In El Salvador, education is free and compulsory up to the 9th grade or age 14. Despite this, El Salvador has a low school attendance rate. Like many other countries in Latin America, the country faces issues with poor quality education in the public schooling sector and widespread poverty, which affects many children’s ability to travel to school. According to the country’s latest figures, 6% of children never attend any school and the adult literacy rate currently stands at around 75%.
Paid secondary school in El Salvador continues for a further two years after 9th grade. At the end of secondary education, students receive a qualification called a general bachelor’s degree, which is the equivalent of an American high school diploma and allows students to go on to study at one of the country’s universities, such as the Universidad de El Salvador. Alternatively, many students go on to receive vocational training at the Salvadorian Vocational Training Institute.
Many expats prefer to enroll their children at one of the country’s international schools. These multinational establishments are mostly attended by the children of diplomats and non-governmental organization workers. The international schools are private and offer an extremely high standard of English speaking education, with top quality facilities and teaching services.
Transportation in El Salvador is of an adequate standard. The road system consists of roughly 10,000 km of roads and one passenger rail network. The majority of roads in the country are paved and in good condition, however, some roads can be rugged and unsafe, particularly in more rural areas. Roads are rarely clearly signed in El Salvador and in addition to this, traffic safety laws are not regularly enforced. These issues make navigating the streets of El Salvador quite challenging, especially for foreigners who have relocated to the country.
El Salvador was one of the first nations to introduce a smart card based driving license, which is the system that is currently in place. International driver’s permits are also accepted. Public transportation in the country is regular and reliable. A vast selection of brightly colored, former American school buses runs frequently to destinations all across El Salvador. The bus service is extremely affordable and easy to use and typically runs between 04:00 and 19:00.
El Salvador is widely considered to be one of the most violent countries in the world. The nation has a critically high crime and violence rate, and there is a worldwide travel warning on El Salvador regarding the many challenges and safety concerns that overseas visitors may face. The crime problems in the country are largely gang related; public shootouts and homicide are very common in the country.
There is no evidence to suggest that expats are more at risk of being victims of crime than anyone else, although foreigners should take extra precaution to avoid wearing expensive jewelry, leaving valuable items on display or unknowingly entering gang controlled territory. The main areas that expats should avoid, especially at night, are downtown San Salvador and the roads on the outskirts of remote towns. Some of the most frequent serious crimes in the country include extortion, armed robbery, home invasion and carjacking. Many people are also followed from ATM machines and robbed after making cash withdrawal. In case of an emergency, the number for the police is 911.