Recently, an Italian couple reported on the successful completion of a challenge they had set for themselves: travel around El Salvador, the small Central American nation that made Bitcoin legal tender on 7 September 2021, relying only on Bitcoin to pay for goods and services.
According to a report (published on January 27) by Joseph Hall for Cointelegraph, Rikki and Laura managed to tour El Salvador for 45 days surviving just on Bitcoin for making payments. The report says that Rikki is “a Bitcoin podcaster and human rights activist, active in the space since 2016 while Laura “works as a community manager in the blockchain space and has been laser-focused on crypto since 2019.” They were interviewed by Cointelegraph via video call from Santa Ana, El Salvador on January 24.
The report went on to say that in San Salvador — which is El salvador’s capital — “lots of places accept Bitcoin — from McDonald’s to Starbucks to mom-and-pop stores.” And in El Zonte, which is one of the most popular beach towns of El Salvador, as well being of special interest to the Bitcoin community since it is “the birthplace of the Bitcoin Law”, apparently “most vendors advertise that they accept BTC.” The problem is that “off the beaten track, Bitcoin is poorly understood and sometimes misconstrued as the state-sponsored wallet, Chivo Wallet.”
Here is one couple’s tips for other travellers to El Salvador who want to do a similar experiment while over there: “When faced with a vendor who doesn’t accept Bitcoin,” they “should ask the vendor if they accept Bitcoin, and if the vendor says no, the customer should turn on their heel and leave” since “If a vendor doesn’t want to accept Bitcoin, it’s generally not due to infrastructure deficits.”
As for why some merchants may not want to accept Bitcoin, the couple believe that it is because “the owner of the restaurant or hotel has confused Chivo with Bitcoin.” And sometimes, it is because the merchant does not know how to use the Chivo digital wallet.
Rikki and Laura say that “few Salvadorans understand what Bitcoin is, how it works, or the difference between Lightning Network and on-chain transactions.” Laura mentioned that “some Salvadorans ‘think that you can only pay in Bitcoin if you use the Chivo app’, seemingly “unaware of other Lightning wallets such as BlueWallet or Wallet of Satoshi.”
“Nobody here knows anything about Bitcoin. They didn’t provide one second of education to the people of El Salvador.“
That is why they believe that it is “the responsibility of Bitcoiner tourists to take their time with locals” and that such tourists “ought to share their knowledge about Bitcoin and be patient as Salvadorans begin to understand the monetary network.”
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