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Heading to El Salvador and beyond by bus

While the travel agencies in Panajachel don’t seem to know this, there are actually quite a few options. I am going to cover what I know assuming your destination is Managua Nicaragua.

Prices and comfort vary all over the place. An excursion will cost around $30 with all the comfort of an old school bus. If comfort, air conditioning and a toilet are on your requirements list, you have options starting at (realistically) $80. I have traveled on two of the options and my wife was also on another. I will detail what we have first-hand experience with and then offer some Other Options.

TicaBus

I list this first because it is one one that everyone seems to know about. While it is a reasonable option if your final Destination is San Salvador, I would not recommend it for a trip to Nicaragua. In addition, for some reason TicaBus trips are always like traveling in a refrigerator. If you plan to use them, bring a jacket. Seriously.

On TicaBus, it is a two-day journey. You can leave Guatemala City at 6AM or 2PM for San Salvador. The second day you leave Sal Salvador at 5AM. They offer two overnight locations in San Salvador — one for $20/night, the other for $30/night. The advantage of the more expensive one is that they say food is available. In the evening there is a restaurant with lots of meat options but no fish or vegetarian options. The bus leaves in the morning before the restaurant opens. When I was there I did manage to find a nice but very expensive Japanese restaurant nearby. They do make a breakfast stop in a glorified gas station with pretty disgusting looking food.

The price is about $54 but you then need to add in the room in San Salvador and your food. Thus, it is a lot more time for about the same price as del Sol.

Final destination in Managua is in Bolonia, much like del Sol and King Quality. There are some inexpensive hospedajes within a block of their terminal and nicer hotels (from Villa Angelo at $26/night to the Crowne Plaza) rwithin half a dozen blocks.

Transportes del Sol

We have both used this multiple times. They are based in San Salvador and offer a virtually useless web page. What it is good for is finding their phone numbers. Beyond that, it really is useless. It has a contact form which I have used multiple times and never received a reply. Email to infoelsalvador@busesdelsol.com seems to get answered in a day or three.

The buses leave every day at 1AM from the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Phone number is 2422 5000 which is really the number for the Crowne Plaza but they have a permanent presence there. They usually have a 2 for 1 deal on Wednesdays. That means a good deal if there are two of you and a crowded bus if you are alone.

The trip to Managua is about sixteen hours which includes a very fast bus change in San Salvador. You end up paying $5 for the border crossings but only have to get off the bus and drag your luggage around once — when entering Nicaragua.

The buses are air conditioned and comfortable including having a realistic temperature inside. The trip includes meals for some value of the work. Coffee and some packaged wheat and sugar-based thing for breakfast and generally a chicken-based thing that is picked up from a fast food place for lunch. As I have always gotten off in Estelí, I have no clue whether a dinner is served as well.

Note that return trip leaves at 3AM from the Bolonia area (near Plaza Inter) of Managua.

Other Options

  • King Quality (now called Platinum). Leaves in the very early AM from some hotel in Zona 10. $82. Destination is in Bolonia across the street from Plaza Inter.
  • Jose Maria — Two trips a week, one on a pullman bus. They go through Chinandega rather than down the Pan American Highway. Leaves from Hotel España in Zona 1 more or less mid-day. I will try to find their contact information.
  • Transporte Danelia is a low-budget ($27, I think) school bus to Managua. Leaves about mid-day from Hotel España in Zona 1, arriving in Managua around 10AM. It does travel down the Pan American Highway in Nicaragua meaning that Somoto, Estelí, … are options both to get off and to board the bus in the other direction. (I will try to get the contact info but calling Hotel España may work.)

I expect there are other options as well. If you know of any or have experience on any of them, speak up.

5 comments to Heading to El Salvador and beyond by bus

  • admin

    Note that a previous article, http://atitlanlife.com/2013/09/26/pana-tofrom-guate-by-bus/, deals with the Pana to Guate part.

  • Aileen

    Hey, I will be looking to leave Lake Atitlan on January 1, 2015 after 9am and arrive in Esteli, Nicaragua. Since I will miss the option to leave early in the morning on Transportes Del Sol, what do you think is my best course of action? I speak Spanish and appreciate low-budge travel, but am looking forward to getting to Nica : )

    • admin

      Why after 9AM? There are “excursions” that leave from Hotel Expaña (Calle 9, Zona 1 en Guate) a couple days a week but they generally leave before noon. TicaBus leaves in the afternoon but with an overnight in San Salvador so it is really no faster than the next Del Sol.

  • Lisa

    Many thanks for this very useful post! A quick question on Transportes del Sol – is there any way to buy tickets for the bus to Managua, other than from their office at the Crowne Plaza? Would it be too risky to turn up and try to get a ticket just before departure?

  • admin

    Lisa: Sorry for the late reply but your message got buried in a lot of SPAM.

    You can buy tickets in Managua at their office (across the street from TicaBus in Bolonia) if you are starting on that end if that helps. If not, except for Wednesday (two for one fares) it is unlikely there will be a problem buying tickets the same day as the departure. The first time I took Del Sol I inquired mid-day and they said I needed to purchase tickets a day in advance. But, every time I have taken them lots of people show up late at night (an hour or less before the departure) and buy tickets. I have done it quite a few times with no problems.

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