Getting Ready to Travel
Staying in and around San Salvador
The information provided below aims to help U.S. businesspeople enhance their experience when doing business in El Salvador. If you have any suggestions or comments regarding this tool of the site, please contact us.
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Getting Ready to Travel
Standard time zone: UTC/CMT –6 hours. No daylight savings time. For current time, go to: Time & Date. Working hours in the private sector usually are from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm and in the government sector from 7:30 am to 3:30 pm.
Spanish is the national language of El Salvador, although many business people speak English as well. Do not assume, however, that your contacts will speak English.
It is wise as well as courteous to hire an interpreter to assist in business meetings unless you are certain that all parties speak English fluently. A list of interpreters is available upon request from the U.S. Commercial Service in San Salvador. Many large business hotels can also provide this service.
Almost all business in San Salvador is transacted in Spanish and all documents and records must be in Spanish to constitute valid evidence. Business documents in a foreign language to be presented for legal purposes to El Salvador authorities should be translated by a certified public translator.
A list of certified public translators is available upon request from the U.S. Commercial Service in San Salvador.
The geography of El Salvador is unique among the nations of Central America. The country borders the North Pacific Ocean to the south and southwest, with Guatemala to the north-northwest and Honduras to the north-northeast. In the southeast, the Golfo de Fonseca separates it from Nicaragua. El Salvador is the smallest Central American country in area and is the only one without a coastline on the Caribbean sea.
El Salvador has a tropical climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons. Temperatures vary primarily with elevation and show little seasonal change. The Pacific lowlands are uniformly hot; the central plateau and mountain areas are more moderate.
The rainy season, known locally as invierno, or winter, extends from May to October. Almost all the annual rainfall occurs during this time, and yearly totals, particularly on southern-facing mountain slopes, can be as high as 2,000 millimeters (78.7 in). Protected areas and the central plateau receive lesser, although still significant, amounts. Rainfall during this season generally comes from low pressure over the Pacific and usually falls in heavy afternoon thunderstorms.
From November through April, the northeast trade winds control weather patterns. During these months, air flowing from the Caribbean has had most of the precipitation wrung out of it while passing over the mountains in Honduras. By the time this air reaches El Salvador, it is dry, hot, and hazy. This season is known locally as verano, or summer.
Temperatures vary little with season; elevation is the primary determinant. The Pacific lowlands are the hottest region, with annual averages ranging from 25 to 29 °C (77 to 84.2 °F). San Salvador is representative of the central plateau, with an annual average temperature of 23 °C (73 °F) and absolute high and low readings of 38 and 6 °C (100.4 and 42.8 °F), respectively. Mountain areas are the coolest, with annual averages from 12 to 23 °C (53.6 to 73.4 °F) and minimum temperatures sometimes approaching freezing.
For online information about the weather in San Salvador, please click here.
Salvadoran business relationships and meetings are, at first, formal. A suit and tie are appropriate for most business meetings. Expect to shake hands before and after your meeting, and do not use a person's first name until a relationship has been solidified.
Business is not conducted on holidays. El Salvador national holidays for 2013 include the following:
January 1 New Year's Day
April 2-3* Holy Week (Semana Santa)
May 1 Labor Day
August 3-6* Feast of San Salvador (Agostinos)
September 15 Independence Day
November 2 All Soul's Day
December 25 Christmas Day
* Dates change every year
The Salvadoran currency is the U.S. dollar.
Communications and Media
Telephone services, both international and local, are adequate. Many businesspeople use cellular telephones to work more efficiently. American businesspeople can bring their cellular telephones from the U.S. and use them as long as they have access to roaming service, which has to be arranged with the service provider in the U.S prior to departure.
International long distance calls in El Salvador are expensive, especially from hotels. AT&T, MCI, and Sprint have local numbers that halve costs, but it may be difficult to establish a connection during peak business hours. Callback services are available for established businesses.
Internet access is available in large business hotels, but also throughout the city. There are plenty of cyber-cafes with Internet access and also wireless connection in some restaurants, hotels and shopping malls.
San Salvador has many local television channels that broadcast Spanish language programming. There are also various cable television channels available, which include CNN International, CNN en Español (Spanish), MTV, as well as channels from Chile, Mexico, Spain, and others.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA. 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348, 24 Hours/Every Day. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a website at CDS give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800. Following are some useful health hints: Careful attention to choice of food and beverages helps to reduce the risks. Most well known restaurants in El Salvador serve safe food and beverages, but lettuce, cabbage, and other uncooked ground vegetables should not be eaten, as there is a very high risk of bacterial dysentery and parasitic infection from these food items. As in any part of the world, common sense must prevail. Hot food should be eaten hot and cold food should be eaten cold. Meat, pork, and chicken should be well cooked. Bottled drinks are considered safe. Tap water is not potable. Commercially available water bottled in El Salvador from the Agua Cristal plant has been judged safe for consumption, but be sure the heat-molded seal on the bottleneck has not been broken. Freezing does not make water safe. Avoid ice cubes unless you know they have been made from potable water. All the reputable restaurants in El Salvador use ice made from bottled water and it is considered safe. Contrary to notices occasionally posted in some hotels, water from spigots and other non-bottled sources is not safe to drink. Insect repellent should be used liberally when outdoors. There has been a sharp rise in the occurrence of dengue fever in Central America.
Yellow Fever Immigration Requirement for El Salvador Entry/Exit
All Salvadorans or foreigners traveling to, or from, the African continent, or certain countries in South America must have proof of vaccination against Yellow Fever. The vaccination must have occurred 10 days prior to the exit from, or entry to, El Salvador. Travelers going to, or coming from, the following countries/regions will be affected: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela and the continent of Africa. The requirement does not affect travelers who are transiting El Salvador. The U.S. Embassy encourages all travelers to ensure they meet all immigration requirements before traveling. For further information on the requirement, please contact the Salvadoran Immigration Office:
Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME)
Centro de Gobierno. 9ª Calle Poniente / 15 Avenida Norte (Alameda Juan Pablo II)
Edifico Ministerio de Gobernación, San Salvador, El Salvador
Tel.: (503) 2526-3000.
For further information on vaccinations in El Salvador, please contact the Ministry of Health:
Ministerio de Salud Pública y Asistencia Social de El Salvador
Calle Arce # 827, San Salvador, El Salvador
Tel.: (503) 2221-1001 or (503) 2205-7219
For further information on Yellow Fever, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at:
U.S. airlines with international flights to El Salvador include: American Airlines, Continental, and Delta. The Central American airline TACA has direct flights to and from the main cities in the U.S.
A visa is not required for ordinary U.S. passport holders. The passport must be valid for at least six months. A tourist card, available for $10.00, is issued at the airport. Official and diplomatic passport holders are exempt. For non-U.S. passport holders, please consult the following web page:
You may find the visa requirements by country of origin at:
The departure fee is $34.86 which is included in the airline ticket price. Travelers leaving by land do not pay exit taxes.
U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should allow sufficient time for visa issuance if required. Visa applicants should go to the following links:
State Department Visa Website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html
U.S. Embassy in El Salvador - Consular Section Website: http://sansalvador.usembassy.gov/visas.html
Customs may authorize temporary entry of foreign merchandise with temporary or partial suspension of duties for specific purposes under the condition that they are re-exported within the time authorized and without any modification.
Those who plan to live and work in El Salvador for an extended period will need to obtain temporary residency, renewed periodically depending on the amount of time granted in the residency permit. Under Article 11 of the Investment Law, foreign investors with investments equal to or more than 4,000 minimum monthly wages, have the right to receive "Investor's Residence" permitting them to work and stay in the country. Such residency can be requested within 30 days after the investment has been registered. The residency permit covers the investor and his family and is issued for one year, subject to extension on a yearly basis. There are few restrictions on the professional and technical jobs that can be held by foreigners.
American investors seeking permanent residence in El Salvador or interested in a multiple visa, please review requirements and fees at the Investment National Office (ONI) of the Ministry of Economy, website:
Staying in and around San Salvador
Money and Banking
ATM machines can be found everywhere in San Salvador, allowing travelers with a variety of credit or debit cards to withdraw funds automatically in local currency. Although usually accepted at most hotels, traveler checks are often refused by business establishments and can be difficult or expensive to change at banks. So, be sure to bring an ATM card. For security reasons, do not take a cab right after withdrawing money from an ATM. Banks open Mon-Fri 9 am and close around 4 pm. Some banks provide service on Saturdays.
Personal Security Precautions
El Salvador is a critical threat crime post. The murder rate is 54 per 100,000 inhabitants, which is five times higher than the highest murder rate in any U.S. city. Homicides, rapes and armed robberies are common, everyday occurrences. Firearms of all types (military assault rifles, handguns, and hand grenades) are plentiful. It is not unusual for private citizens to carry concealed weapons. Gang activity is also a significant problem. 16,000 (3,000 incarcerated) gang members reside in El Salvador, many are 14 years of age or younger and use firearms or edged weapons when perpetrating crimes.
What You Need to Know
Do not walk, jog, or run on the streets or sidewalks around your hotel. Use the hotel's gymnasium for physical exercise.
Take radio dispatched taxis from your hotel to restaurants, clubs, shopping malls, etc. Do not walk to these locations. The key is to minimize your exposure on public streets to the maximum extent possible. Avoid visiting markets downtown in search of “deals.” Several excellent and well-protected shopping areas are located on the West Side of the city. Beware of gang members in and around Zona Rosa and youths attempting to speak to you. Many of the ones that speak English are (criminal) deportees from the US.
El Salvador has a solid selection of international class business hotels. Many U.S. chains are present in country offering the same level of comfort and service as their hotels offer in the United States. Many categories of hotels are available throughout the country.
For a list of most used business hotels in San Salvador and other cities in El Salvador, please contact the U.S. Commercial Service. A more comprehensive list of hotels in San Salvador can be found at the Ministry of Tourism web page: http://www.elsalvador.travel/
Most hotels offer airport shuttle services for their guests, at rates ranging between $25 - $45 per one-way trip. Visitors commonly drive rental cars and a U.S. driver's license is valid for 60 days. Taxicab services normally provided within the perimeter of deluxe hotels are reliable. Public transit bus service is not recommended.
Salvadoran business relationships and meetings are, at first, formal. A suit and tie are appropriate for most business meetings. Expect to shake hands before and after your meeting, and do not use a person's first name until a relationship has been solidified. Salvadorans commonly use titles such as Licenciado (meaning a college graduate), Ingeniero (engineering graduate), or Doctor (used both for physicians and lawyers). These are followed by the person's last name.
El Salvador tends to be very much a business card society and it is important upon first meeting someone to exchange business cards with him or her. It is a good idea to have a supply of business cards printed in Spanish.
Breakfast meetings are common and begin about 7:30 a.m. Lunches and dinners can become lengthy affairs (2-3 hours); so do not plan too tight a schedule around them. Dinner starts late by U.S. standards, frequently at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. Lunch is usually at 12:30 p.m.
Please visit the Salvadoran Restaurant Association list of restaurants with a wide variety of international and national food options: http://www.restaurantesdeelsalvador.com/
Listed below are the web page addresses of newspapers containing news on El Salvador and Central America:
Other Travel Resources
Ministry of Tourism in El Salvador (MITUR)
Ministry of Foreign Relations
Salvadoran Hotels Association
Salvadoran Restaurants Association
Investment National Office (ONI)
Salvadoran Immigration Office
You may also request information via e-mail from Global Markets San Salvador: email@example.com
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