Hugh in Cara Sucia: "People here are very friendly, outgoing and helpful"

Expat interviews
  • Hugh in Cara Sucia
Published on 2015-03-11 at 00:00
US expat, Hugh settled in Cara Sucia with his wife Elizabeth in November 2011. Following his retirement, he now enjoys traveling, blogging and, of course, the country's mountains and beaches...

Where are you from, Hugh, and what are you doing nowadays?

My wife Elizabeth and I retired here in 2011. Elizabeth is form El Salvador but spent many years in the United States. I am from Virginia originally, but have traveled all over the world. I was the Fleet Manager for a large concrete company in Northern Virginia before I retired in 2011. Now I stay busy with writing, I have two blogs, the first is Life of a Gringo Expat in El Salvador, which I started in 2012 and on which we use to tell about our life, travels and adventures around El Salvador and the other is our travel blog which we just launched in January so as to help people who are interested in visiting or relocating to El Salvador.

Why did you choose to move to Salvador?

Elizabeth and I started visiting El Salvador in 2004. We would come for 2 to 3 week visits a couple of times a year. We decided this is where we wanted to retire. I like the warm weather and the beach. Moreover, Elizabeth's family is here, so it works for us.

What were the procedures to follow to for a US national to move there?

Elizabeth is Salvadorian, so here is the process that I went through to apply for my resident status in El Salvador. I would recommend you hire a lawyer here in El Salvador, the whole process will cost about $1,500, but I think it is well worth it.
If your spouse is not Salvadorian you should contact the El Salvadorian Embassy as the process will be a little different: application filled out by the interested party, stamped birth certificate (translated into Spanish, following Salvadoran regulations), stamped police records (translated into Spanish, following Salvadoran regulations), the records should reflect residence of the applicant for the past two years in the country where he/she lived, sworn statement from the Salvadoran spouse stating that he/she has the means to assist his/her spouse economically or applicant's evidence of income (pension, etc.), medical report from a Salvadoran physician stating that the applicant does not suffer from a contagious disease, two copies of the applicant's passport or evidence of the applicant's citizenship, fees which will depend on the type of residence the applicant, is approved for.
American citizens should be aware that any documents (i.e. birth certificate, marriage certificates, divorced decrees, police record checks, etc) presented to the Salvadoran government (GOES) must be stamped from their home country. All types of documents must be issued within the last sixty day. Otherwise they are consider invalid.
I started my resident application in November of 2011. I received my temporary resident card in December 2011. I was issued another temporary card in January of 2013 and was issued my permanent card which is valid for 4 years. After being a resident for 5 years you can apply for Salvadoran Citizenship if you wish or you can renew your resident status.

How long have you been in the country?

We have lived here in Cara Sucia since November of 2011. We live in the home that we built when we relocated here. Our children are all grown and live in the United States.

What has attracted you to Cara Sucia?

Elizabeth and I decided to live in Cara Sucia because this is where her family live. Cara Sucia is close to the beach and the mountains. It is about 2 hours from San Salvador, so it works for us. Cara Sucia is much cheaper then San Salvador to rent or build a home.

Was it difficult to find accommodation there?

Not for us. We rented a house for $80.00 per month until our home was built, that took about 7 months. In the Cara Sucia area, you can find places to rent for $80.00 and up depending on what you want. You can build a nice American style home, approximately 3000 square feet. for under $80,000.00 (excluding the price of the land). In all concrete and brick, no sheet rock, this would cost more than $600,000 in the US.

How do you find the Salvador lifestyle?

The lifestyle here is very laid back. People do not get in a hurry. It is quite different from the stressful lifestyle I was used to in the United States. I find the lifestyle here very enjoyable.

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

I had no problem adapting to El Salvador. The people here are very friendly, outgoing and helpful.

What does your every day life look like in Cara Sucia?

I usually wake up around 7 am and go for a walk, usually a mile. I have breakfast around 9 am. I go in my office around 10 am and spend the morning on the internet, reading the world and Salvadorian news, answering my email and working on my writing. I have lunch around 1 pm and usually spend the afternoon reading and working on any special projects that I have going on. I usually have dinner around 6 pm and relax on the porch for a while. I like to watch TV for a couple of hours and then go to bed at 11 pm.

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

I was very surprised at the number of expats living here, an estimated 20,000 from the United States and around 10,000 from European countries.

Any particular experience you would like to share with us?

I was in Sonsonate about a year ago and the air condition on my car stopped working. I pulled into this little place that looked like a garage and ask for help. The man checked it out and found that a plug had come loose. I ask him how much and he said no cost. I did not really do anything, this man could have charged me anything because I know nothing about air condition. I made him take $5 and I was on my way, cool again.
The point is I have had many experiences like this here. So when I hear people say that if you are a foreigner you will be ripped off or charged two or three times what a local will, I just say you have bad people in every country and they don't really care if you are a foreigner or not, they will rip you off if they can.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Cara Sucia?

I think the cost of living in Cara Sucia is very good. Electric is about 0.21 KWh. If you have a large home with air condition and live American style, you will pay $150.00 to $225.00 per month. Gas for cooking is about $10.00 per tank. Gas for your car is $2.57 per gallon right now but as you know this goes with the world market and it usually cost a little more here than in the States.
The cost of food here averages out close to the cost in the US. Your fresh fruits and vegetables are much cheaper here if you buy them at the open market. American food products cost about the same as in the US and you have to go to stores like Selectos, Wal-Mart or PriceSmart (a store like Sam's Club) to get them. We usually go to San Salvador to Wal-Mart and PriceSmart once a month and buy the rest local. Our food bill usually is around $400.00 a month.

Is it easy for an expat to live in the country?

Eating out here is about the same as in the U.S. Fast food places like Wendy's, Burger king and Pizza Hut is just about the same menu and price as in the US. If you go to a really nice restaurant for a steak dinner, it will cost you about $50.00 - $60.00 for two people. You can go to the local beach and have a nice fish dinner for about $8.00. There are a lot of nice eating places here from the local foods up to the fine dining.

How do you spend your leisure time there?

I love the beach and the mountains and we are very fortunate to be close to both. We spend a lot of time traveling around the country visiting the many sights that El Salvador has to offer.

What are the differences between life in Salvador and in the US?

There are many differences. The main language here is Spanish. Life in El Salvador is much less stressful than in the U.S. El Salvador is still considered a Christian country and no one is trying to change that. I believe that El Salvador has high standards and values for the country. No matter what the political party, the majority of the people believe in this. I very much hope that they continue this.

Do you miss your home country?

I miss our children and family. Other than that, I do not miss much in the U.S.

Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Salvador?

I would just like to say if you have not spent a considerable amount of time here, you should rent for at least six months and be sure this is what you want before you buy or build a home. Other than that, I would just like to say Welcome to El Salvador!

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to enjoy life, keep writing my blogs and traveling.

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