What's it like to visit El Salvador now?

Ed Walsh

The cold rainy weather in the San Francisco Bay Area this week will undoubtedly inspire even more people to be thinking of a warm weather getaway. El Salvador may be one of the world’s most underappreciated destinations but it is increasingly becoming the choice for travelers looking for a getaway off the beaten path.

If you do go to El Salvador there are some important things to keep in mind. First, you no longer have to get a Covid test to enter the country. You also do not need to show your vaccination card to enter. But you will need both a negative COVD test and proof of vaccination to fly back to the US. The COVID test must be conducted one calendar day before your trip. The rule used to be 72 hours. Note that your test can be slightly longer than 24 hours since any time the day before is considered a calendar day. You can expect to pay anywhere from $20-$40 for a rapid or antigen test.

Once you are in El Salvador, remember masks are mandatory in most places, even outside. You will find that overall mask wearing is more common than most parts of the US.

Do I need a Visa to visit El Salvador from the US?

A visa is not required for stays under 90 days, but you must purchase a tourist card for $12 USD upon arrival. The card is valid for 90 days. If your U.S. passport shows you were born in El Salvador, you do not need the tourist card.

Is it safe to visit El Salvador now during the pandemic?

According to the US State Dept.: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for El Salvador due to COVID-19, indicating a high level of COVID-19 in the country. Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine. Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC's specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers. Visit the Embassy's COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in El Salvador.”

What is the level of crime in El Salvador? Is it safe to visit now?

“Violent crime, such as murder, assault, rape, and armed robbery, is common,” the US State Dept. reports. “Gang activity, such as extortion, violent street crime, and narcotics and arms trafficking, is widespread. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.”

The US State Department also cautions travelers to not wear expensive jewelry or carry expensive cameras. If you have an expensive smart phone, keep it in your front pocket and don’t walk around starring at it. Keep aware of your surroundings at all times. It is very easy for a would-be robber to steal your phone and/or cash if your attention is on the phone and not on your surroundings.

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele has won praise by reducing crime by 60% since taking office in 2019. Crime is at historic lows in the country, but it is still important to never let your guard down when visiting the country or almost any other city or country. Thieves prey on tourists here in San Francisco and just about anywhere in the world. Don’t act like a tourist and you will be less likely to become a victim. Only carry as much cash as you will need to get through the day. Leave the rest in the hotel safe. And again, don’t get distracted by your smart phone. If you have the latest expensive I-Phone, be especially extra cautious. Your

San Vicente, El SalvadorEd Walsh

phone may have a tracking device but if it falls into the hands of the gangs, you might as well write it off.

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