FAQ: Safety in El Salvador!

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FAQ: Safety in El Salvador

In this post, we would like to answer the most common questions concerning safety in El Salvador. Most travelers ask us the same questions before they come to El Salvador – and of course, we understand that you are concerned about certain things. You’re always welcome to write us a message if you have more questions.

Is it dangerous in El Salvador?

El Salvador has its problems, but to 99%, it’s not affecting tourists. The other 1% is the typical risk that you have if you travel to developing countries. El Salvador has serious problems concerning social inequality, gang crime, and poverty. But that’s one reason more for us to keep our idea going and let the local people be part of our project. We strongly believe that sustainable tourism ​is one of the possibilities to improve the life of Salvadorian people.

If you feel unsafe, book a travel guide. In general, you should use your common sense as always.

  • Don’t be too flashy with expensive belongings (your newest iPhone, for example).
  • Don’t walk alone in the dark in areas that you don’t know.
  • Ask locals you trust if you’re not sure about specific trips, etc.
  • Don’t go hiking alone!
  • Be aware of the traffic! Some car driver’s don’t respect pedestrians or cyclists as you might know it from your home country!

Anyway, we recommend you to read the to official travel advice about the safety in El Salvador, for example:

Travel.State.Gov U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE — BUREAU OF CONSULAR AFFAIRS

But don’t get scared! We just want to let you know the whole picture. Visit us and get your own!

Safety in El Salvador
Angela from the USA visited us with her sixyear old son Derek in July 2019 to get to know El Salvador.

Isn't El Salvador one of the most violent countries in the world?

Well, the statistics are awful, and concerning the homicide rate, El Salvador is under the Top 10 for decades. Just reading the statistics, you probably will decide not to travel to El Salvador. As you might have heard, gang crime is the worst problem in El Salvador. The gang violence is responsible for a big part of the homicides in El Salvador. Also, there’s a lot of domestic violence against young girls and women, unfortunately. But you have to be very unlucky and in the wrong place to get caught in a gunfight between gangs. Again, as a tourist, you should feel safe in El Salvador!
 
The new president, Nayib Bukele, has made some serious progress fighting crime, and safety in El Salvador has improved. The government wants you to be safe as a tourist, and the daily violence in this country is mainly not affecting tourists. Tourist places like El Tunco, El Zonte, and Suchitoto are safe in general.
 
Safety in El Salvador: The tourist places (here: El Tunco) are safe in general.
Safety in El Salvador: The tourist places (here: El Tunco) are very in general.

Safety in El Salvador: Travel alone as a women?

Please read the answer to the first question above about safety in El Salvador. Further we recommend you to remind what your mum always told you when you were little: don’t do things that I wouldn’t do. Use your common sense: don’t walk in areas that you don’t know after dark and when you’re alone, don’t get drunk and trust everyone, don’t be too flashy with you clothes if you don’t want to be a target for men with bad behavior. (Sorry, we hate to say that, but we unfortunately have to). But seriously: these are general advices for almost every country in the world.

In genereal, Salvadoran men are really friendly and respectful, especially when they know that you’re traveling in El Salvador. Most will ask you where you come from, just because they’re interested and happy that you visit their small country.

Safety in El Salvador: It's not a problem to travel alone as a women in El Salvador!
Surf El ZonteSafety in El Salvador: It’s not a problem to travel alone as a women in El Salvador!

Is surfing in El Salvador dangerous?

We always recommend you to ask a local guide before you go into the water ​of you’re not sure. Common sense dictates us to be aware of others in the water, to use sun protection and not to overestimate yourself while surfing in waves that you don’t know. And no, there are no sharks – well, smaller ones, but they don’t bite ;-). As long as you use your common sense, you will have a lot of fun here.

We should mention that in general there’re no lifeguards at the beaches in El Salvador. Which means you shouldn’t surf alone (even if it’s beautiful!) and don’t get in a panic when you get caught by a big wave or a current. Please also read our post about Surfing in El Salvador: Surf in El Salvador: Tips & Hints!

Surfing in El Salvador
You will have a lot of fun surfing the waves in El Salvador. But please always notice: safety first!

What if I get sick?

Safety in El Salvador sometimes also is a health question. Most travelers from Europe or Northern America get some minor problems with their stomach while they are traveling in Central America. If you use your common sense you should be fine: “Don’t peel it, don’t eat it” – that’s the universal rule concerning nutrition. If you feel sick for more than three days better, go to see a doctor.

There’s a smaller hospital in La Libertad and a  bigger, professional one in San Salvador. There are no bigger hospitals in El Zonte or El Tunco, neither in the rural areas of El Salvador.  For smaller problems you can easily take a bus to La Libertad. If you have a serious problem there’re doctors and hospitals in San Salvador that have an international standard. Be sure to have an international medical insurance that covers the costs in case of a health issue or an emergency. .   

In general, you should not drink tap water and be careful with vegetable and fruits that you haven’t washed and cleaned properly. Dengue is a problem sometimes, but there’s no reason to get in panic. If there are a lot of mosquitos, use a repellent and wear clothes with bright colors.

How do it get safely from A to B?

Several tour operators can bring you to almost every place in and around El Salvador. Check out “Tuncolife” to get more information about traveling El Salvador safely www.tuncolife.com).

If you want to travel with public transport “Centrocoasting” (www.centrocoasting.com) is a good website to figure out the schedules and routes. Ticabus. is a local bus company that you easily bring you to destinations like Nicaragua and Costa Rica (www.ticabus.com). 

In general, traveling by bus in El Salvador is safe. But we have to tell you that there have been some severe accidents. The bus drivers seem to be in a rush always. We don’t have any statistics if the problem in El Salvador is worse than in other countries. We just wanted to let you know before you get into a “chicken bus”. The shuttles from or to Antigua Guatemala are safe in general.

Please also read our post: How to travel in El Salvador!

Do you recommend a rental car?

It depends on what you are planning in El Salvador. For most backpackers, it’s not necessary to rent one because a public bus or a guided tour can reach almost every place for reasonable prices.

If you do rent a car, be sure that you have proper insurance! Drive carefully and also be sure that you have a valid drivers license. The police in El Salvador usually accepts the driver’s license from your home country. If you want to be sure, get an international driver’s license. You should avoid driving when it’s dark. Mainly because of the other road users that don’t have any vehicle lighting: old cars, cyclists, pedestrians, cows, horses, and some more. It’s probably a good idea to have a cellphone with you in case of an accident or a car breakdown. Be sure to have someone to call in this case. 

You can also read our post about Transportation in El Salvador if you need more information about it.

Things to do in El Salvador

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Spanish School EL Zonte

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Playa El Zonte (Hotel Palo Verde)

Carretera Litoral CA2 #12

La Libertad, El Salvador

Spanish School El Zonte
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