COVID-19: travel health notice for all travellers
El Salvador travel advice
Latest updates: The Need help? section was updated.
Last updated: ET
On this page
- Risk level
- Safety and security
- Entry and exit requirements
- Laws and culture
- Natural disasters and climate
- Need help?
El Salvador - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in El Salvador due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws and violent crime
Safety and security
In March 2022, the government of El Salvador put emergency measures in place, resulting in massive arrests of suspected criminals. These measures frequently involve the deployment of military and security forces to targeted areas to combat organized crime.
Although the security situation has improved, a state of exception remains in effect. As a result, security forces have increased rights to conduct searches, seizures, and detain persons of interest, including foreign citizens. Local authorities have detained foreigners, sometimes in a reportedly arbitrary manner.
If you're in El Salvador:
- be aware that you may be subject to searches by security forces
- expect a heightened security presence, including on roads, in public spaces, and in residential neighbourhoods
- always cooperate with military and police officers
- carry valid ID at all times and be prepared for various checkpoints
- limit your movements after dark
- ensure family or friends know where you are
- monitor local media to stay informed on the evolving situation
- follow the instructions of local authorities
Crime is a serious problem throughout the country.
Violent crime has decreased since March 2022 when emergency measures were put in place. However, homicide, assault, rape and armed robbery still occur. Violence most frequently occurs in the largest cities where people and business are concentrated, notably:
- the Greater San Salvador Area
- San Miguel
- Santa Ana
However, smaller cities, towns and rural areas also experience incidents of violent crime.
Armed robberies occur with weapons such as guns and knives, especially on public transportation. They may also occur in tourist areas, especially isolated scenic spots.
- Remain vigilant and exercise caution at all times
- Check in advance with local contacts, authorities or hotels to see if your chosen destination is safe and which is the best route to get there
- Travel in groups if possible
- Avoid walking after dark
- Stay at hotels that have robust security measures
- Keep in mind that even the most secure locations are not completely free of risk
If you're threatened by armed criminals:
- don't resist, as gang members in particular can be quick to engage in violence
- avoid eye contact with the perpetrators
Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, is common.
Thieves also break into cars parked in public places.
- Avoid displaying signs of affluence in public, including when landing at El Salvador's international airport
- Ensure that your belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash
- Be particularly discreet when using ATMs
- Choose supervised parking lots if available
- Keep car doors locked and windows closed at all times
- Don't leave any valuables in your car
If you're robbed, go to a police station and report the crime immediately.
Most Salvadorans don’t speak English or French. You should not expect assistance in your preferred language.
Greater San Salvador Area
In the city of San Salvador, neighbourhoods such as Escalón, La Cima, San Benito and San Francisco are relatively safe.
To attract more tourists, local authorities have made efforts to secure a few blocks in the downtown area, known as the Centro Histórico de San Salvador. The Centro Histórico includes:
- the Metropolitan Cathedral
- the National Palace
- the National Theatre
- Plaza Barrios
- Plaza Libertad
- Plaza Morazán
Outside that area, the entire downtown is unsafe for tourists.
Dangerous areas in San Salvador can be as small as two or three blocks in a broader generally safe neighbourhood. They are often known as “zonas marginales” or “comunidades.”
Avoid crossing an area that is a known criminal stronghold, even if you are only trying reach a safer neighbourhood.
Neighbouring cities to the west of the capital are generally safe. These include:
- Antiguo Cuscatlán, including Santa Elena
- Nuevo Cuscatlán
- Santa Tecla, including Ciudad Merliot
Crime occurs more frequently in cities to the north and east, such as:
- Ciudad Delgado
- San Martín
Border areas often see higher criminal activity and violence, including in rural areas.
El Salvador lies along well-established Central American trafficking routes. Criminal groups smuggling people, guns or drugs can be violent. There have been incidents of travellers being attacked near border crossings.
Some border crossings occasionally close without warning.
If you plan to cross land borders in El Salvador:
- do so early enough so you arrive at destination before dark
- use official border crossings only
- avoid exchanging currency
- avoid displaying money or valuable items such as jewellery and electronic equipment
Gang culture has spread throughout much of El Salvador but in March 2022, the government began major efforts to contain this threat and arrest thousands of gang members. The most common crimes carried out by gangs (known locally as maras or pandillas) include:
- assaults, especially on highways
- home invasion
- car theft
Gangs often threaten individuals and businesses and may use deadly force if the extortion money is not paid. Attacks have occurred:
- in open-air markets
- police stations
- public buses
The attacks are unpredictable.
The government’s countermeasures have focused on urban areas, including those visited by tourists such as the metropolitan area of San Salvador. While gang violence rarely targets foreigners, violent assault against tourists may occur. There are urban neighbourhoods and rural areas with one or few entrances where local gang members monitor non-residents to rob them.
You may also be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Tattoos may be considered as an indication of gang affiliation. Travellers should consider covering tattoos when travelling in El Salvador.
Express kidnappings occur, particularly in high-crime areas.
In this scenario, criminals kidnap the victim and force the person to withdraw funds from an ATM.
Victims are generally selected on the basis of perceived wealth, including driving late-model cars. They are identified at places such as:
- shopping centres
- gas stations
- parking lots
Credit card, ATM and Bitcoin e-wallet fraud occurs. There have been reports of identity theft and failed transactions, especially involving Chivo, the Salvadoran government’s official Bitcoin e-wallet.
When using debit or credit cards or Bitcoin e-wallets:
- pay careful attention if others are handling your cards
- use ATMs located public areas or inside a bank or business
- avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
- cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
- check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements
Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse.
Incidents of sexual assault occur, including on public buses and at beach areas.
- Avoid travelling alone, with informal guides or with strangers, even if they appear friendly and helpful
- Avoid public buses and large crowds on the street
- Exercise caution at nightclubs and beaches
If you are a victim of sexual assault, report it to the police and contact the Embassy of Canada in San Salvador.
Spiked food and drinks
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Avoid crowds that can form without warning at sporting events such as soccer matches, as they have led to violent incidents. Exercise caution if attending a soccer match or if staying in the vicinity of sporting venues.
Criminals have targeted tourists climbing volcanoes and hiking in remote locations.
Access to volcanoes may also be restricted due to volcanic activity or high winds, especially:
- Izalco volcano
- Santa Ana, also known as Ilamatepec, volcano
- San Miguel, also known as Chaparrastique, volcano
If you intend to go hiking:
- never do so alone and always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
- buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
- ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
- ensure that you're properly equipped
- ensure that you’re well informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
- inform a family member or friend of your itinerary, including when you expect to be back
- know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
- obtain detailed information on routes before setting out and do not venture off marked trails
Coastal waters can be dangerous, even for experienced swimmers. Riptides are common. Several drownings occur each year.
Lifeguards don’t usually supervise beaches. Rescue services may not be consistent with international standards.
If you plan on swimming or surfing:
- consult residents and tour operators for information on possible hazards and safe areas
- follow the instructions and warnings of local authorities
- avoid isolated beaches
- monitor weather reports, especially during the rainy season, as prolonged periods of rain can cause the height of waves to increase along beaches
If you plan on participating in boating activities, such as whale-watching:
- choose a well-established and reputable company that has insurance
- make sure the vessel you are boarding is carrying appropriate safety equipment and that life jackets are provided for all passengers and accessible at all times
- don’t board vessels that appear overloaded or unseaworthy
If in doubt concerning the safety of the facilities or equipment, don’t use them.
Demonstrations and protest marches take place regularly, especially on main roads in San Salvador near:
- the National Assembly
- the Presidential House
- San Salvador City Hall
- the Judicial District
- Cuscatlán Park
- Plaza Salvador del Mundo
Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
Road conditions and road safety vary greatly throughout the country. Serious accidents are common.
Many rural roads are unpaved and some rural areas are accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Roundabouts are common.
Driving can be dangerous due to:
- dangerous curves in roads
- poorly marked road signs
- poor lighting at night
- potholes and missing manhole covers
- construction sites
- roaming livestock
- pedestrians on the shoulder of highways
- slow-moving, overloaded or poorly maintained vehicles
Drivers don’t respect traffic laws. They often drive at excessive speeds. They are aggressive and reckless, and frequently overtake on both the right and the left.
Bus drivers and motorcyclists in particular can be aggressive or unpredictable.
Narrow lanes and heavy traffic offer little courtesy for cyclists. Most Salvadoran cyclists travel with a trailing car for safety.
Police traffic checkpoints are common across the country. Officers will often ask to see your valid documents and your mandatory safety equipment. They may also be checking for impaired drivers or for gang members.
If you drive in El Salvador:
- always drive defensively
- plan your trip ahead of time, especially if you plan to visit a rural area
- use caution when entering a roundabout
- avoid road travel at night between cities
- avoid stopping at isolated viewpoints
- keep your car doors locked and the windows closed at all times
- avoid hitchhiking, which is not a common practice in El Salvador
Buses are often unreliable. They are poorly maintained and the site of petty theft, armed robbery and sexual harassment.
- Don’t use local or intercity public buses
- Use only reputable tour operators and international coach services use only a company with a strong reputation
Taxis and ridesharing services
Taxis are widely available but vary in quality. Major hotels work with executive transport companies.
If using a taxi in El Salvador:
- don’t board taxis at taxi stands
- don’t hail taxis in the street
- negotiate fares in advance
Ridesharing services are available in much of greater San Salvador. If you use a trusted ridesharing app, confirm the driver’s identity and the licence plate before getting in the car.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Entry and exit requirements
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Salvadoran authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with the Foreign Representatives in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave El Salvador.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Passport with “X” gender identifier
While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Tourist visa: not required for stays up to 90 days
Business visa: not required for stays up to 90 days
Student visa: not required for stays up to 90 days
Entry immigration card
To enter El Salvador, you must purchase an entry immigration card, which is valid for up to 180 days. Local officials determine the validity period of the card.
The entry immigration card is not a visa, but it’s a mandatory requirement when you enter through El Salvador’s international airport.
You don’t need an entry immigration card if you either:
- hold a Canadian passport showing you were born in El Salvador, or
- show proof that one of your parents is a Salvadoran national
Keep the receipt of your entry immigration card with your passport. It will allow you to re-enter El Salvador, as long as it is still valid.
You may request an extension of up to 90 days once a year for your entry immigration card. To extend your stay in El Salvador beyond 90 days, you must apply to the immigration authorities at least 5 days before the expiration date of your stay.
Entry and exit stamps
You must obtain entry and exit stamps at border crossings.
Central America-4 Border Control Agreement
Under the terms of the Central America-4 Border Control Agreement (CA-4), your Salvadoran entry immigration card will allow you to travel for up to a total of 90 days within any of the CA-4 countries, which are:
- El Salvador
When travelling between these countries, you still must check in at immigration counters but don’t need to obtain additional permits. Other countries’ authorities will stamp your passport to record your entry/exit dates and to ensure that you have not overstayed the initial time authorized for your visit in the CA-4 region. The 90-day period begins at your first point of entry to any of the CA-4 countries. You will be fined if you exceed the 90-day limit.
You may request an extension of up to 90 days once a year. If you are in El Salvador, you must request this extension and pay the required fee at El Salvador’s immigration headquarters in San Salvador at least 5 days before your first 90-day limit expires. Immigration authorities will determine the length of the extension.
If you have received a new Canadian passport while inside El Salvador – for example, your previous passport was lost – and you want to continue travelling by land in the CA-4 region, you need a new Salvadoran entry stamp in your new passport before entering one of the other countries. You must present your new passport at El Salvador’s immigration headquarters to arrange this.
Work or study
If you intend to work or study in El Salvador for longer than 90 days, you must apply for residence from inside the country. The documentation required to obtain Salvadoran residence is extensive.
Make sure you have all the required documents before you leave Canada.
Other entry requirements
Customs officials may ask you to show them a return or onward ticket and proof of sufficient funds to cover the cost of your stay.
Children and travel
A Canadian minor, under 18 years of age, living in or visiting El Salvador for more than one year is considered a resident of El Salvador.
To depart El Salvador, a minor resident needs written consent from any parent listed on the child’s birth certificate who is not travelling with the minor. The consent form must be:
- an original document (not a photocopy or a scan)
- notarized by either a Salvadoran notary in El Salvador or a Salvadoran consul abroad.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.
Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.
Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Pre-travel vaccines and medications
You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary.
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- Contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of your trip to arrange for vaccination.
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
There is a risk of hepatitis A in this destination. It is a disease of the liver. People can get hepatitis A if they ingest contaminated food or water, eat foods prepared by an infectious person, or if they have close physical contact (such as oral-anal sex) with an infectious person, although casual contact among people does not spread the virus.
Practise safe food and water precautions and wash your hands often. Vaccination is recommended for all travellers to areas where hepatitis A is present.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
Hepatitis B is a risk in every destination. It is a viral liver disease that is easily transmitted from one person to another through exposure to blood and body fluids containing the hepatitis B virus. Travellers who may be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) are at higher risk of getting hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Prevent hepatitis B infection by practicing safe sex, only using new and sterile drug equipment, and only getting tattoos and piercings in settings that follow public health regulations and standards.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.
Before travelling, verify your destination’s COVID-19 vaccination entry/exit requirements. Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.
In this destination, rabies is commonly carried by dogs and some wildlife, including bats. Rabies is a deadly disease that spreads to humans primarily through bites or scratches from an infected animal. While travelling, take precautions, including keeping your distance from animals (including free-roaming dogs), and closely supervising children.
If you are bitten or scratched by a dog or other animal while travelling, immediately wash the wound with soap and clean water and see a health care professional. In this destination, rabies treatment may be limited or may not be available, therefore you may need to return to Canada for treatment.
Before travel, discuss rabies vaccination with a health care professional. It may be recommended for travellers who are at high risk of exposure (e.g., occupational risk such as veterinarians and wildlife workers, children, adventure travellers and spelunkers, and others in close contact with animals).
Safe food and water precautions
Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.
- Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
- Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs.
Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insect bite prevention
Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:
- Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
- Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
- Minimize exposure to insects
- Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed
To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.
Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.
There is a risk of chikungunya in this country. The risk may vary between regions of a country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- In this country, dengue is a risk to travellers. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
- Dengue can cause flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to severe dengue, which can be fatal.
- The level of risk of dengue changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. The level of risk also varies between regions in a country and can depend on the elevation in the region.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue.
Zika virus is a risk in this country.
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be sexually transmitted. Zika virus can cause serious birth defects.
Pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy should visit a health care professional before travelling to discuss the potential risks of travelling to this country. Pregnant women may choose to avoid or postpone travel to this country.
- Prevent mosquito bites at all times.
- If you are pregnant, always use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact with anyone who has travelled to this country for the duration of your pregnancy.
- Women: Wait 2 months after travel to this country or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer) before trying for a pregnancy. If your male partner travelled with you, wait 3 months after travel or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer).
- Men: Wait 3 months after travel to this country or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer) before trying for a pregnancy.
For more travel recommendations, see the travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease) is a risk in this country. It is caused by a parasite spread by infected triatomine bugs. The infection can be inactive for decades, but humans can eventually develop complications causing disability and even death.
Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from triatomine bugs, which are active at night, by using mosquito nets if staying in poorly-constructed housing. There is no vaccine available for Chagas disease.
Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may increase your chance of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.
Closely supervise children, as they are more likely to come in contact with animals.
Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette, which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:
- washing your hands often
- avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
- avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and mpox are spread through blood and bodily fluids; use condoms, practise safe sex, and limit your number of sexual partners. Check with your local public health authority pre-travel to determine your eligibility for mpox vaccine.
Medical services and facilities
Good health care is limited in availability.
There have been some improvements in recent years, but public medical services and facilities remain below Canadian standards. State-funded public hospitals are located in large cities, mostly in San Salvador. Public clinics are located throughout the country, but their resources, hours of operation and services are limited. Public hospital services are free for foreigners.
Private clinics and hospitals are often better staffed and equipped. In the Colonia Escalón district of San Salvador, the two following hospitals offer good emergency and advanced care services:
- Hospital de Diagnóstico
- Hospital Centro Médico Escalón, formerly called Hospital de la Mujer
Private hospitals in San Salvador and other major cities, such as Santa Ana and San Miguel, may accept credit cards. However, you may have to provide upfront payment in cash to obtain private medical services elsewhere. They may also request a deposit if you require hospitalization. In rural areas, staff may ask you purchase all consumables prior to receiving care.
Most health-care providers speak only Spanish.
Medical evacuation can be very expensive and you may need it in case of serious illness or injury.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Detention conditions may be below the standards of Canadian prisons.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect prison sentences.
El Salvador’s constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners.
You may be detained or deported if you participate in demonstrations or other political activities.
You may be subject to identity checks during your stay in El Salvador.
Always carry valid identification such as a driver's licence or passport.
Keep photocopies or digital copies of the following, in case of loss or seizure of the original:
- the identification page of your passport
- your birth certificate
- your Canadian citizenship card
- your driver’s licence
Keep originals and copies in separate safe locations.
It’s illegal to photograph:
- military installations and equipment
- schools when minors are present
Ask permission before photographing individuals, especially in areas with Indigenous presence.
Imports and exports
Salvadoran authorities require permits for the import or export of firearms, plants or animals. If you purchase an antique in El Salvador, keep your receipt in case you are asked to prove ownership at the border.
If you plan on buying property or making other investments in El Salvador, seek legal advice in Canada and in El Salvador before making any commitments. Disputes related to properties could take time and be costly to resolve.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in El Salvador.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of El Salvador, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
International Child Abduction
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. The convention applies between Canada and El Salvador.
If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in El Salvador, and if the applicable conditions are met, you may apply for the return of your child to the Salvadoran court.
If you are in this situation:
- act as quickly as you can
- contact the Central Authority for your province or territory of residence for information on starting an application under The Hague Convention
- consult a lawyer in Canada and in El Salvador to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
- report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children’s Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre
If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.
Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country’s judicial affairs.
- List of Canadian Central Authorities for the Hague Convention
- International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
- Travelling with children
- The Hague Convention - Hague Conference on Private International Law
- Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
- Emergency Watch and Response Centre
Salvadoran law does not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex.
However, 2SLGBTQI+ travellers could face discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics.
You can drive with your valid Canadian driver’s licence for the period you are allowed to stay in the country.
In the event of a car accident, as required by Salvadoran law:
- remain at the scene
- call the police
- don’t move your vehicle until the authorities arrive
Some accidents may attract a crowd that could turn hostile. If you feel unsafe:
- ensure your windows and doors are locked
- leave the area
- report the accident to the police and your insurance company as soon as possible
If you plan to travel between countries, you must carry an international driving permit.
There are two official currencies in El Salvador:
- the U.S. dollar (USD)
- Bitcoin (BTC)
Bitcoin became legal tender in September 2021, though not all businesses have fully transitioned to accepting it. Traditional and Bitcoin ATMs are widely available.
Canadian credit and debit cards are generally accepted. However, Canadian dollars cannot be exchanged in El Salvador.
When exchanging money before your trip, ask for small denominations. Bills of $50 and $100 are not widely accepted and increase the risk of robbery.
Natural disasters and climate
Earthquakes and tsunamis
El Salvador is located in a highly active seismic zone. Tremors occur regularly and major earthquakes occur from time to time.
Tsunami warnings may be issued after a strong earthquake. A tsunami can occur within minutes of a nearby earthquake. However, the risk of tsunami can remain for several hours following the first tremor. If you’re staying on the coast, familiarize yourself with the region’s evacuation plans in the event of a tsunami warning.
In the event of an earthquake:
- monitor local media to stay informed of the evolving situation
- follow the instructions of local authorities
Volcanoes pose a significant risk to the population in El Salvador.
Although there has been a decrease in volcanic activity in recent years, several volcanoes remain active. Authorities issue warnings about volcanic activity when appropriate, especially at the San Miguel/Chaparrastique volcano.
If you intend on visiting a volcano area:
- hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
- monitor levels of volcanic activity through the local media
- pay close attention to all warnings and avoid restricted areas
- be prepared to modify your travel arrangements or even evacuate the area on short notice
- follow the advice of local authorities
- Earthquakes - What to Do?
- Latest earthquakes - U.S. Geological Survey
- Tsunami alerts - U.S. Tsunami Warning System
- @MARN_SV - Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (in Spanish)
- @PROCIVILSV - Civil Protection (in Spanish)
- Seismic and volcanic activity alerts - Salvadoran Observatory of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (in Spanish)
The rainy season extends from May to November. Seasonal flooding can hamper overland travel and reduce the provision of essential services. Roads may become impassable and bridges may be damaged.
Hurricanes usually occur from mid-May to the end of November. During this period, even small tropical storms can quickly develop into major hurricanes.
These severe storms can put you at risk and hamper the provision of essential services.
If you decide to travel to a coastal area during the hurricane season:
- know that you expose yourself to serious safety risks
- be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
- stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
- carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
- follow the advice and instructions of local authorities
- Tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons and monsoons
- Large-scale emergencies abroad
- Active storm tracking and hurricane watches and warnings - United States’ National Hurricane Center
Dial 911 for emergency assistance.
The tourist police, POLITUR, provides a security presence in tourist areas and urgent first response assistance to tourists.
If you need assistance, dial (503) 2511-8302 or (503) 2511-8300.
Hotline – health
The Salvadoran government provides a hotline to speak with a medical professional or request urgent medical assistance.
In case of a medical emergency, dial either:
- 132, or
- 911, and ask for a 132 operator
San Salvador - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the embassy of Canada to El Salvador in San Salvador and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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