Guide to Driving In El Salvador - Drive Safe in El Salvador

Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in El Salvador?

Driving in El Salvador

El Salvador is heading out on the tourism trail after years on internal conflict. 

With the help of international funding, the country's infrastructure has improved greatly and it's becoming a popular destination with Americans. 

The cities have much colonial history and outside of them the countryside is spectacular and unspoilt but requires a 4 x 4 for safe access. 

Driving Laws

Seat Belt Laws

Everyone in the front seats of a moving vehicle in El Salvador must wear a seat belt by law. Where belts are fitted in the rear, we recommend that you should use them for your safety.

Drinking and Driving

In El Salvador, the maximum permitted blood alcohol level is 50mg per 100ml; less than that allowed in the UK. This means that even one drink can take you over the limit so our advice is not to get behind the wheel if you’ve had any alcohol.

Must Have Documents

You will need to have your driving licence plus an international driving licence, the car’s registration documents and proof of at least third party insurance.  If UK or US travellers intend to stay more than 30 days they will need to obtain a Salvadoran driving licence.

Speed Limits

The speed limits for El Salvador are as follows:
Open roads:   90 km/h
In Town:        variable up to 50 km/h 

Minimum Driving Age

You have to be at least 18 to be able to drive in El Salvador. You cannot drive in El Salvador if you are over 75. If you're renting a car the minimum age is 21 and if you’re under 25 years old, you may need to pay an excess for your age.

Safety Camera Warning Devices

Speed limits are low in El Salvador because of the poor conditions of the roads. Speed camera detectors are not illegal but you should consider whether it’s safer to stick below the limit rather than avoid detection for exceeding it.

On the Spot Fines

On the spot fines in El Salvador simply mean that you’ll be given notification of the offence you’ve committed along with the penalty you need to pay. Most simply mean you’ll have to visit a police station within 14 days to clear the fine. You may find as a foreign driver that your driving licence is withheld until you pay.

Child Safety Rules

In El Salvador, the law states that a child under 12 cannot sit in the front seat of a car but there are no recommendations for the kind of seat they must use in the rear. Additionally, few parents abide by the rule. It is important for the safety of your children that you make sure they are secure and, if hiring a car, you can ask us when booking to supply an appropriate system. 


You must have a minimum of third party insurance in El Salvador and be able to prove it if challenged.

Rules of the Road

Standard international driving laws apply with one or two exceptions.
In El Salvador, cars travel on the right hand side of the road
You must keep both hands on the wheel when driving unless changing gear or indicating
Don’t stop for hitch hikers
Avoid driving at night as animals, pedestrians and cars without lights abound after dark

Towing Regulations

There are no specific laws for towing a vehicle in El Salvador just use your common sense to ensure the vehicles are securely attached and that other drivers are aware of what you are doing.

Speed Cameras

Fixed speed cameras haven’t made it to El Salvador yet but hand held cameras are used regularly in speed checks. Usually you’ll be flagged down shortly after passing the camera and be issued with a fine notice. 

Using Mobile Phones when driving

You cannot use a mobile phone without a hands free kit in El Salvador as you must ensure both your hands stay on the wheel when driving.


Parking regulations
Parking is very loosely regulated in El Salvador and most drivers simply park wherever they find a space. 
Paid parking
Paid parking is most common in the big towns and cities and generally consists of covered parking, sometimes attended but often remotely. You’ll find some parking bays in San Salvador controlled by ticket machines but these are for short term parking only – often up to a maximum of two hours. 
Enforcement of parking is relaxed as long as you park sensibly. The police patrol the towns and cities but have to be on a mission before they’ll clamp down on parking. We don’t recommend that you risk not paying though for the fine will seriously outweigh the saving. 
Disabled parking
Disabled parking is unheard of in El Salvador so don’t expect to find convenient spaces for your needs. To do so, you should find an attended lot or garage and ask for assistance; usually it will be forthcoming. 

Motor Way Signs

The RN-21 is the only motorway in El Salvador and operates as a relief road for the city of Santa Tecla. The signage on it is green with white writing and currently it is toll free.


Adelantamiento prohibido - No overtaking
  Calzada con prioridad - Main/priority road
 Ceder el paso - Give way / Yield
 Camino de grava - Gravel road
 Cruce de peatones - Pedestrian crossing
 Curva peligrosa - Dangerous curve
 Curva a derecho - Curve to right
 Curva a izquierdo - Curve to left
 Curvas peligrosas hacia la izquierda - Double bend, first to left
 Detención obligatoria - Stop and give way
 De dos camino tráfico - Two way traffic
 Echar la mano - You must pay cash
 Entrada prohibida - No entry
 Entrada prohibida a vehículos de motor - No motor vehicles
 Estrechamiento de calzada - Road narrows 
  Estrechamiento de calzada por la derecha - Road narrows on right
 Fin de prioridad - End of priority road
 Gire a la derecha - Turn to right
 Girar a la izquierda - Turn to left
 Intersección con prioridad - Junction with a minor  road
 Licencia de conducir - Driver license
 Límite de velocidad mínimo - Minimum speed limit
 Límite de la velocidad máxima - Maximum speed limit
 Media vuelta prohibida - No U-turn
 Ninguna parada - No stopping
 Obras - Road works
 Otros peligros - Other danger
 Párese y ceda el paso - Priority road
 Patojo - Child
  Pavimento deslizante - Slippery road
 Permiso de conducir - Driving permit
 Permiso de conducir internacional -  International driver license
 Prohibido el paso - No entry
 Prohibido estacionarse - No parking
 Rocas decrecientes - Falling rocks
 Rotatoria - Roundabout
 Semáforos - Traffic lights
 Topes/ tumulos - Speed bumps
  Vehículo - Vehicle
  Velocidad máxima - Maximum speed
  Viga alta - High-beam

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights in El Salvador follow the international sequencing system and so should be familiar to all. They are most prevalent in the big cities and rare in smaller towns.

Toll Roads

There are no toll roads in El Salvador


The emergency number in El Salvador is 911 for all the emergency services.

What to do in an emergency

If unfortunate to have mechanical problems with your hire car, simply call the number given to you by the car hire agency. It’ll be on the documentation and usually inside the windscreen of the car. 
In the event of an accident you must stop if there is major damage or if someone has been hurt. Otherwise you can simply sort out the problem between you.  If the police are to attend you should avoid moving the vehicles until they arrive unless they are causing a danger to others. If you have to move them, take a photograph of the scene before you do. Collecting witness details is also a good idea whilst you wait.

Fuel Costs

As of December 2014, the average price of 95 octane unleaded petrol in El Salvador is 80p whilst diesel is 71p. Prices can vary between the cities, towns and the smaller villages.


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