It’s a mixed bag. Some things in El Salvador are very expensive and some things are fairly inexpensive.
Grocery shopping in El Salvador is less expensive than the USA, without doubt. However, El Salvador doesn’t manufacture anything (everything is imported), which means that some things are very expensive. For example, a lot of electronics are expensive, especially laptop computers, cell phones and related items.
Food is fairly inexpensive. The reason being, of course, that El Salvador has a very large agricultural industry. They make most foods that you can find anywhere else. And I especially love the tropical fruits that they have here, such as mango, papaya, pineapple, among others.
To give you an idea of prices, here’s what you can expect to pay for common food items:
- 1 Egg: $0.15
- 1 Medium Watermelon: $2
- 1 Twelve-Oz Car of Apple Juice: $0.50
- 1 Gallon of Milk: $3
- 1 Gallon Orange Juice: $2.65
- 1 Bag of Grapes: $3
- 1 Pound of Chicken: $1.75
- 1 Pound of Ground Beef: $3.15
- 1 Box of Pasta: $1.25
- 1 Jar of Prego Tomato Sauce: $2.90 (A little more pricey)
- 3 Bars of Hand Soap: $1.65
- 1 Beer – Pilsener: $1
- 1 Beer – Suprema: $1.50
- 1 Pupusa – $0.50 (Bean & Cheese)
As you can see, the majority of these things are very low price. You can eat comfortably on $50 per week if you cook for yourself. If you’re really pinching pennies you can get by on $20 per week, but I wouldn’t suggest it.
Restaurants & Your Expectations
Eating at restaurants will probably cost about $10 per person, with drinks included. Of course, there are luxury restaurants that can charge $30+ per person, and there are mom and pop restaruants that will cost only $3 per person. It all depends on what level of service, cleanliness and atomosphere you want. Sometimes the best late-night foods come from unexpected little hole-in-the-wall places that you would never know exist. It’s all about asking around and talking to people that know the area you’re in.
It’s fairly easy to eat cheap. Just be careful because anytime you want to increase your food diversity, you’ll be looking at a higher price tag. Also, Salvadoran food is not like Mexican food. Spicy or “picante” food is not common here. So, expect to pay more if you want Mexican-style red or green Salsa, because it will be imported – they don’t make it here.
I never heard about Pupusa’s before I visited El Salvador, but they are delicious, filling and come with a very low price tag. I wrote a lot about them in my article- What are pupusas? I noticed in the touristy areas that Pupusas cost about $1, which is double the normal cost of Pupusas. So, be sure to shop around a little bit to ensure that you’re getting authentic food at a good price.
Just a funny note…in Latin America it’s very common to find condiments, like mayonnaise in bags. I’m not sure if this is common in other regions of the world, but it’s not common to find mayonnaise in bags in the USA. Mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise can be purchased in normal bottles, but often they sell them in bags. I took this picture at WalMart in San Salvador:
Here are the prices of some other things, too. I took these pics over the past few months, so these prices are current.
$299 for a 40-inch Flatscreen TV
$49.99 for a typical dumbbell weight-lifting set…definitely pricey. But that’s the nature of buying things in Central America. Some things are cheap and some things are expensive.
$289 for an average clothes washing machine. I’m not sure if that’s a good price, but it sounds reasonable. I’ve never purchased a clothes washing machine in another country before.
A comment on real estate & property
Just a few comments on real estate. Property here is more expensive than you might think. It’s easy for a person to assume that land or houses are cheap here because it’s a second-world nation, the country is less developed and it’s dangerous. However, it’s quite expensive. There are two reasons the price is higher than you might expect: El Salvador uses the US Dollar as it’s currency which means that it’s economy is supported by the dollar. El Salvador doesn’t suffer from financial instability and inflation like countries like Venezuela. Second, the USA and El Salvador has a strong business relationship. A lot of companies here in El Salvador serve businesses from the USA, such as textiles, telecommunications, Spanish-speaking call centers. Money flows into the country from the USA which means that property prices are elevated to a higher price.
Property prices have one considerable factor: safety. Gangs and violence in El Salvador are very real. They affect housing prices more than any other factor. And the significant majority of areas, cities and towns are dangerous.
To give you an idea of property prices: An inexpensive house in a dangerous area might sell for $20,000 USD – cheap, but don’t leave your house alone in those areas. An average home in a reasonably safe area might sell for $100,000. And an expensive home in a very safe area (with security) will likely sell for $250,000 or more). As you can see, prices rise steeply as the area becomes more safe. El Salvador is working on fighting gangs and crime, but there’s a long way to go. The fight against violence will probably not see considerable results until 2025 (5-6 years away from when I write this).
Did I miss anything?
Are there any other item prices you’re wondering about? Send me a message and I’ll share my knowledge with you about specific items.