What to Do With a Long Layover in El Salvador

What to Do With a Long Layover in El Salvador| Traveling Spud

When my friend and I booked our flight on Avianca airlines to Peru we had no option but to book our flight with a long layover in El Salvador. 7 hours to be exact.  Because both of us have somewhat adventurous spirits we definitely didn’t want to stay at the airport that long and we started looking up what to do on a long layover in El Salvador. We looked on Trip Advisor and all over the internet, but didn’t seem to find any real viable options. One option was to go tour the city in a cab although they said San Salvador isn’t the safest place.

I spoke with one of my colleagues who said El Salvador beaches were amazing and that we should try and visit Playa El Tunco. So, we decided to arrive in El Salvador, try and leave the airport, and go to Play El Tunco. Adventuress Kate also recommends  Play El Tunco as a great place in El Salvador.


Here’s what we did…and I highly recommend you do it too if you have a layover in El Salvador.

Step 1: The Tax. 

We realized quickly that you have to pay an airline tax to leave the airport and come back.  El Salvador’s airport is long and skinny with a lot of people in wheelchairs (weird?) and we found the Avianca desk at one end of the terminal to pay the tax. They made us pay $37.00 USD to leave the airport and come back in. Be prepared for El Salvadorians to takkkeee theirrrr time. We thought it was a little expensive, but worth not sitting in the airport all day.

Step 2: The Visa.

We went down to the customs gate and bought our Visas to get into El Salvador. This costed us $10 and is the minimum Visa you can get which gets you 90 days in the country. They also took their sweet time to do this, but were very kind, excited to talk to us and gave us recommendations of food to eat…mainly papusas.

What to Do With a Long Layover in El Salvador | Traveling Spud

Step 3: The Cab.

We asked the officers at the gate where to get taxis to El Tunco and they guided us outside to a taxi who said he would take us to to El Tunco for $30 USD. We got in and asked him to take us to Playa El Tunco and tried to tell him to take us to the public part. We were clueless.

Step 4: The Ride.

The beach was about 45 mins away from the airport, but we had time to kill. The drive there was interesting enough and it was fun to see the beautiful coastline and countryside of El Salvador. Our cab driver ended up dropping us off at the main walkway down to El Tunco and we got out and hoped we’d find a ride back later!

Step 5. El Tunco.

This place was SO COOL! Very beachy, full of surf shops, burrito and papusa shops, fresh juice places, hostels with hammocks, and a wonderful beach. We went down to the beach and hit the water first. We wished we had rented surf boards or taken a lesson because the water was so warm! It was a great change of pace from traveling on a plane over night!

What to Do With a Long Layover in El Salvador | Traveling Spud

What to Do With a Long Layover in El Salvador | Traveling SpudWhat to Do With a Long Layover in El Salvador | Traveling Spud

Step 6: Papusas

We laid around and hung out at the beach for a few hours and then got up to go eat some papusas at a local shop along the beach called Fifi’s. My favorite papusa was the chicharon con queso and the homemade salsa they provide with papusas was AMAZING. You can get these in the airport too and I highly recommend trying them.

What to Do With a Long Layover in El Salvador | Traveling Spud

Step 7: Getting Back.

After a few hours we decided it was time to head back to the airport. Unfortunately there weren’t any cabs around so we asked the guys guarding the gate to the beach and they said their friend could drive us. This would have normally probably been sketchy to do in El Salvador…okay it was. But something in my gut said we were safe and it ended up working out great! I recommend asking the gate guards for a ride or someone in one of the shops.

Step 8: Airport.

We made it back to the airport with probably too much time to kill and could have stayed longer at the beach. It look us about 20 mins to get back into the airport and 45ish minutes to drive back. The airport in El Salvador doesn’t have much going for it, but there is a bar if you need to sit there for 7 hours.  I highly recommend biting the bullet and going to the beach though!

What to Do With a Long Layover in El Salvador | Traveling SpudWhat to Do With a Long Layover in El Salvador | Traveling Spud

Have you ever experienced a long layover? Would you go to the beach?

By | 2015-12-14T19:53:52+00:00 December 15th, 2015|Travel|19 Comments

About the Author:

The Traveling Spud
Welcome to the Traveling Spud! I’m Katie, a 28-year-old from Idaho who quit her marketing job in San Francisco, California to travel the world for a year. I'm addicted to outdoor adventures, photography and inspiring others to get out of their comfort zones and cross experiences off of their bucket lists. Let's explore together! Read more here.


  1. Marcy Csmpbell May 4, 2017 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the advice on the layover in El Salvador. I will definitely be taking your advice on the beach and food.

  2. Liz September 1, 2017 at 10:53 am - Reply

    I love this! I’m usually not brave enough to leave the airport, so it’s helpful to hear what you did with the timeline. Thank you!

  3. Alex September 14, 2017 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Hi Katie, thanks for article! It was really helpful! I have a 12 hour layover in San Salvador (also with Avianca) but will be by myself. Do you have any tips/advice on traveling alone in San Salvador?

    I definitely would love to hit the beaches! My layover is from 7am-7pm

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud September 14, 2017 at 11:08 am - Reply

      It was really easy for us to get a cab to the beach of El tunco if you want to spend time there. I felt very safe. I didn’t go to San Salvador though, but I’m sure it would be fun too!

  4. Cel October 3, 2017 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Katie, thanks for sharing your experience. I’m planning our Peru trip and flights have 7 hours layover too in El Salvador. The only risk I can see is the return ride to airport. How much did you pay for the return ride? Another option is to ask the airport taxi who drop us off to return after 2 hours and just pay extra? Did you check if Uber works? I love your photos.

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud October 4, 2017 at 12:44 pm - Reply

      We found locals who ended up taking us back. If you go to a shop they could find one for you, but not sure the price. I didn’t check if uber works…I doubt it, but I would definitely just ask the locals. They were super nice and willing to drive you for a bit of money!

  5. Daniela Sosa October 26, 2017 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Hello! Thank you so much for sharing! I have a long layover and was wondering if this was possible and if so, where to go! I’ll most likely do this as well!
    Question though, did you take your luggage with you? Or were you able to leave it at the airport?

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud October 30, 2017 at 7:31 pm - Reply

      Of course! 🙂 Yes, I went to El Tunco and it was great! We did take our luggage, but we had backpacks so it was easier while sitting on the beach! Hope this helps. You might be able to find lockers at the airport though!

  6. Micheal Carson February 25, 2018 at 6:51 am - Reply

    I am currently in the San Salvador airport and the first thing that stood out to me was all the wheelchairs. Can anyone venture to explain why there are up to a dozen elderly women (didn’t see any men) that use the wheelchair service in this airport? Is it priced too cheap, is it part of the culture or is it a effect caused by health policy or something? This was fascinating to see. Never seen it anywhere in the world, and I have been to 20+ countries.

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud March 4, 2018 at 11:31 am - Reply

      SAME! I seriously couldn’t figure it out myself and there were even lines at the San Francisco airport with wheelchairs too to get on the plane to San Salvador!? So confusing.

    • Osmaro Zelaya June 19, 2018 at 2:27 pm - Reply

      hahahaha, it’s fun to read this, because in El Salvador we see it as something normal. Well I tell you what happens at our airport. In the United States we have a large number of Salvadorans, almost 3.5 million and many of these Salvadorans migrated leaving their families a long time ago. For an average Salvadoran it is difficult to get a VISA, for the reasons that you already know, but for a person who is already over 67 years of age, it is much easier. So these grandparents go to visit their families after a long time without seeing them, but since it is difficult for them to have a relative with an American visa to accompany them, they have to travel alone. The airline takes care of them only in case they can not walk or any similar impediment, so the relatives send the grandparents in a wheelchair in this way someone takes care of them in the whole journey. For this reason, you will always see that number of grandparents in a wheelchair.

      Greetings from El Salvador. Good article.

      P.S. I also offer free travel advice in El Salvador, you can contact us at: https://www.ecotourspetate.com

      • The Traveling Spud
        The Traveling Spud June 26, 2018 at 12:57 pm - Reply

        That is so so interesting! I always really wondered why there were so many, but that makes sense now. Thank you for letting me know! 🙂 I’d love to come visit again!

  7. Zeck March 17, 2018 at 12:06 am - Reply

    There appears to be some attractions around the city, especially the cathedral. Was this one of your options and did you see or hear about any city tours while there? Most importantly, would a city tour be less safe than your beach excursion? Thx!


    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud March 27, 2018 at 6:19 pm - Reply

      Yes! We thought about doing the tours around the city as well, but couldn’t find a tour and most seemed to be run by taxis! It was easier for us to just go to the beach.

  8. Johnson March 22, 2018 at 2:13 am - Reply

    I just love your article. I’m usually not brave enough to leave the airport, so it’s helpful to hear what you did with the timeline
    thanks for this great post keep it up.

  9. Diane May 9, 2018 at 8:07 pm - Reply

    Hi Katie
    Very helpful article. We are planning to go to Peru and wanted to see if we could scoop a long layover either in Panama or el Salvador. This sounds like fun. What time of year did you travel?

    • The Traveling Spud
      The Traveling Spud June 7, 2018 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      Yay! I’m so excited for you! I went in November and it was great in El Salvador and Peru!

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