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El Salvador Country Guide

  1. CountryFacts
  2. Health
  3. Media
  1. Intro
  2. Geography
  3. People
  4. Travel
  5. Embassies & Visas
  6. Finance
  7. Cities/Regions

Quick Facts

Region: North & Central America & the Caribbean
Full Name: Republic of El Salvador
Capital City: San Salvador
Language Spoken: Spanish, Nahua (among some Amerindians)

El Salvador Travel Insurance

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Geographic data

13 50 N, 88 55 W

Elevation Extremes

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m highest point: Cerro El Pital 2,730 m

Land boundaries

total: 545 km border countries: Guatemala 203 km, Honduras 342 km

Natural hazards

known as the Land of Volcanoes; frequent and sometimes destructive earthquakes and volcanic activity; extremely susceptible to hurricanes

Natural resources

hydropower, geothermal power, petroleum, arable land

Land use

arable land: 31.37% permanent crops: 11.88% other: 56.75% (2005)

Environmental current issues

deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution; contamination of soils from disposal of toxic wastes

Climate

Hot, subtropical climate affected by altitude. Dry season or summer runs between November and April. Coastal areas are particularly hot, with a rainy season between May and October. Upland areas have a cooler, more temperate climate. Required clothing Lightweight cottons and rainwear during the wet season in coastal areas. Waterproof clothing is advisable all year round. Warm clothing should be taken for higher altitudes.

Time difference

time difference: UTC-6

Population

6,822,378 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 36.3% (male 1,265,080/female 1,212,216) 15-64 years: 58.5% (male 1,900,372/female 2,092,251) 65 years and over: 5.2% (male 156,292/female 196,167) (2006 est.)

Median age

total: 21.8 years male: 20.7 years female: 22.9 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate

1.72% (2006 est.)

Birth rate

26.61 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate

5.78 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate

-3.61 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 71.49 years male: 67.88 years female: 75.28 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate

3.12 children born/woman (2006 est.)

Business Practices

Business meetings tend to be formal with light suits and ties usually worn. Overall, Salvadoran business relationships and meetings are, at first, formal. It is expected to use proper titles, shake hands before and after your meeting, and not to use a person's first name until a relationship has been solidified. The official language is Spanish, but English is spoken by many Salvadoran businessmen. Salvadorans commonly use titles such as Licenciado (meaning a college graduate), Ingeniero (engineering graduate), or Doctor (used both for physicians and lawyers). These are followed by the person's last name. El Salvador tends to be very much a business card society and it is important upon first meeting someone to exchange business cards with him or her. It would be a good idea to have a supply of business cards printed in Spanish. More and more business in El Salvador is now being done over meals. Breakfast meetings are common and begin about 7:30 a.m. Lunches and dinners can become lengthy affairs (2-3 hours), so do not plan too tight a schedule around them. Dinners start late by North American standards, frequently at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. Lunch is usually at 12:30 p.m. Office hours are normally 0800-1230 and 1430-1730 Monday to Friday.

Crime

Since the end of the civil war, the crime rate in El Salvador has risen to crisis proportions. El Salvador is currently considered to be a high-threat location for crime. Armed carjackings, truck hijackings, commercial armed robberies, burglaries, rape, kidnappings, and homicides occur at rates significantly above those of most countries. Foreigners are generally not specifically targeted by criminals, but are not exempt from their activities. Foreigners have been the victims of serious violent crimes both in urban and rural areas. In the capital of San Salvador, armed carjackings, home invasion robberies, rape, auto theft, burglaries and street robberies are the crimes which most foreign visitors or residents should be alert to. Crime in rural areas is also a significant problem for local residents and visitors, as many rural areas are still without an adequate police presence. In addition, many criminals in El Salvador are heavily armed as a consequence of the civil war. It is not unusual for criminals to display military assault rifles, semi-automatic pistols and hand grenades while committing their crimes. Criminals also frequently use gratuitous violence when committing their crimes, appearing to act with relative impunity on many occasions. Another disturbing trend is the continued presence and growth of youth gangs throughout El Salvador. Two Los Angeles, California-based street gangs, the "Mara Salvatrucha" and the "18th Street Gang" have established a presence throughout many cities within the country. The gangs have a number of members who have resided in the US and either returned to El Salvador voluntarily or have been deported by US immigration authorities. The gangs are involved in a variety of crimes, such as auto theft, armed robbery, narcotics trafficking, car-jacking, rape, extortion, and murder. Recent changes to the criminal code establish stiffer penalties for many current criminal violations, and add new crimes to the books. Several of the reforms strengthen the legal protection afforded to children and the handicapped. New provisions of the criminal code mandate a 6-8 year sentence for individuals convicted of sexual aggression against minors or adults incapacitated by mental or physical condition. Another set of reforms toughens the penalties for theft and fraud, and criminalizes the receipt and/or transport of stolen property.

Hotels

Accommodations in El Salvador vary from deluxe hotels to inexpensive guest houses. The main hotels are: Hotel Camino Real Boulevard de Los Heroes y Avenida Sisimiles San Salvador, El Salvador, C.A. Tel. (503) 260-1333; FAX: (503) 260-5660 Hotel El Salvador 89 Avenida Norte y 11 Calle Poniente Colonia Escalon San Salvador, El Salvador, C.A. Tel. (503) 263-0777; FAX: (503) 263-2583 Hotel Presidente El Salvador Avenida La Revolucion Colonia San Benito San Salvador, El Salvador, C.A. Tel. (503) 243-4444; FAX: (503) 243-2020 Hotel Princess, Zona Rosa, Colonia San Benito Tel. (503) 2984545; Fax: (503) 298-4500

Communications

Country code: 503 An inadequate local telecommunications network connects by microwave and satellite to international services. Many businessmen use cellular phones since it is extremely difficult to obtain new phone lines for homes and businesses. International telephone services available in El Salvador include: AT&T, MCI, and SPRINT. There are direct dialing, fax and telex facilities to most countries in the world. The official mail system is inadequate, but there are many private courier services. Post office hours are 0900-1600 Monday to Friday.

Electricity

is 110 volts AC, 60Hz. Electricity 115 volts AC, 60Hz. El Salvador accepts five types of plugs; flat blade plugs, three round pins arranged in a triangle, two parallel flat pins with ground pin, v-shaped flat prongs and two round pins.

Plug Types

A,B,C,D,E,F,G,I,J,L

Food And Dining

There are numerous Chinese, Mexican, Italian, French and local restaurants, plus several fast-food chains.

National specialties:
? Rice, beans, meat and salad is a popular meal.
? Seafood.
? Corn tortillas.
? Iguana.
? Armadillo.
? Pupusa (a fried sandwich made of tortillas and filled with pork, cheese and sausage). National drinks:
? Coffee.
? Frescos (natural fruit drinks).
? Beer (Pilsner and Suprema).
? Tic tac and Torito (alcoholic beverages made from distilled sugar cane).

Tipping:
10 per cent in hotels and restaurants; 15 per cent is appropriate for smaller bills. Taxi drivers do not expect tips, except when the taxi has been hired for the day. Airport porters are usually tipped US$1 per bag.

Nightlife
San Salvador has a few nightclubs and cocktail lounges with dinner and dancing, some of which require membership. There are many cinemas, some showing English-language films with subtitles; there are also some ?jukebox? dance-halls and theaters. The Teatro Cafe in the national theartre building, features a guitarist during the week and a variety of cultural events such as poetry and literature readings. If you like traditional Mexican style Mariachi music, head for the Boulevard de Los Heroes. Mariachi groups gather there nightly waiting for hired parties or other special occasions. Inexpensive restaurants fill this area and several Mariachi groups work the streets.

Entry departure requirements

Visa immigration information

Passports

Passport valid for at least six months after day of departure required by all.

Visas

Required by all except the following for stays of up to 90 days:
(a) nationals of countries mentioned in the table above;
(b) nationals of all British, French and Dutch overseas territories, and nationals of Hong Kong (when the passport is marked 'Nationality: British Citizen' only);
(c) nationals of Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guam, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, Israel, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Qatar, Romania, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, San Marino, Sao Tom? e Pr?ncipe, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan (China), Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Vatican City;
(c) transit passengers continuing their journey within 12 hours by the same or first connecting aircraft provided holding valid onward or return documentation and not leaving the airport.

Note

Nationals of Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Angola, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, China (PR), Colombia, Congo, Congo (Rep), Cuba, East Timor, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Korea (Dem Rep), Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Peru, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Venezuela, Vietnam and Yemen need authorization from the immigration authorities in El Salvador and their visa processing time can therefore take up to three weeks. Applicants should apply in plenty of time.

Types of visa and cost

Tourist and Business: US$30 (single entry); US$45 (multiple-entry, valid six months); US$60 (multiple-entry, valid 12 months).

Validity

Tourist and Business: single entry, valid up to 30 days; multiple-entry, valid either six or 12 months. Visas can be renewed at the Immigration Office in El Salvador.

Application to

Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy); see Passport/Visa Information.

Application requirements

(a) Completed application form. (b) One passport-size photo. (c) Valid passport. (d) For tourist visas, a photocopy of the return ticket is necessary or, if the tickets have not yet been purchased, an original letter from the travel agency stating that the tickets are being purchased, or a travel itinerary. (e) Fee, payable in cash (US$ only) or by cheque (in US dollars, made payable to 'Direccion General de Tesoreria'). Visa fees are non-refundable. Business: (a)-(e) and, if from a country listed above as requiring authorization from El Salvador, (f) Letter of invitation from the company being visited in El Salvador and a letter from the company the applicant is representing, both translated into Spanish.

Working days required

Tourist and business visas are normally issued within 24 hours. If authorization from the Immigration Department in El Salvador is needed, processing time is approximately 21 days.

Temporary residence

Apply to Ministry of Interior in San Salvador.

HIV entry requirements

Test required for residency permits and those travelling on multi-entry visa

Departure tax

US$27.15 (including a US$2.65 Immigration Tax), payable in US Dollars or Colones. Children under two years are exempt, but do need to pay the Immigration Tax.

Embassies

Embassy of El Salvador in the UK

Mayfair House, 39 Great Portland Street, London W1W 7JZ, UK
Tel: (020) 7436 8282.
Website: http://elsalvador.embassyhomepage.com/
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1600.

Embassy of El Salvador in the USA

2308 California St, NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Tel: (202) 265 9671/2 (ext 248/244 - tourism section).
Website: www.elsalvador.org

Travel Advice

The Santa Ana (Ilamatepec) volcano erupted on 2 October 2005. It continues to emit gases and the local inhabitants have not yet returned to the area. Local authorities have warned that the possibility of another eruption is fairly high. Visitors should follow media reports and keep in touch with the local authorities if intending to visit the area.
El Salvador can be affected by Tropical Storms and Hurricanes. The Hurricane season lasts from May to October.
There are very high crime rates in El Salvador. Travelers should take great care if traveling alone or at night.
The threat from terrorism is low, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.
This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organizations for the latest travel advice:

British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Tel: (0845) 850 2829.
Website: www.fco.gov.uk

US Department of State

Website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html

Currency

Col?n (SVC) = 100 centavos. Notes are in denominations of SVC200, 100, 50, 25, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of SVC1, and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 centavos. Due to the introduction of the US Dollar into the country, dollars have been accepted as dual currency since January 2001 and are now widely used and will eventually completely replace the Col?n. Note Visitors should reconvert all unspent Col?ns before leaving the country. Note Most banks are closed for balancing the books on 29-30 Jun and 30-31 Dec. These dates may vary for individual banks.

Currency restrictions

No restrictions on import and export of local currency. Import of foreign currency is unlimited, but declaration is advised. Export of foreign currency is unlimited but limited to the amount declared on import for larger amounts.

Banking hours

Generally Mon-Fri 0900-1300 and 1345-1700; Sat 0900-1300 (limited service).

Currency exchange

Visitors are advised to change currency only at banks and official bureaux de change.

Credit cards

American Express, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted, whilst Diners Club has more limited use. Check with your credit or debit Card Company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available. There are a small number of ATMs around the country.

Travellers cheques

These may be cashed at any bank or hotel on production of a passport.

City/RegionCity/Area codeFollowed by
Central area3+ 6 digits
Eastern area6+ 6 digits
Metropolitan area5+ 6 digits
Western area4+ 6 digits
  1. Health Information
  2. Recent Disease Outbreak
  3. Hospital Database

Dental care

Avoid dental treatment in El Salvador as the standards of hygiene / sterilization cannot be guaranteed.

Medication Availability

Some international medication is available from the larger pharmacies in the larger towns and cities. Avoid buying drugs from other sources

Blood supplies

Blood supplies are screened but not to international standards and should therefore be considered unsafe.

Medical facilities

Medical care is limited. Emergency services, even in San Salvador, are very basic. Ambulance services are not staffed by trained personnel and lack life-saving necessities such as oxygen. Physicians in the major hospitals are generally well-trained, often in U.S. hospitals, but nursing and support staff are not up to Western standards. State-of-the-art technology for dealing with life-threatening emergencies is rarely available.

General caution

Recent medical and dental exams should ensure that the traveler is in good health. Carry appropriate health and accident insurance documents and copies of any important medical records. Bring an adequate supply of all prescription and other medications as well as any necessary personal hygiene items, including a spare pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses if necessary. Drink only bottled beverages (including water) or beverages made with boiled water. Do not use ice cubes or eat raw seafood, rare meat or dairy products. Eat well-cooked foods while they are still hot and fruits that can be peeled without contamination. Avoid roadside stands and street vendors. Swim only in well-maintained, chlorinated pools or ocean water known to be free from pollution. Wear clothing which reduces exposed skin and apply repellents containing DEET to remaining areas. Sleep in well-screened accommodations. Carry anti-diarrheal medication. Reduce problems related to sun exposure by using sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen lotions and lip protection.

Specific concerns

AIDS occurs. Blood supply may not be adequately screened and/or single-use, disposable needles and syringes may be unavailable. When possible, travelers should defer medical treatment until reaching a facility where safety can be assured.

Immunization

Cholera: Although limited in effectiveness, vaccination may be appropriate for persons living and/or working in less than sanitary conditions for more than 3 months where medical facilities are unavailable. Vaccination may also be appropriate for travelers with impaired gastric defenses who are planning an extended visit or being exposed to unsanitary conditions. Vaccination is not advised for pregnant women, infants younger than 6 months old, or persons with a history of severe reaction to the vaccine. Hepatitis A: Consider active immunization with hepatitis A vaccine or passive immunization with immune globulin (IG) for all susceptible travelers. Especially consider choosing active immunization for persons planning to reside for a long period or for persons who take frequent short-term trips to risk areas. The importance of protection against hepatitis A increases as length of stay increases. It is particularly important for persons who will be living in or visiting rural areas, eating or drinking in settings of poor or uncertain sanitation, or who will have close contact with local persons (especially young children) in settings with poor sanitary conditions. Rabies: Preexposure vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 30 days who are expected to be at risk to bites from domestic and/or wild animals (particularly dogs), or for persons engaged in high risk activities such as spelunking or animal handling. Need for vaccination is more important if potential exposure is in rural areas and if adequate postexposure care is not readily available. Typhoid: Vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 3 weeks, adventurous eaters, and those who will venture off the usual tourist routes into small cities, villages and rural areas. Importance of vaccination increases as access to reasonable medical care becomes limited. Contraindications depend on vaccine type. Note: All routine vaccines (such as DTP or Td, Hib, MMR, polio, varicella, influenza and pneumococcal) should be kept up-to-date as a matter of good health practice unrelated to travel.

Disease risk summary

Insect-borne illness: Dengue fever - occurs Dengue hemorrhagic fever - occurs Encephalitis (Venezuelan equine) - occurs Leishmaniasis - occurs Malaria - occurs Trypanosomiasis (Chagas' disease) - occurs Food-borne and water-borne illness: diseases, including amoebic and bacillary dysenteries and other diarrheal diseases, and the typhoid fevers are very common throughout the area. Many shigella dysenteria type I infections have been caused by drug-resistant enterobacteria. Brucellosis - occurs Cholera - occurs Helminthic (parasitic worm) infections - common Hepatitis - occurs Other hazards: High levels of immunization coverage have reduced the incidence of diseases such as measles and diphtheria. Influenza risk extends throughout the year. Rabies - prevalent (usually dogs and bats)

Entry requirements

AIDS: According to the Department of State, testing is required for all applicants for permanent residency over 15 years of age. Foreign test results are not accepted. Contact El Salvador's embassy for details. Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over 6 months of age coming from infected areas.

Recent disease outbreaks

No recent disease outbreaks

NameAddress
Hospital de Diagn?stico Colonia M?dicaDiagonal Dr. Luis Edmundo V?squez #429 Colonia M?dica San Salvador
Hospital de la Mujer81 y 83 Av. Sur y Calle Juan Jos? Canas Colonia Escalon San Salvador

Media

Press freedom is guaranteed under El Salvador's constitution. El Salvadoran broadcasting is dominated by private operators, with a handful of national TV networks. There are some 70 radio stations in the capital alone. Cable TV is available across much of the country and carries a wide range of international channels.
Press: Six daily newspapers are published in San Salvador, including El Diario de Hoy, El Mundo and La Prensa Gr?fica. There are several provincial papers.
TV: Commercial channels include Teledos, Canal Seis and TV Doce.
Radio: Radio El Salvador is state-run. Radio YSKL, FM Globo, Femenina 102.5 and Radio Cadena Central are commercial stations.

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