How to Cross the Overland Border from Guatemala to El Salvador

How to Cross the Overland Border from Guatemala to El Salvador

Crossing the border overland from Guatemala to El Salvador is easy. Many sources informed us not to do it via public transport. We had also met a lot of people who had been robbed on the Guatemala chicken buses. An alternative option is private shuttle. This is easy to book via your accommodation, or at a tour agent in Antigua. There’s so many going, it’s not hard to find one and barter a price.

Expect to pay in the region of Q140 ($18 USD) – Q180 ($23 USD). The private shuttle will pick you up at your accommodation. Then taking you across the El Salvador border and all the way to the surf party town of El Tunco.

I’ll state at this stage, that the private shuttles in Guatemala almost always suck! Broken air con, heating on full, drivers accelerating dangerously into corners, cramped seats. You get the idea. Where they ‘win’ over public transport is safety. Although we never experienced any issues on chicken buses, they are prone to theft. (We met plenty of victims). The choice is whether you want to take the gamble and go on a chicken bus, or pay at least four times the amount in private.

Guatemala El Salvador Border
The Guatemala to El Salvador border sure ain’t pretty

Arriving at the El Salvador Border

At the border, you exit, get in a queue, hand your passport through a small window, then receive a stamp and a small ticket. This stamp is your exit date from Guatemala. There shouldn’t be any exit fees. This is because the C4 Agreement allows travellers to pass between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, for up to 90 days.

Back on the private shuttle, it stops further up the road. A security agent came on and asked for our passports one by one.

Some interesting interrogation took place. Questions were asked such as:

  • “What date did you enter Guatemala?”
  • “When you were in Mexico, how did you arrive?”
  • “How many days were you in Guatemala?”

Some light revision of your passport could come in handy here (although you’ll probably remember if you flew in to Mexico!). No-one had an issue, but you never know what kind of day the security are having. The border agent took the Guatemala exit tickets and we waved us through.

At this stage a topless man walked past the shuttle. He handed his Guatemala exit ticket, received a nod from the security agent and on he went. Us gringos perhaps need more scrutiny.

One more stop to go. This time to exit the shuttle and get a stamp for entering El Salvador.

Exit Stamp from Guatemala
Exit Stamp from Guatemala

In theory, that’s it. Crossing the border overland from Guatemala to El Salvador was simple.

We had just one more issue. An hour down the road, our obvious tourist shuttle got pulled over. A police office climbed on board. “Is anyone here carrying drugs?” he asked.

The police in El Salvador look tough. There was no way you’d try and trick this guy. Neither of us have ever taken drugs, so we were fine. No others said they were carrying. The police man looked around sternly and told everyone to get off the bus.

El Salvador drug sniffer dog
Drug sniffer dog with the El Salvador police

Two more police officers approached with a sniffer dog. It entered the bus and sniffed around. Exiting, it approached us all in a line.

Thankfully no-one was guilty and off the police went. Being on a bus with total strangers, it was pleasing to know there was nothing suspicious. Who knows what would have happened.

Alas, we were now in El Salvador and ready to carry on our adventure. First stop El Tunco beach…



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