Explore El Salvador

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Travel Advisory

WTF-elsalvador.com’s Travel Advisory for the USA
January 29, 2013

Note:  Waves Tours Fiestas has posted this satirical response to the US Department of State Travel Advisory from January 23, 2013.  We hope it makes you think twice before cancelling your trip to our lovely country of El Salvador. 

Due to our concern for the safety of the friendly citizens of El Salvador, we would like to issue a warning for travel to the United States of America.  Since the USA is a country that has struggled with a negative international reputation for some time (much like El Salvador), we will attempt to be unbiased in our advisory and include links to all data compiled from sources on the web, so that our citizens can create their own personal opinions about travel to this beautiful country based on facts.   

Hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists safely visit the United States each year for study, tourism, business, missionary and volunteer work. However, crime and violence continue to be serious problems throughout the country.  While the homicide rates in the country have been traditionally low compared to El Salvador, (4.6 per 100,000 for 2011), they are still among the highest homicide rates in the developed world - roughly 3 times as high as Canada and about 6 times as high as Germany. We urge travellers to take this into consideration before confirming travel plans.  Considering that the United States also has the highest rate in the world of gun ownership, Salvadorans need to be extra vigilant when encountering US citizens as 88.8 of every 100 residents is likely to be armed, compared to 5.8 out of every 100 Salvadoran citizens.  Be aware, then, that even a small altercation can turn violent in an instant.   

The location and timing of criminal activity is unpredictable. However, certain areas of the country demonstrate higher levels of criminal activity than others. US cities with violent crime rates higher than the national average of 386.3 per 100,000 people for 2011 are presented below (violent crimes include: aggravated assault, forceable rape, robbery and homicide).

Detroit, Michigan  (5.5 times the national average)
St. Louis, Missouri  (4.8 x)
Oakland, California  (4.3 x)
Memphis, Tennessee (4.1 x)
Atlanta, Georgia   (3.7 x)
Baltimore, Maryland  (3.6 x)
Stockton, California  (3.6 x)
Cleveland, Ohio  (3.5 x)
Buffalo, New York  (3.2 x)
Kansas City, Missouri  (3.1 x)
Miami, Florida  (3.1 x)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  (3.1 x)
Nashville, Tennessee  (3.1 x)

New Orleans has a homicide rate (57.6 per 100,000 people) similar to El Salvador (71 per 100,000 people), (although a much lower violent crime rate, so tourists are less likely to be raped, robbed or assaulted than to be killed there), therefore we recommend that citizens take the same precautions when travelling to New Orleans as they would at home.

Based on violent crime rates in the US, the following states (a geographic designation similar to Salvadoran “departments”) are the most dangerous in which to travel:

South Carolina
Rhode Island
New Mexico

We suggest Salvadoran tourists use common sense if they choose to travel to these destinations (or anywhere, really) and to take the following precautions: be vigilant of their surroundings at all times, especially when entering or exiting hotels or cars. Whenever possible, travel in groups of two or more.  Avoid wearing jewelry and do not carry large sums of money or display cash, ATM/credit cards, or other valuables. Avoid walking at night and do not walk alone near beaches or trails. Motorists should drive with their doors locked to deter potential robberies at traffic lights and on congested downtown streets. Travel on public transportation, especially buses, both within and outside capital cities, is risky and not recommended - tourists are likely to encounter a higher frequency of individuals with mental disorders if they use public transportation (see notes below on mental disorders in the US).  Salvadorans wishing to limit their chance of becoming a victim of violent crime can spend their vacation in only the safest states: North Dakota, South Dakota and Maine.

Salvadorans tend to be very open and gregarious when encountering strangers, so we would like to caution our citizens about carrying this aspect of our culture overseas to the USA.  Strangers rarely greet one another in the US and if a tourist’s car breaks down on the side of the road, it is likely that no one will stop to help as there is a general consensus among US citizens that “breaking down” is often used as a ruse to attack unsuspecting “Good Samaritans” (people who help those in need when they encounter them – generally what we think of as “being human” here in El Salvador).  We therefore advise that Salvadorans do not stop for any reason to help someone in need, as it can be a trick to rob and/or attack them.  Due to the culture of lawsuits in the US, we also advise our citizens to ignore their altruistic instincts if they happen upon someone in need of medical or other assistance.  “Good Samaritans” have been sued in the past by the same victims they were trying to help and have lost everything.

Another factor that should be considered when travelling to the US is the high rate of mental disorders that sometimes result in horrific violent crimes.  It is estimated that 26% of all US citizens over the age of 18 suffer from some form of mental disorder.   Due to a culture of competition unseen in our country, it may be that people are overly stressed and have fewer options to diagnose their disorders as there is poor health insurance coverage for many citizens who need the most help.  This may be a contributing factor to the high numbers of mass murders in the United States.  These senseless killings target random individuals without warning, so there is a small chance that foreign tourists may be attacked.   In no way do we wish to discourage Salvadorans from visiting the US due to the miniscule chance that this may occur, we just want to point out that every once in a while it happens.

Another unusual phenomenon that happens in the US is what they callschool shootings”.  In this scenario, one or more people enter a school armed with guns and senselessly kill innocent children.  Generally, these perpetrators tend to suffer from some form of depression or mental disorder and often end in suicide.  In 2012 alone, 42 children were killed and 14 were wounded in these “school shootings” throughout the country.  Since this is unusual in El Salvador, we advise Salvadoran families to be especially cautious when leaving children in the care of the public school system or even daycare centers as there seems to be a lack of adequate security to keep them safe even in middle and upper class communities.

In regards to health insurance issues in the USA, we strongly advise that Salvadoran tourists buy health insurance that covers them for the duration of their stay, as there have been reported incidents of foreigners being left to die in hospital emergency waiting rooms due to a lack of insurance or an inability to pay.

It is perhaps, then, a combination of all the above that has led the US to be ranked 105 of 151 countries on the 2012 Happy Planet Index compiled by the New Economics Foundation in London.  We understand Salvadorans’ desire to visit an “unhappy” country to see what it’s like (especially since we are ranked #5) but aside from this, it is a beautiful country, which has a lot to offer our tourists.  We just urge them to remember to keep their wits about them and follow common sense when traveling throughout the USA. 

Unfortunately, although the US Department of State’s travel webpage offers a plethora of information and advice about travel to foreign destinations, there seems to be a lack of information on staying safe within the United States, so we advise Salvadoran citizens planning travel abroad to ask one of the thousands of US citizens living in El Salvador for the best and most accurate safety advice available.  You can also access information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK for more detailed, unbiased information. We at Waves Tours Fiestas can also try our best to help our citizens navigate this amazing country and its unique culture if you contact us at: