Safety and security
Unexploded ordnance such as landmines is a danger in the El Salvador countryside, a legacy of past conflicts. Always keep to main routes, take local advice and avoid travel to such areas if advised to do so.
All foreign nationals are at risk of kidnapping in El Salvador, either for political or financial reasons. If you’re planning to visit the country, follow these basic precautions:
- Get advice from your local contacts about staying safe
- Avoid travelling at night, particularly inter-city
- Avoid travelling alone
- When driving, ensure all car doors are locked
- Vary your routes and departure times – avoid patterns which could be tracked
- Pay careful attention to local media for reports of kidnapping activities
Although the threat from terrorism in El Salvador is low, there is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates.
El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America and caution should be exercised at all times:
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
- Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
- Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you’re alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business.
- Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.
- Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations.
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 and avoid obvious displays of wealth.
All foreign nationals are subject to the risk of kidnapping. It’s safer to withdraw money from ATMs in shopping centres or change money in hotels or banks and it’s wise not to withdraw too much money at any one time. If you’re the victim of a robbery you shouldn’t resist.
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.
Try to avoid travelling anywhere in El Salvador at night and avoid travelling alone. 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 throughout El Salvador and attacks have taken place on the road between El Salvador and Guatemala. Avoid travelling on unpaved roads as you’re at greater risk of attack in remote areas with fewer police patrols.
For shorter trips within towns and cities it’s safer to take radio or hotel taxis rather than public buses or unofficial taxis.
Lost or stolen passports
If your passport is lost or stolen, getting a replacement can take up to two weeks so keep your travel documents secure at all times. Getting a replacement passport will be easier if you are able to provide a copy of the lost or stolen one, so keep photocopies of your passport.
If you’re a victim of a crime while in El Salvador, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Mexico City if you need help.
If you’re planning to drive in El Salvador, you should be extremely careful as road conditions vary and driving standards are low. If you want to drive:
- Bring your full Irish driver’s licence and your international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
- Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights
Hiring a vehicle
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
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 and several people have drowned in recent years. The number of lifeguards is limited and you should avoid swimming on isolated beaches.
The hurricane season in the Caribbean normally runs from July to October. You should pay close attention to local and international weather reports and follow the advice of local authorities. Always monitor local and international weather updates for the region by accessing, for example, the Weather Channel, or the US National Hurricane Centre website.
Fri, 06 May 2016 16:39:27 BST