El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America; caution should be exercised at all times.
The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that comprehensive travel insurance, including medical insurance, is obtained before travelling to El Salvador. Travellers should note that the Irish government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
Safety and Security
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. You should avoid obvious displays of wealth. All foreign nationals are subject to the risk of kidnapping. It is safer to withdraw money from ATMs in shopping centres or change money in hotels or banks and it is wise not to withdraw too much money at any one time. If you are the victim of a robbery you should not resist.
You should try to avoid travelling anywhere in El Salvador at night and avoid travelling alone. You should 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 in El Salvador. Avoid travelling on unpaved roads as you are at greater risk of attack in remote areas with fewer police patrols. The road between El Salvador and Guatemala has seen attacks. For shorter trips within towns and cities it is safer to take radio or hotel taxis rather than public buses or unofficial taxis.
Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy imprisonment in local jails.
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.
Please be aware that as a result of past conflicts, there remains unexploded ordnance such as landmines in the countryside. You should take local advice, avoiding travel to such areas if advised to do so.
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.
Demonstrations and protests often occur throughout the country, especially along the border with Honduras. Irish citizens should avoid such protests, which may turn violent.
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. Several people have drowned in recent years. The number of lifeguards is limited and you should avoid swimming on isolated beaches.
Local Laws and Customs
For entry requirements for El Salvador, please contact the Embassy of El Salvador in London:
8 Dorset Square
London NW1 6PU
Tel: +44 207 224 9800
Fax: +44 207 224 9878
It is advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.
In the event that your passport is lost or stolen, obtaining a replacement passport can take up to two weeks, due to time and distance factors. You are advised to take all precautions necessary to keep your travel documents secure at all times.
Natural Disasters and Climate
El Salvador has a number of active volcanoes. You are advised to take local advice before climbing any of these. There is also a risk of earthquakes in El Salvador.
The Hurricane season lasts from May to October. Transportation, utilities, emergency and medical care, as well as food, fuel, and water supplies may be disrupted. You are advised to monitor local and international weather updates for the region by accessing, for example, the weather channel or the National Hurricane Centre website.
Irish citizens going to El Salvador during the hurricane season are advised to leave a detailed copy of their travel plans with a family member or friend. You should also register with the Irish Embassy in Mexico City. In the event of an approaching hurricane, you should identify your local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended and available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, picture ID's etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. You should also contact friends and family in Ireland with updates about your welfare and whereabouts.
Please see our Hurricanes section for further information and advice.
Additional Country Info
A H1N1 Virus (Swine Flu): For up to date information on the epidemic in El Salvador, please visit the website of the El Salvadorean Ministry of Health http://www.mspas.gob.sv/virus%5FgripeA%5FH1N1/ (Spanish).
Dengue fever is present in El Salvador and is carried by mosquitoes. Outbreaks tend to increase in the rainy season (May to October). You are advised to take all necessary precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes when in El Salvador. You are advised to drink bottled water.
Road conditions vary throughout El Salvador and driving standards are low. You are advised to exercise great care if driving in El Salvador.
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