Traveling Luck for El Salvador

El Salvador is located in Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and Honduras.

El Salvador has borders with Guatemala for 203km and Honduras for 342km.

Land in El Salvador is mostly mountains with narrow coastal belt and central plateau.

Salvadoran land covers an area of 21040 square kilometers which is slightly smaller than Massachusetts

As for the Salvadoran climate; tropical; rainy season (May to October); dry season (November to April); tropical on coast; temperate in uplands.

Salvadoran(s) speak Spanish, Nahua (among some Amerindians).

Salvadoran National Map

Salvadoran Map

Regions of El Salvador

El Salvador achieved independence from Spain in 1821 and from the Central American Federation in 1839. A 12-year civil war, which cost about 75,000 lives, was brought to a close in 1992 when the government and leftist rebels signed a treaty that provided for military and political reforms.


El Salvador Country Profile

The smallest country in Central America, El Salvador has the third largest economy, but growth has been minimal in recent years. Hoping to stimulate the sluggish economy, the government is striving to open new export markets, encourage foreign investment, and modernize the tax and healthcare systems. Implementation in 2006 of the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, which El Salvador was the first to ratify, is viewed as a key policy to help achieve these objectives. The trade deficit has been offset by annual remittances from Salvadorans living abroad - 16.6% of GDP in 2005 - and external aid. With the adoption of the US dollar as its currency in 2001, El Salvador has lost control over monetary policy and must concentrate on maintaining a disciplined fiscal policy.

Salvadoran natural resources include hydropower, geothermal power, petroleum, arable land

smallest Central American country and only one without a coastline on Caribbean Sea

Salvadoran religion is Roman Catholic 83%, other 17%.

Natural hazards in El Salvador include known as the Land of Volcanoes; frequent and sometimes destructive earthquakes and volcanic activity; extremely susceptible to hurricanes.

Travel Advice on El Salvador

El Salvador

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Entry Requirements section (Central America Border Control Agreement).  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • There is no British Embassy in El Salvador.  For emergency consular assistance, contact the Honorary Consul in San Salvador or the British Embassy in Guatemala.  Please see the General section of this travel advice for details.

  • The threat from terrorism is low.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.

  • The rainy season in El Salvador normally runs from June to November, coinciding with the hurricane season in the Caribbean.  Please see the Natural Disasters section of this Travel Advice.

  • On 12 October 2006, the local authorities issued a yellow alert warning for persons within a four kilometer radius of the Chaparrastique volcano, located approximately 12 kilometers southwest of the city of San Miguel.  You are advised to avoid the volcano and monitor local media reporting for further updates on the latest volcanic activity.

  • The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in El Salvador are for victims of pickpocketing and replacing lost and stolen passports.  There are very high crime rates in El Salvador.  You should take great care if travelling alone or at night.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime

There are very high levels of violent crime throughout the country.  This includes robberies, assaults and car-jackings, which are fairly common and can occur anywhere.  The National police have had some successes in tackling the problem of kidnapping but you should be aware that a risk still remains.  Kidnap gangs generally target rich Salvadoreans rather than visitors.

You should take great care when travelling alone or at night.  Up-market areas of San Salvador, such as Escalón, San Benito, Zona Rosa and Maquilishuat, are generally trouble-free but you should still be careful at night.   Downtown San Salvador is particularly dangerous especially at night.  At all times avoid wearing jewellery, carrying large amounts of cash and using expensive cameras or video recorders.

Travelling on the roads outside San Salvador at night is dangerous.  There have been incidents of violent attacks on motorists travelling between El Salvador and Guatemala, on the Guatemalan side of the border.

Take photocopies of your passport and, even more importantly, of your airline tickets, which can be difficult to replace if stolen.  Keep these copies separate, together with the numbers of travellers’ cheques, credit cards and contact details.  It is permissible to show a photocopy of your passport, should identification be requested by local authorities.

If attacked, do not resist your attackers as they will probably be armed.  If your passport is stolen inform the local police in El Salvador and inform the British Honorary Consul or British Embassy in Guatemala City.  See guidance under “General” for passport and visa services.

Political Situation

El Salvador Country Profile.

Demonstrations occur in El Salvador from time to time and can do so with little warning.  They can become violent and disrupt movement.  You are advised to avoid large gatherings or demonstrations.

Local Travel

As a result of past conflicts, there remains unexploded ordnance such as landmines in the countryside.  Those going off-road (backpackers, campers etc) should be aware of these potential dangers when visiting the more remote locations.  You should take local advice, avoiding travel to such areas if advised to do so.

The highway from the airport to San Salvador has been blocked on occasion by demonstrations demanding repairs to the water supply damaged by Hurricane Stan in 2005.  This has caused some delays to travel.

Road Safety

The main highway through El Salvador is being brought up to international standard.  The other main routes connecting with Honduras are in good condition.  Some roads, however, are in poor condition and can be dangerous to drive on.  Care should be taken whatever road is used as the standard of driving is low.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

UK passport holders can enter El Salvador as tourists or business visitors for up to 90 days without a visa.  This can be extended on application to the Salvadorean immigration department, Centro de Gobierno, San Salvador; tel:  221 2111.
El Salvador is party to the Central America Border Control Agreement (CA-4).  Under the terms of this agreement, British tourists may travel within any of the CA-4 countries (Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala) for a period of up to 90 day, without completing entry and exit formalities at border Immigration checkpoints.  This period begins at the first point of entry of any of the CA-4 countries.  Fines are applied for travellers who exceed this 90-day limit, although a request for an extension can be made for up to 30 days by paying a fee before the 90 days limit expires.  If you are expelled from any of the four countries you are also excluded from the entire CA-4 region.

Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries required documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the Embassy of El Salvador:  Salvadorean representation in the UK.
An exit tax (currently US$27.15) is payable on leaving El Salvador by air, and a small entry and exit tax (less than US$1.00) if arriving or leaving by one of the land borders.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance
Medical facilities outside the capital, San Salvador, are generally basic.  Hospitals in Salvador may be reluctant to provide treatment until they are satisfied the patient has medical insurance.  You should therefore carry a copy of your insurance cover at all times.  State-run hospitals are on the whole under-staffed, under-funded and ill-equipped.  We therefore recommend the use of private clinics whenever possible.
Water is not generally safe to drink outside the better hotels in the main towns but bottled water is widely and cheaply available.
Dengue fever is carried by mosquitoes and is a potentially serious disease.  Outbreaks tend to increase in the rainy season (June to November).  2005 saw a significant increase in cases in all parts of the country with the departments of San Vincente, San Salvador, La Libertad, La Paz and Sonsonate being the most affected.  You should use mosquito repellent or cover bare flesh to prevent mosquito bites.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health's at:  http://www.doh.gov.uk/traveladvice/index.htm.
NATURAL DISASTERS
El Salvador also has a number of active volcanoes. The Santa Ana (Ilamatepec) volcano erupted on 2 October 2005, prompting a government alert, which lasted for several months before the activity died down and local residents returned to the area. You are advised to take local advice before climbing any volcanoes in El Salvador and monitor local media for any updates on increased volcanic activity.
On 12 October 2006, the local authorities issued a yellow alert warning for persons within a four kilometer radius of the Chaparrastique volcano, located approximately 12 kilometers southwest of the city of San Miguel.  You are advised to avoid the volcano and monitor local media reporting for further updates on the latest volcanic activity.
The rainy season in El Salvador normally runs from June to November, coinciding with the hurricane season in the Caribbean.  You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation.  You can also access the National Hurricane Centre at: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov for updates.  Please also see the Hurricanes page on the FCO website for more detailed information about what to do if you are caught up in a hurricane.
There is a risk of earthquakes in El Salvador.  Two major earthquakes in 2001 affected large areas of the country and many roads and buildings are still being reconstructed.  Strong earth tremors are occasionally felt.
You should ensure that you know what action to take should an earthquake occur.  If staying in a hotel read their earthquake instructions.  During an earthquake, you should drop to the ground and take cover under sturdy furniture, in a doorway or next to an inside wall, away from windows or objects which may fall.  Cover your head with a pillow or your arms and wait for the earthquake to stop, before moving to a safe area outside.
Further advice may be found on the following website:  http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/keepsafe/readyearth.html.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see:  What We Can Do To Help
There is no British Embassy in El Salvador.  The British Embassy in Guatemala has overall responsibility for El Salvador.  You can contact the British Honorary Consul in San Salvador in the event of an emergency - Mr George Chippendale, San Salvador, PO Box 424; Tel:  +503 281 5555 or 271 1050; Fax:  +503 271 1026; e-mail:  claims@gibson.com.sv
Office Hours:  Local Time:  Mon-Fri:  08:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 17:00; GMT:  Mon-Fri:  14:00 to 18:00 and 19:00 to 23:00.  Applications for British passports should be made to the British Embassy in Mexico City.  Applications for UK visas should be made to the British Embassy in Panama.
 
Money

The American Dollar is the official currency in El Salvador.  Although some prices are still quoted in the Salvadoran Colon, payment is expected in Dollars.  The exchange rate is fixed at US$1.00 = 8.75 Salvadoran Colón.
Pounds sterling cannot be exchanged anywhere in El Salvador, so you should bring a mixture of cash and travellers’ cheques in US dollars.  You are advised to bring some low denomination US dollar notes as US$50 and US$100 notes may not be accepted in many smaller restaurants and shops, in bars and by taxi drivers.
ATMs allowing withdrawals using debit cards are not yet widely established in El Salvador, although the major credit cards are widely used in the larger establishments.