The official currency of El Salvador is the US dollar (since 2001). Carry only 1, 5, 10 or 20 dollar notes. Most shops, supermarkets and department stores do not accept $50 or $100 notes. If you need to change your notes into smaller denominations, you can go to any bank.
El Salvador has the largest shopping centres in the region (MetroCentro – MetroSur), especially in San Salvador, with many high-quality international shops. Goods can also be purchased in markets, including national and international supermarkets.
San Salvador has a number of large, modern shopping centres offering the latest in fashion, accessories and international cuisine. They are mostly found in the upscale suburbs of the city, such as Escalón, Santa Elena and their surrounding areas. These shopping centres include:
For lovers of fair trade handicrafts and organic products, a local alternative market is held every second Saturday in San José Park, in the San Luis neighbourhood, just west of the national university.
Expect to pay $30 to $60 for a hotel room, $3 to $5 for a simple meal, $0.25 to $0.35 for a bus ride from San Salvador, $1 per hour to use the internet and $0.25 for a bag of sliced mangoes. The only downside is that large notes ($50 and $100) are virtually unsellable. Change wherever you can – petrol stations are always a good choice. A good idea is to go to a bank and ask for small notes, but no more than $20. Pay attention to the prices at which street vendors sell their goods, because sometimes they take advantage of people who look or sound like strangers by raising their prices considerably.
If you are carrying money from other Central American countries, the banks in those countries are usually your best bet, as they almost always exchange their own currency into dollars at fairly decent rates. You can also get dollars at many ATMs in countries like Costa Rica and Nicaragua.