El Salvador Airport: The main airport in El Salvador is a single story medium sized outdated airport. It has excellent signage in English and plenty of bathrooms that were easy to find once I exited the plane. I bought a bottle of water and was a little nervous as I don’t speak Spanish and I had no El Salvadorian money. Luckily, the airport is set up for people like me. The bartender grabbed me a bottle of water and said US$2 and when I didn’t have exact change, actually changed my 20 with US change, which I had never experienced before. When I passed back through two weeks later, I was prepared for it and grabbed a water from the fridge and tossed US$2 on the bar.
Taca has a whole system down for their flights. All their flights from North, South and Central America all arrive around the same time, within an hour or so of each other and then all the connecting flights leave around the same time, so you have just enough time to land and transfer without having to sit around for a long time and wait. Both my connects were approximately an hour and everything was on time.
When you have a flight to North America, the passengers go through extra security, which is kind an annoying. At first I was going to try to do all carry on, but in packing and I realized I couldn’t fit it all and checked bags did not cost extra on any flights I took (more on that later) and then seeing and experiencing this extra security, I would recommend not doing carry on. Also, every employee I had to interact with from the bartender to security spoke English. This seems to be a big hub between North America and Latin and South America. They were well equipt for everything.
Bogotá Airport: My new least favorite airport. Take into account that I was just super anxious to get home so we did not start off on the right foot. We deplaned on the runway which is sort of fun but standing and being jammed into a bus is frustrating. In all my experiences when you transfer international flights without leaving immigration, you have to pass security again. I had used my extra money and bought two bottles of water in Lima before I left, but in going through security in Bogotá, security did not speak any English (lame at an airport!) and the someone behind me in line translated and asked if I had jams or something, which I did not. But I took out the water, assuming that this is what they were looking for. The officer said I could drink it there and when I went to open the first bottle it exploded everywhere, getting water over everything, which pissed me off, considering I had to pee super bad already. I was so frustrated, that I just tossed the bottled. Even though this has happened to me before, I don’t think it’s right and get very frustrated at the whole thing.
I then figure out which gate I am supposed to be at and it takes me FOREVER to find it because they are doing construction and the signage is terrible. Then, most of the waiting areas are blocked off because passengers have to go through extra security, like the North American flights in El Salvador, so there is nowhere to sit on the concourse. My layover was kind of long, around 3 hours, but I was so mad the entire time. I didn’t have any Colombian money (of course) and I don’t know if they took US dollars anywhere as I didn’t try to buy anything because I was so mad about the water. Thankfully after going through the extra security, it was a quick and easy load onto the plane, through an actual jet-way this time.
Lima Airport: This airport was much more large and modern that I expected. Those generic yellow signs that are everywhere in LHR are in Lima also, with everything in both English and Spanish. When you land in Lima, you are given two cards. The bottom half of one is torn at immigration and you have to carry it around with you at all times and show it at every accommodation you stay at in Peru as it has something to do with taxes. You have to present it when you pass immigration on the way out, so don’t loose it. I kept mine, so I don’t know what happens when you don’t have it.
As with the signs, everyone at the airport speaks English. When I passed immigration (very quickly I may add), the first thing the controller asked me is “English or Spanish”. I knew I was in a good place, with that one question. Every interaction I had at the airport was easy and in English. I actually landed here twice, when I first entered the country and then two weeks later on my way back.
Both times, I arranged pick up from the hotels I had booked and both times, everything worked out perfectly. When you make your bookings, there will always be an offer for transport and may cost extra, but well worth it. Takes the worry out after landing, especially after a long flight. Be aware on name spellings as if your name has a double letter, most likely, they’ll leave out the second letter. My name was spelled “Rebeca” almost everywhere. When I first landed, my name was spelled quiet incorrectly, but I figured it out and the second time I landed, my name was actually spelled exactly correct, which had never happened at all during my time in Peru! (Luckily, always spelled correctly when it mattered like on plane tickets and Inca Trail permits.)
My flight back home left super early and I had to leave town around 2:30am to get to the airport. A bit of a waste of a night (though I don’t regret doing it as I had somewhere to crash during the previous day) as when I arrived at the airport, people were scattered everywhere, sleeping. This place is brightly lit, safe, clean and warm so I would recommend sleeping here if you have an early flight. Or a long layover! There are TONS of places to eat and shop before immigration and even more once you pass. Though the domestic terminal leaves more to be desired. My flight on LAN was delayed (more on that later) and there was only one place to eat and a tiny place to shop. For how much volume passes through that small area, I am surprised there isn’t more to keep you occupied. Anyway, a much more modern airport then I was expecting.
Moral: Other then Bogotá, which might be a good airport, I just had a bad experience there, everything else was pleasant! El Salvador was a super cute, has everything you need and will most likely not be spending much time here, which is the goal of any airport and/or layover. Lima was really impressive. Not super huge, but very modern, clean, helpful and great communication and amenities. For my first time in Latin and South America, I was really impressed and happy when the major airports!