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  • Lorena and Diana

A Pleasant Surprise: Our Experience at the Central American and Caribbean Games in El Salvador

Updated: May 9

San Salvador 2023 sign, Caribbean games,

Caribbean Games mascots, El salvador 2023

Recently, my family and I had the incredible opportunity to visit El Salvador as spectators for the Central American and Caribbean Games. With a family member participating as an athlete and another as a coach, we embarked on this journey with a mix of excitement and concern. El Salvador's reputation for safety had troubled us in the past, but what we discovered during our visit left us pleasantly surprised.

Safety Concerns of Visiting El Salvador

El Salvador, known for its vibrant culture, rich history, and stunning landscapes, has often been overshadowed by concerns about security.

El Salvador has experienced high levels of violence and crime, particularly regarding homicides. In 2015, following the collapse of a truce between rival gangs, the national murder rate had climbed to 103 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, the worst in 10 years. This figure gave the country the title of being the most violent country in the western hemisphere and one of the highest murder rates in the world. In addition, low education and increasing poverty were troubling a large percentage of El Salvador’s population.

Understanding the huge challenges President Bukele faced when he took office in 2019, we were skeptical about the controversial measures we read he was taking, particularly by determining an “exception regimen” that limits citizens' rights while providing greater enforcement to security forces.

Before travelling with our family we verified that violence has in fact decreased significantly, with murder rates at the lowest level in 3 decades, and somehow apprehensive went ahead with our plans. We also decided to be open to listening to the inhabitants and understand their perspectives, and create a better-informed judgment of the situation.

Positive Experience

From the moment we arrived, it became evident that El Salvador had made substantial strides in ensuring the safety of its residents and visitors. As Canadians, known for our love of travel, we value feeling secure while exploring new destinations. Throughout our stay, we interacted with a variety of locals, including bus drivers, taxi drivers, hotel staff, restaurant employees, and security guards. To our delight, all of them spoke highly about the newfound safety they had experienced under President Nayib Bukele's administration. We discovered a new narrative, one that showcases the remarkable progress made in El Salvador's commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of its guests.

Remaining Neutral

As an opinion piece, it's essential to emphasize that the views expressed in this blog post are solely based on our personal experiences and the perspectives we gathered during our time in El Salvador.

It is important to note that President Bukele's leadership has not been without controversy. Various articles have shed light on the concerns surrounding his policies and their impact on human rights.

We aim to present our experiences and perspectives without taking a political stance or endorsing any specific viewpoints.

Accommodation and Food

For a taste of local cuisine, we highly recommend trying Relajo Cocina Salvadoreña, where you can try several typical Salvadoran dishes. It was actually so good we went there twice!

If you're a seafood lover, Restaurante La Pampa offers delectable seafood dishes that are sure to satisfy your palate.

As for accommodation, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at El Barcelo, which provided excellent amenities and even better customer service, with the staff always willing to go above and beyond to make sure our stay was excellent.

Exploring El Salvador

In addition to attending the Games, we took the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of El Salvador, a country that may not be on every Canadian traveller's radar. One highlight of our trip was visiting a dormant volcano, which offered breathtaking views and a chance to experience the country's unique geography. Exploring the diverse landscapes and engaging in outdoor activities can be a fantastic way for adventurous Canadian travellers to connect with this lesser-known gem.

El Salvador dormant volcano, tropical sunny day

Safety Tips

While we felt safe during our visit, we understand that safety is a paramount concern for Canadian travellers. Here are a few general safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Stay informed: Stay updated on current events and follow official travel advisories issued by the Canadian government.

  2. Be vigilant: Keep an eye on your belongings and be cautious of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas or tourist spots.

  3. Use reliable transportation: Opt for registered taxis or reputable ride-hailing services, and avoid travelling alone at night.

  4. Respect local customs: Familiarize yourself with the local customs and traditions to avoid unintentionally offending anyone.

  5. Stay connected: Keep emergency contact numbers handy and share your itinerary with a trusted friend or family member.

  6. Stay in areas frequented by tourist traffic with dense populations.


Our visit to El Salvador for the Central American and Caribbean Games exceeded our expectations in terms of safety and hospitality. As Canadian travellers, we understand the importance of feeling secure while abroad. We were pleasantly surprised by the positive changes that have taken place in the country. Remember, travel experiences may vary, and it's essential to conduct your own research and make informed decisions based on your individual circumstances. El Salvador has much to offer, and as adventurous Canadians, we encourage you to explore this vibrant and evolving destination with an open mind.


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