Is El Salvador safe to visit for travelers and tourists?

July 7th, 2019 By: Eddie Galdamez

Yes, El Salvador is safe for travelers and tourist to visit, but that doesn’t mean that safety recommendations can be ignored and precautions shouldn’t be taken. If you practice common sense, make smart decisions, and follow safety recommendations; you will be safe during your visit and will keep coming back.

Being safe when visiting the country is a big concern for anyone looking to travel to El Salvador, and it needs to be; the nation does not have a good reputation around the world as being safe.

Think about the following, let’s say you tell your friends or family that you are considering going to El Salvador for either vacation or business. I am sure at least one of them will ask the following question; Is El Salvador Safe?

It’s a fundamental question about safety in El Salvador that; you and most travelers thinking about going to El Salvador should ask.

Visit El Salvador
El Zonte beach

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. 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 visiting; it’s not just El Salvador.

As a matter of fact, even the united states has many cities classified as dangerous and recommended that tourist visit with caution.

Obviously, El Salvador is no exception, many cities in the country have areas that tourist should avoid at all cost. 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 of El Salvador is dangerous.

If you follow safety recommendations, visit safe areas, and use common sense. I am sure you will enjoy your trip and will keep coming back to visit!

Crime in El Salvador.

Crime in El Salvador is real, it affects the lives of many Salvadoreans on a daily bases, which is a sad and upsetting fact about life in El Salvador.

However, the good news is that crime in El Salvador doesn’t affect travelers or tourists as much. Visitors and tourist, for the most part, stay in protected areas, don’t take public transportation, and travel to secure touristic spots.

Why is the country so violent?

Let me start by clearing something up, the country as a whole is not violent, it may seem that way because of what the news report about El Salvador. But, the vast majority of Salvadorans are family-oriented and friendly.

Crime in El Salvador is perpetuated by a small percentage of Salvadorans who are involved in gangs or drug trafficking. This group uses violence as a way of protecting their territory and to take control of others.

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. A name that I don’t like as a Salvadoran, but I can’t argue against it because of the statistics.

Here are some scary statistics, in 2015, the daily average of homicides in the country was 17.6, by 2018, the percentage descended to 9.4. The good news is that in 2019 it’s continuing to decrease. I don’t have official numbers for the year 2019, but the month of August 2019, it had a daily average of 4.4 murders per day.

Yes, it’s upsetting that we feel good that the country only had 4.4 homicides per day in August, but considering what we had in 2015, we will take it.

To sum up, I hope the section about crime doesn’t discourage you from visiting El Salvador. Keep in mind that the vast majority of crime is secluded to precise areas of the country, you as a visitor will never have a reason to be in those areas.

Reason for traveling and safety in El Salvador.

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.

Here are some reasons for traveling.

  • 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 visit.

    Visiting people that you know; such as family or friends is a great way to enjoy the country and worry less about safety.

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; 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 visit or stay at; such as is the area safe, how am I going to get there, and what should I do, etc.

    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 El Salvador is small, every part of the country has different things for different visitors. If you are a backpacker, your needs will be different than if you are a regular visitor.

  • 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 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, It’s essential for you 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 visiting 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 El Salvador. 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 companies 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 for travelers and tourists!

Even with all the issues, 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 visiting.

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. Many of them felt surprised about how things are in El Salvador, and how friendly Salvadorans are.

I am sure at the end of your trip you will be saying that It’s safe to travel to El Salvador and that the people are just amazing!

Is El Salvador Safe Is El Salvador Safe