San Salvador is the capital city of El Salvador, located at the foot of the San Salvador volcano. With its population of 2 million people and due to rapid growth, San Salvador has become a great tourist attraction and well visited destination.
Frequently visited by foreingners are luxurious shopping malls in the areas of Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, Nuevo Cuscatlan and Ciudad Merliot.
On the other hand, there are middle class areas like Colonia Flor Blanca with the examples of art deco and architectural oddities. Tourists can visit beaches and forests as well as a well-maintained national park.
Warnings & Dangers in San Salvador
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
When you come to San Salvador, you need to exercise a high degree of caution due to the high level of violent crime. The police is doing its best against violent gangs, but with little success. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and avoid certain areas like the historic downtown of San Salvador, Soyapango, Apopa, Nejapa, Ilopango Mejicanos and Tutunichapa. There were reports of mugging and even murder in these areas.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
When it comes to public transport in San Salvador, it can be considered unsafe since the vehicles are old and do not work properly, and people are robbed there, too. Taxis should be used, but only the licensed ones. You can drive with your driving license but bear in mind that driving standards are not too great and car insurance is essential.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
When it comes to pickpocketing and purse snatching, these types of crimes are frequent and the most usual way of performing the robberies is on motorcycles. You should take particular care of your belongings, since the criminals watch what you possess and decide whether to attack or not. The places where they mostly operate are bus stations, airports, tourist areas and on public transport.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
San Salvador has a number of active volcanoes, so before coming there, you should get informed about the increased volcanic activity. The rainy season is from June to November which may cause landslides and flooding. Occasional earthquakes happen, so if you are staying in a hotel read their earthquake instructions.
MUGGING RISK : HIGH
There have been reports of muggings followed by murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, and sexual assault in San Salvador. It is frequently performed by the criminal gangs and it is better to give them what they want than to resist, in order to avoid more serious consequences. They are usually after your valuables.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Even though there were no reports of terrorism in San Salvador recently, demonstrations occur from time to time and they should be avoided. The possibility of the attacks cannot be ruled out.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
Taxi drivers are the most frequent threat when the scam risk is in question. They will try to overcharging tourists so always determine the price before the ride or ask for the meter to be turned on. Thieves use the technique of something spilling on you to distract you, while the other person takes your purse or wallet. The scams come in various forms, and can cause great financial loss.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
The threat to solo female visitors exists in San Salvador, even though many women travel without any issues. Bus terminals and taxis are the most frequently operated places by the criminals who tend to take advantage of a woman traveling alone. So as to avoid becoming a victim, women should not travel after dark and should not wear jewelry or expensive electronic devices.
So... How Safe Is San Salvador Really?
San Salvador has had a history of violence and was considered the most dangerous city in the world. The situation has changed, but not completely. You still need to pay attention to criminal gangs operating around the city.
In order to stay safe you should not walk on streets that look abandoned and dark, should use only licensed taxis, keep your valuables out of sight and don’t wear expensive looking jewelry and when women are in question, they should dress conservatively.
However, if you are an experienced traveler, spending a few days exploring this cosmopolitan city can be a rewarding experience.
- Visas - If the reason of your travel is tourism or business that will last no longer than 90 days, you can come without a visa. If you want to extend your stay, you will need to contact the authorities. Your passport should be valid for the duration of your stay.
- Currency - The US dollar is the official currency in El Salvador, but there are some prices in the Salvadoran Colon. There are many ATMs on the streets, but taking the money from them might be risky. The better solution is to take money from the ATMs in banks, hotels or shopping malls.
- Weather - The climate of San Salvador attracts numerous visitors all year round since it is tropical and most of the time is warm and sunny. In December it might be a bit cooler, but the light spring clothes is the warmest one that is necessary when coming to San Salvador.
- Airports - To come to El Salvador, you can use San Salvador International Airport, located 50 km south of San Salvador. It is the largest airport in Central America and many national and international airlines serve this airport.
- Travel Insurance - Considering the fact that El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America, it is advisable to obtain a travel insurance policy before coming to San Salvador.