How To Get From Guatemala To El Salvador By Bus 
Updated: Jul 10, 2022
Here I give you an easy step-by-step guide how to cross the border from Guatemala to El Salvador by public bus (aka chicken bus).
NOTE: You can also take a shuttle which you can book at most tourist agencies. The mini-vans run daily from either Lake Atitlan or Antigua to Santa Ana, El Tunco or San Salvador. A friend of mine went from Lake Atitlan to Santa Ana and it took her about 10 hours, including a 2 hour stop-over in Antigua. She paid 450 Quetzales which is around 60 USD.
If you go by public transport, it is not only way cheaper than by shuttle, it is also a great opportunity to get to know the real part of the country you are visiting...
Table of Contents:
1 A. Antigua to Escuintla
TIPP: When taking public buses in Guatemala (aka chicken buses) you always have to bargain with the conductor for the correct fare. The conductors usually ask foreigners a higher price, so I always ask locals how much they pay. It's good to agree with the conductor on a fair price before entering the bus.
In El Salvador the correct fare is usually on a sign inside the bus, so the driver always asks for the right amount.
Either starting from Antigua or Lake Atitlan you need to go first to Escuintla.
1 A. Antigua to Escuintla
Duration: 1 h
Cost: 10 - 15 Quetzales (Q)
Starting in Antigua you first take a bus to Escuintla. The bus terminal (location) is really close to the center and buses leave frequently. The buses have their destinations written on them. If unsure, just ask around for "Escuintla".
So if you start from Antigua, then you can skip the part of Lake Atitlan and continue reading here.
1 B. Lake Atitlan to Escuintla
Duration: 3 h
Cost: Q 40 - Q 55
The journey from Lake Atitlan is a bit longer. However, it depends where you start at the lake. The most common tourist place is the town of San Pedro. From there you have two options:
Option 1: You take the chicken bus leaving at the main church at 5 or 6 am (only runs at 5, 6 am and 12 pm) to Cocales (approx. 2 h, Q 30 - Q40).
In Cocales you just get off at the main road and there you'll get picked up by another chicken bus going to Escuintla (approx. 1h, Q 10 - Q15). They run quite frequently.
Option 2: You take the direct bus from Santiago at 10 am heading to Guatemala City and getting off at Escuintla (approx. 2.5 - 3 h, Q 40).
Getting to Santiago: You need to be there by 10 am. So if you start in San Pedro, that means you should leave around 8 am. Since you need to catch a boat to get to Santiago and they don't run as often as from the main harbor (I needed to wait for 40 mins).
The ride itself is around 15 mins and goes directly to Santiago (Q 15 - Q 25). To get to the harbor you can either walk or ask a tuc-tuc driver to bring you there (location).
Arriving in Santiago you have to walk 10 mins to the bus stop (location).
NOTE: If you want to travel in one day to El Tunco, I definitely recommend to take the 5 or 6 am chicken bus! If you take the 10 am (direct) one you won't make it in time to Sonsonate where you need to change the bus to El Tunco.
If you go to Juayua or Santa Ana, buses in Sonsonate leave until late afternoon.
2. Escuintla to the Border (Frontera)
Duration: 2.5 h
Cost: Q 50 - Q 70
You get off in Escuintla at the main intersection (location). This is also where the chicken bus to the border passes. It has "Frontera" written on it and it passes roughly every 30 mins.
The bus first goes to Chiquimulilla where the it stops for about 20 mins. I didn't need to change buses, but I've heard of people who needed to.
You get a ticket when you enter in Escuintla, so you should definitely keep it to show it to the other bus conductor if you need to change buses.
3. Border crossing by foot
Duration: 20 mins
Cost: For Free!
The bus brings you directly to the border. Make sure you get off at the last stop (basically when everybody leaves the bus).
You walk first to the Guatemalan border station and get your passport stamped. You also get a piece of paper.
Then you have to continue walking for about 10 - 15 mins to El Salvador. You probably gonna pass many trucks waiting in line for border crossing.
When you arrive in El Salvador, your passport (and paper) get checked again, but you don't get a stamp. You get that when you'll leave El Salvador (also keep the paper for that).
Overall the border inspectors were super friendly and I felt very welcome in the country.
4. Border to Sonsonate
Duration: 1.5 h
Cost: 0.90 USD
After the check in El Salvador, you continue another 5 mins walking until you arrive at the bus station (which is basically an open parking lot). There you take bus 259 to Sonsonate. They go quite frequently.
5A. Sonsonate to El Tunco
Duration: 2.5 h
Cost: 1.5 USD
In Sonsonate you arrive at a big bus station with many buses going in different directions. However, it is all well marked and you should find the correct bus quite easily.
You're looking for Number 287 going to La Libertad. It passes El Zonte and El Tunco where you can get off.
It leaves only 2 times a day: at 5:50 am and 3:30 pm. Hence, it's crucial to leave as early as possible in Guatemala if you want to go to El Tunco on the same day.
(If you miss it, you can still go via San Salvador and La Libertad to El Tunco. This way takes about 3 hours. However, in general I don't recommend traveling at night.)
5B. Sonsonate to Juayua (Ruta de las Flores) or Santa Ana
Duration: 1 - 1.5 h
Cost: 0.5 - 0.7 USD
If you don't want to go to the beach, but to the mountains, you can take the 249 heading to Auachapan and getting off in Juayua (approx. 1 h, 0.50 USD).
If you want to go to Santa Ana, you can change in Juayua to bus 210 which takes you to Santa Ana (approx. 45 mins, 0.50 USD) or you can take the 217 directly from Sonsonate (approx. 1.5 h - 2h, 0.70 USD).
In Santa Ana the bus drops you a bit out of center, so you need a taxi or walk to the center. Since I arrived quite late I decided to take a taxi which is around 3 - 5 USD.
Where to stay in Santa Ana?
I stayed in Santa Ana at the Pool House Hostel which I can totally recommend!
It is a small family-vibe hostel with nice facilities and an amazing kitchen. It costs only 7 USD for a dorm bed and 17 USD for a private room. The owner is super friendly an helpful and happy to answer any questions you might have, for example about the volcano hike.
NOTE: If you're going the other way (from El Salvador to Guatemala), just do all the steps in reverse.
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Safe travels and enjoy your journey!!
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