About El Salvador [ Country ]

Here we've distilled information and facts from various sources about the location, size, population, geography, transport, climate, economy, history, government, law, and so on, of El Salvador; into a view that makes sense for a traveller to, or within, this country.


Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and Honduras


Tropical; rainy season (May to October); dry season (November to April); tropical on coast; temperate in uplands


Mostly mountains with narrow coastal belt and central plateau


lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Cerro El Pital 2,730 m

Geo Notes

Smallest Central American country and only one without a coastline on Caribbean Sea

Approved Official Names

conventional long form: Republic of El Salvador
conventional short form: El Salvador
local long form: Republica de El Salvador
local short form: El Salvador

Capital City

name: San Salvador
geographic coordinates: 13 42 N, 89 12 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Administrative Divisions

14 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Ahuachapan, Cabanas, Chalatenango, Cuscatlan, La Libertad, La Paz, La Union, Morazan, San Miguel, San Salvador, San Vicente, Santa Ana, Sonsonate, Usulutan

Natuaral Hazards

Known as the Land of Volcanoes; frequent and sometimes destructive earthquakes and volcanic activity; extremely susceptible to hurricanes
volcanism: El Salvador experiences significant volcanic activity; San Salvador (elev. 1,893 m, 6,211 ft), which last erupted in 1917, has the potential to cause major harm to the country's capital, which lies just below the volcano's slopes; San Miguel (elev. 2,130 m, 6,988 ft), which last erupted in 2002, is one of the most active volcanoes in the country; other historically active volcanoes include Conchaguita, Ilopango, Izalco, and Santa Ana

Environmental Issues

Deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution; contamination of soils from disposal of toxic wastes

Infectious Diseases

degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2009)

Life Expectancy

total population: 73.18 years
male: 69.91 years
female: 76.62 years (2010 est.)

Sex Ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.89 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/female
total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2010 est.)

Languages Spoken

Spanish (official), Nahua (among some Amerindians)

Religions Practiced

Roman Catholic 57.1%, Protestant 21.2%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.9%, Mormon 0.7%, other religions 2.3%, none 16.8% (2003 est.)

Legal System

Based on civil and Roman law with traces of common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National Holiday

Independence Day, 15 September (1821)

Illicit Drugs

Transshipment point for cocaine; small amounts of marijuana produced for local consumption; significant use of cocaine

Telephone System

general assessment: multiple mobile-cellular providers are expanding services rapidly and in 2009 teledensity exceeded 100 per 100 persons; growth in fixed-line services has slowed in the face of mobile-cellular competition
domestic: nationwide microwave radio relay system
international: country code - 503; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to Central American Microwave System (2009)

Broadcast Media

Multiple privately-owned national terrestrial television networks, supplemented by cable TV networks that carry international channels; hundreds of commercial radio broadcast stations and 1 government-owned radio broadcast station (2007)


El Salvador achieved independence from Spain in 1821 and from the Central American Federation in 1839. A 12-year civil war, which cost about 75,000 lives, was brought to a close in 1992 when the government and leftist rebels signed a treaty that provided for military and political reforms.

Economy Overview

Despite being the smallest country geographically in Central America, El Salvador has the third largest economy with a per capita income that is roughly two-thirds that of Costa Rica and Panama, but more than double that of Nicaragua. Growth has been modest in recent years and the economy contracted nearly 3% in 2009. El Salvador leads the region in remittances per capita with inflows equivalent to nearly all export income and about a third of all households receive these financial inflows. In 2006 El Salvador was the first country to ratify the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. CAFTA has bolstered exports of processed foods, sugar, and ethanol, and supported investment in the apparel sector, which faced Asian competition with the expiration of the Multi-Fiber Agreement in 2005. In anticipation of the declines in the apparel sector's competitiveness, the previous administration sought to diversify the economy by promoting the country as a regional distribution and logistics hub, and by promoting tourism investment through tax incentives. El Salvador has promoted an open trade and investment environment, and has embarked on a wave of privatizations extending to telecom, electricity distribution, banking, and pension funds. In late 2006, the government and the Millennium Challenge Corporation signed a five-year, $461 million compact to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty in the country's northern region, the primary conflict zone during the civil war, through investments in education, public services, enterprise development, and transportation infrastructure. With the adoption of the US dollar as its currency in 2001, El Salvador lost control over monetary policy. Any counter-cyclical policy response to the downturn must be through fiscal policy, which is constrained by legislative requirements for a two-thirds majority to approve any international financing.

National Anthem

name: "Himno Nacional de El Salvador" (National Anthem of El Salvador)
lyrics/music: Juan Jose CANAS/Juan ABERLE
note: officially adopted 1953, in use since 1879; the anthem of El Salvador is one of the world's longest

El Salvador location map

total: 21,041 sq km
land: 20,721 sq km
water: 320 sq km

El Salvador flag

6,052,064 (July 2010 est.)


noun: Salvadoran(s)
adjective: Salvadoran

Ethnic Groups

mestizo 90%, white 9%, Amerindian 1%


0.8% (2007 est.)

Independence Date

15 September 1821 (from Spain)

Government Type


Voting Rights

18 years of age; universal

Internet Users

826,000 (2008)

Internet Hosts

13,849 (2010)

Internet Country Code


Number Airports

65 (2010)

Number Paved Airports

total: 4
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2010)

Number Heliports

1 (2010)


total: 283 km
narrow gauge: 283 km 0.914-m gauge
note: railways have been inoperable since 2005 because of disuse and high costs that led to a lack of maintenance (2008)


total: 10,886 km
paved: 2,827 km (includes 327 km of expressways)
unpaved: 8,059 km (2000)

Inland Waterways

Rio Lempa partially navigable for small craft (2008)

Ports & Terminals

Acajutla, Puerto Cutuco

National Budget

revenues: $3.584 billion
expenditures: $4.756 billion (2009 est.)

Account Balance

-$321 million (2009 est.)
-$1.596 billion (2008 est.)

Exchange Rates

the US dollar became El Salvador's currency in 2001

Inflation Rate

0.6% (2009 est.)
7.3% (2008 est.)

Main Industries

Food processing, beverages, petroleum, chemicals, fertilizer, textiles, furniture, light metals

Agricultural Products

Coffee, sugar, corn, rice, beans, oilseed, cotton, sorghum; beef, dairy products

Labor Force

2.917 million (2009 est.)

Main Occupations

agriculture: 19%
industry: 23%
services: 58% (2006 est.)

Unemployment Rate

7.2% (2009 est.)
6.9% (2008 est.)
note: data are official rates; but the economy has much underemployment

GDP (USD Parity)

$42.82 billion (2009 est.)
$44.37 billion (2008 est.)
$43.33 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

GDP Per Capita

$7,100 (2009 est.)
$7,400 (2008 est.)
$7,200 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

Family Income Percent

lowest 10%: 1%
highest 10%: 37% (2005)

Family Income Gini

52.4 (2002)
52.5 (2001)

Below Poverty

30.7% (2006 est.)