EL SALVADOR

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Country Description: El Salvador has a developing economy. Its tourism facilities are not fully developed. Credit cards are widely accepted.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A U.S. passport and a one-entry tourist card are required. The tourist card can be obtained for a fee from airlines serving El Salvador. Travelers who plan to remain in El Salvador more than 30 days, or who plan multiple visits, can apply for a multiple-entry visa, issued free of charge, from a Salvadoran consulate in the U.S. Travelers may be asked to present evidence of U.S. employment and adequate finances for their visit at the time of visa application or upon arrival in El Salvador. For additional information, travelers may contact the Embassy of El Salvador's Consular Section at 1010 16th Street, N.W., Third Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036, tel. (202) 331-4032, or the nearest consulate in Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans, Miami, New York or Chicago.

Crime and Security Information: Violent as well as petty crimes are prevalent throughout El Salvador. U.S. citizens are often victims. Visitors should avoid carrying valuables in public places. Armed assaults and carjackings take place both in San Salvador, the capital, and in the interior of the country, but are especially frequent on roads outside the capital where police patrols are infrequent. Criminals have been known to follow travelers from the international airports to private residences, where they carry out assaults and robberies. Criminals often become violent quickly, especially when victims fail to cooperate immediately in surrendering valuables. Frequently, victims who argue with assailants or refuse to give up their valuables are shot.

The Peace Accords signed in 1992 between the government of El Salvador and the FMLN ended the war in El Salvador. Areas formerly considered conflictive zones or zones of concentration for demobilizing guerrillas are now open for travel. The U.S. Embassy, however, warns its personnel to drive with their doors locked and windows raised; to avoid travel after dark; and to avoid travel on unpaved roads at all times because of random banditry, carjackings, criminal assaults and lack of police and road service facilities. Most fatal accidents or robberies and assaults occur during the evening or early morning hours. Travelers with conspicuous amounts of luggage, late-model cars and foreign license plates are particularly vulnerable, even in the capital. Many Salvadorans are armed, and shootouts are not infrequent. Travelers, however, may not carry guns, even for their own protection, without first procuring from Salvadoran officials a firearm license. Failure to do so will result in detention and confiscation of the traveler's firearm, even if it is licensed in the U.S.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad." This publication and others, such as "Tips for Travelers to Central and South America," are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

Medical Information: Medical care is limited. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. In some cases, medical insurance with specific overseas coverage may prove useful. Most hospitals accept credit cards for hospital charges, but not for doctors' fees. For information on health conditions and precautions, travelers may contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international hotline at (404) 332-4559.

Drug Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties in El Salvador for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: Road conditions throughout the country are not up to U.S. standards. Mini-bus, bus and taxi drivers who provide private transportation generally do not adhere to traffic rules and regulations. Large segments of the national road grid are presently under repair, creating difficult traffic situations. Further information on traffic and road conditions can be secured from the Automobile Club de El Salvador, tel. 011 (503) 221-0557.

Other Information: The Salvadoran constitution prohibits foreigners from participating in domestic political activities, including public demonstrations. The government of El Salvador considers such involvement to be a violation of the participant's visa status.

Visitors to El Salvador should be alert to possible campaign activities by supporters of the various political parties during the election periods. Public debates can at times be heated and emotianally charged. Although violence between political parties is at present almost non-existent, the possibility of violent confrontations in connection with campaign activities as elections near does exist. Visitors to El Salvador, therefore, are advised to avoid political campaign events and to immediately leave the area should they unwittingly find themselves in the midst of such an event.

Mine removal efforts have ended, but land mines and unexploded ammunition in back country regions still pose a threat to off-the-road tourists, backpackers and campers.

Aviation Oversight: In June 1995, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed El Salvador's civil aviation authority as in compliance with international aviation safety oversight standards for El Salvador's carriers operating to and from the U.S. The same level of safety oversight would typically be applied to operations to other destinations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation at 1-800-322-7873.

Registration/Embassy Location: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register and to obtain updated information on travel and security in El Salvador and neighboring countries from the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador. The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador is located at Final Boulevard Santa Elena, Urbanizacion Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, San Salvador, El Salvador, tel. 011 (503) 278-4444.

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