Safety in El Salvador | 5 useful Tips for Travelers

Apr 9, 2021 | Travel, El Salvador

from Henning

Henning lived for several years in El Salvador, working as a teacher. He is Co-Founder of the SAY ZONTE! project. Writing for this blog is his way to give s.th. back to “el pulgarcito.”

El Salvador safety tips

In this post, I would like to answer the most common questions concerning safety in El Salvador.

Most travelers ask us the same questions before they come to El Salvador – and of course, we understand that you are concerned about certain things.

You’re always welcome to write us a message if you have more questions.

Is it dangerous in El Salvador?

El Salvador has its problems, but to 99%, it’s not affecting tourists. The other 1% is the typical risk that you have if you travel to developing countries. El Salvador has serious problems concerning social inequality, gang crime, and poverty.

But that’s one reason more for us to keep our idea going and let the local people be part of our project. We strongly believe that sustainable tourism is one of the possibilities to improve the life of Salvadorian people.

If you feel unsafe, book a travel guide. In general, you should use your common sense as always.

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Don't be too flashy!

There’s no need to show everyone your newest Iphone, especially in places where are many people around you.

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Don't walk alone in the dark!

Especially avoid when you are in areas that you don’t know.

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Ask locals you trust!

If you’re not sure about specific trips and where to go, ask someone at your hostel or hotel where you are staying.

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Don't go hiking alone!

You’re not Indiana Jones! Even if it is sometimes nice being alone, always join a group when you’re going for hike.

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Be aware of the traffic!

Some car driver’s don’t respect pedestrians or cyclists as you might know it from your home country!

Anyway, we recommend you to read the to official travel advice about the safety in El Salvador, for example:

Travel.State.Gov U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE — BUREAU OF CONSULAR AFFAIRS

But don’t get scared! We want to let you know the whole picture. Visit us, and don’t skip El Salvador! Angela from the USA, for example, visited us with her six-year-old son Derek in July 2019 to get to know El Salvador.

safety in el salvador

Isn’t El Salvador one of the most violent countries in the world?

The statistics are awful, and concerning the homicide rate, El Salvador is under the Top 10 for decades. Just reading the statistics, you probably will decide not to travel to El Salvador.

As you might have heard, gang crime is the worst problem in El Salvador. Gang violence is responsible for a big part of the homicides in El Salvador. But the situation improved significantly in the last few years!

Also, there’s a lot of domestic violence against young girls and women, unfortunately. But you have to be very unlucky and in the wrong place to get caught in a gunfight between gangs. Again, as a tourist, you should feel safe in El Salvador!

The new president, Nayib Bukele, has made some serious progress fighting crime, and safety in El Salvador has improved. The government wants you to be safe as a tourist, and the daily violence in this country is mainly not affecting tourists. 

Tourist places like El Tunco, El Zonte, and Suchitoto are safe in general.

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Safety in El Salvador: Travel alone as a woman?

Please read our post about Travel Safety Tips for Women. Further, we recommend reminding you what your mum always told you when you were little: don’t do things that I wouldn’t do.

Use your common sense: don’t walk in areas that you don’t know after dark and when you’re alone, don’t get drunk and trust everyone, don’t be too flashy with your clothes if you don’t want to be a target for men with bad behavior. (Sorry, we hate to say that, but we, unfortunately, have to).

But seriously: these are general bits of advice for almost every country in the world.

In general, Salvadoran men are amicable and respectful, especially when they know you’re traveling in El Salvador. Most will ask you where you come from, just because they’re interested and happy that you visit their small country.

safety in El Salvador

What about health?

Some Hospitals in San Salvador have an international standard. Be sure to have international medical insurance covering the costs in case of a health issue or an emergency.

In general, you should not drink tap water and be careful with vegetables and fruits that you haven’t washed and cleaned properly. Dengue is a problem sometimes, but there’s no reason to get in a panic. If there are a lot of mosquitos, use a repellent and wear clothes with bright colors.

Malaria isn’t a problem in El Salvador.

How do I get safely from A to B?

Several tour operators can bring you to almost every place in and around El Salvador.

If you want to travel with public transport, “Centrocoasting” (www.centrocoasting.com) is an excellent website to figure out the schedules and routes. Ticabus is a local bus company that quickly brings you to Nicaragua and Costa Rica (www.ticabus.com).

In general, traveling by bus in El Salvador is safe. But we have to tell you that there have been some severe accidents. The bus drivers seem to be in a rush always.

We don’t have any statistics if the problem in El Salvador is worse than in other countries. We just wanted to let you know before you get into a “chicken bus.” The shuttles from or to Antigua Guatemala are safe in general.

Please also read our post: How to travel in El Salvador!

travelling in el salvador

Do you recommend a rental car?

It depends on what you are planning in El Salvador. Most backpackers don’t have to rent one because a public bus or a guided tour can reach almost every place for reasonable prices.

If you do rent a car, be sure that you have proper insurance! Drive carefully, and also be sure that you have a valid driver’s license. The police in El Salvador usually accept the driver’s license from your home country. If you want to be sure, get an international driver’s license.

You should avoid driving when it’s dark. Mainly because of the other road users that don’t have any vehicle lighting: old cars, cyclists, pedestrians, cows, horses, and some more. It’s probably a good idea to have a cellphone with you in case of an accident or a car breakdown.

Be sure to know someone to call in this case.

You can also read our post about Transportation in El Salvador if you need more information about it.

Safety in El Salvador
Safety in El Salvador

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