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El Salvador

If you’re travelling to El Salvador, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

We advise Irish citizens in El Salvador to exercise a high degree of caution.

Latest travel alert

Seismic and volcanic activity

El Salvaldor is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, and the country is subject to significant seismic and volcanic activity. If planning to visit El Salvador, you should familiarise yourself with what to do in an earthquake, remain on alert, particularly in the event of aftershocks, and follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local news and websites for updates.

Zika Virus

There is currently an outbreak of Zika Virus (a dengue-like mosquito-borne disease) in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Irish Citizens are advised to follow guidance available on the website of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) at http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/Vectorborne/Zika/.

Emergency assistance

Because there is no Irish Embassy or Consulate in the El Salvador, we are limited in the help we can offer you in an emergency situation.  However, if there is an emergency, or if you need help and advice, you can contact our Consular Assistance Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin on +353 1 408 2000.

Other EU embassies

You can also contact the Embassies or Consulates of other EU countries for emergency consular assistance, advice and support.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

Safety and security

Landmines

Unexploded ordnance such as landmines is a danger in the El Salvador countryside, a legacy of past conflicts. Always keep to main routes, take local advice and avoid travel to such areas if advised to do so.

Kidnapping

All foreign nationals are at risk of kidnapping in El Salvador, either for political or financial reasons. If you’re planning to visit the country, follow these basic precautions:

  • Get advice from your local contacts about staying safe
  • Avoid travelling at night, particularly inter-city
  • Avoid travelling alone
  • When driving, ensure all car doors are locked
  • Vary your routes and departure times – avoid patterns which could be tracked
  • Pay careful attention to local media for reports of kidnapping activities

Terrorism

Although the threat from terrorism in El Salvador is low, there is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates. 

Crime

El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America and caution should be exercised at all times: 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place. 
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you’re alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business.
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations.

Serious crime

There are very high levels of violent crime throughout the country, including robberies, assaults and car-jackings. You should take your personal security seriously and be aware of your surroundings at all times and avoid obvious displays of wealth. 

All foreign nationals are subject to the risk of kidnapping.  It’s safer to withdraw money from ATMs in shopping centres or change money in hotels or banks and it’s wise not to withdraw too much money at any one time. If you’re the victim of a robbery you shouldn’t resist.

In the regions bordering Guatemala, violent crime and murders linked to drug turf wars affect security. While overseas citizens have not been targeted, there is a risk of being caught in crossfire if you are in an area where violence breaks out.

Local travel

Try to avoid travelling anywhere in El Salvador at night and avoid travelling alone. Take particular care if you need to go to downtown San Salvador, other towns or cities, or travel on roads outside of major towns and cities after dark. Where possible, travel as part of a group and with a reputable travel company. 

There have been instances of armed attacks on vehicles travelling throughout El Salvador and attacks have taken place on the road between El Salvador and Guatemala. Avoid travelling on unpaved roads as you’re at greater risk of attack in remote areas with fewer police patrols. 

Taxis

For shorter trips within towns and cities it’s safer to take radio or hotel taxis rather than public buses or unofficial taxis.

Lost or stolen passports

If your passport is lost or stolen, getting a replacement can take up to two weeks so keep your travel documents secure at all times. Getting a replacement passport will be easier if you are able to provide a copy of the lost or stolen one, so keep photocopies of your passport.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in El Salvador, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Mexico City if you need help.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in El Salvador, you should be extremely careful as road conditions vary and driving standards are low. If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driver’s licence and your international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Swimming

Swimming on El Salvador's Pacific coast can be dangerous due to strong undertows. The currents around La Bocana de San Diego are particularly dangerous and several people have drowned in recent years. The number of lifeguards is limited and you should avoid swimming on isolated beaches.

Hurricane season

The hurricane season in the Caribbean normally runs from July to October. You should pay close attention to local and international weather reports and follow the advice of local authorities. Always monitor local and international weather updates for the region by accessing, for example, the Weather Channel, or the US National Hurricane Centre website.

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal. 

Health

Vaccinations

Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for this country.

Additional information

If you are unsure of the entry requirements for this country, including visa and other immigration information, ask your travel agent or contact the country’s nearest Embassy or Consulate.

You can also check with them how long your passport must be valid for.