Central America has some tourist stories that might curl the hair of even the most seasoned travelers, but that shouldn’t stop you from venturing to some of the finest surfing in the world.
Be flexible with your plans.
This is good advice for travelling anywhere, especially when in third world countries. Keep your plans flexible as you never know what might cause a change in itinerary. Sometimes things won’t go to plan like buses, food, or your morning surf. At that moment, remember always go with the flow.
Stock up on plenty of suncreen.
Suncream is a hot commodity in Central America and anywhere off the beaten path. If you surf, bring zinc or a similar sunblock as you will not find this in most El Salvador shops.
Pack sturdy flip-flops & pair of sneakers.
Nothing is more annoying then the plugs on your cheap flip-flops breaking or not being able to cut the trail on your way to a volcano or waterfall. Take a pair of cheap sneakers so you can rock hop and jump without cutting your feet.
Pack a first-aid kit.
Pack a standard first aid kit that would include common first aid items like, bandages and painkillers. It is also a good idea to bring with you the following items that are hard to find but vital when required: Antiseptic wipes, iodine or hydrogen peroxide or tea tree oil, steri-strips or butterfly closures that can be used to close small wounds and liquid spray plasters. Definitely pack an after-bite ointment that could ease the scratching.
Pack insect repellent.
The mosquitoes can be vicious in central America. A great alternative to insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin (chemicals that melt plastic and your clothes), is a citronella-based moisturizer or other natural insect repellent. Try Tiger Balm an alternative as it works both as a repellant and as an after-bite care.
Pack a misquito net.
Prevention is always going to better than cure. Nothing is worse than a bad night sleep because you’re being eaten alive by mosquitos. If that kid in the hostel insists on keeping the window of your dorm open, you can sling your net up and wake up bite free.
Bring a surfboard ding-repair kit.
A full kit with the fibre glass and everything, not just the sun-cure gel. You’ll be hard pressed to find this anywhere in central and paying for a repair to your surfboard is expensive ($40USD). You could even sell your repair kit to other surfers for good money as everyone is looking for one. If you have an epoxy surfboard this is even more important to bring. Good luck finding an epoxy repair kit.
Bring at least two different types of debit card.
In many of the tourist areas there are stand-alone ATMs that for some reason don’t seem to accept a lot of travellers debit or cash cards. Take a few different cards use different networks to ensure you will always be able to get cash out (Visa electron, Mastercard debit, Cirrus etc).
Hide an emergency $100 cash somewhere in your bag.
If all goes wrong, then you can grab the $100 to pay for what’s needed.
Carry only small bills.
Before you leave, make sure you have lots of small bills and break down any $100 bills. Many shops are reluctant to take the $100 bill as they may be counterfeit, or simply they just don’t have the change to break the note for you.
Split your credit and debit cards up.
Don’t store all your cards in one place. If someone does break into your room, hopefully they won’t find your stash. Think the chest pocket of your shirt, under the insole of your sneakers or in your first aid kit.
Don’t leave with out at least $20.
A $20 note or equivalent in local currency. If you get into trouble or a local won’t stop following you on your way home at night, that $20 can come in handy to make the problem go away. Hopefully this never happens but if it does, as it has for many travellers I met coming up through Central America you’ll be thankful you have that extra 20 bucks!