A couple of Italian bitcoin-enthusiastic tourists spent 45 days in El Salvador, a country that in September 2021 became the first in the world to adopt this digital currency as legal tender.
The measure, implemented by the questioned president Nayib Bukele, was accompanied by a strategy to facilitate the use of bitcoins among citizens through a digital wallet called Chivo, which works through an app.
Despite Bukele’s enthusiasm, organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have criticized the adoption of bitcoin as legal currency. In El Salvador, the US dollar is also used as the official currency.
In order to find out how viable the use of bitcoins is in the Central American country, an Italian couple identified as Rikki and Laura decided to travel without dollars or euros, but their experience was rather bittersweet, so they even said that in El Salvador “nobody knows anything about bitcoin”.
The couple recounted his experience on his personal blog and podcastand was taken up by the specialized cryptocurrency medium Cointelegraphwhere they said that despite official efforts, bitcoin is not used massively in the country.
Tourists said that intentional businesses such as McDonald’s or Starbucks accept bitcoins, as well as businesses on El Zonte beach – known as the pioneer place for Salvadoran adoption of bitcoin. However, outside of those spaces, including government-run sites like museums, bitcoin adoption is low. They even noted that they had to call 30 to 20 hotels in order to find one that accepted cryptocurrency as a form of payment.
The couple attributed much of the low adoption to a lack of financial education about cryptocurrency, and confusion surrounding the use of the state-owned wallet Chivo, criticized for numerous glitches and constant drops in its service.
“Nobody here knows anything about bitcoin, [el gobierno] he didn’t take a second to educate the people of El Salvador. If people knew about bitcoin, they wouldn’t use the app [Chivo]Laura said.
Despite their bittersweet experience, the couple suggested other cryptocurrency enthusiasts to travel to El Salvador.
“The more transactions we make, the more we will learn. And the more they learn, the more knowledge they can use to their advantage,” said Rikki.