Last updated: 19 Nov 2019

El Salvador


El Salvador (‘The Saviour’ in Spanish) might be the smallest country in Central America, but it is well worth exploring. Newcomers are frequently bowled over by this stunning volcanic landscape, and quickly warm to the openness of its people.

This tiny tropical land is bursting with natural attractions, including the Cerro Verde National Park, the volcanic lakes of Ilopango and Coatepeque, and impressive beaches; the breakers rolling in from the Pacific Ocean make the coast of Sonsonate and La Unión provinces a major draw for surfers, while the resorts of the Costa del Sol are a 90-minute drive from the capital.

Try your hand at fishing, sailing, water-skiing and kayaking on the volcanic lakes of Coatepeque and Ilopango. Spectacular cloud forest, sweeping views, clean mountain air, exhilarating walks and three volcanoes are right at your fingertips in this 505 hectare (1,250 acre) national park. Expert local guides are on hand to offer advice and visitors are asked to book ahead and bring passports.
Capital:  San Salvador (SAL)
Currency:  US Dollar (USD)
Language:  Spanish. English is spoken in tourist areas, but not to a high standard.
Dialling code from SA:  +503
Time Zones: UTC / GMT -6 (8 hours behind South Africa)
Public Holidays 2019: 

Jan 1; Mar 26; Apr 18-20; May 1, 10; Jun 17; Aug 4-6; Sep 15; Nov 2; Dec 25

Side of the Road: Right
Best Time to go: November – April. For surfing the best season is March – November.
Best For: Archaeological Sites, Surfing
Plugs: 110 volts AC, 60 Hz and 220 volts
Drinking Water: All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Milk is unpasteurised.
Health: Comprehensive health insurance is recommended and it should include emergency air evacuation coverage. Doctors will require cash payment regardless of whether you have health insurance, although hospitals may accept credit cards. Within the capital city, private medical facilities are recommended over state-run facilities. Outside of the capital city, medical facilities are very limited. It is advisable to carry basic medical supplies.
Customs: It is considered rude not to return a greeting. Siesta is still a tradition, although most shops and restaurants stay open. It is considered rude to point your finger at people.
Local Offences / Laws:  It is illegal to photograph military installations.
Travel Warnings / Tips: While you can use larger bills in hotels and banks, you may struggle to use bills larger than $20 in restaurants and shops.
Duty Free: The following goods may be imported into El Salvador by travellers over the age of 18 without incurring customs duty:
• 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars
• 2L of alcoholic beverages
• 6 units of perfume
• Other goods to the value of US$500
Prohibited Imports: Firearms, explosives, ammunitions and other weapons except with a special Ministry of Defence permit. There are restrictions on the import of fruit, vegetables, plants and animals and meat products. Ham and sausage are only allowed if sterilised by heat, boneless and hermetically canned.
Prohibited Exports: Firearms and ammunition

Visa Requirements

This is subscriber-only content. In order to have full access, please subscribe by clicking here.

SA Representative

SA Embassy in Mexico City (Mexico) is responsible for El Salvador.

Travel Health

Compulsory:  Yellow Fever (Dependant on Country of Origin/Stopover)
Recommended Travel Vaccines:  Hepatitis A & B, Rabies, Typhoid, Tetanus, Polio