Delegate Training – Lesson 4

Traveling To El Salvador

A. Why You Need A Buddy

People customarily take care of each other in places where there is little police protection and medical help is far away. You will use the same system to stay safe.

B. Your Safety – Buddy System

For your safety, you will always have a “buddy” for whom you are responsible and with whom you must stay at all times. You and your buddy must always be with the group unless you have permission from your Trip Leader. From the time you leave the USA and while touring San Salvador, you will have a travel buddy. Once in your village, your housemate will be your buddy. During the workday, you may have another buddy if your housemate is on a different project. With special approval of the trip leader, a trusted person who is not a trip participant may be approved as a buddy. Never go anywhere without another delegate being with you.

C. Travel Rules

People customarily take care of each other in places where there is little police protection and medical help is far away. You will use the same system to stay safe.

  • Never leave your “buddy.”
  • Always remain with the group and do not leave the area without prior permission of your Trip Leader.
  • You must be on board the bus at the assigned time of departure.
  • If you ever get lost, you will have a card of phone numbers and addresses.
  • Always carry about $5 with you for emergencies, but not too much more unless you are on a trip to make a purchase.
  • No one will ever travel at night, or be out after dark except when with the group.
  • Participants are not to drive any motorized vehicle.
  • If there is no choice but to ride in the back of a truck, you must sit on the floor of the bed and not on the side rails.

D. Departure Airport

  • You will meet at the airport 3 hours before flight time.
  • Always stay with your delegations. Groups are difficult to coordinate in public places and getting “lost” upsets the delegation and possibly the trip purpose.
  • Make sure you have your passport.
  • Leave a photocopy with your family in case you lose yours.
  • You will bring – and not bring: (see Appendix D – What to Bring for a detailed list)
    • 1 personal items carry-on bag (max 20 lbs),
    • 1 small “under your seat” bag or purse,
    • 2 suitcases filled with donations (max 50 lbs each).

E. Airport – San Salvador

When you arrive in San Salvador, you will have to pay a $10.00 entrance visa fee, pick up your checked luggage, and go through customs. For $2 you can rent a cart to push your bags. At customs, they will ask you to push a button. If it results in a green light, you go through, but if red, they do a brief search of your bags. Everyone is friendly. Outdoors it will be hot and crowded. The leaders of your delegation village group will be waiting with a chartered bus to carry you and your luggage to San Salvador (50-minute ride).

While waiting to load on your bus, people will ask you if you need a cab, whether you will buy a lottery ticket, soda, or craft. Sometimes people who look very needy may ask you for money. Everyone accepts a clear and smiling, “No gracias.” (If ever someone does persist, “No hablo español” works very well.) However, be aware that selling lottery tickets, food, or drinks is a source of income for poor people because there are not enough jobs for about half the population. Proceeds of lottery go to education so you may choose to buy one, or something else that is being offered. If you do, you might be then surrounded by others asking you to buy something from them, but “No” works.

F. Arriving In San Salvador

The 50-minute bus ride will be a chance to see the countryside and get to know your trip leaders and the people in your delegation. Once at the Guest House where you will be staying while in San Salvador, you will unload your bags and find a room. Then your first task, which must be completed before bedtime, is to get time on one of the computers to e-mail a message home letting them know you have arrived safely. Meanwhile you will have a team orientation meeting run by your Trip Leader. We will all eat dinner together and spend the evening doing team building games and orientation activities.

G. Touring San Salvador

During at least part of your first day, you will visit historic and cultural sites around San Salvador. This might include visiting the home of Oscar Romero, or meetings with spokesmen for the two major political parties. Other options are speakers and movies about what life was like during the war, tours of a street market, or climbing the San Salvador volcano for a panoramic view of the city and countryside.

H. Transportation and Taxis

Transportation will always be provided. However, if you ever need to use a taxi, most drivers are honest. But, just in case, try to find out the likely fare in advance. Before you get into the taxi or store your luggage, tell the driver where you are going and ask the price. Be prepared at the airport to be approached by taxi drivers. Just say, “No gracias” or “No lo necesito.”

I. Going to the Beach (option)

Some delegations choose to end their trip with a day at the beach. The bus will take you and your luggage from your community to a beach resort used by middle class Salvadorans. It has the Pacific Ocean, a large swimming pool, food and beverage services, comfortable beds, AC, and showers. There you can de-brief and evaluate your trip and the progress of your project as well as plan proposals for the future.