When thinking about going to El Salvador, most people ask the following question, is El Salvador is safe to visit? The quick answer is, YES, it is safe to visit El Salvador. However, that doesn’t mean that safety recommendations can be ignored, and precautions shouldn’t be taken.
Safety in El Salvador is all about practicing common sense, making smart decisions, and following safety recommendations.
In 2019, the new Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele and his administration are making safety a top priority. One of their main objectives is to make touristic sites even safer than before; Nayib Bukele’s security plan or Plan Control Territorial is working!
It is necessary to point out that in El Salvador, most of the crime and violence happens in specific areas. Any visitors or tourists will have no business being in those areas.
Is El Salvador safe? A normal question to ask.
This is a common question that appears to come up a lot when someone is contemplating a visit to El Salvador.
This is a fundamental question about safety that most travelers thinking about going to El Salvador should ask, and also plan ahead for it.
Safety in El Salvador or being safe when visiting is a big concern for anyone looking to travel to this nation, and it needs to be for obvious reasons.
The nation does not have a good reputation around the world as being safe; therefore, for a lot of people, safety in El Salvador is the main deciding factor in visiting or not.
Safety in El Salvador for tourists and Crime
Crime in this small nation is real and affects the lives of many Salvadoreans on a daily bases; this is a sad and upsetting fact about life in El Salvador.
However, the good news is that crime doesn’t affect travelers or tourists. Generally, visitors and tourists, for the most part, stay in protected areas, don’t take public transportation, and travel to secure touristic spots.
Crime statistics, the scary part!
El Salvador is the smallest country on the American Continent, yet it has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Therefore some people refer to this small country as the murder capital of the world or at least they did. A name that as a Salvadoran I definitely don’t like, but I can’t argue against it because of all the crime statistics.
Here are some scary statistics on crime in El Salvador, in 2015, the daily average of homicides in the country was 17.6, by 2018, the percentage descended to 9.4.
Now in 2019, it’s continuing to decline. I don’t have official numbers for the year 2019, but in August 2019, it had a daily average of 4.4 murders per day.
Yes, it’s upsetting that I feel good about the country only having 4.4 homicides per day in August, but considering what we had in 2015, I will take it.
I hope the section about crime doesn’t discourage you from traveling to El Salvador; nevertheless, if it did put some doubt in your mind, take a look at this article I wrote called, why visit El Salvador, it will give you more insights on why you should travel to this nation.
So, is El Salvador safe to visit despite its crime rate and violence?
Yes, despite all the crime and violence, El Salvador is safe to visit. Generally, the vast number of these crimes happens in specific areas of the country. You as a traveler, you will never have a reason to be in those areas, unless you get there by mistake!
Remember, a lot of countries in Central America and the world have areas that you need to be careful when going to; it’s not just El Salvador.
As a matter of fact, even the united states has many cities classified as dangerous and recommended that tourists travel with caution.
Obviously, El Salvador is no exception, many cities in the country have areas that tourists should avoid at all costs. Also, the country as a whole have areas recommended that tourist visit with caution as well.
The point that I am trying to make and emphasize is that not the entire country is dangerous.
If you follow safety recommendations, stick to safe areas, and use common sense. I am sure you will enjoy your trip and will keep coming back!
Reasons for traveling and safety.
As I have told many people who have asked me about safety in El Salvador or if El Salvador is safe to visit. My answer is and will continue to be the same; the reason for traveling will decide what safety precautions you need to take.
As an example, if you are a government official visiting, your safety should already be ensured by the local government. On the other hand, if you are a reporter working on an in-depth assignment about gang areas or crime, you most definitely need to be more careful and plan.
Staying safe when traveling for business
If you are traveling for an already existing business, most of your safety recommendations and preparations should already be in place. The company for whom you are working for, should, in theory, have a safety plan for you to follow; as you probably are not the first one to do this traveling.
Now, if you are traveling looking to expand your own business or the ones of the company you work for. Some, if not all of the safety concerns will be addressed, when setting up the meetings you are planning to have. Potential clients and/or business partner will give you an idea of safety recommendations and precautions to take.
Safety while on vacation
If you are traveling on vacation, a lot of the safety concerns will be addressed when making plans and reservations. Unless if you are a backpacker or someone who doesn’t care much about safety.
If you are like most vacation travelers, you will need to make hotel reservations, arrange transportation, and plan what to do during the trip.
You, like many other travelers, will not just make reservations on the first hotel that you find, or book the first transportation company on the list. You will spend time comparing everything and reading reviews, therefore making sure your safety is a priority.
Visiting Friends or Family and safety
If you are visiting friends or family, I am sure they will have a safety plan laid out for you to follow. Also, since they live in the country, they will be able to answer any question or concern that you might have about safety. In addition to guiding you on what things to do and what areas to venture into.
Visiting people that you know; such as family or friends is a great way to enjoy the country and worry less about safety.
As you can see, the reason for visiting the country will determine what type of precautions you will need to take. Safety in El Salvador is all about planning!
Looking at travel advisories is a good way to get an idea of how safe a country is. However, governments will always look at the country as a whole and not to specific areas; in this case, touristic zones.
If you are going to look at travel advisory sites, I recommend for you to look at the US and UK travel advisories websites. They are the ones who tend to have the most detailed information about safety in specific countries; in this case, El Salvador.
Today October 1st, 2019, the US government moved the travel advisory to El Salvador from 3 “Reconsider travel” to 2 “Exercise Increased Caution.” This is great for the country, as it has been at level 3 for a long time. To view today’s current advisory, visit the US government advisory page.
The UK is another trustworthy travel advisory source, as of today, October 1st, 2019, they write the following about travel to El Salvador.
Most visits to El Salvador are trouble free. However, El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America so you should take extra care. Take particular care in downtown San Salvador and on roads outside major towns and cities, especially at night.
To view today’s current advisory from the UK, visit the UK government advisory page.
How to stay safe in El Salvador as a tourist or traveler?
Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when traveling or planning to go to El Salvador, some of them might seem simple and obvious, yet, use them as a reminder. They are not in any particular order.
Do your research, plan ahead
Before venturing into the country, find out everything about the specific areas that you want to travel to; questions such as is the area safe, how am I going to get there, what should I do, and others, are important to ask.
Knowing the answers to those questions and to others will ensure your safety even more. Undeniably, doing research and planning ahead is the way to go.
Even though the country is small, every part has different things for different people. If you are a backpacker, your needs will be different than if you are a regular traveler.
Talk to people who have traveled to El Salvador.
There are quite a few blogs or posts about individuals or families who have ventured into El Salvador, and luckily, they are sharing their experiences online. I see these travelers as one of the best sources of information about what to expect when visiting.
By all means, you need to pay attention to travel warnings and advisory from your governments. But remember, you will always get a better picture of El Salvador from people who have been there.
Stay at safe places.
One of the most crucial research tasks travelers thinking about going to El Salvador needs to do is deciding where to stay. Safety in El Salvador for travelers starts with the location you are staying at.
Before deciding on a particular area or hotel, look at reviews. Find out what the previous guest have commented about the hotel and the area that you are thinking about staying.
These reviews will give you a better idea of where to stay and how much safety precautions are needed.
Don’t go where you are not supposed to go.
A sure way to put yourself or your family in an unsafe situation is to go into areas classified as dangerous. They do exist, and not only in this nation. Avoid drug areas, gang areas, and red districts areas, unless that is what you are looking for.
Also, remember, If a local tells you “Don’t go there, it’s not safe” take that advice. Locals know the area and are protective of travelers. They don’t want you to put yourself or your family in an unsafe situation.
Be more careful at night.
Nightlife in El Salvador is just like nightlife in any other country. There are bars, dance clubs, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. The safety recommendations for you will depend heavily on what you want to do at night.
If you’re going to have a nice quiet dinner in a family atmosphere zone, your safety concerns will be minimal. However, if you want to venture out at night drinking and clubbing, then you need to be more careful. Remember, nightlife in El Salvador is just like nightlife in any other country.
Be careful when taking public transportation.
If at some point on your vacation, you need or want to take public transportation, be more careful. Public transportation is good as it’s cheap and convenient.
However, public transportation can also be unsafe for the following reasons. To begin with, if you take the wrong bus route, you can end up in a bad area and put yourself in an unsafe situation. Also, the bus could be a route that is often targeted by criminals.
To ensure safety, before taking the bus, find out if the bus is in a safe route and if it goes directly to your destination. The best way to get this information is from the hotel or hostel that you are staying at.
If they say yes it’s safe, go for it; if they say that you shouldn’t take that bus route, follow their advice!
Be safer, take guided tours.
If you want to venture into different areas of the country; but don’t want to deal with the hustle of getting there; planning the trip, driving, worry about safety, and coming back, you should take a guided tour.
These guided tours are for the day or even a few days; they will pick you up from your hotel, take you where you are going and drop you off right back at your hotel.
There are quite a few options available on group tours or private tours. A lot of these tour companies in El Salvador will even set up a trip exclusive to you and will include the things you want to do or visit.
Yes, El Salvador is safe to visit! So go for it!
Even with all the issues, Travel to El Salvador is quite safe to travel and spend time exploring. Just remember to practice common sense, make smart decisions, and follow recommendations.
Salvadorans are friendly! Locals will go out of the way to help foreigners feel welcome and safe while in the country.
Over the years, I have seen many foreigners visit the country for the first time, one thing that I have noticed a lot is what they say about the country after their visit; many of them felt surprised about how things are, and how friendly Salvadorans are.
Visit El Salvador, I am sure at the end of your trip you will be saying that El Salvador is safe and that the people are just amazing!
One last thing, year by year, El Salvador is making strides when it comes to safety. It’s getting to the point that a lot of people are choosing to move and live here; if you have the time, read “Move to El Salvador, why some people choose to do it.” It will give you a better idea of Safety in El Salvador.