El Salvador - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel
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Business Customs

El Salvador and the United States share strong business ties, providing Salvadorans a high level of comfort in doing business with U.S. companies. Much like in the rest of Latin America, in El Salvador, business is conducted after a relationship has been established. Spending time forming a personal connection before jumping into business discussions is highly recommended. Spanish is the official language in El Salvador.

The business dress code in El Salvador depends on the setting and the sector. A lightweight suit is the most appropriate attire for business meetings with business organizations or events, and business casual is acceptable for business-to-business meetings. Expect to shake hands before and after your meeting, and it’s best to wait to 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). The person’s last name follows these. Business cards are used and exchanging them during the first meeting is important. Breakfast meetings are common and begin around 7:30 a.m. Lunches and dinners can be lengthy (2-3 hours). Dinners start late by U.S. standards, frequently at 7:00 p.m. Lunch is usually at 12:30 p.m.

Travel Advisory 

For the most updated travel information, visit The Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which offers safety updates, travel advisories, and country-specific information.

Before traveling to El Salvador, you should consider enrolling in STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). STEP is a free service to allow U.S. citizens traveling abroad to register their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy.

The American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit does not handle visas or immigration information requests.

Please visit the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador website for information about ACS services. For information you cannot find on the website, please e-mail acssansal@state.gov. For after-hour emergencies, call (503) 2501-2999. This phone number is ONLY for emergency assistance directly affecting a U.S. Citizen in El Salvador. Examples of emergencies include child abduction, arrest, death, crime, and emergency financial assistance.

Safety and Security Information

For the most updated safety and security information, please visit the El Salvador Country Information page of the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website

Swimming: Strong undertows and currents make swimming at El Salvador’s Pacific Coast beaches hazardous, even for experienced swimmers. Government lifeguards are present at most public beaches and lakes, but private facilities often lack any lifeguards. Always obey any warning flags and the instructions of lifeguards. In addition, El Salvador’s search and rescue capabilities are limited, and access to medical resources in these areas is inadequate. Alcohol and watersports do not mix.

Protests: Public protests and strikes against the government are common. Most demonstrations concentrate in/around city centers or public buildings and other public areas. Although usually non-violent, these public displays sometimes create security problems and impede traffic and can develop into dangerous situations unpredictably.

Crime: In March 2022, the Government of El Salvador (GOES) declared a “State of Exception” in response to an increase in homicides. The declaration, which has succeeded in reducing violent crime, remains in effect. The State of Exception grants authorities’ power to arrest anyone suspected of gang activity and suspends several constitutional rights, including the normal protections of criminal procedure such as the right to a speedy trial. Prison conditions are harsh. Several U.S. and other foreign citizens have been detained under the State of Exception, some in a reportedly arbitrary manner. Under its Territorial Control Plan, the GOES also may, without prior warning, restrict access via checkpoints to areas suspected of gang activity. U.S. citizens are advised that access to and freedom of movement within these areas may be limited.

Though there has been a significant reduction in gang-related activity, violent crime remains a concern throughout significant portions of the country. Crime rates vary among departamentos (states) and municipios (municipalities), and areas witnessing higher crime rates are often located in close proximity to lower crime areas or must be crossed in moving between lower risk areas. Local authorities may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents, although the concentration of resources in resort areas means these areas tend to be better policed than urban areas.

Exercise caution at all times and practice reasonable personal security procedures throughout your stay.

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not walk outside after dark. Do not drive to unfamiliar and/or remote locations after dark.
  • Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
  • Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Engage local guides certified by the national or local tourist authority when hiking in back country areas.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Country Security Report for El Salvador.
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
  • Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel. 

Visa Requirements

Individuals entering El Salvador on U.S. diplomatic, official, or tourist passports are not required to obtain a Salvadoran visa before entering the country. However, holders of tourist passports should expect to pay a USD 12.00 fee at the port of entry. Official and diplomatic passport holders are exempt. 

Individuals possessing a passport from a country other than the United States should look up their country’s visa requirements to enter El Salvador.

Immigration, Customs, and Quarantine

Imports of certain high-caliber firearms are prohibited. Any exception to this rule must be approved in advance by the Salvadoran authorities. Weapons for personal defense or hunting may be imported but are strictly controlled by the police and Ministry of Defense, based on a special law.

The importation or possession of other firearms or ammunition while traveling to or while in El Salvador is prohibited. Travelers possessing firearms or ammunition are subject to arrest/detainment by Salvadoran authorities and local law. Approval to carry a gun on a flight from airlines departing the U.S. to El Salvador does not constitute approval from the Government of El Salvador to bear a firearm while in El Salvador.

The airport departure fee is included in the airline ticket price. Bearers of diplomatic passports are exempt from this departure fee. Travelers leaving by land do not pay exit taxes.

Visas to the United States

All Salvadoran nationals traveling to the United States must first obtain a U.S. visa. Visa applicants should go to the following link(s): State Department Visa Website.

In addition, some airlines may require travelers to have more than six months of validity left on their passport; therefore, the U.S. Embassy recommends that travelers with six months or less validity left on their passports renew their passports before traveling to the United States.

Interview Waiver for Non-Immigrant Applicants to the United States: The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador, has instituted Interview Waiver procedures until further notice for qualifying individuals renewing full validity B1/B2 visas within four years of the expiration date. This policy is designed to reduce wait times and facilitate the visa application process for proven travelers. Qualifying applicants may submit their documents through the Cargo Expreso courier service without the need to physically come to the Embassy. Applicants must not have had a visa refused after the original visa was issued and are reminded to provide any necessary legal documents if legal charges of any kind have been made against them.

Qualified applicants can make arrangements to submit their documents through the courier service via the website or the call center (2113-3122 or 2113-3130). All applicants, including those qualifying for an interview waiver, must still complete the online application (DS-160) and pay the visa fee (USD 185). Applicants qualifying for Interview Waiver are reminded that the Consular Officer maintains the right to call any applicant for a personal interview.


The legal currencies in El Salvador are the U.S. Dollar and Bitcoin. Credit cards are accepted by most stores and restaurants in the main cities, especially those in shopping centers. Visa is the most widely accepted brand, followed by Master Card and American Express. In most stores, you will be asked to show an ID when paying with a credit card.

ATMs are in shopping centers, major hotels, and convenience stores at gas stations and inside or outside banks.

There is a 13% Value Added Tax (IVA) on all purchases, which is included in most prices. A 10-12% tip is usually included in the invoice of restaurants. It is customary to leave a tip in cash if it is not included.


There are no government restrictions on access to the internet, which is available in public places throughout the country; Wi-Fi is available at international hotels, airports, popular restaurants, and business areas in the main cities – San Salvador, San Miguel, and Santa Ana. The postal service system does not meet international standards; however, many private courier services, such as DHL, FedEx, and UPS, operate in the market.

SIGET (Electricity and Communications Regulator) publishes a report with statistical information grouped by its main areas (landlines, mobile, internet, and costs).

Telecommunication companies that provide fixed phone line service:

  • CTE, S.A. de C.V.
  • El Salvador Network, S.A.
  • GCA Telecom, S.A. de C.V. (GCA)
  • Telecomunicaciones de America (TELECAM)
  • Telemovil El Salvador, S.A. (TIGO)
  • Digicel, S.A. de C.V.
  • General International Telecom de El Salvador
  • CTE Telecom Personal (CLARO)

Providers of Mobile service:

  • CTE Telecom Personal (CLARO)
  • Digicel, S.A. de C.V.
  • Telemovil El Salvador, S.A. (TIGO)
  • General International Telecom de El Salvador
  • Intelfon, S.A. de C.V. (RED)

Providers of cable and satellite service:

  • CTE Telecom Personal (CLARO)
  • Telemovil El Salvador, S.A. (TIGO)
  • SKY
  • Cable Color El Salvador, S.A. de C.V.

Mobile phone providers offer roaming services. To avoid high roaming charges, consider purchasing a pre-paid SIM card from major cell phone providers (Tigo, Movistar, Claro, and Digicel). An ID card or passport is required to buy a SIM card. There is 3G coverage in most of the country and 4G in the main cities.

Electrical plug/outlet and voltage (110-120 volts) are the same as in the U.S. The primary socket type is North American non-grounded.


U.S. airlines with international flights to El Salvador include American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta, Frontier, and Spirit. The Colombian airline Avianca has direct flights to and from main cities in the United States, and El Salvador serves as its regional hub. Low-cost airline Volaris also provides direct flights to/from the United States.

Most hotels offer airport shuttle services for their guests at rates ranging from USD 25 - USD 45 for a one-way trip. Taxi services, normally provided within the perimeter of deluxe hotels, are mostly reliable. Uber is available. Public transportation is not recommended. Renting a car in El Salvador is an option, however, car accidents are amongst the most common causes of serious injury. Avoid driving at night, plan alternative routes, and use seat belts.


Spanish is the official language. English is spoken in some business circles. Non-Spanish speaking business travelers should consider hiring an interpreter for meetings.


Travelers can check the latest health information with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. It provides 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, and Telephone: (202) 512-1800. You may also reach the CDC’s hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO.

Following are some helpful health tips while you are in El Salvador:

  • Most well-known restaurants in El Salvador serve safe food and beverages, but lettuce, cabbage, and other uncooked ground vegetables pose a risk of bacterial dysentery and parasitic infection.
  • As in any part of the world, one must use common sense. Hot food should be eaten hot and cold food should be eaten cold.
  • Meat, pork, and chicken should be cooked thoroughly.
  • Bottled drinks are considered safe. Tap water is not potable. Commercially available water bottled in El Salvador from the Agua Cristal, Alpina, and Las Perlitas plants is considered safe for consumption; however, be sure the heat-molded seal on the bottleneck has not been broken. 
  • All the reputable restaurants in El Salvador use ice made from filtered water, which is considered safe.
  • Insect repellent should be used liberally when outdoors. There has been a sharp rise in dengue fever, chikungunya, and zika in Central America. 

Yellow Fever Immigration Requirement for El Salvador Entry/Exit: All travelers going to or coming from some risk countries from Latin America and Africa  must show proof of vaccination against yellow fever. For an updated list of countries please visit: Ministry of Health. The vaccination must have occurred at least ten days before the exit/entry to El Salvador. The requirement does not affect travelers who are transiting through El Salvador. The U.S. Embassy encourages all travelers to ensure they meet all immigration requirements before traveling. For further information on the requirements, please contact the Salvadoran Immigration Office (DGME):

Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME) 

Centro de Gobierno. 9ª Calle Poniente y final 15 Avenida Norte 

Edificio Ministerio de Gobernación, Centro de Gobierno, San Salvador, El Salvador 

Tel.: (503) 2526-3000 or (503) 2213-7800 

E mail: atencion.usuarios@seguridad.gob.sv

Chikungunya, Dengue and Zika: Chikungunya, dengue and zika are present in El Salvador. Most common symptoms include fever, rash, severe headache, joint pain, and muscle or bone pain. Prevention is essential as there are no specific treatments for chikungunya or dengue, and vaccines are still unavailable. It is recommended to use repellents, cover exposed skin, and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms. The Aedes mosquitos that carry these illnesses are primarily day biting and often live in homes and hotel rooms, especially under beds, bathrooms, and closets. Malaria is now uncommon in El Salvador, but travelers to rural areas in the departments of Ahuachapán, Santa Ana, and La Unión should be aware of the potential for infection by Plasmodium vivax. For further information on yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Medical Services

Although many physicians in El Salvador are highly trained, hospital emergency rooms and clinics are generally not equipped and maintained to U.S. standards. Private hospitals are recommended and accept credit cards. A list of medical providers by specialty is maintained by the American Citizens Services Unit of the Embassy here, though the embassy does not guarantee any outcomes and cannot pay for services delivered by these providers. Travelers should arrange for medical insurance and evacuation before arrival.

For further information on vaccinations in El Salvador, please visit the CDC website. 

Local time, business hours, and holidays

Standard time zone: UTC/CMT –6 hours. El Salvador does not follow daylight savings time. 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.

Holidays observed in El Salvador 
January 1New Year’s Day
 March 24-31 (2024)Holy Week (Semana Santa)
May 1Labor Day
May 10                Mother’s Day
June 17 Father’s Day
August 3-6*Feast of San Salvador (Agostinos)
September 15Independence Day
November 2All Soul’s Day
December 25*    Christmas Day

* Salvadoran government offices remain closed for an entire week during Holy Week, Feast of San Salvador Holidays (early August), and between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Many offices are closed from December 15 to the end of the first week in January. U.S. firms should not visit the country for business purposes during these periods. Image removed.


The climate in San Salvador is suitable for summer clothing year-round, with an occasional need for a sweater in the evening in December and January. The climate is tropical, rainy season (May to October) and a dry season (November to April).

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings

Customs may authorize temporary entry of foreign merchandise with a temporary or partial suspension of duties for specific purposes under the condition that they are re-exported within the time allowed 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 of registering the investment. The residency permit covers the investor and family and is issued for one year, subject to an extension every year. There are few restrictions on the professional and technical jobs that foreigners can hold.

American investors seeking permanent residence in El Salvador or interested in a multiple entry visa should review the requirements and fees at the DGME (General Directorate for Migration and Foreigners).