Is El Salvador Safe To Visit? Travel Advisory 2024

It’s simple. For the very first time in decades, travelers around the world are watching the news from El Salvador and saying, let’s go!

An army of TikTokers, YouTubers, and tourism journalists are flocking to El Salvador to document and experience firsthand what international media calls “the miracle.” 

Believe it or not, this small Central American country has become the safest destination in Latin America and it’s competing with Canada for the first spot in the entire continent, according to European press. 

Following the murder of 62 Salvadorans on March 26, 2022, President Nayib Bukele said: “Enough is enough.” He declared a State of Emergency, launched the most ambitious military operation ever seen and in a matter of months managed to take back control of the entire territory.

But is it too good to be true? Let’s see.

LATEST NEWS from El Salvador: 

April 9: El Salvador has become the second safest country in the American continent

With a homicide rate of 2.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, El Salvador has become the second safest country on the American continent after Canada, according to Justice and Security Minister Gustavo Villator. 

After a massive wave of killings in 2022, President Nayib Bukele managed to arrest more than 75,000 gang members and reduce homicides by 70%.

There has been criticism by international media due to possible violations of the criminals’ human rights but data from the Institute of Public Opinion shows that in December 2019, Salvadorans thought their biggest concern was criminality but by December 2023, that concern had reduced to less than 4.3%.

Areas to Avoid

It feels weird to say this but, as of today, there are no places locals and visitors cannot go to. Salvadorans have started to experience how it feels to go out at night, have fun and return home safely without risking their lives in the process.

Not all gang members have been captured, though. So, for now, while we all get used to this new normality, don’t venture to remote or isolated areas or those that don’t have police protection.

Official Travel Advisories 

US Travel Advisory

The latest Travel Advisory for El Salvador is dated July 27, 2023, and a lot has changed since then.

Anyway, the US government still recommends Americans “Reconsider Travel” to El Salvador due to crime and avoid remote areas at all costs. 

As of today, local authorities have extraordinary powers to put under arrest those they suspect to have engaged in criminal activities. This has included a number of Americans and other foreigners. 

Keep in mind that under the current State of Exception, you could see your movements limited and if you get arrested you might not be entitled to a speedy trial. 

Canada Travel Advisory

Canada acknowledges that violent crime has seen a significant reduction since the government decreed the state of exception. But for the time being, citizens are advised to travel with a “high degree of caution.” 

Some gang members are still active and you can fall victim to violent crime. 

Always be aware of your surroundings, especially on public transportation or in remote areas. 

Safety Tips for El Salvador

El Salvador has just started opening up to the world and it is learning how to do so. Safety has undeniably improved but crime can still occur even in tourist areas. So, follow these tips to enjoy a safer trip.

  • Don’t refuse to cooperate with police and military personnel. They currently have exceptional powers and can search you even if you think it’s not fair.
  • When going hiking, always hire a local guide certified by the tourism authority and use reputable transportation companies.
  • If you happen to be an American register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to help the US government locate you in case of need.
  • Don’t leave your valuables in your car.
  • Keep your guard high when walking around.
  • Refrain from resisting robbery attempts.
  • Refrain from wandering around after dark.
  • Always carry your identification documents with you.
  • Keep your family and friends back home updated about your whereabouts.
  • Keep yourself informed about the latest safety news in the country. 
  • Pay special attention when withdrawing money from banks or ATMs.
  • Try to blend in. There’s no need to show you have a lot of money.