The country code for El Salvador is 503, which you use only when dialing from outside the country. Telephone numbers in this guide include this prefix because most businesses' published phone numbers include the prefix.
To place a call from your home country to El Salvador, dial the international access code (011 in the U.S. and Canada, 0011 in Australia, 0170 in New Zealand, 00 in the U.K.), plus the country code (503), plus the eight-digit phone number.
To place a call within El Salvador, simply dial the eight-digit number beginning with 2 for landlines and 7 for cellphones.
To place a direct international call from El Salvador, dial 00 for international access, plus the country code to the nation you are calling, followed by the area code and local phone number. For directory enquiries, dial tel. 155, and to make reverse-charge calls abroad, you must call tel. 155-120. However, these are automated services that will sorely test your Spanish.
Claro (tel. 503/2250-5555; www.claro.com.sv) is the main telephone company, and call center branches can be found in all the main towns and cities. You can also make calls from public booths located on the street. Cards can be bought at most service stations and corner stores.
Cellphones have taken off in El Salvador, with more than 3 million gadgets in use, the vast majority of which are pay-as-you-go. The main companies are Movistar, Tigo, Digicel, and Claro, with Tigo reputedly giving the best overall reception. You will need to buy a new chip on arrival if you wish to bring your own phone; better, more reliable, and more expensive is to arrange a roaming facility with your phone company before your trip. The roaming service can cost anywhere between $1 and $4 a minute, while a new chip costs $35. Whichever you decide, consult with your provider beforehand, as many a traveler has found his phone still useless with a new chip; it has something to do with different bands in different countries and not all phones being compatible.
Pay-as-you-go phones can be purchased in the airport, the cheapest of which cost $60. Make sure to ask if the phone can take international calls and how much this costs, as packages vary and can be restrictively expensive. For example, partially paying for Mom's call will soon blitz any credit you have. Local calls vary from 10¢ to 50¢ a minute. Look out for promotions such as free incoming calls and cheap international calls for 10¢ a minute with certain networks.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
Your best, cheapest bet for making international calls is to head to an Internet cafe. The vast majority have an international calling system called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which most of us know as Skype. These cafes are easily spotted because they have headsets attached to each computer (and often a loud foreigner shouting down one). International calls made this way can range anywhere from free to $1 per minute -- much cheaper than making direct international calls or using a phone card. If you have your own Skype or similar account, you just need to find one of the many Internet cafes in El Salvador that provide the service. To open an account is easy -- just go on www.skype.com and follow the instructions. If you are calling another Skype user, the call is free.
Internet & E-mail
With Your Own Computer -- Even the most humble hostel has Wi-Fi coverage in El Salvador. Hotels, cafes, and retailers are signing on as "hot spots," meaning you can access the Internet from your own wireless-enabled laptop. Most places don't charge, though there are some high-end hotels in San Salvador that do. Wireless Internet in Spanish is known as internet inalámbrico. Mac owners have their own networking technology: Apple AirPort. iPass providers (www.ipass.com) also give you access to a few hundred wireless hotel lobby setups. To locate other hot spots that provide free wireless networks in cities around the world, go to www.personaltelco.net/index.cgi/WirelessCommunities or www.jiwire.com, which holds the world's largest directory of public wireless hotspots.
For dial-up access, most business-class hotels throughout Central America offer dataports for laptop modems.
Wherever you go, bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters, a spare phone cord, and a spare Ethernet network cable -- or find out whether your hotel supplies them.
Without Your Own Computer -- Cybercafes are now a common sight in any urban part of El Salvador, though be warned that in the classier districts of San Salvador, they are markedly absent. That should not matter, however, as any self-respecting hotel or youth hostel nowadays has at least one computer you can get to the Internet on, and many provide at least 15 minutes free. When entering a cybercafe, ask for una máquina, and the assistant will direct you to an available computer. Charges vary between $1 and $2 an hour.
Where Are You @? -- The @ symbol is hard to find on a Latin American keyboard. You must keep your finger on the "Alt" key and then press "6" and "4" on the number pad to the right. If you're at an Internet cafe, ask the assistant to help you type an arroba.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.