I returned from my most recent trip to Central America a couple of weeks ago. The process of editing/compiling all of the pictures is taking a bit longer than usual, but I hope to start posting the trip report soon. I really enjoyed my second visit to Panama and my first to El Salvador. There has been a lot of interest in the trip from numerous people. The questions have been abundant, but the one I keep getting the most is: “Is El Salvador safe”? The short answer to that is yes, but travelers have to exercise caution. I decided to write a list of “Dos” and “Don’ts” as it pertains to traveling in El Salvador.
1. Use Uber/Lyft. Either one of these companies are a safe way to get around the country. Not only does Uber and Lyft perform background checks on the drivers, your movement is tracked for the duration of the trip. If there are any problems along the way, you can reach out to the ride sharing company.
2. Try to blend in. It is very easy to have a basic understanding of Spanish. Hold simple conversations in the language or even order your food. People tend to stick out if they are constantly asking, “Do you speak English”? Additionally, wear clothes that are neutral colors. I am not saying you have to be plain, but be mindful.
3. Stay at a reputable hotel. I stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel in El Salvador. It was in the heart of the city, next to Metrocenter Mall. The hotel did not have a shortage of security. The odds of something happening at the property were extremely low. The Concierge helped me steer clear of dangerous areas as well.
4. Keep the Embassy number handy. As a military member traveling, I completed an Aircraft and Personnel Automated Clearance System request prior to the trip. Upon approval, I was given the U.S. Embassy’s number, as well as a cell number for a liaison, if I needed help.
1. Carry a lot of cash. This should be a no brainer, but people still do it. The risk of being robbed in El Salvador is very high, especially at night. I carried $40 USD in my pocket, with another $20 USD in my shoe just in case I needed it.
2. Wear flashy jewelry. Again, this is something that should be common sense. However, it is easy to forget. I walked across the street to the mall for lunch and received more than a handful of stares along the way. The stares were not necessarily at my face, but my left wrist…I had forgotten to leave my watch in the hotel. Realizing this (with a little help from the locals), I quickly put the watch in my pocket.
3. Wear clothes signaling you are a foreigner. DO NOT wear clothes signaling you are from another country. This meant I did not wear my Dallas Cowboys nor my New York City shirt, while in the country. I am sure people could tell I was not from El Salvador, but I did not want to make it very obvious.
4. Stare at Maps on your phone. This is a big “no no” as well. The first thing staring at Maps will do is signal to everyone within a quarter mile radius that you are not local and probably lost. The next thing it does is make you an easy target to have your phone stolen. Don’t. Do. It.
5. Use taxis or other local transportation. The taxis and buses do not often have meters. The rate is whatever the driver decides to charge. This could lead to a potentially dangerous encounter as gangs have a stake in these companies. The best advice is to stay away.
This is not meant to scare or stop you from traveling to El Salvador. I only wanted to share some tips that kept me safe during my trip. Again, is El Salvador safe? It is as safe as you make it. Safe travels and good luck.