Overland El Salvador Travel
Pan American Highway > El Salvador
Currency to display:
- 1 Visiting El Salvador
- 2 Entering El Salvador with a Car or Motorbike
- 3 Driving in El Salvador
- 4 Gas and Diesel price in El Salvador
- 5 Safety and Security Considerations
- 6 Camping in El Salvador
- 7 Navigation
- 8 Special Overland Travel interests
- 9 Vehicle Maintenance
- 10 Buy or sell a car or motorbike in El Salvador
- 11 References
- 12 Helpful External links
Visiting El Salvador
Give a brief overview of what it's like to visit. How easy is the border, how safe is the country, are there great things to see and do, etc.
Entering El Salvador with a Car or Motorbike
Correct as of: September 2014
(To check if you need a travel Visa for El Salvador, application instructions and fees see: El Salvador Visa online application at VisaHQ.com)
- Passport of registered owner (original and 1 copy).
- Vehicle registration (original and 1 copy).
- Drivers license of registered owner (original and 1 copy).
Process at border
- The owner of the vehicle gains entry at immigration (migración), including a stamp in their Passport.
- The owner must show the new passport stamp , drivers license and the original vehicle registration to customs (aduana).(Plus photocopies of each).
- The owner is issued a temporary import permit for the vehicle.
- Must purchase FONAT card ("Fundo Nacional de Accidentes de Transito"). Receipt and 'insurance' card are provided.
- Detailed instructions including GPS POI's, office locations and pictures can be seen here: Guatemala to El Salvador – Valle Nuevo / Chinamas border crossing
NOTE: You will encounter pushy locals offering to help you with paperwork to get across the border. See Border Crossing Helpers for advice.
Cost of entry
- Cost of mandatory FONAT card: $10.00 USD for 30 days. Longer is available.
- La Hachadura border: $5.00 USD for community road improvements (possible scam, but police would not let us go without paying. Receipt provided)
- We crossed at El Poy in Aug 2014 and it was for free!
Permitted length of stay
90 days. El Salvador is part of the CA-4 Border control agreement. This agreement grants travel between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua for a TOTAL of 90-days. The number of days remaining on your CA4 is written in your passport as you travel from country to country. The 90-day limit begins when you enter any country that is part of the CA4 agreement. To avoid penalty and fines, Exit the CA4 countries and enter into Costa Rica or Mexico/Belize before the 90-days limit expires.
Extension of stay
Describe the process to extend the permitted length of entry for the vehicle, if possible.
Storing a vehicle and temporarily leaving the country
Describe if/how a vehicle can be stored, and for how long.
Also mention if the owner / temporary importer can leave the country while the vehicle is in storage.
Exiting with a vehicle
- The registered owner presents the temporary import paper to customs.
- The registered owner is stamped out of El Salvador at immigration.
Driving in El Salvador
Recommended books for Overlanding in El Salvador
Insurance is not required. However as of May 2013, you must purchase a FONAT card, "Fondo Nacional de Accidentes de Transito". A government fund created to support the victims of accidents and fund safer roads.
Cost of insurance
$10.00 USD for 30 days. Longer is available.
Where to purchase insurance
Office near Customs ('Aduana').
Technically an International Driving Permit is required.
In reality, showing a license from anywhere in the world seems to be good enough.
Driving side of road
Right hand drive vehicles are NOT permitted without a SPECIAL PERMIT.
This permit takes about a month to process, so will need to be arranged in advance. Many people driving RHD vehicles get help with this from a 4x4 club within El Salvador, or they completely bypass El Salvador.
Here is a blog post from Jan 2014 of Overlanders who got the permit to drive into El Salvador with a RHD vehicle: El Salvador Bordercrossing With Dog and Foreign Car
This discussion on expeditionportal.com also has some details.
Mandatory items in vehicle
General Road quality
Roads in El Salvador vary greatly. The Pan American is paved and good quality for the length of the country, as are most other highways. Lesser roads are gravel and can be very bumpy and rutted.
Road signs are uncommon, and can not be relied upon.
Bribery in El Salvador
Police bribery is relatively common in El Salvador, so you should expect it to happen. See the bribery tips page for advice.
Police checkpoints are not very common in El Salvador. You'll primarily be asked to show your Passport, Vehicle registration, drivers license, FONAT card, and the temporary import permit you were issued at the border.
Traveling with pets
According to travelers in 2012, you need: 
Travelers in 2013 wrote this when traveling from Guatemala to El Salvador. They had to pay $9.00 USD for a dog permit and show the vaccines, that's it.
- A Health Certificate for the animal in Spanish (updated at least every four months)
- A vaccination record (the European Pet Passport works well)
You might not be asked for either one, but you should have them ready.
Gas and Diesel price in El Salvador
Last updated: April 2012 (September 2013)
Currency and unit to display:
|Premium (95)||$4.89 USD per Gallon (US)|
|Normal Diesel||$1.11 USD per Liter|
|Diesel (low sulfur)||??|
Gas and Diesel Availability / Frequency
Gasoline is common, shortages are not a problem.
Gas and Diesel Quality
Safety and Security Considerations
Driving at night
Driving at night is absolutely not recommended in El Salvador, due to safety considerations.
Find a secure parking lot to park for any length of time. Price unknown.
Special driving considerations
Security advisories and information
- Country Specific Information - U.S. Department of State
- Travel Reports and Warnings - Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
- Travel advice by country - Foreign and Commonwealth office (U.K.)
- Travel Advice for El Salvador - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Camping in El Salvador
Camping is popular in El Salvador anywhere along the ocean but not very popular inland. Roadside camping is generally not recommended.
Camping guide books
Tap water in El Salvador is not safe to drink.
Reise Know-How are amoung the best paper maps. Purchase paper maps before arriving in El Salvador
Purchase maps before arriving, good ones are very difficult to find in El Salvador.
GPS Maps of El Salvador
- Open Street Map: Appears to have good coverage.
- Cenrut: Free Open Source GPS map of Central America. 
- Garmin: Apparently no map of El Salvador.
- TomTom: No map of El Salvador. 
GPS co-ordinates for camping, propane, gas, repairs, etc. in El Salvador
- Places in El Salvador - Camping Places & Sights in El Salvador from Pawsontour
- El Salvador Campgrounds and Hotels - Life Remotely - List of campgrounds and hostels with photos, GPS co-ordinates, descriptions and amenities from 2012]
- Camping Sites: El Salvador - Detailed list of campsites and propane filling with description, directions and GPS co-ordinates. Some at hotels (lists facilities and price), some roadside and free.
- Central America Camping Locations - List of campsites, with basic directions and GPS co-ordinates. Mostly free sites.
- Camping Log 1: Central America - List of campsites, shopping, fuel, propane and border crossings with excellent descriptions and GPS co-ordinates.
- White Acorn camping log page - GPS co-ordinates and excellent description of campsites]
Special Overland Travel interests
4x4s / Trucks
- Toyota Global Dealer Locator
- Land Rover International Dealer Locator
- Mercedes Benz International (select country on bottom right)
- Jeep International site locator
Add known good mechanics here.
Buy or sell a car or motorbike in El Salvador
Describe how a foreigner can buy a vehicle. List any difficulties or limitations on where the vehicle can be driven.
Describe how a foreigner can sell a foreign-plated vehicle, or list not possible.'
- Central American Borders and dogs
- Traveling with dogs from Canada to Argentina. Experiences and Infos.
- OpenStreetMap El Salvador
- Cenrut Mapping Project
- TomTom Map availability
- El Salvador: Visa and Passport requirements | World Travel Guide
- Health Information for Travelers to El Salvador - Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- El Salvador travel guides at wikivoyage
- El Salvador - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- El Salvador Overland | Overland Sphere Overland travelers currently in El Salvador