Foreign travel advice

El Salvador


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, especially at night. Avoid wearing expensive jewellery or displaying valuable items. Safeguard your passport, mobile phone and cash against pickpockets.

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.

More recently there has also been an increase in typhoid and hepatitis A. You should avoid bathing in or drinking from any rivers.

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).

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

Terrorist attacks in El Salvador can’t be ruled out.

You can contact the emergency services by calling 911.

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

Safety and security


El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America. Violence between gangs is common and targets are usually rival gang members or the military and police. While most gang violence occurs away from tourists and visitors, no location is completely safe. Most visits to El Salvador are trouble-free but there have been isolated attacks on tourists including robberies, car-jackings and violent assaults. You should take the following steps to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of crime:

  • take particular care in downtown San Salvador, other towns or cities, or if you are travelling on roads outside of major towns and cities after dark: the following areas within San Salvador are safer than others at night, but you should still take care: Santa Elena, San Benito, Maquilishuat, La Gran Via and Multiplaza

  • take care when travelling alone; it may be safer to travel with others or take part in a tour with a reputable company; the same applies to walking on remote trails; there have been reports of opportunistic attacks on tourists walking alone

  • if possible keep your valuables including your passport in a safe; carry a photocopy of your passport for identification purposes; take particular care of your personal belongings at bus stations, airports, tourist sites and on public transport

  • avoid displaying items of value, particularly when arriving at the airport; foreigners have been targeted when leaving the airport; don’t wear expensive jewellery and only carry minimal amounts of cash

  • it’s safer to withdraw money from ATMs in shopping centres or change money in hotels or banks; don’t withdraw too much money at one time; foreigners have been attacked after withdrawing money from ATMs; don’t use ATMs at night or in isolated or badly lit areas

  • stick to main roads; avoid travelling on unsurfaced roads as you are at greater risk of attack in remote areas where there are fewer police patrols

  • public buses (repainted old US school buses) are not safe; private inter-city buses are generally safer, although attacks can also occur on these; only use reputable coach companies; for shorter trips within towns and cities, take radio, pre-booked or hotel taxis operated by reputable companies; don’t use unofficial taxis

  • there remains a small risk of kidnapping, despite success by the national police in tackling the problem in recent years; kidnap gangs generally target rich Salvadorians rather than visitors

  • if you’re driving, take extra care at junctions, where stationary traffic is often targeted by armed robbers

  • if you’re attacked, don’t resist


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. Lane discipline is aspirational. 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 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 or no lifeguards. You should avoid swimming on isolated beaches, especially after consuming alcohol.

Political situation

Demonstrations occur unexpectedly from time to time and can 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 doesn’t have a dedicated consular section. For consular assistance during and outside office hours, weekends or holidays, dial (503) 25115757 and follow instructions to be transferred to a consular officer. For non urgent assistance email enquiries you can contact:


Terrorist attacks in El Salvador can’t be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

There’s 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.

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.


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) 2213 7700. For other types of travel, contact the Embassy of El Salvador in London.

If you overstay your visa then you should expect to pay a fine before leaving the country. For information you should contact the Salvadoran immigration department.

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 to and exit from El Salvador. ETDs must also have a minimum period of 6 months validity from the date you enter El Salvador.

If you’re travelling via the United States of America on an ETD, you’ll need to get a USA visa. For more information, please contact the USA Embassy in El Salvador.

Local laws and customs

There are severe penalties for drug trafficking and drug use in El Salvador. Prisons are overcrowded and violent.

In El Salvador, local people are largely tolerant of individuals’ personal lifestyles and small displays of affection between same sex couples. However, there’s a much more conservative attitude outside San Salvador so public displays of affection by same-sex couples aren’t recommended. There are no legal provisions for same-sex marriage or adoption. While the Family Code establishes that marriage should happen between a man and a woman, the Constitution does not make this specific point. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Carry a photocopy of the personal details page of your passport for identification purposes.


At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Water is not generally safe to drink, but bottled water is widely and cheaply available. Rivers tend to be contaminated and unsafe to swim or bathe in. Cases of typhoid and hepatitis A have increased in recent years, largely due to contaminated water.

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.

Cases of Chikungunya virus and dengue fever have also been confirmed in El 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, but be aware that 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


El Salvador has a number of active volcanoes.

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 Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), 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.


El Salvador is subject to frequent minor earth tremors and occasional earthquakes. Local information can be found (in Spanish) on the MARN website or their Twitter feed @MARN_SV.

Make sure you know what action to take should an earthquake occur. If you are staying in a hotel read their earthquake instructions. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake or tsunami.


Fires can increase during the dry season; particularly in San Salvador. You can contact the fire brigade by calling 911.


The US dollar is the official currency in El Salvador.

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. US$50 and US$100 notes are generally not accepted in many smaller restaurants, bars and shops. US$100 and US$50 notes may be exchanged in banks on arrival, but it is advisable to bring smaller denominations with you.

ATMs are widely available. You should inform your bank of your travel plans before you travel to avoid your card being blocked.

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 the Travel Advice Team 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.