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Living in San Salvador

A comprehensive guide about living well in San Salvador

San Salvador is one of the most important cities in Central America, acting as a financial, political, educational and economic center for the region. It is the capital of El Salvador and was home to approximately 1.1 million in 2014. With this guide, you can get prepared for your new life in San Salvador!

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Life in San Salvador

Transportation in San Salvador

San Salvador is arguably the most important transport hub in Central America. El Salvador International Airport serves the city after it replaced Ilopango International Airport in 1980. The airport is located 40 km out of the city center and carries around two million passengers a year, making it one of the busiest airports in Central America. 

There is an extensive road network in San Salvador and compared to much of Central America the roads are in good condition. The CA-1 (Pan-American highway) passes through San Salvador and approximately 400,000 vehicles per day use the city’s road system. Taxis are yellow and charge depending on the destination rather than the amount of time a journey takes. 

In the works is the San Salvador Metropolitan Area Integrated System of Transportation, which will become the city’s main bus system when it is completed. A 50 million USD loan provided by the Inter-American Development Bank has helped to finance the scheme, which will see between 40 and 60 buses travel around the city center.

Rail links in San Salvador are not great but the city does have a line that runs from near the East Bus Station to the town of Apopa. The railway system in San Salvador is run by the National Railways of El Salvador and there are plans to build another line in the near future. 

Culture and Leisure 

San Salvador is the cultural capital of El Salvador and is, culturally, one of the most important cities in all of Central America. As the city is regularly hit by earthquakes due to its geographic location, few of the original Spanish colonial period structures remain in place. However, there are a lot of Gothic- and Modernist-style cathedrals in San Salvador that add to the city’s impressive architecture that is on show for expats living in Sab Salvador.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Savior, for example, is one of the most stunning buildings in Central America, housing the principal church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Salvador, as well as the seat of the Archbishop of San Salvador.

Other important cultural sites in San Salvador include the Teatro Nacional de El Salvador, which is the oldest theater in Central America and was designed by the French architect Daniel Beylard. Expats living in San Salvador should also check out the various parks and plazas such as La Plaza Gerardo Barrios and Plaza Libertad — the location of the Monumento de los Héroes — during their time in the city.

In terms of sports, San Salvador is home to the largest soccer venue in Central America in the form of the 45,000-capacity Estadio Cuscatlán, while soccer teams Alianza F.C., C.D. Atlético Marte, and C.D. Universidad de El Salvador all play in the top El Salvador league. 

Last but not least, Museo Nacional de Antropología de El Salvador and Museo de Arte de El Salvador are two of the most important museums in the city of San Salvador, while children’s museum the Tin Marín Museo de los Niños is also a popular spot, with more than 25 different exhibits. 

Safety and Security in San Salvador 

Unfortunately, El Salvador is regarded as one of the most dangerous countries in the world and there are many gangs in operation in the capital city of San Salvador. However, it is rare for foreigners living in San Salvador to be specifically targeted for violent criminal activity.

The number of homicides in the city has been falling for the last couple of years, but expats should still be on their guard. Few areas of San Salvador are thought to be completely safe, but neighborhoods east of town, like Soyapango, Mejicanos and Apopa, are among the worst for crime rates.

Data shows that San Salvador has been rated as the 27th most violent city in the world due to having 44 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants — a rate comparable to Detroit and New Orleans in the US.

Disappearances are relatively common in San Salvador and the number of missing persons has been rising in recent years, while rape is also a serious threat in the city. 

Extortion and corruption are both widespread across San Salvador and the whole country, while burglaries and armed robberies are relatively common. Another crime to be on the rise in San Salvador is credit card skimming, which expats living in San Salvador should be on the lookout for whenever they visit local bars or restaurants.

Public transport can be dangerous and some of the roads are in poor condition, too, leading to a lot of traffic accidents. Many vehicles that use the San Salvador road system are old and dangerous, while gangs often target inter-city and international buses. For these reasons, expatriates moving to San Salvador ought to avoid wearing expensive jewelry and displaying valuable items.

Expats living in San Salvador should also be aware that the city is located in an active seismic subduction zone, with a major earthquake hitting El Salvador around once every ten years on average. Tremors measuring over 5.0 are relatively regular, with about 2,000 tremors affecting the country per year. Significant tropical storms and hurricanes may also affect El Salvador. 

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: July 30, 2015
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