San Salvador - Post Report Question and Answers

Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Recently the RSO lifted all travel restrictions within the country and then the crime rates have dropped dramatically. It's still important to be aware of your surroundings, etc, like anywhere else. - Oct 2023

San Salvador is rated as critical threat for crime. Most of the places expats go, and the neighborhoods where they live, are pretty safe, and Embassy security does a good job patrolling Embassy housing. Nevertheless, violent gangs control a huge swath of the country. They don’t typically target expats, but it would definitely be possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pay attention to your surroundings, follow RSO guidelines (especially the travel policy), and be smart about what you carry on you (don’t flash anything, don’t carry anything you’re not willing to lose). - Feb 2022

There are a lot of gangs in El Salvador. However, that being said, they do not seem to impact the Embassy Community or upper middle class. They call it a bubble. While you do not go by yourself to downtown San Salvador or take roads you are unfamiliar with, you can pretty much drive to most places you want to go, i.e., the beaches, the lakes, the volcanoes, the malls and restaurants. Frankly, while I take precautions, I feel like there are more security concerns in DC or NY. I will say this as well, I have dropped my watch at the PriceSmart and left my expensive water bottle at the grocery store. Both times they were with customer service when I went back. - Aug 2021

Yes. It is rated a critical threat crime post, but rarely have there been any problems for embassy community. I heard of one guy who was robbed while he walked down the street. I also heard of another who was hiking and got his phone ripped off. The embassy guards patrol the housing areas constantly. We are told about areas we cannot go, but it does not affect our life at post. - Jun 2018

Yes, gang violence is a problem and you need to be aware of where you are driving. That said, we have traveled all over the country by car and have rarely felt unsafe. However, you will see plenty of armed guards which unfortunately becomes part of life here. - Mar 2018

Yes, gang activity does exist, but for the most part it does not affect the day to day lives of USG employees. Take the same precautions you would in any major city. - Jan 2018

Being in the wrong area at the wrong time can be extremely dangerous. The area where we spend out days is very safe. - Nov 2017

Yes. It's mostly gang-related and USG personnel are not targeted, but a lot of "random" crime does affect us. Plus, it affects our Embassy colleagues, our domestic staff, and more. This is not a post where you can walk around or just spontaneously explore -- much has to be planned. - Jul 2016

Short answer: yes. Long answer: it is very complicated. El Salvador will have the highest murder rate in the world (excluding active war zones) in 2015. Criminal violence, especially gang-related, is a serious problem in the entire country, and is by far the hardest/most difficult part of living here. There are multiple areas of the city that are entirely off-limits at all times. Within the diplomatic bubble, we aren't really directly affected by it as much (the gangs aren't looking to pick a fight with the USG). Yes, we can't just go for a walk at night, but then again, the roads (and drivers) here are completely pedestrian unfriendly anyway so it's kind of a moot point. We follow our security advice and feel safe here. The hardest part is that the violence affects everyone else in the country so much more. So while we feel safe, our gardener and nanny do have to worry about it as it directly affects their communities. - Dec 2015

Yes. El Salvador is rated critical for crime. Gangs and violence are a terrible problem here and the country recently became the most murderous in the world. However, living where we do we do not see the violence. It is a concern but not one I see evidence of in my day-to-day life. This is good but sad- it is definitely the normal life for many locals but we do not see it. - Jun 2015

Yes. This is a critical crime post though honestly it rarely impacts us. Overall, just be smart and stay out of the gang areas. Several folks walk to work and feel fine. - Mar 2015

Yes many. El Salvador is a very high crime post. The RSO warns us often about restricted areas, and gangs and crime are a very real thing. That being said, I just followed the RSO advice and never had problems. I stuck to places where it was safe to go and walk, would not wear expensive jewelry in public, and did not go to the restricted neighborhoods. During festivals and events with lots of people standing close together, many Americans got pick pocketed. You just have to be vigilant. - Oct 2014

Yes, major. - Jul 2014

ES is one of the most dangerous countries on earth due to ongoing gang activity and drug trafficking. There were 4308 murders in 2011. Though this is unlikely to affect you directly as an expat, unless you are running narcotics, it casts a pale over the country's psyche that, to be brief, sucks incredibly. - Apr 2012

You will never forget that you are living in a high security threat country. It will affect every aspect of your life. - Jul 2011

El Salvador is a critical crime post, and is often listed among the murder capitals of the world. There are frequent muggings, and most cars are missing their spare tires and brand emblems. The busses are a definite no-go zone, as are about 10 or 15 other towns and villages due to being gang strongholds. Homes have electrified razor wire atop 10-foot-high walls. The insane drivers could also get you killed. All that being said, I do not feel unsafe here. If you do get mugged and give people what they want, you will walk away from it. There have been a few attempts by inmates to call and extort some embassy staff members, but the security section handles them well. While you do have to be vigilant, keep an eye on your purse, avoid the ganglands, don't drive around with the windows down or leave anything visible in your car, I feel safer living here than I did for the 5 years I lived in New Orleans. There is incalculable violence going on between the gangs, but they're mostly too busy killing each other to bother with you. - May 2010

This is a high-threat crime post. However, we've never had serious problems. There are parts of the city that most ex-pats won't travel into, although my family has walked the streets of just about every part of the city without problems. Most of the problems are gang related and the violence and murders occurs within gangs. As a trend, tourists are not generally targeted for violent attacks, but you have to watch for things like car break ins, pick pockets or muggings. We travel outside the city and feel very comfortable. Sometimes there have been problems on the road between San Salvador and Guatemala City, but we have made the trip four or five times and never had any trouble there either. If you are alert and careful about where you go and when, you can enjoy San Salvador without unnecessary stress. - Feb 2009

Subscribe to our newsletter

New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More