The US State Department issued a new travel warning regarding travel to El Salvador this week. The warning deals with the general level of crime and violence in many areas of the country.
Here are the points in the travel warning:
- Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit El Salvador each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work. However, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country.
- U.S. citizens do not appear to be targeted based on their nationality. However, 22 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador since January 2010.
- A majority of serious crimes are never solved; only five of the 22 murders committed against U.S. citizens since January 2010 have resulted in convictions.
- Transnational criminal organizations conduct narcotics, arms trafficking, and other unlawful activities throughout the country and use violence to control drug trafficking routes and carry out other criminal activity.
- Extortion is a particularly serious and common crime in El Salvador.
- U.S. citizens should be vigilant of their surroundings at all times, especially when entering or exiting their homes or hotels, cars, garages, schools, and workplaces.
- The location and timing of criminal activity is unpredictable. We recommend that all travelers exercise caution when traveling anywhere in El Salvador.
The advice in the travel warning is generally prudent for El Salvador. Don't walk alone after dark. Don't display jewelry, valuables, or large quantities of cash in public places. Don't take public transport unless you know what you are doing. Be aware of your surroundings. Travel in groups.
I know this blog gets read by many people going on service or study trips to El Salvador. My basic advice to such groups is always -- listen to your Salvadoran friends. They know best the how to keep you safe. In a dozen years with many groups, we've never had a problem.
So don't let the State Department travel warning keep you from visiting El Salvador. With its wonderful people and beautiful scenery, you'll have an experience you will not soon forget.