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El Salvador has always had kind of a bad reputation concerning travel safety. Especially if you are a woman and traveling alone, you might ask yourself if El Salvador is safe. Social media and the internet is full of bad news and questions about El Salvador travel safety. Also, the statistics seem to confirm that travel safety in El Salvador for women is a real problem.
We, as Spanish School El Zonte, would like to give you our opinion to dilute or rescind those exaggerated statements about El Salvador and also give you some general travel advice and tips.
What is the bad news about El Salvador?
El Salvador has some severe issues concerning safety and crime. The homicide rate is still high but dropped significantly in the last year (2019-20). While writing this post, the country’s homicide rate has fallen to its lowest level in decades (March 2020).
Still, compared to other highly developed countries, El Salvador is a dangerous country. Gang crime, extortions, and robberies are part of daily life for some Salvadorans. But it is essential to mention that all these bad news are mainly affecting Salvadorans who live in impoverished areas of the country.
Being robbed or murdered in El Salvador is primarily a problem for local people of low social status, and not for tourists!
Also, there’s a relatively high rate of femicides in El Salvador. A lack of women’s rights and violence has always been a problem in El Salvador and, in general, a lot of developing countries all over the world.
And what about El Salvador travel safety for women traveling alone?
We sometimes get asked by our female students if El Salvador is safe. Also, we sometimes read in the social media the same questions:
Almost every female traveler we talked to has made good experiences traveling in El Salvador. They described the people in El Salvador as extremely friendly and helpful. In general, we think that because of all the bad news, it is all about a general feeling of being in an “unsafe country,” compared to their own country. And we haven’t heard of any female tourist that regretted traveling to El Salvador.
Most comments in the social media are extremely positive and recommend you not to skip El Salvador in your travel plans:
El Salvador travel safety for women: 10 Tips.
1. Don’t travel when it’s dark!
Try to avoid traveling when it’s dark, even when you might save one day or two of your precious vacation. Roads are sometimes in bad conditions and car and bus drivers sometimes drive a bit risky. Even, it’s a piece of general advice because you feel safer when there’s daylight. It would be best if you considered in your travel plans that it’s getting dark early in Central America, about 6.30 pm.
2. Don’t be flashy with your valuables!
We can’t say it often enough: Don’t wave around with your newest iPhone, camera, or dollars bills on a public bus or anywhere else in El Salvador. The best protection against a robbery is not being considered as a “victim” of a robbery.
3. Check out the website of your embassy in El Salvador before you travel.
But don’t get too scared. They must warn you about EVERY single bad thing that could happen to you in El Salvador. If you are honest, there are even travel warnings for the eastern part of Germany, for example.
4. Don’t play the hero!
In the rare case that you are being robbed, please give them your belongings. Please don’t yell at them or try to discuss things out. They had already decided before that you were the victim, and you can’t change anything at this point.
5. Don’t dress too showy!
It’s sad, but true to say that there sometimes are men that consider women as “easy targets” when they show a lot of skin. That’s not only a problem in El Salvador, but still, you should consider changing your outfit when you feel harassed.
Salvadoran men usually don’t harass you. But when you’re blond, you might attract some attention. They will try to talk to you in English, but for some, that’s more part of the experience traveling in El Salvador. In general, Salvadoran men are respectful!
6. Ask trustful and local tour guides if you are alone as a female traveler in El Salvador!
If you plan to visit all the beautiful places in El Salvador, consider asking a local tour guide. Yes, you will pay a bit more compared to doing it on your own, but the money is wisely spent.
An excellent tour guide provides you good service like transport and has detailed knowledge of the places. In general, you can find them at the hostels or hotels where you stay. Most of them are located in El Tunco or El Zonte. Suchitito Salvadoran Tours is a recommendable tour company.
7. Stay in safe areas!
Everything between El Tunco and El Zonte is a safe area for tourists and also female travelers! Also, Suchitoto and all the main tourist attractions are safe! If you want to go “off the beaten track,” ask trustful locals before.
8. Have some copies of your most important documents!
In case you lose your passport or getting robbed, it’s always good to have a copy with you or maybe a scan of it somewhere online in a data cloud.
9. Don’t walk around in dark areas that you don’t know.
As we said before: All the tourist areas are safe in general but use your common sense. If you don’t feel safe, ask someone to come with you.
10. Don’t get too drunk!
El Tunco is known for its nightlife, especially at the weekends. Most Salvadoran men are very respectful and will treat you with the appropriate manners. So be clear of what you expect and what you don’t like in case someone gets too close!
11. Learn some Spanish!
It might be beneficial to learn some Spanish before or while you are traveling in El Salvador, not only because it’s always good to learn another language. There are a lot of situations where some words of Spanish can make your travel life way more comfortable and more relaxed!
12. Don’t be scared all the time!
Enjoy your vacation in El Salvador, and get to know all its beautiful places. Statistically, El Salvador is not more dangerous for female travelers than other countries or even less dangerous.
If you bear in mind these essential tips, El Salvador travel safety shouldn’t be a problem at all – also as a solo female traveler.
If your interested in learning more about (traveling) in El Salvador, check out our blog or feel free to contact us. Also, we are interested in what were your experiences traveling in El Salvador. Leave a comment below.
We also wrote about some general tips about traveling in El Salvador and travel safety before: