Travel Advisory for El Salvador

Facts about traveling to El Salvador, Central America.

Travel Information El Salvador

El Salvador is located in Central America. It borders Honduras and Guatemala. It also has beaches on the Pacific Ocean. When you travel to a Central American country, the first thing you need is to have the most relevant information of the country on hand, so you can fully enjoy your El Salvador trip.  Read below the best practical travel information and the top activities in El Salvador.

Travel Information El Salvador

Practical Travel Information El Salvador

🏢 Capital City
💬 Language
🕐 Time zone
⚐ Flag
📄 Documents and Visa
✈️ Airports and Tax
💶 Currency
🏦 Bank Facilities
🍴Local Cuisine
💉 Vaccinations
☤ Health
🔌 Voltage
☁︎ Weather and Best time to travel
🚨 Travel Safety

Capital City

Capital City – San Salvador:  The capital of this country offers city tours to admire its architecture and national monuments, like the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Theater or the Plaza El Salvador del Mundo. You can take a hike to the San Salvador Volcano. At its summit, you can admire the entire city and its beautiful landscape. The capital is only thirty kilometers from the country’s beaches. So having information about the tours in the city is a good option before visiting the beaches.

architecture in San Salvador. Central America
Beautiful colonial architecture of San Salvador.

Language

The official language is Spanish. 

Time zone

GMT – 6

Flag

It is made up of three horizontal stripes: two blue stripes with a white stripe in the center. The blue stripes on the top and bottom represent the two oceans that border Central America: the Atlantic and the Pacific. The central white stripe represents peace.

National Flag of El Salvador.
Flag of El Salvador.

Travel Documents

All foreign visitors to El Salvador must hold a return or onward ticket, and the travel documents that are required for your next destination.
Your passport should be valid for at least six months after departure from El Salvador. Please note that passport requirements can change in a short notice. Therefore we advise you to check the passport requirements with the embassy or consulate of your country.

Visa

There is no visa required for a stay up to three months in El Salvador. Please note that visa requirements can change in a short notice. Therefore we advise you to check the visa requirements with the embassy or consulate of your country.

Airport Tax

A tax is required for visitors departing El Salvador by air or sea. However, this tax is usually included in the price of the ticket.

El Salvador Airports

El Salvador International Airport. (commercial flights):

  • Located in San Luis Talpa (40 km from San Salvador)
  • Codes (IATA) SAL (ICAO) MSLP

Ilopango International Airport (charter flights)

  • Located in Ilopango, San Salvador 
  • Codes (IATA) ILS (ICAO) MSSS

Currency

American dollar (USD)

Bank Facilities

Withdrawing money from ATMs can be done in all larger cities. Usually you can only withdraw with a Visa card. Master card are not accepted everywhere. You can always withdraw money by credit-card, however there is an additional fee attached. Make sure you have no bills larger than 20 dollars as there is not always enough change.

Local Cuisine

The cuisine of El Salvador is a blend of Spanish and indigenous cultures.
Corn, beans and tomatoes are in almost all dishes Soups and seafood are also very popular.

Traditional dish Pupusas
Traditional dish ‘Pupusas’

Vaccinations

There are no vaccinations required to enter El Salvador. However, you are advised to take precautions against Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Polio. A vaccination certificate is required when you arrive from a Yellow Fever infected area. Furthermore, you are advised to discuss your travel plans with a health- care provider to determine which vaccinations you might need.

Health

While traveling in El Salvador, you are advised to avoid tap water, fountain drinks and ice cubes. It is advisable to only drink bottled or boiled water.

 

Voltage

The electricity current is 115 volts, 60Hz. El Salvador generally accepts the following plugs:

  • Flat blade plug
  • Two parallel flat pins with ground pin
  • Three round pins arranged in a triangle
  • V- shaped flat prongs
  • Two round pins

Weather

The larger parts of El Salvador have tropical temperatures throughout the year. The higher altitudes of El Salvador have a climate that is significantly cooler. During the winter months, the top of the mountain ‘Cerro El Pital’, is the only place in El Salvador covered in snow.

Best time to Visit

Animal and nature lovers will find summer months to be best for travel with parks being opened. Surfers will enjoy the large waves during the rainy season from March to November. It tends to rain for a short amount of time each day, still providing enough time to surf the waves.

Travel Safety El Salvador

El Salvador has a reputation of being a dangerous country, but tourists find certain parts to be safe and wonderful to visit. Mayan Gateway stays aware of all travel warnings. The safety and security of their travelers is of utmost importance. Following travel warnings and taking general precautions will allow you to have a safe visit to El Salvador. Statistics alone do not portray the picture of the amazing travels and sights that await a traveler there.

All travelers should be aware of surroundings at all times. It is best to keep a limited amount of money and personal items on you, as robberies do occur in all parts of the world. Many people prefer to use crossbody purses or waist bags for more security. For extra peace of mind, consider using our tour services and assistance.

Top Rated Activities in El Salvador

Trave Information El Salvador
Surfing
Hiking
For Natural Lovers
Colonial Towns
Mayan sites
Visit its Wonderful Churches

Surfing   

The country has more than three hundred kilometers on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The waves of these beaches have the reputation of being the best in the world for surfing. Here you can find information on some popular places in the country for this activity.

Beautiful black sand beach in El Tunco. Central America.
Beautiful black sand beach of El Tunco, El Salvador.

Surfing on El Tunco Beach

The highest waves occur in the rainy season between May and October. However, in March and April they are very good too. If you are a beginner, there are instructors on the beach who, after a not very ostentatious instruction, will allow you to start mastering the waves with your board. It is normal in this beach to find a good number of visitors practicing surfing and a party atmosphere, which makes the experience more pleasant. You will find the beach forty-seven kilometers from San Salvador.

El Zonte Beach

This is another popular surfing destination. It is a less visited beach, and there is not a party atmosphere all the time, like in other places. However, the waves are excellent for surfing and more for beginners, as there are more moderate waves. 

You find more spaces on the beach to relax and sunbathe here. Hotel and restaurant prices are much more comfortable, as are surf lessons and board rentals. It is located forty-eight kilometers from the capital city.

Hiking  

The country has a chain of mountains and volcanoes ideal for hiking. Santa Ana Volcano is one of the most popular. Upon reaching its summit at 2,381 masl, you will see a beautiful lava lake in its crater. The color of the lava changes with the sunlight between turquoise and blue

The tour lasts around four hours, so an average level of physical fitness is required. It is advisable to plan the trip with a professional guide for your safety. The volcano is located sixty-two kilometers from the capital. 

Extreme Adventures – Rappel, Caving, Hiking and Zipline:  

Near the capital, there is the option to practice all these adventures in one place, ‘The Devil’s Door’. It is a mountain with impressive rock formations and a cliff. You can hike in this place and choose your level of difficulty. The ascent begins on stairs made of stone until you reach the top of the cliff. 

Being at this level, you choose the adventure. Canopyfly by the cables suspended from the zip line. Rappel – descend the mountain through jumps in the rocks with a cable that holds you. Also, you can enjoy caving near the mountain. Just fifteen kilometers from San Salvador is one of the tours that you can choose when you visit the city.

For Nature Lovers  

For visitors who like to explore the natural beauties and get away from the hustle and bustle of the cities, this country offers you very good options. Below you can read about a couple of them.

The Seven Waterfalls Adventure  

If you are a lover of adventures in nature hiking, climbing and swimming, a tour of the seven waterfalls cannot be missing from your trip list. At least a medium level to a high level of fitness is required, due to the possible difficulty you will face. You will be hiking through nature on a four-hour journey, including mountaineering, to reach the waterfalls. 

Altogether there are seven waterfalls, each with a different level of climbing difficulty, rock difficulty and incline level. A dip in the crystal clear water of the waterfalls can not be missed. It is compensation for the hard work to reach them. 

Tourists from different parts of the world marvel at this tour of natural beauty and enjoy challenging themselves on these adventures. The usual thing is to finish the tour in Los Chorros de la Calera. These are waterfalls that go down the mountain and supply natural swimming pools. This entire route of natural beauty is located eighty-six kilometers from the capital city.    

Journey Through the Impossible National Park 

A visit that you cannot miss on a trip to El Salvador to practice hiking, swimming and mountaineering is located in this national park. This is an intermediate level walk in a tropical forest. On the way you will find a diversity of plants and trees, in addition to many animal species, such as toucans and white-tailed deer. 

The trails will take you through rivers of very clean water where you can enjoy a refreshing swim. The name of this beautiful park is due to the fact that previously it was impossible to cross the mountain by horse or mule. The park is located in the west of the country one hundred and twenty kilometers from the capital.

Colonial Towns 

The country offers you visits to very beautiful colonial cities. The architecture and shops of these beautiful cities give the feeling that you are in the Colonial Era.

Colonial City – Suchitoto  

This town is called the cultural capital of El Salvador, and you can choose a tour of it. Its origins date back to the fifteenth century. It has perfectly preserved colonial-style buildings and stone-paved streets. The cafes and restaurants you find are in the same colonial style. 

Street and Colorful architecture of Suchitoto. El Salvador.
Street and Colorful architecture of Suchitoto. El Salvador.

Do not miss a visit to the Don Alejandro Coto House Museum. It is recommended for its beautiful and valuable works of art. Suchitoto is located forty-eight kilometers from the capital. 

Route of the Flowers   

This pleasant journey will take you through the Apaneca Mountain Range. You will be passing through picturesque villages where you can admire the architecture of their houses and buildings. Traditions, handicrafts, popular markets and delicious gastronomy are some of the things you will enjoy on this tour. 

It is a good way to get to know the country’s culture and have a very pleasant relaxing time. The towns along the route of the flowers are located in the west of the country, eighty-six kilometers from San Salvador. 

Mayan Sites 

The country offers visitors tours of its archaeological sites. You will find several Mayan tours where you will be able to admire magnificent structures and vestiges of the ancient Mayan world.  Below you will find information for your trip to El Salvador about some Mayan cities.

San Andres Archeological Ruins. La Libertad, El Salvador.
Archeological Ruins of San Andres. La Libertad, El Salvador.

Joya de Ceren

You must schedule a visit to this archaeological site on your trip to this country. The information you need to know is that this Mayan site is very special because it represents what the daily life of the Mayans was like. An eruption buried the site in 600 A.D. In it you will find municipal-type structures and even toilets. 

You can also admire an exhibition of ceramics, textiles, utensils and more representing the daily life and commerce of the ancient Maya. This archaeological site was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ruins are located thirty-three kilometers from the capital.

Tazumal Ruins  

This archaeological site has the best preserved ruins in the country. On the way, you will be able to admire Mayan ceremonial sites, tombs, pyramids, ball games and sacred sculptures. The ruins date from 100 AD; although its origins in the underground area of ​​Chapualpa from 1200 BC. The Mayan city is located seventy-three kilometers from the capital.

Visit its Wonderful Churches

Without a doubt one of the greatest tourist places in the country is its magnificent churches, samples of the devotion of the inhabitants. Below you will find information about some of them.

Church in Suchitoto, Central America. Explore El Salvador.
Beautiful colonial architecture Suchitoto, Central America

Visit El Rosario Church 

It is well known for being a true work of art. Its shape looks like that of an aircraft hangar. The multicolored crystals on its ceiling at dusk filter the light and form a rainbow leading to the church altar. It has sculptures of the twelve stages of the cross, designed with metal. You can visit this church before the religious services begin, before four in the afternoon. It is located in the capital city. 

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 

Here is another recommended visit on your trip to El Salvador.  Undoubtedly the beauty of its neo-Gothic architecture originated in the 17th century. The church has been standing for over a hundred years and withstood a strong earthquake in 1917. Visiting the church is allowed when there is no service. The basilica is located in the capital of the country.

Packing List for your trip to El Salvador

Travel Information El Salvador

Traveling light is always more comfortable, but make sure to pack all the items you might need during your trip.   The weather of this country is fairly constant, with tropical temperatures throughout the year.  With only two seasons, dry and rainy and the same average temperatures, doing your packing list will be relatively easy.

Check the weather before packing here: Accurate Weather.  

We list below a suggested basic items when packing for a trip to El Salvador.

View of beautiful Lake Coatepeque. El Salvador. Tours to El Salvador.
View of beautiful Lake Coatepeque. El Salvador.

Travel Information El Salvador – Packing List

Must Have:

  • Passport, Visas (if necessary), and your Return Flight
  • Your usual medications
  • Credit and/or debit Card
  • Confirmations of your reservations
  • Some cash

Important:

  • Phone and camera
  • Cords, Batteries and Chargers (Phone, Ipad, etc)
  • Waterproof cases for electronic devices
  • Universal Power Adapter
  • Toiletries
  • Comfortable clothing for tropical climate
  • Swimsuit
  • Sunglasses
  • Comfortable closed toed shoes
  • Water shoes
  • Flip Flops for shower
  • Sturdy walking and/or hiking shoes
  • Cap or a hat
  • Quick-Dry Towel
  • Lightweight Rain Jacket
  • Small backpack for day trips
  • One sturdy water bottle
  • Insect Repellent
  • Travel-Size Sunscreen
  • Travel Insurance
  • Spanish phrasebook and or dictionary

Dress according to your location:

El Salvador has a strong religious culture, thus in areas such as cities they can be conservative in dress.  Hence, save your shorts or summer dresses to wear on the beach.  In general it is best not to draw unwanted attention to yourself, so it is a good idea to be respectful of the local culture.

A good idea to bring:

  • Portable Charger
  • A couple of copies of  your passport
  • Personal sport equipment
  • A flashlight
  • Extra SD Cards

What you should not bring to your El Salvador trip

  • Expensive Jewelry or watches
  • Fancy and bulky electronics

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

Useful Tips to traveling to El Salvador

Travel Information El Salvador

Traveling to El Salvador will surely give you unforgettable experiences and will leave you wanting to return.The more information you have about your destination, the more confident and safe you will feel during your trip.

Beautiful Turquoise Lake, Alegria, El Salvador. Boat tours in El Salvador. Mayan Gateway
Beautiful Turquoise Lake of Alegria in El Salvador.

Here are some basic tips for your next trip to El Salvador

  • Basic phrases in Spanish

Although this is a Spanish-speaking country, in the most touristy places you will meet several people who speak a little English.  However, knowing some basic phrases in Spanish such as “good morning”, “thank you” or “where is the bathroom?”, can give you many advantages.

Choose places where you can learn Spanish phrases online like:  DuolingoOr if it is more convenient for you, Lonely Planet sells a phrasebook of Latin American Spanish.

  • Travel insurance

In order to avoid future unpleasant surprises during your trip, it is best to make sure you have Travel and Cancellation Insurance.  Please take into account that this kind of insurance is not included in any of our tours prices.  Therefore when you purchase your travel insurance, check if it covers unforeseen events such as flight cancellations, etc.

Visit World Nomads or Travelex Insurance Services to get a quote. 

  • Vaccination

We recommend that you consult your doctor with enough time in advance about the vaccines necessary to travel to El Salvador.  Make sure to be up to date with your vaccination regimen and have essential vaccines such as Tetanus and Hepatitis A.

You can find this information in the following link: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Credit and debit card companies

Don’t forget to call your credit and/or debit card provider to inform them that you will be using your cards internationally.  This will certainly prevent you from uncomfortable future events during or after your trip.  Ask about possible charges for international use of your cards and possible ways to reduce the foreign fee.

Look more information visiting the following link:  Credit Cards

  • International health coverage

The famous phrase: “Prevention is better than regret” comes alive here.  

Before your trip, check with your insurance company about its international coverage.  If in case you didn’t have it, it is best that you acquire a clause for a limited time that can cover your trip.

To expand this information you can visit the following link:  International Health Insurance

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Tips for Personal Safety for El Salvador Travelers

Travel Information El Salvador

This small Central American country will surely surprise you with its beauty and the friendliness of its people.  Being very well informed about its culture and its people is the best way to feel safe during your trip to El Salvador.  Otherwise it is very common to make mistakes due to omission or ignorance of the local culture.

Hence having experts like Mayan Gateway will make your trip to El Salvador an unforgettable experience.  We know each area, its customs and traditions, so we know which places are best to avoid for your safety.

Lake of Suchitlan seen from Suchitoto. El Salvador. Bird watching boat tours El Salvador.
Lake of Suchitlan seen from Suchitoto. El Salvador.

Follow the next list of safety tips for your next trip to El Salvador:

  • Avoid public displays of your values such as: jewelry, money, expensive electronic devices, etc.
  • Be sure your guides are certified by the national or local tourist authority.
  • When possible keep your passport safe and carry only a copy for identification purposes.
  • Use an under clothes money belt to carry all your important documents and money
  • Keep yourself informed by following the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Receive alerts by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) that also makes it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Drink only in moderation, especially if you are traveling alone.
  • Carry with you only what you will need during the day.
  • It’s safer to withdraw money from ATMs in malls or change money in hotels or banks.
  • Always be aware of the people around you, and strange behaviors that may indicate a pickpocket plan
  • For your safety not to share your travel itinerary or hotel details.
  • Do not use random taxis, use only authorized and look for the driver’s ID

Travel Tip:

Like in many other Central American Countries, it is advisable to carry a wallet with a couple of expired cards and some little cash.  In the unfortunate event that you were the target of a robbery, you must immediately hand over the wallet.  Common thieves will usually settle for this and won’t bother you anymore.  However, if you are the object of a robbery, you must quickly deliver your belongings, nothing is worth more than your safety.

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it is lethal.”

Things you should not do in El Salvador

Travel Information El Salvador

When traveling to any Central American country, consider they are developing countries, and may be dangerous or prone to crime.  This doesn’t mean that you have to miss the pleasure of enjoying its natural wonders and the recognized friendliness of its people.  By informing yourself about the particularities of their culture and customs you can feel safe enough.

 

Find below a list of things you should avoid during your stay in El Salvador:

  • Drinking water from the tap, it is not drinkable and can make you sick and it’s easy to find bottled water all over.
  • Taking pictures of locals, especially children or even religious ceremonies without explicit permission.
  • Harm, bother or feed wildlife or marine life.
  • Wander the urban streets alone at night.
  • Stepping off the trail when hiking in El Salvadoran forests.
  • Resisting if stopped by El Salvadoran military or police officers. 
  • Large gatherings, especially political demonstrations must be avoided.
  • Drive on rural roads at night, in fact, don’t drive at night at all.
  • Resisting a robbery, usually those who cooperate remain unharmed.

 

Extra Tip

Even though you certainly should try the traditional “Pupusas” in El Salvador, you must avoid street food by all means.  And when it comes to fruits and vegetables, mind the travelers’ mantra: boil it, peel it, cook it, or forget it.