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El Salvador

El Salvador Fast Facts

Punta Cana Dominican Republic

Population: 6,344,722
Capital City: San Salvador
Climate: Tropical

Dominican Republic Pontoon

Language: Spanish
International Dialing Code: +503
President: Salvador Sánchez Cerén

El Salvador Is An Emerging Retirement Haven

It’s not on our list of top overseas havens yet, but this is a country on the rise with good fundamentals. The economy is sound, and tax rates are reasonable.

Highways are new, thanks in part to an international consortium called the Millenium Fund. Roads are clear and clean, and the people are hard-working. The literacy rate is better than 80%, and the standard of living improves yearly.

This country is one of the bright stars in the Central American orbit. Its young president is energetic and a polished communicator who appears to be delivering on his promises of jobs, education, and a better future. True, he is the first freely elected official of a left-wing party, but, in the wake of previous excesses of juntas and right-wing death squads, perhaps this is an understandable swing of the pendulum.

Crime was once a big problem, thanks to the gang known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. Today, following years of police action, the few gang members who aren’t in prison have become a danger only to themselves. Recognizable by their extensive tattoos, they’re prone to fight with other gang members, typically over guns, drugs, and territory. The good news is that the police are well-trained and honest…a rarity in Central America. They’re usually ex-military and paid on time (another rarity). They won’t ask you for a bribe, nor should you offer them one.

In the country’s capital city is large and sprawling, with a population estimated at 1.7 million people. Set in a large bowl, San Salvador is surrounded by green hills and volcanoes, the greatest of which is the San Salvador volcano (Quetzaltepeque). It has two peaks, one a sharply pointed landmark known as Picacho (6,000 feet), the second, slightly smaller, known as El Boqueron (Big Mouth) and 5,500 feet in altitude. At the bottom of El Boqueron is a second crater, formed after a small eruption in 1917, that’s perfectly round.

We recommend settling in and around the capital, specifically to either the Colonia San Benito or the Colonia Escalon. These are safe, cosmopolitan, and relatively quiet neighborhoods. The rents and prices are urban (figure US$500 to US$800 per month furnished), but the outer portions of the city, while cheaper, are grittier.

The country is small (you can cross it in four hours), so the beach is 30 minutes away from San Salvador.

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