spend my second day missing El Salvador.

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San Salvador, El Salvador 02/28/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have also lived in Panama and Santiago, Chile.

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2. How long have you lived here?

I have lived in E.S. for 5 years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

There are direct flights from L.A., Dallas, Houston, Miami, D.C., NY, Toronto. Most flights from the U.S. take between 2.5 and 4 hours.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Associated with the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing here is beautiful. Most homes are very large. Singles are generally in a single apartment complex that is secure, has beautiful views of the valley, a swimming pool, etc. Couples and families generally have large homes with three or four bedrooms. Yard space is sometimes limited, although several of the homes have quite spacious yards for entertaining or playing. Most of the homes are very light and airy, with large windows, cieling fans, and open porches.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

We find that groceries here are a little more expensive than in the US, but not bad. We can find almost everything here. Wal-mart bought out one of the local grocery chains and are stocking its shelves with more and more products from the US.The Salvadorans are very familiar with US products and culture and demand for them here is high, so finding them is generally not difficult. Sometimes you have to go to a couple of grocery stores to find everything you want. PriceSmart must be owned by Costco because it looks EXACTLY like Costco in the U.S. and carries many of the same kinds of products. It even has the same food bar outside the cash registers. You can't go in without spending US$100, but the quality of the goods is generally very good, and it is a great place to get meat and decent cheese. You may be able to find everything you want, but timing can be an issue: sometimes the grocery stores will stock something and then you won't see it again for five months - so if you like it and it can be stored, buy it all!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Diet Dr. Pepper!!! Cosmetics are expensive here so if you can't order them online, bring some with you. You can get most everything here. Buying clothes might be a challenge but you can have them made for cheap.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Almost everything from the U.S. is available here for comparable cost. KFC, McDonald's, BK, Wendy's, Pizza Hut (appears to be huge here), as well as local favorites like Los Cebollines (mexican food) and Pollo Campero (a cultural phenomenon).Other non-fast food chains like Tony Roma's, Chili's, Bennigan's, Benihana's, TGIFriday's are all here as well with menus from the US and decent food at comparable U.S. prices. There are nicer restaurants as well - great steak houses (La Hacienda Real), local bistros (a lo nuestro) and a myriad of bakeries, cafes, and other places to eat. Sushi and Chinese fare are available but there are only one or two really good places. I have not found a decent Indian, Lebanese, or Middle Eastern cuisine. Vegetarian options are generally not hard to find in any of the restaurants.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitos come out during dusk and dawn, but they are not a major nuisance. I've never had to wear repellant, although it is worse at the beach. San Salvador is at a higher elevation so the insects don't seem too bad in the city.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We have a DPO and pouch. Local mail will work though and I have used local mail to send and receive packages. It is slow and not nearly as reliable, but if you aren't working with the Embassy, it is an option.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

A live-in maid will cost somewhere between US$200 - $275 depending on their experience and schedule. Day maids will generally cost about the same, possibly more. On the local market I believe the average maid earns about US$160 - $180 per month, but ex-pats generally pay a bit more. It is DEFINITELY WORTH IT to find and pay for a maid/nanny that has worked with expats in the past!! Gardeners generally charge anywhere from US$12 - $18 per day depending on what you have them do.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Many gyms throughout the city. If you're with the Embassy I think you can use the gym at the Hilton hotel free of charge. The Embassy also has a gym facility for employees. World Gym is in a very nice neighborhood and a lot of people like that.

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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?

Credit card fraud is fairly high here. You can use your cards all over the place, but you should be careful and not use them at places where cashiers or waiters take your card out of sight. I haven't had any trouble finding an ATM that works with my bank account. El Salvador uses the U.S. dollar so there is no conversion to worry about.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Catholic. There is a non-denominational Union Church. Partial english services available at the Mormon church.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Cable has all the major network stations in the US: ABC (Atlanta), NBC (Denver), CBS (NY??), and Fox, in addition to a smattering of random movie channels, Food Network, Discovery, History, HGTV, etc. There isn't a local English paper but some of the major hotels probably get an international paper from the US.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Spanish is very helpful. Finding employment without Spanish will be near impossible. You'll find the strangest people that speak English (taxi drivers, drunks, random kids, store clerks - but not necessarily doctors, lawyers, or professionals).You'll need some basic vocabulary to get around and do shopping. Even some of the more touristy places will not have English speakers readily available. El Salvador, in general, is off the beaten path, but the people here are very kind and I have found them very willing to work with your broken Spanish.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

More and more places are becoming wheelchair accessible. Sightseeing out of the city would be very difficult, but in the city you could get around with some effort. It would be hard.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses are generally considered not safe although in the past I used to ride them everywhere and had no trouble. Taxis are safe, but it is recommended that you call one of the larger companies or use one of the hotel cabs rather than simply calling one off the street.

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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?

Just about everything can be serviced here. A lot of Salvadorans bring down used cars from the US and sell them on the local market, so you see everything: Honda, Toyota, Ford, Dodge, Hyundai, Mazda, etc. Some of the Japanese brands may be easier to service than American brands, but I can't say for sure. An SUV is not necessary - roads throughout the country are fine. However, this country is speed bump crazy and some of the speed bumps are out-of-control big - so a sedan may hit bottom once or twice in some neighborhoods. It isn't a big enough deal to spend the extra money on an SUV if you're thinking about which way to go with a car purchase.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

High Speed is readily available and inexpensive. We have a cable, phone, and high speed internet package for US$55/month. We get 1meg/ps connection speed, although they have packages that range from 128kpbs to 2megs. Skype and Vonage all work fine here, although at $0.03 per minute on the local cell phones, many people just dial direct.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are plentiful and cheap. The rate to call the U.S. with your cell phone is currently about $0.03 per minute.

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Pets:

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?

Not sure.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

We don't have pets, but we've heard there is quality pet care available.

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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?

No. Teachers can get jobs fairly easily, but if you get hired at local rates you'll think twice. Working without Spanish will be almost impossible. There are a few positions at the embassy, but there are a lot of spouses here that do not work and wish they could.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Fairly conservative, although some of the women here dress rather... tight.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Air pollution is not bad. Litter has improved markedly in the past five years, and in some areas you find local street sweepers picking up the trash every morning. Burning garbage can be a problem, but it is not bad.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Not sure. Check with your local health unit or the CDC website.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

This is a high-threat crime post. However, we've never had serious problems. There are parts of the city that most ex-pats won't travel into, although my family has walked the streets of just about every part of the city without problems. Most of the problems are gang related and the violence and murders occurs within gangs. As a trend, tourists are not generally targeted for violent attacks, but you have to watch for things like car break ins, pick pockets or muggings. We travel outside the city and feel very comfortable. Sometimes there have been problems on the road between San Salvador and Guatemala City, but we have made the trip four or five times and never had any trouble there either. If you are alert and careful about where you go and when, you can enjoy San Salvador without unnecessary stress.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

General stomach issues are a concern. Dengue fever has hit a few people, but no ex-pats that I'm aware of. We've been to the ER three times with our kids, and we feel like the health care here is adequate. There are a couple of hospitals that have very good equipment and well trained doctors. Nurses generally are not super qualified but can do the basic. The Embassy has a health unit that can refer you to a local doctor that speaks English. Major surgeries would require a medevac to the U.S. I know several people who have had Lasik here and are very pleased with the results and price. Many doctors are willing to make house calls, and an appointment and check up will generally cost between US$25 - $40.The quality of dental work here is very high and dirt cheap. Many families take advantage of prices to get braces, major dental work, and regular cleanings done while they are at post.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Beautiful weather year round. From October to May is the dry season and it rarely, if ever, rains. It gets hot in March and April. From May to October is the rainy season, and it generally rains every day. Usually the rainfall will hit for an hour or two in the afternoon, but occassionally you'll get days of the tropical drizzle and mist. It is in the 70s and 80s year round. Ideal!!

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are several that the expat community uses. The American School has a reputation for being ok but the kids are a littly more clique-ish and the environment a little more... rowdy? The British School has a reputation for better academics and a more serious curriculum. There is also a Pan American School, International School, French School, German School, and smaller private school Los Robles that ex-pats send their kids to. It is really a case of matching up a school with what you and your kids want.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I'm not sure.

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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?

There are several. Most are bilingual. Arbol de Dios and The Paper Boat seem to be popular, and both have bilingual teachers. There is also a Montesorri School that I've heard is excellent - much better than many Montessori Schools in the US.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes and no. There are sports programs through most of the schools. You can also find neighborhood gyms for kids that teach dance, gymnastics, arts and crafts, etc. My daughter goes to gymnastics twice per week for US$35/month. Dance classes at the same place cost the same. Karate and other activities are widely available.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Medium to medium large?? You don't see a lot of foreigners outside the embassy, altough there are a lot of Asians (Chinese and Koreans) here with clothing factories and other businesses. Some Europeans here on diplomatic missions. Lots of Salvadorans that are descendants of Europeans and Middle Easterners that you think are foreigners but are not.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally very good. This is a great family post and there are lots of things to do. It gets confining sometimes because crime in the city makes it difficult to simply go out and enjoy the city. This is still a hardship post, but a very pleasant one.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are activities every weekend if you want to participate. There are concerts always going on, cultural events at local theaters and museums. The international fair grounds generally has something of interest going on. A lot of people entertain at their homes, but weekends generally involve leaving the city and heading to the mountains or to the beach for the day or overnight.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families - YES! Singles - yes. There are quite a few clubs, restaurants, and night life. I have several single friends that entertain themselves well in the city. Couples - Yes. Plenty of restaurants, theaters, clubs, and other activities.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I would think so. I've seen a handful of gay couples (no lesbian couples) at some of the malls, theaters, or other places and nobody seems to pay much attention to them.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not really. Certainly not for expats.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Food Festival in Juayua - every weekend!Canopy Tour in ApanecaBeaches are beautiful and it is very easy to rent out a private house or join a club. There are several very nice shopping malls. Movie theaters are just like the US with stadium seating, a/c, and movies are released here generally at the same time as the US.Kids movies are generally in English for the first few days and then they play the dubbed version, so you can take your kids to the Disney flicks. Mayan ruins at San Andres and Joyas de Ceren. Boat tours on Lake Suchitlan and hanging out in Suchitoto - an old colonial-ish type town. Touring the cathedral downtown and National Theater. Museum of Anthropology is beautiful. Museum of Art is very nice and modern. Tin-Marin Children's Museum. Pottery shopping in Ilobasco. The fish market on the pier in La Libertad. Pupusas in Planes de Renderos and the Puerta del Diablo where you can see from the city to the coast and for miles!Hike one of the several volcanoes. Drive to the top of the Boqueron volcano. Explore the markets and old theater in Santa Ana. Guatemala City is only 4.5 hours away! Copan, Honduras and the mayan ruins are only 4 hours away!

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There are some local crafts that are unique: pottery and basketry. Guatemala has a much better selection of local artisan crafts, and it is only a few hours away.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, but not lots.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

ABSOLUTELY! This is a great post for families. I do, however, miss some of the freedoms that are sacrificed at a high crime threat post.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter coat and visions of strolling down city sidewalks.

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3. But don't forget your:

Beach gear, sunscreen, and common sense for street crime.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

I have not met anyone who would not have come to El Salvador if they knew then what they know now. Many of the families that have lived at many other posts have said that the facilities and housing here are nicer than most anywhere else they've lived. Don't be fooled into thinking that the proximity to the US will translate into cheaper airfare though. Generally, a round trip back to the states can cost anywhere from US$600 - $900 depending on where you are flying into. Flights out of Guatemala are about half the cost, and include some discount fare airlines like Spirit Air. El Salvador does not. Rumor has it that JetBlue has been researching coming to El Salvador though and that might push airfares down if it works out.

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