Fire and rescue services
We haven't changed our level of advice:
Exercise a high degree of caution in El Salvador.
Violent crime, often involving guns and street gangs, is widespread. It increases at night. Don't travel alone or after dark.
Gang-related crime is common. Gangs have killed police, bombed cars and public transport, and set grenades in public places. Pay close attention to your surroundings. Ensure your accommodation is secure.
Petty crime is common around transport hubs and tourist areas. Safeguard your belongings.
Road travel outside the capital, San Salvador, is dangerous. Criminals target highways and the road to the international airport. Plan to arrive or depart the airport during the day. Keep vehicle doors and windows locked.
Protests and public gatherings can turn violent. Don't take part in any political activities. Authorities may detain or deport you.
The hurricane season is from June to November. Hurricanes can disrupt essential services. Know where your nearest shelter is.
El Salvador has active volcanoes. Ask local authorities about safe areas to trek or climb.
Full travel advice: Safety
Insect-borne illnesses are common, especially during the wet season. Chikungunya is widespread. Malaria is a risk in rural areas. Use insect repellent. Ensure your accommodation is insect-proof.
Zika virus is widespread. If you're pregnant, discuss your travel plans with your doctor. Consider deferring non-essential travel.
HIV/AIDS is a significant risk. Take precautions if you're taking part in high-risk activities.
Other common infectious diseases include tuberculosis, hepatitis, typhoid and rabies. Drink boiled or bottled water. Avoid raw or undercooked food. If an animal bites or scratches you, get medical help immediately.
Medical facilities are basic. If you're seriously ill or injured, you'll need medical evacuation to the US. Ensure your travel insurance covers this.
Full travel advice: Health
Don't use or carry illegal drugs. Penalties for drug offences are severe. They include long prison sentences.
Take care when driving. If you injure or kill someone in a road accident, authorities may arrest or detain you for a local trial.
It's illegal to photograph official buildings. Check with local authorities before taking photos.
Dual nationals may have to complete national service. Contact the El Salvador embassy or consulate before you travel.
Full travel advice: Local laws
You need a visa to enter El Salvador. You can get a Central American Border Control Agreement (CA-4) visa on arrival if you're staying as a tourist for 90 days or less.
If you're travelling for other reasons or staying longer than 90 days, get a visa before you arrive. Contact the embassy or consulate of El Salvador for up-to-date information.
You'll need to show your valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter El Salvador.
The official currency is the US Dollar. Exchange for other currencies isn't available. Most places don't accept credit cards. ATMs can be unreliable. Only change money and use ATMs in banks, hotels or shopping malls.
Landmines and unexploded remnants of war are common in rural El Salvador. Chalatenango and Morazán districts are high-risk. Use only paved roads and well-travelled paths.
Avoid using public transport. It's often overcrowded, poorly maintained and unsafe.
Full travel advice: Travel
The Consular Services Charter details what the Australian Government can and can’t do to help you overseas.
The Australian Consulate in San Salvador provides limited consular assistance. It doesn't issue passports.
You can get full consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Mexico.
Full travel advice: Local contacts
Violent crime is widespread in El Salvador, including in the capital San Salvador. Incidents include:
Crime often involves guns and violent street gangs.
El Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Violent crime increases at night.
Gang-related crime may affect you in El Salvador. Gang members have been known to:
kill police officers and public transport workers
attack bus drivers and passengers
place car bombs in vehicles
attack public transport with fire bombs
launch grenades in public places
kill and injure innocent bystanders
Criminals on motorbikes commit robberies. You may be targeted if you display signs of wealth. Express kidnappings also happen, 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:
pay close attention to your surroundings
make sure your accommodation is secure
avoid openly changing large amounts of money at border crossings
don't travel alone or after dark
don't use ATMs on the street
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:
in bus stations
around tourist areas
on public transport
It's dangerous to travel on roads outside San Salvador, especially at night. Criminals target roads and highways, particularly 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 are 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:
plan to arrive or depart the international airport during the day
keep car doors locked and windows up, even when moving
keep valuables out of sight
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:
avoid protests, demonstrations and public gatherings
monitor the media for potential unrest
follow instructions from local authorities
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:
secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location
monitor local media and other sources
follow the advice of local authorities
keep in contact with your friends and family
contact your tour operator or airline
get local advice before visiting natural disaster-affected areas
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:
access to ports
The direction and strength of hurricanes can change suddenly.
If there's a hurricane or severe storm:
you may get stuck in the area
flights could be delayed or suspended
available flights may fill quickly
adequate shelter may not be available
essential services may be disrupted
To protect yourself if a hurricane is approaching:
know the evacuation plan for your hotel or cruise ship
identify your local shelter
closely monitor alerts and advice from authorities
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:
stay inside with the windows and doors shut
place damp towels under doors and windows if ash is falling
wear a disposable face mask if you go outside
wear long clothing and goggles
avoid contact with ash
monitor advice from local authorities
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:
feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up
feel a weak, rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
hear loud and unusual noises from the sea
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 1000s of dollars up-front for medical care.
what activities and care your policy covers
that your insurance covers you for the whole time you’ll be away
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
have a basic health check-up
ask if your travel plans may affect your health
plan any vaccinations you need
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
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 medicine for your trip.
Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:
what the medicine is
how much you'll take
that it's for personal use
Chikungunya is widespread in El Salvador.
During the wet season, you're more at risk of insect-borne illnesses, including:
Malaria is a low risk in rural areas, particularly in the northern Santa Ana region.
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:
discuss travel plans with your doctor
consider deferring non-essential travel to affected areas
To protect yourself from disease:
make sure your accommodation is insect-proof
use insect repellent
wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing
Consider taking medicine to prevent malaria.
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:
Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.
To protect yourself from illness:
boil drinking water or drink bottled water with intact seals
avoid ice cubes
avoid raw and undercooked food, such as salads
make sure your vaccinations are up to date
avoid contact with dogs and other mammals
If you're bitten or scratched by an animal, get medical help straight away.
Get medical advice if you suspect food poisoning or have a fever or diarrhoea.
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 long 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 exit through its borders.
Make sure you meet all entry and exit conditions. If you don't, the Australian Government can’t help you.
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:
forced to leave
unable to enter other CA-4 member countries
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 or consulate of El Salvador for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
If you’re travelling through the US, you must also meet US entry or transit requirements.
If you're travelling via Canada, you'll need an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) for Canada.
You'll 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.
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.
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:
The official currency is the US Dollar ($US). Exchange for other currencies isn't available.
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 4 times 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:
check your insurance cover
learn local traffic laws and practices
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:
check if your travel insurance policy covers it
use registered operators
ask about and insist on minimum safety requirements
always use available safety gear, such as life jackets or seatbelts
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:
family and friends
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.
Contact your provider with any complaints about tourist services or products.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
Australia has a consulate in El Salvador, headed by an Honorary Consul. This consulate provides limited consular assistance.
The Australian Consulate doesn'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
Fax: +52 55 1101 2201
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:
+61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
1300 555 135 in Australia
Be the first to know official government advice when travelling.