Location: Central America
Capital: San Salvador

Time zone: GMT/UTC minus 6 hours
Daylight savings time: no
Current time: 03:21
Population: 6,401,240
Currency: US dollar
Dialling code: +503
Internet suffix: .sv

El Salvador is a small Central American country known for its Pacific beaches. However, travellers should bear in mind that the country suffers from a high rate of crime.


Overall security situation: stable but problematic
Crime rate: extremely high
Murder rate: one of the highest in the world
Gun ownership levels: average
Kidnapping hotspot: no
Maritime piracy hotspot: no
Do landmines/unexploded munitions pose a significant risk in parts of the country: no

El Salvador suffers with an extremely high crime rate, with widespread associated violence and brutality. This is by far the most relevant security issue in the country.

Otherwise, civil unrest poses a relatively low level of risk. Protests and demonstrations are frequent and occasionally disruptive but they are usually non-violent.

There is an extremely low (albeit not non-existent) risk of terrorism.


Aviation safety levels: standard
Annual road fatality rates: very high
Vehicles drive on the: right
Infrastructure quality: poor
Urban ATM availability: moderate
Electricity supply: 120V 60Hz
Electricity supply reliability: poor
Plug types: A and B

Plug type A (2 flat pins, not grounded/earthed)

Plug type B (2 flat pins and 1 rounded pin, grounded/earthed, socket compatible with plug type A)


 


Is tap water drinkable: no
Healthcare quality: room for improvement
Infectious disease prevalence: moderate

Vaccinations

Travellers should consult a medical practitioner prior to their trip but the following vaccines may be considered before travelling to the country, depending on factors such as specific destination, planned activities, intended time and length of stay as well as personal medical conditions (in some cases no additional vaccines may be required at all):

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B (not always needed)
  • Rabies (usually only for long-term stays, or for those spending time in isolated areas or coming into contact with animals)
  • Typhoid
  • Standard vaccinations (ie those commonly used in the developed world, such as diphtheria, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tuberculosis and tetanus)

Disease presence

Malaria risk: very low
Yellow fever presence: no
Dengue fever prevalence: frequent cases
Rabies prevalence: high risk
HIV prevalence in society: moderate
Hepatitis A prevalence: high
Hepatitis B prevalence: intermediate
Hepatitis E prevalence: not highly endemic
Cholera status: low risk
Chikungunya virus presence: present

Zika virus presence: recent outbreak(s) reported
Japanese encephalitis presence: no
Cutaneous leishmaniasis presence: endemic
Visceral leishmaniasis presence: endemic
Onchocerciasis presence: non-endemic
Schistosomiasis presence: none
Tick-borne encephalitis status: low/non-existent risk
Chagas disease presence: endemic

Typhoid fever presence: strongly endemic
African trypanosomiasis presence: none
Plague status: not thought to be present
Rift Valley fever status: not present
Lassa fever status: not present
Polio status: not endemic
Ebola outbreaks: no
Meningococcal meningitis hotspot: no


Climate: tropical; rainy season (May to October); dry season (November to April); tropical on coast; temperate in uplands
Terrain: mostly mountains with narrow coastal belt and central plateau
Natural disaster risk: extremely high
Natural hazards: volcanic activity, earthquakes, landslides and hurricanes between June and November
Tropical storms: common
Volcanic activity: significant volcanic activity; San Salvador (elev. 1,893 m), which last erupted in 1917, has the potential to cause major harm to the country’s capital, which lies just below the volcano’s slopes; San Miguel (elev. 2,130 m), which last erupted in 2002, is one of the most active volcanoes in the country; other historically active volcanoes include Conchaguita, Ilopango, Izalco, and Santa Ana
Previous earthquake(s) with over 1,000 fatalities: no


Government type: republic
Socio-economic development score: 3/10 (low levels of socio-economic development)
Adult literacy rate: 88%
Unemployment rate: low
Civil liberties: some restrictions, usually mild
Investment rating: sub-investment grade / speculative grade / junk status
Corruption levels: fairly high
Same-sex sexual activity: legal
Death penalty: only used under rare and exceptional circumstances
Languages: Spanish (official), Nahua
Ethnic groups: mestizo 86.3%, white 12.7%, Amerindian 0.2% (includes Lenca, Kakawira, Nahua-Pipil), black 0.1%, other 0.6%
Beliefs: Roman Catholic 57.1%, Protestant 21.2%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 1.9%, Mormon 0.7%, other religions 2.3%, none 16.8%

General guidelines

  • The following advice has been compiled by travel safety specialists and ex-special forces personnel.
  • However, please note that it is of a general nature only and may not reflect the reality of your circumstances.
  • Ensure you have proper insurance cover in place.
  • Select good quality accommodation and properly prepare for any tasks, excursions or other activities you have to undertake.
  • Be mindful of local laws and cultural norms, bearing in mind that they might be different to what you are accustomed to.
  • Consider conducting or obtaining a risk assessment specific to you, your profile and your trip, task or operation.
  • This should take into account the likelihood of potential risks affecting you, as well as the likely impact they will have, and will help you decide, depending on your risk appetite and implementable risk mitigation measures, whether or not you should proceed.

Infrastructure

  • Be prepared for potentially poor-quality roads and other forms of transportation.
  • This can make it difficult to get around.
  • Consider obtaining a high-quality vehicle that can handle difficult terrain if you intend to travel anywhere with particularly bad-quality roads.
  • Bear in mind that traffic safety conditions may be poor.
  • Try to ensure that any accommodation or workplace is located in a good quality building.
  • Bear in mind that in the event of an accident or emergency, the emergency response services may have very limited resources available.

Road traffic accident

  • Be aware of local driving conditions and hazards.
  • Drive defensively and adhere to speed limits to minimise the risk of being caught up in an accident, or request that your driver(s) do the same.
  • If using a taxi or local driver, ensure that they are qualified and competent and that their vehicle appears well maintained.
  • Ensure that vehicles are in good working order before travel.
  • Perform regular checks on your vehicles for oil, fuel, tyres and seatbelts.
  • Consider taking additional equipment such as a jack, spare tyres, water, blankets, torches and a first aid kit, especially if travelling to more rural or isolated areas.
  • Consider using four-wheel drive vehicles for particularly poor road conditions.
  • Car users should know how to perform emergency repairs.

Healthcare

  • Bear in mind that healthcare facilities and services may be significantly less extensive than more developed countries.
  • There may be very limited facilities, staff, techniques and medications available, especially in more isolated or underdeveloped areas.
  • There may not be adequate reliable blood supplies in local hospitals.
  • Pharmacists and other sources of even basic medical products may be difficult to find.
  • Aim to be as medically self-sufficient as possible, taking basic medical supplies.
  • Research whether or not certain medications are legal in your destination(s).
  • Take extra supplies of any routinely-taken medicines.
  • It may also be advisable to have them accompanied by a note from your doctor.
  • Avoid carrying medication for other travellers.
  • In the event of serious illness or injury it may be necessary for a patient to be evacuated out of the country.
  • Ensure that there is sufficient medical insurance in place to cover such an event.

Disease

  • Find out what specific diseases are present in your intended travel destinations.
  • Research the specific measures you should take to lower the risk of infection, bearing in mind that the disease(s) in question could be water, air or insect-borne.
  • It might be useful to seek medical advice prior to your trip.
  • If possible, do this several weeks in advance of your travel, in case you need to obtain specific vaccinations, some of which can take time to be administered properly.
  • Be aware of any potential outbreaks which may be taking place in the country.
  • Be careful with any cuts and grazes which might be more susceptible to infection in your travel destination than at home.
  • Hygiene will be very important, but it can be more challenging to maintain good standards of hygiene in some parts of the world where sanitary products, cleaning products and even clean water can be hard to obtain.
  • It might be advisable to bring extra supplies with you.
  • It would be better to take them and not use them than to leave them behind and then need them in a challenging situation.
  • You may also encounter challenges over where and what you want to eat.
  • Try to avoid venues which appear unsanitary.
  • Be very aware of any medical symptoms which might arise, both when you are travelling and for up to a month after you return home.
  • Seek medical assistance if you have any concerns.
  • Bear in mind that local doctors in your home country might not be familiar with certain tropical diseases.
  • If you become ill on your return, inform your doctor where you have been and ensure that unfamiliar tropical diseases are taken into consideration as a possible diagnosis.

Crime

  • Research and familiarise yourself with your destination in advance of travel.
  • Find out what the local criminal trends are and identify any potential hotspots, such as certain neighbourhoods.
  • Note than crime levels can often be higher around public transport, shopping areas and crowded places.
  • In higher risk areas exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Try not to overtly display your belongings or anything that could make you appear wealthy.
  • Ask yourself if you need to show off your jewellery, watch, mobile phone or other items or equipment.
  • Try to keep your wallet or cash hidden.
  • It also helps to avoid appearing vulnerable in at-risk areas so try to display confidence and purpose as you move around.
  • Avoid consulting a map in public as this will mark you out as both unfamiliar with the environment as well as being potentially vulnerable.
  • Familiarise yourself with local maps and directions before wandering around.
  • Identify routes to your accommodation and other safe havens (such as police stations, embassies, commercial areas with a police presence or quieter, safer neighbourhoods for example).
  • Familiarise yourself with landmarks so you can orientate yourself and find your way out of trouble spots if you need to.
  • Note that crime trends can change, and the level of risk can become higher, after dark.
  • It might be advisable to avoid wandering around at night.
  • Avoid dark alleys in urban areas.
  • It is might also be advisable to travel in pairs or in a group.
  • It may also be preferable to drive or be driven around certain areas rather than walking around in the street, even for going relatively short distances.
  • In general, use your gut instincts and be prepared to avoid situations, places or people that seem suspicious, odd or wrong in some way.

Civil unrest

  • Civil unrest can lead to road closures and even curfews, which can affect your travel plans.
  • Be prepared for delays and route alterations.
  • Avoid demonstrations as they can turn violent.
  • If demonstrations take place on a frequent basis, research the trends which tend to accompany them.
  • Where do they tend to take place? Do they tend to turn violent? Do attendees target specific types of building or representative interests associated with a specific nationality, industry, political group (such as party political offices, state buildings or foreign-owned businesses)?
  • Once you have identified the sorts of risks, trends and areas of higher risk to be avoided you can start planning to minimise your exposure.

Terrain

  • If travelling to areas with more challenging terrain types, bear in mind that you might need to take specific and specialised equipment and clothing.
  • Some terrain types might be more hazardous at different times of year so research any seasonal variations and work out the best time for you to visit.
  • You may have to alter your behaviour and consider certain types of medication, such as if you have to travel to high altitudes.
  • Areas with challenging terrain are often sparsely populated and/or with underdeveloped infrastructure.
  • Not only can this make it difficult for you to travel there, it may also make it difficult to get out if you need to, or for any assistance to arrive in the event that you encounter difficulties and need help or evacuation.
  • As such, have backup plans in place, methods of calling for help even if local communication networks are poor and aim to be as medically self-sufficient as possible.

Weather

  • If rainfall, flooding, extreme temperatures or other types of severe weather are a concern, check the local weather patterns to find out if there are times of the year where the risk is much higher.
  • Consider avoiding travel to at-risk destinations during these times.
  • Try to stay in good quality accommodation.
  • Take appropriate clothing and footwear.
  • Take appropriate protection for any sensitive equipment you wish to bring.
  • Note that storms, flooding and other types of harsh weather can overload infrastructure, lead to traffic jams and power cuts.
  • Flooding and heavy rainfall can also raise the risk of landslides, as well as insect- and water-borne diseases in some parts of the world.
  • As such, be prepared to delay, alter or even cancel travel plans to affected or high-risk areas.

Seismic activity

  • Be prepared to respond at short notice to any seismic activity.
  • Create an emergency plan to follow in the event of an incident that involves a communications breakdown, so you can meet colleagues at a designated meeting point if you are separated and cannot get in contact with one another.
  • Practise drills such as “drop, seek cover and hold on” procedure so that you can take shelter as soon as an incident occurs.
  • Know the location of your nearest medical kit and medically trained personnel.
  • Knowledge of basic first aid will also be very useful.
  • Get away from glass or anything that could fall if shaking starts.
  • Consider carrying a whistle that can be used to alert first responders in the event that you are trapped after an earthquake – although bear in mind that in some circumstances and/or locations there may not be much in the way of first response capabilities, particularly following a damaging earthquake.
  • In the event of an incident, avoid damaged buildings that might still be at risk of collapse.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks.
  • Note that earthquakes can trigger tsunamis and landslides so be prepared to move out of harm’s way once the shaking has stopped.
  • You may need to move very quickly and with limited time.

Volcanic activity

  • In at-risk areas, pay attention to official warnings and observe exclusion zone orders.
  • Know your evacuation routes and the location of your nearest shelters and medical facilities.
  • Familiarise yourself with any official warning systems.
  • Ensure that you have sufficient supplies (such as food, water, medications and fuel) as well as good working vehicles so you can leave very quickly if needed.
  • Be prepared to react to evacuation orders and actual eruptions at short notice.
  • Be prepared for possible travel disruption in the event of an eruption, which could affect flights and lead to congested roads and fuel shortages.
  • Depending on the level of risk, consider having a shelter in your accommodation and/or place of work if it is in an area which could be affected by heavy ash fall, as this could provide you temporary shelter in the event of an eruption.