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Exercise a high degree of caution in El Salvador due to the threat of violent crime.
Exercise a high degree of caution in El Salvador due to the threat of violent crime.
Full travel advice: Safety
Full travel advice: Health
Full travel advice: Local laws
Full travel advice: Travel
Full travel advice: Local contacts
A State of Exception was declared in El Salvador on 30 March 2023 and will likely continue for the foreseeable future. While the State of Exception has resulted in a reduction in the rate of violent and gang-related crime, there's still a risk of violent crime. Follow the advice of local authorities.
Violent crime is common in El Salvador, including in the capital, San Salvador. Incidents include:
Crime can involve guns and violent street gangs. The risk of violent crime increases at night.
While crime rates have reduced, gang-related crime may affect you in El Salvador.
Criminals on motorbikes commit robberies. You may be targeted if you display signs of wealth. Express kidnappings also occur, where criminals force you to withdraw funds from ATMs.
Police and law enforcement can't always respond to the high levels of crime.
To protect yourself from violent crime:
If you're attacked or robbed, don't resist. Armed criminals may injure or kill you.
If you're a victim of violent crime, especially rape, get immediate medical attention. El Salvador has a high HIV/AIDS infection risk.
Petty crime is common, particularly pickpocketing and bag-snatching. You're at risk:
It can be dangerous to travel on roads outside San Salvador, especially at night. Criminals may target roads and highways, including the road to the international airport.
Criminals may follow you from the international airport to assault or rob you.
Violent attacks on vehicles, including buses, between El Salvador and Guatemala have been reported. The risk is greater on the Guatemalan side of the border.
Sometimes armed thieves target hikers in remote areas around volcanoes and national parks.
To protect yourself when travelling by road:
You may be at risk of cyber-based threats during overseas travel to any country. Digital identity theft is a growing concern. Your devices and personal data can be compromised, especially if you’re connecting to Wi-Fi, using or connecting to shared or public computers, or to Bluetooth.
Social media can also be risky in destinations where there are social or political tensions, or laws that may seem unreasonable by Australian standards. Travellers have been arrested for things they have said on social media. Don't comment on local or political events on your social media.
Public protests and events that draw large groups of people can turn violent.
Don't participate in political activities of any kind. Authorities may detain or deport you.
To protect yourself during periods of unrest:
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
Strong rip tides and currents can make beaches dangerous.
There may not be lifeguards. Swimming conditions can become dangerous quickly.
To protect yourself in case of a natural disaster:
To receive alerts on major disasters, register with the:
The hurricane and rainy season is from June to November.
Landslides, mudslides and flooding can happen.
Severe weather may affect:
The direction and strength of hurricanes can change suddenly.
If there's a hurricane or severe storm:
To protect yourself if a hurricane is approaching:
To receive alerts on major disasters, register with the National Hurricane and Central Pacific Hurricane Center
El Salvador has active volcanoes. Before you trek or climb in an area with volcanic activity, ask local authorities for advice.
After a volcanic eruption, ash, dust and toxic fumes are a significant health risk. Take care if you have a respiratory condition.
To protect yourself if a volcano erupts:
El Salvador experiences earthquakes. Tsunamis can also happen.
Get to know the earthquake safety measures for each place you visit.
Register with the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.
If you're near the coast, move immediately to high ground if advised by local authorities, or if you:
Don't wait for official warnings, such as alarms or sirens. Once on high ground, monitor local media.
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave.
Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won’t pay for these costs.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many thousands of dollars up-front for medical care.
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
If you have immediate concerns for your welfare or the welfare of another Australian, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or contact your nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate to discuss counselling hotlines and services available in your location.
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
If you plan to take medication, check if it's legal in El Salvador. Take enough legal medication for your trip.
Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:
Chikungunya is widespread in El Salvador.
During the wet season, you're more at risk of insect-borne illnesses, including:
Zika virus is widespread in El Salvador.
Read the Australian Department of Health's Zika virus bulletin for advice on how to reduce your risk. If you're pregnant, the department recommends that you:
To protect yourself from disease:
Get medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.
HIV/AIDS is a significant risk in El Salvador.
Take steps to protect yourself if you're at risk of infection.
Common waterborne, foodborne and other infectious diseases include:
Medical facilities are basic across El Salvador.
You may need to pay cash before doctors and hospitals will treat you, even in an emergency.
If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to the US. Medical evacuation and treatment in the US can be very expensive.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy prison sentences in local jails.
If you injure or kill someone in a road accident, authorities may arrest or detain you for a local trial.
It's illegal to take photographs of official buildings. Check with local authorities before taking photos.
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you’re overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or leave through its borders. For specific information about the evidence you'll need to enter a foreign destination, check with the nearest embassy, consulate or immigration department of the destination you're entering.
You'll need to purchase a tourist card at the airport. This permits you to visit El Salvador for up to 90 days.
El Salvador is a member country to the Central American Border Control Agreement (CA-4), along with:
With a CA-4 tourist visa, you can travel freely by land between member countries within the 90-day period.
Your tourist card is dated from the first point of entry in any member country.
You can apply to extend the CA-4 visa before it expires at Centro de Gobierno in San Salvador. Call (+503) 2221 2111.
If you overstay the visa without an extension, you may be:
If you're not a tourist or you plan to stay longer, you'll need a visa.
Entry and exit conditions can change. Contact the Embassy of El Salvador in Canberra for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
Confirm your travel and transit arrangements directly with your airline or travel agent.
If you're remaining in El Salvador:
Make sure your passport is stamped when you enter El Salvador.
You must pay a departure tax to leave El Salvador. Your airline ticket may include the tax.
Some land border crossing points between El Salvador and neighbouring countries close at 6pm.
If you’re travelling through the US, ensure you meet all current US entry or transit requirements, even if you're only transiting.
If you're travelling via Canada, you'll need an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) for Canada.
Travel via Chile
If you’re travelling via Chile, ensure you meet all current entry or transit requirements.
Depending on where you've travelled, you may need a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter El Salvador. Some airlines may want to see one when you leave.
Find out about returning to Australia after exposure to yellow fever.
If you're travelling with children, you may need to show proof of your legal relationship. This could be as a parent, custodian or someone with access rights.
A child travelling on a Salvadoran passport without 1 or both parents must have written consent from the absent parents to leave the country. A Salvadoran notary must sign these documents.
Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you’re just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport’s expiry date before you travel. If you’re not sure it’ll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport.
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
Although Australian passports comply with international standards for sex and gender, we can’t guarantee that a passport showing 'X' in the sex field will be accepted for entry or transit by another country. Contact the nearest embassy, high commission or consulate of your destination before you arrive at the border to confirm if authorities will accept passports with 'X' gender markers.
The official currency is the US Dollar ($US). Exchange for other currencies isn't available.
Bitcoin became legal tender in El Salvador in September 2021. However, not all vendors accept Bitcoin and it is in the early stages of adoption.
Credit cards aren't widely accepted outside major centres. ATMs aren't reliable.
Only change money and use ATMs in banks, hotels or shopping malls. See Safety
To drive in El Salvador, you need both:
You must get your IDP before leaving Australia.
Stick to sealed roads and well-travelled paths.
Road safety and driving in El Salvador can be dangerous.
You're more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in El Salvador than in Australia.
Driving standards can change across the country. Car insurance is essential.
If you're in an accident, call 911 for the national police or the fire brigade. Wait for the authorities to arrive before you leave.
Roads between tourist locations are usually in good or acceptable condition.
Locals sometimes steal manhole covers, leaving large holes in the road.
Roads are unsealed in isolated areas, so a 4WD vehicle is a good choice.
If you plan to drive in El Salvador:
Try not to drive at night. Lock doors, keep windows up and take safety precautions. See Safety
In rural El Salvador, unmarked landmines and unexploded remnants of war are common. This risk increases in the Chalatenango and Morazán districts.
Transport and adventure tour operators may not meet Australian safety standards, or maintain scuba diving equipment.
If you plan to do a tour or adventure activity:
If proper safety equipment isn't available, use another provider.
Check your insurance before using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle.
Always wear a helmet.
Use registered taxis and limousines.
Arrange transport through your hotel, and book in advance if travelling at night.
Public transport in El Salvador is often overcrowded and poorly maintained. This includes inter-city buses.
Security around bus stops is poor, and robberies are common.
Avoid using public transport.
DFAT doesn’t provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check El Salvador's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
POLITUR, the tourist police, can help you. They regularly patrol main tourist areas.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
Australia has a consulate in San Salvador, headed by an Honorary Consul. The consulate provides limited consular assistance to Australians in El Salvador. The Consulate can conduct passport interviews and provide provisional travel documents for emergency travel to the nearest Australian embassy. The Consulate can’t issue Australian passports. You can get full consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Mexico City.
12 Calle Poniente 2028
Colonia Flor Blanca
San Salvador, El Salvador
Phone: (+503) 2298 9447
Ruben Dario 55, (Polanco)
Colonia Bosque de Chapultepec
11580 Mexico CDMX MEXICO
Phone: +52 55 1101 2200
Facebook: Australian Embassy Mexico
Check the Embassy website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
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