From the vibrantly-colored Spanish towns to the often-photographed coffee plantations gripping the walls of volcanoes, the notorious (and misguided) myths of gang violence in El Salvador keep this deserving country rather unexplored in the heart of Central America.
El Salvador offers one of the most authentic Central American experiences with its exotic cuisine, culture, beautiful language, and everything in between. Whether it’s the dark-sand beaches, the world-class surf, or astonishingly untouched national parks, this country has a little something for all adventure enthusiasts.
Due to travel myths that are unrepresentative of the modern-day country, few travelers make it to El Salvador, which is why it's an ideal location to learn Spanish. Without a booming tourism industry, locals do not often have to speak English which means communicating in their language is a must. This will force you to adapt quicker than in other places where English is more commonly used.
If you choose to learn Spanish in El Salvador, you will be offered a variety of course options. The first, and most common, option is to study through an immersion program. These programs usually involve 15-20 hours of class time per week with a plethora of different social activities mixed into the schedule. Enrolling in a language school is also an option for students who want a less time-intensive program.
Many schools throughout the country offer exchange or non-exchange study abroad programs that range from one semester to a full year in length. This is a good option for any student in pursuit of a degree -- whether it's a language degree or if the student just wants to learn Spanish to compliment their other studies. Normally, these type of students will be enrolled in classes with local students at a local university where courses are taught in Spanish. Students can usually earn academic credit that counts towards graduation at their home university by choosing this option. At some universities, they may also teach courses in English, with Spanish courses available separately.
The last option is learning Spanish through a private tutor that you will and pay independently. This option is by far the most expensive option as lessons are catered to the part of the language that you want to focus on. However, tutoring can also be a great advantage to those students looking to take the extra step in their Spanish education as you receive direct one-on-one time with a native speaker.
Why Learn Spanish in El Salvador?
Whether you’re looking for an experience in cultural immersion or wanting to refine your Spanish language skills and improve your candidacy in today’s over-flooded job market, learning the local language in-country is guaranteed to offer you an unmatched opportunity for an unforgettable and life-changing experience right in the heart of Central America.
Studying Spanish in this truly under-explored country, with locals excited to show you their life and culture, is a sure-fire way to get the Central American experience you crave. And the relative lack of tourism overall will make your travel experience in El Salvador more authentic and less expensive than other countries in the region.
English is not widely spoken in the country. However, in most of the tourist cities, you will find locals who are willing and able to speak just enough to communicate. Most private tutors in El Salvador have a very low level of English-speaking knowledge, so it is recommended to have a basic level of Spanish before arriving if you're choosing that type of course.
Usually prospective Spanish students interested in university programs will have prior knowledge or experience learning Spanish, though some schools do offer beginner courses. With that being said, an intermediate level of Spanish is recommended, but not required.
Popular Locations to Learn Spanish in El Salvador
San Salvador is the capital and largest city of El Salvador. The origins of the city can be traced to before the Spanish conquest. Its population of 1.8 million prides itself on being the cultural center of the country. Students will love San Salvador for its exhilarating nightlife and overall young feel.
San Miguel, El Salvador’s second most populous city, is another excellent place to learn Spanish. With so many foreigners around town, it's one of the only places in the country you will commonly hear English. That's what makes this city an easy entrance point to Latin America -- a perfect destination for total beginners.
Choosing a Spanish Learning Program in El Salvador
If you are wondering which type of learning program is right for you, there are several questions you can ask yourself to help point you in the right direction.
First, would you consider yourself a social person? Do you like group activities? In an immersion program, you may be expected to participate in activities with groups of people you just met. If this isn't appealing, perhaps an immersion program isn't the right program for you.
If you're unsure about the type of activities included in the program, you can get in contact with someone from the specific program you are interested in to ask about curriculum and activities beforehand. This way, you'll know if you're likely to be stuck on a tour bus or embarking on well-planned and culturally-sensitive activities that give you a real taste of El Salvador.
Are you in the process of obtaining a degree and don't want to take time-off to learn Spanish? If so, perhaps the study abroad term is the best option for you. Many students do this type of learning program and stay right on track with their graduation goals.
Do you want to focus on a particular topic or aspect of the language? More often than not, immersion programs and study abroad classes will focus on a broader scope of the language. If you've narrowed down what you want to focus your education on, like learning business Spanish, then private tutoring may be your best bet.
Cultural Immersion in El Salvador
Homestays are not common in El Salvador. With the threat of gang violence looming in some of the most popular parts of the country, most families don’t want the added responsibility of hosting a foreigner in their home. However, there are still a few homestay options available if you're willing to do the research to find them.
This is not to say that gangs will ruin your opportunity for immersion. There are plenty of activities to immerse yourself to El Salvador's vibrant culture. The best place to look for these programs and activities is through El Salvador-specific expat pages on Facebook. You'll notice meet-ups being regularly scheduled with people who are just like you -- travelers who want to learn more while visiting this beautiful country.
Average Spanish Language School Tuition in El Salvador
Learning Spanish in a country as uncommonly visited as El Salvador has its benefits. This country is a budget traveler’s dream and the course fees are equally affordable. As one of Central America’s most well-kept secrets, learning Spanish in El Salvador is remarkably inexpensive.
Unlike other places of the world, private tutoring in El Salvador does not break the bank. Expect to pay around $6-8 per hour for private lessons. This can be cheaper if you opt to pay upfront for long-term lessons. Usually, private tutors will allow you to pay however you’d like, whether that be by day, week, or month. Try paying for a few individual lessons before committing to longer-term study with that particular tutor.
With intensive language programs (including 20 lessons a week) running for as little as $200 per week, studying Spanish in El Salvador is an unbeatable offer that makes in-country Spanish language education even more enticing.
Scholarships for Learning Spanish in El Salvador
Spanish language scholarships directed specifically at those studying in El Salvador are extremely hard to find. Instead, you’d be much better off focusing your time on applying for general foreign language study abroad scholarships.
Luckily, El Salvador is an affordable country with equally affordable tuition rates. If you elect to study through a university, financial assistance is usually available. Consult with your home university to learn more about those options.
Cost of Living in El Salvador
Being well off the Central American tourist trail, El Salvador is very affordable. Expect to pay around $15-$40 per night when staying in a hotel in San Salvador. This includes a private room with a private bathroom, TV, and sometimes air conditioning.
Hotels, of course, are the most expensive accommodation option. Hostels and guesthouses can be found near to the city center for around $8-$10 per night. Homestays are more difficult to find, but could save you even more money, as food is usually provided by the family you are living with.
Visas & Other Relevant Information
Travelers from most Western countries may stay in El Salvador for up to 90 days without a visa, provided they have a valid passport, proof of sufficient funds (around $200), and proof of onward travel. Nationals of countries such as Australia must purchase a 30-day tourist card upon entry in El Salvador for $30. Please consult the El Salvador Foreign Ministry for additional information.