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Latest travel advice for El Salvador including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2016-11-25T16:57:52.390+00:00: Latest update: Summary - removal of information and advice about hurricane Otto

UK health authorities have classified El Salvador as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Most visits to El Salvador are trouble free. However, El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America so you should take extra care. Take particular care in downtown San Salvador and on roads outside major towns and cities at night. Avoid wearing expensive jewellery or displaying valuable items. Safeguard your passport, mobile phone and cash against pickpockets. See Crime

There are a number of potentially active volcanoes in El Salvador. You can get up to date information and advice about volcanic activity on the website of the Directorate General of Civil Protection (in Spanish). See Natural disasters.

The rainy season runs from June to November. See Rainy season

There is a low threat from terrorism. See Terrorism

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Safety and security

Crime

El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America. Violence between gangs is a particular and growing problem. Targets are usually rival gang members and police, not tourists or visitors. Most gang violence occurs away from tourists and visitors, but no location is completely safe. Most visits to El Salvador are trouble-free but there have been some violent attacks on tourists including robberies, car-jackings and assaults. You should take the following steps to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of crime:

Scams

Foreign visitors and residents can be targeted by scam artists. The scams come in many forms, and can cause great financial loss. If you, or your relatives/friends are asked to transfer money to El Salvador, make absolutely sure it is not part of a scam and that you have properly checked with the person receiving the money that they are requesting it.

Local travel

Should you have any questions on security or local travel; you can call the local tourist police on +503 2511 8300 or 2511 8303 or visit the POLITUR website.

Road travel

You can use your UK Driving Licence to drive in El Salvador for visits of under three months. However, an International Driving Permit is recommended.

Driving standards are variable and you should expect the unexpected. Car insurance is essential. If you are involved in an accident, contact the national police or the fire brigade by dialling 911. If you are involved in an accident you should normally wait for the police to arrive.

Roads between the main tourist locations in El Salvador are of a good or acceptable standard. Sometimes manhole covers are stolen, leaving large holes in the road. In more isolated locations, roads are unsurfaced and four-wheel drive vehicles are advisable. Lock doors and keep windows closed.

Take particular care when travelling to/from the border with Guatemala. There have been reports of violent attacks on vehicles, particularly on the Guatemalan side of the border. Vehicles with El Salvador number plates are often targeted. It’s better to cross borders in the morning, giving you time to reach your destination before dark. Borders sometimes close in the early evening. Private bus companies are considered safer than public buses for crossing borders.

There may be a small risk of unexploded ordnance (eg landmines) in remote areas. If you are going off-road take local advice and avoid travel to such areas if advised.

Swimming

Swimming on the Pacific coast can be dangerous due to strong undertows. The currents around La Bocana de San Diego are particularly treacherous. Several people have drowned in recent years. There are very few lifeguards. You should avoid swimming on isolated beaches.

Political situation

Demonstrations occur from time to time and can do so with little warning. They can become violent and disrupt travel. Avoid large gatherings or demonstrations. The El Salvador Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners, and participation in demonstrations may result in detention and/or deportation.

Consular assistance

The British Embassy in El Salvador reopened in May 2012, but the Embassy does not have a dedicated consular section. If you need consular assistance in El Salvador, contact the British Honorary Consul in San Salvador:

Mr George Chippendale

Cónsul Honorario Británico

17 Calle Poniente No. 320

San Salvador, El Salvador

Telephone (503) 2236-5555

Fax (503) 2271-1026

George.Chippendale-Honcon@fconet.fco.gov.uk Honorary Consul Office Hours: Local Time: Mon-Fri: 08:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 17:00.

You can also register with the Honorary Consul on arrival in El Salvador, either in person or by email.

Terrorism

There is a low threat from terrorism, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

British passport holders can enter El Salvador for tourism or business for up to 90 days without a visa. This can be extended on application to the Salvadoran immigration department, Centro de Gobierno, San Salvador; Telephone: (503) 2221 2111. For other types of travel, contact the Embassy of El Salvador in London.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into El Salvador.

Central America Border Control Agreement

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 days, without completing entry and exit formalities at border Immigration checkpoints. The 90 day period begins at the first point of entry of any of the CA-4 countries. Fines are applied for travellers who exceed the 90-day limit, although you can apply for an extension of up to 30 days by paying a fee before the 90 days limit expires. If you’re expelled from any of the 4 countries you are also excluded from the entire CA-4 region.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are valid for entry into El Salvador. ETDs must also have a minimum period of 6 months validity from the date you enter El Salvador.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

Water is not generally safe to drink outside the better hotels in the main towns but bottled water is widely and cheaply available.

UK health authorities have classified El Salvador as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Dengue fever is common to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year, but mainly during the rainy season. 8,267 cases of dengue were reported during the first 6 months of 2015.

Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in El Salvador. As of August 2015, the government had issued Dengue and Chickungunya alerts in the provinces of: Cabañas, Cuscatlán, San Miguel, Ahuachapán, Sonsonate, Usulután, La Union and large parts of San Salvador.

Medical facilities outside the capital San Salvador are generally basic. State-run hospitals are on the whole under-staffed, under-funded and ill-equipped. Use private clinics and hospitals whenever possible.

Some hospitals may be reluctant to treat you until they are satisfied you have medical insurance. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. Carry a copy of your insurance cover at all times. Most medical staff speak only a little English.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Natural disasters

Volcanoes

 
El Salvador has a number of active volcanoes.

In 2013, the Chaparrastique volcano in the province of San Miguel erupted. It remains active and under close observation.

Seek local advice before climbing any volcanoes in El Salvador and monitor local media for any updates on increased volcanic activity. You can find volcano warnings on the website of the Directorate General of Civil Protection (in Spanish). When climbing volcanoes or walking in remote areas, it is safer do so in daylight hours and with a tour guide.

Rainy season

The rainy season normally runs from June to November, coinciding with the hurricane season in the Caribbean. During the rainy season you can expect frequent heavy rain, thunder storms and possible tropical depressions. Roads can be affected by landslides and flooding. Mountain areas are particularly vulnerable to landslides.

Monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation and the US National Hurricane Centre. See our Tropical Cyclones page for advice about what to do if you are caught up in a hurricane.

Earthquakes

El Salvador is subject to frequent minor earth tremors and occasional earthquakes. 

Make sure you know what action to take should an earthquake occur. If you are staying in a hotel read their earthquake instructions. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, visit the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Fire

There has been an increase in fires during the 2014/15 dry season; particularly in San Salvador. You can contact the fire brigade by calling 913.

Money

The US 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.

It is almost impossible to change pounds sterling anywhere in El Salvador, so you should bring a mixture of cash and travellers’ cheques in US dollars. Bring some low denomination US dollar notes, as US$50 and US$100 notes are not accepted in many smaller restaurants, bars and shops. US$100 and US$50 notes may be exchanged in banks on arrival.

ATMs are widely available.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

See also

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  • British Embassy San Salvador

    Title:British Embassy San Salvador
    Email:
    Address:

    Torre Futura,
    14th floor,
    Colonia Escalón,
    San Salvador

    San Salvador
    El Salvador

    Contact: Switchboard: +503 2511-5757
    Visiting:General enquiries
    britishembassy.elsalvador@fco.gov.uk

    Consular enquiries
    guatemala.consulate@fco.gov.uk

    Monday to Thursday 7:30am to 4:30pm
    Friday 7:30am to 11:30am
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Lost or Stolen Passports (Assistance Services)
    Registrations of Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Documentary Services)
    Births and Deaths registration service (Documentary Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)
    Issue certificate of no impediment (Documentary Services)
    Legalisation Service (Other Services)

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