They call the shower heads in El Salvador “widow makers”.
I really wish I would’ve known that before I eagerly took my hot shower.
You see no matter how much one prepares themselves for traveling overseas, there are still some cultural shocks you just have to experience for yourself…
… like literally getting shocked in an electric shower.
Which yes, in order to get shocked by electricity when you’re taking a shower, there must be exposed wires.
Seriously, is that something you normally check for before turning on the showerhead?
Maybe you do.
But let me back up and provide a bit more context.
I just got back from an insane 33 days in El Salvador.
Yeah, that’s a long time to be away from the USA.
And trust me, towards the end of my trip, I was longing for the comforts of home.
But one of the best parts of travel is fully immersing yourself into the culture and experiencing it like a local.
I didn’t soak up the tourist traps (well maybe a little).
Instead, I lived with the locals. I ate with them. And I lived life like they do on a daily basis.
And I learned a few things that might help you if you ever decide to take the plunge and visit El Salvador (and I really think you should).
So if you’re brave enough to go, be on the lookout for these insane culture shocks.
The Widow Makers
To start, hot water is considered a luxury in El Salvador. Most homes don’t have hot water, if they have running water at all.
But the kind lady I was staying with had hot water.
After I played with the nozzle for about 5 minutes and got the water just the right temp, I was set.
And then, it happened.
I went to rinse the shampoo out of my hair and my fingers touched the top of the showerhead and *shockzzz*. I felt the jolt.
Not a sensation one would expect in the shower of all places.
Confused, I looked up and saw wires.
Last time I checked, water and electricity don’t mix, right?
Turns out, that’s how they heat the water in El Salvador.
There is no hot water tank, just an electric contraption heating the water.
Pretty sure it wouldn’t pass inspection in the USA.
I decided to forgo the hot water and wash my hair downstairs in the pila (utility sink) after that.
Can you blame me?
I’m not really trying to duke it out with electricity, I’m confident I’d lose that battle.
So if you’re looking for hot showers in El Salvador, proceed with caution.
All drama and joking aside, they can kill you.
Your Dollars Go Deep
Sure, things are more expensive in America.
I knew that.
But what I didn’t know was how things were so much less expensive in El Salvador.
Almost to the point where you feel guilty paying so little.
I mean, everyone has to earn a living, right?
One night in El Salvador, I bought dinner for 6 people – complete with a beverage – and the total came to $9.
That’s $1.50 per person.
And everyone was stuffed.
$1.50 can barely buy a bottle of water in the States.
These days, $9 in America can maybe buy you one meal at a fast food joint, which may not even fill you up!
But these hidden eateries are all throughout El Salvador. And they are not just affordable, but totally delicious.
If you’re a foodie, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck in El Sal.
The Bathroom Nightmares
Some things you just can’t avoid.
Like using the bathroom.
And the bathroom scene in El Salvador is pretty horrific, at best.
Where do I even begin?
Ladies, to start with, many of the public bathrooms don’t even have toilet seats (not that you’d want to sit on them anyway). But it does make things a bit awkward.
And the sewer system here is weak, so you can’t flush toilet paper… which means all toilet paper has to be thrown in a garbage can (if there is one), otherwise people throw their tp on the floor.
Yep, it’s pretty gross.
Oh, and that’s if there actually is any toilet paper.
At one tourist stop, the workers were actually charging people 25 cents to have a guy unroll toilet paper and give the ladies a small piece.
Creepy on so many levels.
Not even going to think about where the guy got the toilet paper, or how many hands had touched it before he handed it out.
So make sure to always (and we mean always) have a roll of toilet paper in your bookbag.
And pray the cleaning crew actually comes and empties the garbage in the bathroom… or you’ll be surrounded by used toilet paper.
Yes, this also means stock up on hand sanitizer!
Overcome The Culture Shock And Just Have Fun
Sure, there is some culture shock when traveling to El Salvador.
But that will be in any country.
Listen, everyone doesn’t rock it like the USA.
Even still, El Salvador is one of the best places I’ve ever traveled to.
When you travel, you have to take the good with the bad.
It’s just the way it is.
But that’s why we’re here—to warn ya and prepare ya for what to expect so you aren’t caught off guard.
El Salvador has its rough spots, but it is a beautiful country.
The beaches are rockin’. The food is delicious. The people are truly some of the most gracious I’ve ever met.
If you can live on the edge and roll with the punches, you’ll enjoy yourself.
But real talk, El Salvador is currently listed as a level 3, better known as “reconsider travel,” so I wouldn’t recommend this trip for travel newbies.
But still, make sure to check out our previous post on visiting El Salvador.
And be sure to read our tips on how to stay safe when traveling overseas.
With all that said, if you’re looking for an adventure complete with culture shock and all, then add El Salvador to your bucket list!