Bitcoin El Salvador Adventures Pt 2 – Living on Bitcoin for 7 Days
El Salvador adopted Bitcoin as a legal currency as of September 2021, and a lot has changed since before the conversion… and our Last Bitcoin video. Previously Bitcoin transactions were only available at a handful of Bitcoin Beach locations, but thats not the case anymore, and while we are still in a transitional phase many companies throughout El Salvador now accept Bitcoin.
We wanted to give you guys a full update and challenged ourselves to see if we could live off of ONLY BITCOIN for an entire week here in El Salvador! And it went like this…
We needed to run some errands and go grocery shopping so with list in hand to Super Selectos we went. We filled up our cart with our weekly staples and got in the Bitcoin checkout line optimistic but a little unsure of how everything would play out. The young man behind the counter rang up all of our items and asked how we would like to pay…”Bitcoin” we answered. He pressed a few buttons and flipped the screen displaying a QR code. Carlos scanned the code inside of his Chivo wallet and pressed confirm and a receipt started printing. We were done. That was it. We had just purchased our groceries with Bitcoin….Chivo
Next on the list was purchasing a new inhaler (because I have asthma and had just run out of my last one) we popped into Farmacia San Nicolas, asked for the Ventolin inhaler, and proceded to check out. Just like at Super Selectos the nice lady asked how we would like to pay, pressed some buttons, and gave Carlos a QR code to scan in his Chivo wallet…he confirmed the transaction and we were done.
It was a very successful and very easy first day.
Carlos woke up shaggy, and in need of a good haircut. Finding a barber that was already accepting Bitcoin proved to be a bigger challenge than we had anticipated. We quickly realised there wasn’t a centralized directory of all companies accepting Bitcoin in El Salvador. There were some older directories down at the beach from before the legalization but nothing recent, nothing complete and nothing in the city. We hit social media pretty hard for about 20 minutes before we struck gold with Sevilla Barbarshop. Not only did they accept Bitcoin they looked pretty cool.
We packed up the girls and headed into the city on a mission. When we got to Sevilla Barbarshop I noticed the artwork on the walls and the general vibe around the shop…this place was cool…and haircuts were only $4 USD. The young man showed Carlos to his seat and after a brief consultation started cutting his hair. 10 minutes later the barber was done and Carlos looked sharper than ever. When we went to pay they gave us a phone # to use instead of a QR code this time but everything else was the same as before…fast and simple. We did tip the barber in USD cash because at the time it was the fastest/easiest way to give him a tip for his awesome work.
Next on the agenda was a Dollar City run for Miss Phoenix´s birthday party supplies. It was a wild success. We found plates, napkins, balloons, a birthday sign, 2 fidget balls, and snacks for our trip home and quickly made the line. Check out was just like at Selectos and San Nicolas…the cashier rang up our items and showed us a QR code to scan and in no time flat we were on our way home….well we were stuck in traffic for some time but that had nothing to do with bitcoin…at least we had snacks.
Today we needed to do laundry…a lot of laundry. Our washer broke 2 weeks prior and we hadn´t been able to get ahold of our repairman. Luckily a laundromat (the first one I had seen since moving to El Salvador) had just popped up in the same strip mall as Super Selectos. Unfortunately they only accepted quarters not Bitcoin, but necessity provided a loophole less than 5 meters away in the form of a CHIVO ATM. The ATM worked as any other ATM and Carlos was able to withdraw $20 USD from his CHIVO Wallet for zero fees.
We were able to wash all our clothes at (link) Splash in under 2 hours.
Today was a no buy day. We ran around in the sunshine, blew bubbles, and played with our chuchos. We practiced cartwheels, and we made memories, but we didn’t spend one Dollar or Bitcoin. It was an awesome day today.
My youngest daughter, Phoenix´s 4th birthday was right around the corner and my Aunt called me from California wanting to send her some money so she could pick out a Birthday present. I told my aunt about how we were trying to live off of only Bitcoin for the week and she was totally on board. She told me she had seen a new Bitcoin ATM pop up in her local Vons this past week so she was going to head down there to transfer some Bitcoin for Phoenix´s Birthday!
An hour later my aunt called me back. She told me the process started off really simple; she put her $50 in a CoinMe ATM at Vons and got a receipt saying it was successful, the machine then told her she needed to download their app and use their proprietary wallet (CoinMe), so she downloaded the app…. the app then told her she needed to take a photo front and back of her drivers license and a selfie in order to verify her account ….and that´s were she was stuck.
She kept getting denied because her drivers license photo is 8 years old and she looks nothing like the photo anymore….she lost over 80 lbs and dyed her hair from brown to a vibrant shade of rainbow…shes pretty fabulous! So she said she was going to call customer service and call me back…
An hour later my aunt called me back laughing. She had called CoinMe customer service to ask if she could use her valid passport, instead of her drivers license, to verify her identity since the picture was much more recent and resembles her current look. The Representative told her it could not be her passport it HAD TO BE her drivers license BUT she could trick the AI by trying to take an “unflattering selfi”….and advised her to try different angles and to inflate her cheeks…and funny enough this eventually worked!
So I gave my aunt my strike account at www.strike.me/thatexpatmom so she could transfer Phoenix the Bitcoin…but we couldn’t get it to work, not with the QR code, not with the numerical ID, not with anything…CoinMe kept saying my strike account was an invalid address even though it most definitely is not. So she tried to transfer the Bitcoin to Carlos´s Chivo Wallet but we ran into the same problem….CoinMe kept saying his Chivo Wallet was an invalid account. My Aunt said she would call CoinMe customer service again and call me back….
2 hours later my aunt called me back, with an update, audibly frustrated. CoinMe Customer Service told her that they do not currently work with STRIKE or Chivo and moreover they do not have a list of other wallets that they do work with. There was also not an option to withdraw the $50 (now $40 after fees) in cash at this time. So not only could she not send Phoenix her Birthday money….my aunt couldn´t get it back either.
I did some research on my own (and this was not easy to find) this was not on the CoinMe website I found this information in articles written about them….CoinMe (owned by Moneygram) currently only works in the the US and some parts of Canada “though they are planning on expanding sometime soon”. This would have been helpful to know beforehand.
My Aunt was obviously upset and she was almost ready to write off Bitcoin as a total scam, but I asked her to please try STRIKE because it had worked so well for me. She agreed and downloaded the STRIKE app, created an account, verified her account, linked her bank account to STRIKE, and successfully transfered Phoenix $40 USD worth of Bitcoin to my STRIKE Wallet in El Salvador…the whole process took less than 10 minutes from start to finish.
So….lesson learned not all Bitcoin Wallets are the same….I tweeted Coinme to see how we could go about getting my Aunt her money back and we headed to La Gran Via to get Phoenix her Birthday present on Bitcoin. (update:I have yet to receive a response from CoinMe and my Aunt is still unable to get her money back)
At the mall Phoenix made a bee line for Simans, she knew just what she wanted. A Kindi Kids School Bus. We headed to the register to check out and this time we used my STRIKE Wallet to pay. The sales attendant seemed understandably a little unfamiliar with the new process but was very friendly and eager to assist us, and we were able to successfully process the transaction using STRIKE.
We all ended the day a bit frazzled but happy….there is a learning curve to everything new and a little patience goes a long way.
Carlos found an AMAZING AirBNB that not only accepts Bitcoin but also follows our Channel! So off to the beach we went in celebration of Phoenix´s Birthday!
Villa Aracely, located in Sunny Los Cobanos El Salvador and nestled securely inside Las Veraneras gated resort, was truly a home away from home in paradise! The AirBNB is pet and Bitcoin friendly and staying at Villa Aracely comes with the added bonus of access to the Las Veraneras Resorts many attractions; including a golf course, numerous pools, slides, a clubhouse and restaurant (that also accepts bitcoin).
We took a break from swimming and drinking out of coconuts to try the food at Las Veraneras restaurant overlooking Playa Los Cobanos, home to one of Central America’s largest coral reefs and natural tide pools. The food was great, the view was breathtaking, and paying for our meal with Bitcoin was a breeze.It was a perfect day and I highly recommend it to you!
We returned home from the beach to great news….our repair man was coming to fix our washer! In under 15 minutes, and for only $20 USD, he had the machine working better than new! We were able to transfer him the $20 USD equivalent in Bitcoin directly to his personal Chivo Wallet in seconds using his DUI number.
We did it! We lived off of Bitcoin for an entire week here in El Salvador! And it was an awesome week! Though we learned a few things that I believe are important to point out:
1.) Transactions were easy!
Most Bitcoin transactions were made with a quick scan of a QR code, or phone number the businesses provided. It took only seconds to process and transfer from our CHIVO or STRIKE wallet to the company. It was super fast and super simple!
2.) Not all Wallets are created equal!
As you saw from my Aunts experience with Coinme, not all Bitcoin wallets accept international transfers. In fact we are still trying to figure out how to get my Aunt her money back from Coinme. On the flipside, transferring between Strike accounts in the US and El Salvador was super simple and took mere moments just like the local Bitcoin transactions here in El Salvador.
3.) We could have used a complete Bitcoin Directory
While most businesses currently accept Bitcoin here in El Salvador, many are still in the process of transitioning. And while we pretty much knew that most larger companies would be equipped to take Bitcoin transactions it was a bit harder to find some of the smaller businesses that currently do. We had to make some phone calls and dig a bit into social media, so I’ve been sure to link all of the companies that we did business with this past week above.
Also if you know of a place or own a business in El Salvador that takes Bitcoin, contact us so we can make sure we help get your name out. We are currently working on creating a complete directory on this website to make it easy for anyone to find locations that accept Bitcoin.
4.) A little patience goes a long way
Many people, like us, are still getting used to using Bitcoin in daily life and initial transactions may take a bit more time than just using cash (which by the way is very much still an option).
There is a learning curve to anything new and bitcoin is no exception.