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: August 2019
(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).
- A signed duplicate of the Guatemalan TIP, if going south. The official on the Guatemalan side must provide it. Possibly the same in the opposite direction.
- An "exit receipt", a stamped piece of paper provided when stamped out by Immigration on the other side.
Process at border
The process is very simple as you'll always be entering from another CA-4 country.
- The owner must provide copies of drivers license, vehicle registration, passport, and the previous TIP to Customs ("aduana"). They will probably ask for the originals, and conversely, if you're lucky they'll make a copy of the previous TIP for you.
- The owner is issued a temporary import permit for the vehicle.
- Everyone gains entry at immigration (migración). Many nations will not get an entry stamp.
- Finally, you show passports and the "exit receipts" from the other country to the officer at the exit of the border area.
- Detailed instructions including GPS POI's, office locations and pictures can be seen here: Guatemala to El Salvador – Valle Nuevo / Chinamas border crossing
- Our experience of crossing from Honduras to El Salvador at El Poy on 17th May 2016 with a motorcycle. Includes GPS coordinates and photos. http://www.tiger800rtw.com/?p=1298
NOTE: You may encounter pushy locals offering to help you with paperwork to get across the border. See Border Crossing Helpers for advice.
Cost of entry
Free, unless you need to make some photocopies of documents, which cost very little. The below are scams, which, however, you may have to pay regardless.
- 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!
- Same for us. Honduras to El Salvador at El Poy on 17th May 2016 with a motorcycle. No fees. No idea what a FONAT card is and no one tried to sell me one. No helpers at this border. Details of our crossing here http://www.tiger800rtw.com/?p=1298
- We crossed in Las Chinamas from Guatemala with car and it was all for free (6th of March 2020)
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 CA-4 may be written in your passport as you travel from country to country, depending on your nationality. You can always tell how many days you have left by checking the entry stamp in your passport of the first country constituting a part of the CA-4 agreement. To avoid penalty and fines, exit the CA-4 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
The vehicle can be stored for 6months with possible extension of 6months more. There is no problem leaving the country even with vehicle TIP active.
For storage permit, head to Dirección general de aduanas, Aduana Terrestre. km. 11 ½ carretera panamerica fte. a fabrica iusa san bartolo, ilopango, San Salvador. 13.704725, -89.099950 coordinates for the entrance of main building
- Submit a letter (Escrito) stating reasons for storage (in spanish) in Área de Correspondencia
You have to indicate the adress where you gonna store it. It was advised by the locals not to leave it in customs parking due to safety reasons.
- After you recieve resolution (minimum 10 working days),You have to be there in person to recieve the storage document and sign it.
When you enter the country you import the vehicle, this document exports it.
- Before entering customs area, they will close existing TIP
- You have to show the vehicle to compare vin number and draw up acceptance act.
- You have to go to bank (which is in the same building) and pay processing fee 18usd,
but you have to take a local with NIT number otherwise they cannot process payment.
Advise would be hiring a lawyer from the begininng, especially if you dont speak spanish very well.
UPDATE OCT. 2021: We also followed this process to store our vehicle for 2 months in El Salvador. We acquired the permit in more or less the same way as described above, at the helpful (no joke) Aduana Terrestre in Ilopango. We didn't need a person with a NIT, nor did we need to pay anything on receiving the resolution. The request took about 20 days to be approved, with continuous follow-up every few days. In the end we went to the office in person to get them to sign the papers on the last possible day before our flight. The process for leaving El Salvador was a bit unclear to us from the resolution, so when we got back to El Salvador we sent a message to the aduana in Ilopango to check. They said nothing had to be done and we could drive the car out of El Salvador. However, at the exit border of El Salvador to Honduras, the aduana said we didn't use the resolution correctly and we had to go through another process of first importing the car (18 dollars), then exporting the car (18 dollars) and signing a paper mentioning we misunderstood the correct process. Took 6 hours, and a fine of 50 dollars.
In hindsight we think it's best to go to Ilopango when you want exit El Salvador, to close the resolution and get some kind of approval from them, to prevent problems at the exit border.
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
Travel insurance for El Salvador
Vehicle insurance requirements
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 LETTER.
This letter takes 3-7 days to get from Jose at the Land Rover club, contact him through this Facbook page El Salvador Land Rover Club on Facebook. With this letter, entry at the border will be no problem. In 2015, 2 Indian men had an RHD Toyota Fortuner and they had to get it towed from the Honduran border to the Guatemalan border.
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 2017
Currency and unit to display:
|Regular||$2.75 USD per Gallon (US)|
|Premium (95)||$2.95 USD per Gallon (US)|
|Normal Diesel||$2.51 USD per Gallon (US)|
|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.
If necessary, consider parking at a truck stop, or with big trucks parked along the highway, an impromptu wagon circle.
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
- iOverlander is a website and iPhone application designed by Overlanders, for Overlanders. It contains GPS co-ordinates and reviews for camping, hotels, propane, water, mechanics, borders and much more.
- 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