Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

  • Reviewed: 13 January 2020, 15:50 NZDT
  • Still current at: 19 February 2020

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Exercise increased caution

Exercise increased caution in El Salvador due to violent crime.

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Violent crime
El Salvador has one of the highest crime and homicide rates in Latin America. Violent crime is common, widespread and often involves firearms. It is a serious problem throughout El Salvador and is escalating dramatically. Much of this crime is drug and gang related and foreigners are not usually targeted, however tourists have been the victims of serious crime in the past, including armed robbery, kidnapping, murder, carjacking and assault.

New Zealanders in El Salvador should remain vigilant and exercise a high degree of security awareness at all times, particularly in downtown San Salvador. You should avoid walking alone, and to isolated areas, particularly at night.

Petty crime is common with robberies and theft often occuring on public transport and in tourist areas, including pickpocketing, mugging and bag snatching. Victims of robbery and other crime are often targeted on the basis of perceived wealth. We recommend you avoid displaying or wearing items that appear valuable, such as jewellery and mobile devices. No resistance should be given if you are the victim of crime as this could lead to an escalation in violence.

“Express kidnappings” occur in El Salvador, where criminals abduct a victim for a short amount of time and force them to withdraw funds from automatic teller machines (ATMs) to secure their release. When using ATMs, we recommend you be discreet and use machines located within banks, hotels and shopping centres during daylight hours only.

Travel on public buses and in unofficial taxis should be avoided for safety reasons. We recommend using reputable coach companies and radio dispatched or hotel taxis.

Road travel outside major cities and towns can be dangerous, especially at night due to carjackings and robbery. You should avoid travelling at night and always travel with doors locked and windows up.

Particular care should be taken in border areas with Guatemala and Honduras, and at border crossings. Attacks and robberies have been reported at border crossings and gang activity is increasing.

Exercise vigilance when leaving El Salvador International Airport as criminals have been known to follow travellers to private residences or secluded stretches of road where they carry out robberies.

When travelling to remote areas it may be safer to travel with others or a reputable tour company. This includes while hiking in national parks and visiting volcanoes.

Civil unrest
Protests and demonstrations occur from time to time in El Salvador and have the potential to turn violent and cause travel disruptions with minimal notice. These happen most frequently in and around the capital San Salvador. We advise New Zealanders to avoid large gatherings and protests and follow any instructions issued by authorities. Political activity by foreigners is prohibited and may lead to detention and/or deportation.

Unexploded landmines in rural and remote areas remain a danger, especially in the Chalatenango and Morazan districts. We recommend you travel on well-used roads and paths, as mined areas are often unmarked.

General travel advice
El Salvador is in a highly active seismic zone, there are several active volcanoes and earthquakes are common. Familiarize yourself with the proper safety measures to take in the event of an earthquake or volcanic eruption.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and can include lengthy imprisonment or fines.

There are limited healthcare facilities in El Salvador, and New Zealanders travelling or living there should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air.

New Zealanders in El Salvador are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Travel tips

The New Zealand Embassy Mexico City, Mexico is accredited to El Salvador

Street Address Jaime Balmes No 8, 4th Floor, Los Morales, Polanco, Mexico D.F. 11510 Telephone +52 55 5283 9460 Fax +52 55 5283 9480 Email Web Site Hours Mon - Fri 0930 - 1400, 1500 - 1700 hrs

New Zealand Consulate San Salvador, El Salvador

Street Address Edificio Fusades, Boulevard y Urbanizacion Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatland, San Salvador, El Salvador Telephone +503 278 3372 Alternate Telephone +503 223 1321 Fax +503 278 3359 Email

See our regional advice for Central/South America

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Accredited New Zealand Embassy Mexico

Street Address
Jaime Balmes No 8, 4th Floor, Los Morales, Polanco, Mexico D.F. 11510

Telephone: +52 55 5283 9460

Fax: +52 55 5283 9480



Hours: Mon - Fri 0930 - 1400, 1500 - 1700 hrs

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