Getting around in El Salvador can be a bit complicated and unfortunately unlike our neighbors in Guatemala, there very few formal shuttles offering transportation to common destinations within the country. It is easy enough to find international buses and shuttles from places outside the country like Antigua, Guatemala, Guatemala City, Copan Ruins, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa in Honduras and Leon, and Managua in Nicaragua. This includes several companies offering luxury buses from cities as far north as Tapachula Mexico and as far south as Panama City, offering daily departures from most country capitals cities.
Many of these bigger companies now offer online bookings and both one way and round trip services daily. You can find these companies by searching online for international buses in Central America providing Google results like: Tica Bus https://www.ticabus.com/ , Platinum Central America http://platinumcentroamerica.com/ King Quality-Puerto Bus http://www.imagazinetur.com/directorio/home/salvador/courier/king-quality-puerto-bus.html and Pullmantur https://www.pullmantur.com/
There are now a couple of smaller shuttles companies that offer connections in Antigua, Guatemala, The west coast beach of El Tunco-San Salvador-East coast beach of El Cuco-San Miguel-Leon Nicaragua and another with departures every other day connecting Copan Ruins-Santa Ana-San Salvador-El Tunco Beach. Links can be found online to Gekko Explorer http://gekkotrailsexplorer.com/ Bigfoot Hostel Antigua https://www.bigfoothostelantigua.com/shuttles Bonvoyage Guatemala http://www.bonvoyageguatemala.com/english/shuttleantiguaguatemala.html Marvelus Trips http://marvelustravel.com/ Quetzal Trekkers http://leon.quetzaltrekkers.org/shuttles.html .
For Connections to and from Copan Ruins in Honduras you can find companies like Basecamp Copan https://basecampcopan.wordpress.com/transport/ as well as some mentioned above which also offer this common route.
Arriving by plane? There are three authorized and somewhat standardized taxi companies that work the airport. Taxis Acacya https://www.taxisacacya.com/ are the oldest and probably most recommended although we have never had problems with the newer companies working the airport. Rates to most San Salvador hotels run from $25-$35. That said all of the major international hotels have airport shuttle, but you must request the service when making your reservations.
There are hundreds of individuals and companies like Gringo Tours that offer airport pick up and drop off as well as private transfers around El Salvador and in some cases Central America, many like us will have prices posted on websites.
As of late 2016 Uber drivers are now available in San Salvador and some of the other larger cities like San Miguel, Santa Ana and Sonsonate, these are getting good reviews and seem to be less expensive that the local taxis which I find inexpensive for most services like airport transfers ($25-$35) and getting around in San Salvador ($6-$12 for most common fares)
Now for those on a budget the local buses are extremely inexpensive from $0.20 for the urban buses to around $4 for the interdepartmental buses like the ones going from San Salvador to San Miguel, Santa Ana and Sonsonate. Many of these longer routes offer various qualities of buses and services from the standard bus which stops often and offers little comfort, to the Super Special which many times offers A/C, WiFi, curtains and sometime even restrooms and beverages for sale.
We do make some general recommendations for your safety and yes there is always a risk of anything from accidents to robberies so please head and use if you decide to. That said we have met hundreds of travelers who have used local buses and all have been happy with the cost and service, although It is important to mention that the do take more time to get from one place to another, why they are generally used for the backpacker travelers who are both on a tighter budget and have more time to explore each country.
We do like to mention that the city buses are generally more of a risk than the interdepartmental buses, you should also never travel by bus in the evening/night or on the pre-dawn buses that many times depart at 4 am or even earlier. Keep an eye on your stuff and if asked, pay the extra seat/fare to have your backpack next to you and not on the top of the bus. You will find that the Salvadoran people are very friendly and many have spent time in the US so don't be surprised if you are asked in broken English where you are from, be friendly and they will spark up a conservation and make your time go by all the quicker. We have heard cases where a meeting on the bus turns into an invitation to visit the rest of the family or in some cases a place to spend the night. If you speak a little Spanish you will surely make friends and enjoy the sometime bumpy ride to your destination
Today there are several online resources for finding out about bus routes and schedules (which generally don’t exist in El Salvador) one we like that was put together by a traveler as she made her way through Central America and now with current information from other travelers is CentroCoasting https://centrocoasting.com which not only cover El Salvador but most of Central America. In Spanish but with current information about many local bus routes are bus.sv http://bus.sv/ which has links to most of western El Salvador buses as well as a convenient link page for all of the international buses in Central America that service El Salvador. Another local link is The Bus Schedule site for El Salvador at http://horariodebuses.com/ES/sv/
As our trip planning and itinerary help we are more than happy to provide individual information so if you don’t see what you need or want information for your trip just drop us a note and we can provide you with the information to make your travels in El Salvador go as smoothly as possible.