El Salvador - Consular Information Sheet
June 1, 2001
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: El Salvador has a developing economy,
and tourism facilities are not fully developed. The capital is
San Salvador. Both the dollar and colon are legal tender.
ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A current U.S. passport and
a one-entry tourist card are required to enter El Salvador. The
tourist card may be obtained from immigration officials for a
ten-dollar fee upon arrival in country. Travelers who plan to
remain in El Salvador for more than thirty days can apply for
a multiple-entry visa, issued free of charge, from the Embassy
of El Salvador in Washington, D.C. or from a Salvadoran consulate
in the United States. Travelers may be asked to present evidence
of U.S. employment and adequate finances for their visit at the
time of visa application or upon arrival in El Salvador. An exit
tax must be paid, either in Salvadoran colones or U.S. dollars,
when departing El Salvador from Comalapa International Airport
in La Paz. Travelers should be aware that airlines operating out
of Comalapa International Airport require U.S. citizens to present
a valid U.S. passport when boarding flights bound for the United
States. Airlines will not accept Certificates of Naturalization
or birth certificates in lieu of a U.S. passport, and information
to the contrary should be disregarded. U.S. citizens traveling
to El Salvador for any reason without a valid passport should
apply for a passport in person at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador
before attempting to return to the United States. Citizens applying
for passports overseas are reminded that original proof of citizenship
and identity is required before a passport can be issued. Photographic
proof of identity is especially important for young children because
of the high incidence of fraud involving children.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments
have initiated procedures at entry and exit points. These often
include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission
for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not
present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required,
may facilitate entry or departure. Minors traveling on Salvadoran
passports must have the written permission of both parents to
depart El Salvador. This restriction does not apply to minors
traveling on U.S. passports, but it may be prudent for minors
doing so to include a notarized statement from a parent or guardian
as a precaution.
For additional information on entry and exit requirements, travelers
may contact the
Embassy of El Salvador at 2308 California Street N.W., Washington,
D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 387-6511, Internet address http://elsalvador.org;
or a Salvadoran consulate in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami,
New Orleans, New York or San Francisco.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: The U.S. Embassy warns its personnel
to drive with their doors locked and windows raised, to avoid
travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark, and to
avoid travel on unpaved roads at all times because of random banditry,
carjackings, kidnappings, criminal assaults and lack of police
and road service facilities. Most fatal traffic accidents or robberies
and assaults occur during the evening or early morning hours.
Travelers with conspicuous amounts of luggage, late-model cars
or foreign license plates are particularly vulnerable, even in
Demonstrations, sit-ins or other related protests may occur at
any time and anywhere in the country, but most frequently in the
capital or on the main access roads. U.S. citizens are cautioned
to avoid areas where demonstrations are being held and to follow
local news media reports or call the U.S. Embassy for up-to-date
Many Salvadorans are armed and shootouts are not uncommon. Foreigners,
however, may not carry guns even for their own protection without
first procuring a firearms license from Salvadoran officials.
Failure to do so will result in detention and confiscation of
the firearm, even if it is licensed in the United States.
Mine removal efforts ceased several years ago, but land mines
and unexploded ordnance in backcountry regions still pose a threat
to off-road tourists, backpackers and campers.
Visitors to the beach areas of El Salvador should use caution
when swimming in the Pacific Ocean due to strong undertow currents
along much of the coast.
CRIME: The U.S. Embassy considers El Salvador a critical
crime threat country. Violent and petty crime are prevalent throughout
El Salvador and U.S. citizens are often victims. Travelers should
avoid carrying valuables in public places. Armed assaults and
carjackings take place both in San Salvador and in the interior
of the country, but are especially frequent on roads outside the
capital where police patrols are scarce. Criminals have been known
to follow travelers from the international airport to private
residences or secluded stretches of road where they carry out
assaults and robberies. Criminals often become violent quickly,
especially when victims fail to cooperate immediately in surrendering
valuables. Frequently, victims who argue with assailants or refuse
to give up their valuables are shot.
Kidnappings for ransom are an ongoing problem. U.S. citizens
residing in or visiting El Salvador should exercise caution at
all times and take appropriate personal security measures throughout
U.S. citizens using banking services should be vigilant and cautious
while conducting their financial exchanges either inside local
banks or at automated teller machines. There have been several
reports of armed robberies of people who appear to have been followed
from the bank after completing their transactions.
Visitors to El Salvador should use caution when climbing volcanoes
or hiking in other remote locations. Armed robberies of climbers
and hikers are common.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or
Consulate. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's
pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad,
for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. This publication
and others, such as Tips for Travelers
to Central and South America, are available by mail from the
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington,
D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo/su_docs,
or via the
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care is limited. Emergency
facilities, even in San Salvador, are very basic. Ambulance services
are not staffed by trained personnel and lack life-saving necessities
such as oxygen. Physicians at major hospitals, who are often trained
in U.S. hospitals, are generally competent, but nursing and support
staff are not up to U.S. standards. State-of-the-art technology
for dealing with life-threatening emergencies is rarely available.
Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for
health services. Most hospitals accept credit cards for hospital
charges but not for doctors' fees.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges
Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior
to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas
and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical
evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs
incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage
is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do
not provide payment for medical services outside the United States.
However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance
plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas,
including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans
should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require
payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical
evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured
travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme
difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical
insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving.
When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain
whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider
or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur.
Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric
treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via
of Consular Affairs home page or by autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Tap water in El Salvador is
often not potable and should be boiled or chemically treated to
help prevent cholera and other gastrointestinal disorders. Incidents
of these disorders occur throughout the year but are more prevalent
during March and April, the hottest months of the year. There
are occasional health alerts concerning these and other diseases.
Such alerts are usually mentioned prominently in the local media.
Travelers should exercise care by drinking only bottled water
and avoiding uncooked food and food from street vendors. Bottled
water and water served with meals in higher-class hotels and restaurants
is generally considered potable.
The dengue virus is a significant public health concern in El
Salvador, as the rate of infection increased from 1.6 per 100,000
in 1999 to 33 per 100,000 in 2000. Dengue in its hemorrhagic form
is potentially fatal, particularly for young children. The highest
rates of infection occur in urban areas where the mosquito that
transmits dengue breeds in small pools of water. As a result,
incidence of the disease is higher in the rainy season (May -
October) than in the dry season (November - April). In September
2000, the Government of El Salvador announced a national dengue
emergency that is still in effect. Travelers to El Salvador should
take all appropriate precautions to avoid exposure. They include,
but are not limited to, wearing appropriate clothing to cover
one's body and using mosquito repellant containing "deet"
to diminish the risk of contracting the disease.
Further information on dengue fever, as well as other information
on vaccinations and other health precautions, may be obtained
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline
for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747);
fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the
CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning El Salvador is provided for general reference
only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location
Safety of public transportation: Poor
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Fair
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Poor
Availability of roadside assistance: Poor
Road conditions throughout the country are not up to U.S. standards.
Mini-buses, buses and taxis are often poorly maintained. Drivers
are often not trained and generally do not adhere to traffic rules
and regulations. The U.S. Embassy recommends that its personnel
avoid using mini-buses and buses and use only taxis that are radio-dispatched.
Robberies and assaults on buses are commonplace.
Because of a near complete lack of enforcement of traffic laws
in El Salvador, drivers must make an extraordinary effort to drive
defensively. Traffic signals are often ignored, and passing on
blind corners is common. Nevertheless, local authorities uniformly
enforce a Salvadoran law that requires the arrest or detention
of a driver who injures or kills another person until a judge
determines responsibility for the accident.
Visitors to El Salvador may drive on their U.S. license for up
to thirty days. After that time they are required to obtain a
Salvadoran license. Further information on traffic and road conditions
is available in Spanish from Automovil Club de El Salvador, telephone
For additional general
information about road safety, including links to foreign government
sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs
home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) has assessed the Government of El Salvador's Civil Aviation
Authority as Category 2 -- not in compliance with international
aviation safety standards for the oversight of El Salvador's air
carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies
are ongoing, El Salvador's air carriers currently flying to the
U.S. will be subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional
flights or new service to the United States by El Salvador's air
carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to have the flights
conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international
safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact
the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873,
or visit the
FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some
foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air
services. In addition, DOD does not permit its personnel to use
air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business except
for flights originating from or terminating in the U.S. For information
regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact
DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
El Salvador's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested
or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in
illegal drugs in El Salvador are strict, and convicted offenders
can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines. The Salvadoran constitution
prohibits foreigners from participating in domestic partisan political
activities, including public demonstrations. To do so is a violation
of visa status, punishable by detention, fines and/or deportation.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: El Salvador is an earthquake-prone
country. There is also the risk of flooding and landslides. An
earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale devastated much
of El Salvador in January 2001. A second earthquake in February
2001 measured 6.6 on the Richter scale and caused significant
additional damage and loss of life. The damage was most severe
in the southern half of El Salvador between the cities of San
Salvador and San Miguel. While reconstruction efforts are underway
and the country is returning to normal, experts indicate that
it is common for aftershocks to occur for months or longer following
a major earthquake. There also is continuing danger from landslides,
particularly during the rainy season that runs from May through
October. The most recent data on flood and landslide risk can
be found on the
Government of El Salvador's web page at http://www.rree.gob.sv.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available
via the Internet from the
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For
information on international adoption of children and international
parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site
at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html, or telephone
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or
visiting El Salvador are encouraged to register at the Consular
Section of the U.S. Embassy in the capital city, San Salvador,
and obtain updated information on travel and security in El Salvador
and neighboring countries. The U.S. Embassy is located at Final
Boulevard Santa Elena, Urbanizacion Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan,
San Salvador; telephone 011-503-278-4444. The
Embassy's web site can be accessed at http://www.usinfo.org.sv.
The Consular Section provides services for U.S. citizens from
8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on normal Embassy work days.