Honduras is a democracy with a developing economy. The capital is Tegucigalpa. The national language is Spanish, although English is often spoken in the Bay Islands. The climate is generally pleasant and temperate, with dry and wet seasons. The terrain ranges from mountainous, to coastal beaches and jungle lowlands. Hotels and restaurants are generally adequate in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, the Bay Islands and the Copan ruins. The Honduran currency is the lempira. Currency exchange is readily available at banks and hotels in the major cities.
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and depart Honduras. A visa is not required, but tourists must provide proof of return or onward travel. Tourists are given a permit to remain in Honduras for 30 days. Honduran immigration may grant up to two thirty-day extensions for a total of 90 days. Thereafter, tourists must leave the country prior to reentering. On departure, visitors are required to pay an exit fee at the airline counter. This fee is payable in dollars or in lempiras. Reservations for outbound flights should be reconfirmed at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled departure, or upon entry for shorter in-country stays.
Political demonstrations occur sporadically. Demonstrations can disrupt traffic, but are generally announced in advance and are usually peaceful. Travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place, and should keep informed by following the local news and consulting hotel personnel and tour guides.
The area off the coast of northeastern Honduras has been the subject of maritime border disputes between Honduras and Nicaragua. The Honduran Navy has increased its patrols in this area, and all private vessels transiting Honduran territorial waters should be prepared to be hailed and possibly boarded by Honduran military personnel to verify documentation. Sailors should also be aware that the Honduran Navy uses private Honduran as well as naval vessels as platforms. Fishing vessels should ensure they have proper permits.
While the Honduran side of the Honduras-Nicaragua border has been largely cleared of land mines, travelers should exercise caution in the vicinity of the border because some land mines, scattered by flooding during Hurricane Mitch in October 1998, may still exist in the area.
The security situation in Honduras requires a high degree of caution. Poverty, gangs, and low apprehension and conviction rates of criminals contribute to a high crime rate. Many men in Honduras carry firearms and machetes, and disputes are sometimes settled with violence. Violent and petty crime are prevalent throughout the country. While crime affects everyone in Honduras, criminals have at times targeted tourists, particularly those coming from airports and hotels, as well as wealthy-looking residents in San Pedro Sula, Tela, Trujillo, and Tegucigalpa. Street crime is a principal concern, with thefts, including purse-snatching, pick-pocketing, assaults, and armed robberies on the rise in urban areas. Carjackings, kidnappings, muggings, and home invasions are not uncommon. There have been some incidents of sexual assault.
Copan and the Bay Islands have experienced petty theft, but generally have fewer problems than the rest of the country. However, U.S. citizens visiting coastal resorts should exercise particular caution around sparsely inhabited coastal areas, and should avoid walking on isolated beaches, especially at night.
Although not a primary tourist destination, the Department of Olancho has a reputation as one of the most violent areas in Honduras. Travelers in that area should use extra caution.
Incidents of crime along roads in Honduras are common. There have been frequent incidents of highway robbery on the following roads: Limones to La Union, Olancho (route 41) via Salama and northward to Saba. There are armed gangs along the road from La Esperanza to Gracias (CA-11a).
Honduran police generally do not speak English, and there are no special tourist police to assist visitors. Tourists and residents should avoid walking at night in most areas of Honduras, especially in the major cities. Night driving is also discouraged. Tourists, in particular, should not hike alone in backcountry areas, nor walk alone on beaches, historic ruins or trails. All bus travel should be during daylight hours and on first-class conveyances, not economy buses. Visitors should pick taxis carefully, and note the driver's name and license number. They should instruct the driver not to pick up other passengers, agree on the fare before they depart, and have small bills available for payment, because taxi drivers often do not make change.
Do not resist a robbery attempt. Many criminals have weapons, and most injuries have resulted when victims resisted. Do not hitchhike or go home with strangers, particularly from nightspots. Whenever possible, travel in groups of two or more persons.
Visitors should use the same common sense while travelling in Honduras that they would in any high crime area of a major U.S. city. Jewelry should not be worn in downtown or rural areas. Do not carry large sums of money, ATM or credit cards that are not needed, nor other valuables.
There have been incidents of armed assaults against sailors by criminals posing as fishermen off the northeast coast of Honduras, particularly in the numerous small islands northeast and east off the coast of the Department of Gracias a Dios. Sailors should review the U.S. Coast Guards "Notice to Mariners" regarding piracy.
Medical care in Honduras varies in quality. Doctors are generally well trained; but support staff and facilities generally are not up to U.S. standards, and facilities for certain surgical procedures are not available. The islands of Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja do not have a general surgery hospital. There is a decompression chamber on Roatan for divers. Travelers carrying prescription medicine should ensure that the medication is clearly labeled.
Road conditions in many parts of Honduras differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Honduras is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstances.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions: Fair
Rural Road Conditions: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Because of crime and poor road conditions, driving can be very dangerous, and travelers may want to carry a cellular phone in case of an emergency. Travelers should exercise extreme caution while driving on isolated stretches of road and passing on mountainous curves. Rockslides are common, especially in the rainy season. Signage is poor and streets, even in the major cities, are often unmarked. Travelers should drive with doors locked and windows rolled up.
Major highways have been rebuilt following the destruction caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, though many stretches are still in repair. Major cities are connected by an inconsistently maintained, two-lane system of paved roads, and many secondary roads in Honduras are unpaved. During the rainy season (May through December), even major highways are often closed due to rockslides and flooding. Hurricane Mitch washed out many bridges throughout the country, and temporary repairs are vulnerable to heavy rains.
Some of the most dangerous stretches for road travel include: Tegucigalpa to Choluteca because of dangerous mountain curves; El Progreso to La Ceiba because of animal crossings and the poor condition of bridges from flooding; Limones to La Union, Olancho (route 41) via Salama and northward to Saba, because of frequent incidents of highway robbery; and La Esperanza to Gracias (CA-11a) because of armed gangs and poor road conditions. The detour to San Pedro Sula north of La Guama (CA-5) via Santa Cruz de Yojoa is mandatory for heavy trucks and is a congested, difficult drive. Former route 1 north via Aqua Azul to CA-5 is generally a safer route for cars.
Honduran roads also suffer from a general lack of lighting and poorly marked highways. Vehicles are often driven at night without adequate illumination, and animals and people wander onto the roads at all hours. For these reasons, and because of the high incidence of crime, the U.S. Embassy strongly discourages car and bus travel after dark.
Real Estate Investment: U.S. citizens should be aware of the risks inherent in purchasing real estate in Honduras, and should exercise extreme caution before entering into any form of commitment to invest in property, particularly in coastal areas and the Bay Islands. Honduran laws and practices regarding real estate differ substantially from those in the United States. Americans have spent thousands of dollars in legal fees and years of frustration in trying to resolve property disputes. This includes cases in which local attorneys and Honduran and U.S. real estate agents had given assurances to the investor. There have also been incidents in which violence has been used against Americans in disputed cases. American citizens should investigate purchases thoroughly and take all legal measures to prevent and, if necessary, resolve property disputes. Potential investors should engage competent local legal representation before making any commitments. Investors should thoroughly check references and bona fides of attorneys and real estate agents.
The Honduran constitution continues to contain provisions restricting or prohibiting land ownership by foreigners in coastal and border areas, notwithstanding subsequent passage by the Honduran congress of laws authorizing such ownership in certain areas and with particular restrictions. The enforcement of laws and procedures pertaining to property titles in Honduras is inconsistent. Squatters have also claimed a number of properties owned by U.S. citizens. Investors and their attorneys should thoroughly check property titles. For further information on investing in property in Honduras, please contact the legal advisor at the Embassy’s economic section.
The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida La Paz in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; telephone: 011-504-236-9320 or 011-504-238-5114; fax: 011-504-238-4357; web site: http://usembassy.state.gov/posts/ho1/wwwh0e00.html.
U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Honduras are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Honduras. Travelers can register in person, or fill out the form available on the Embassy web site and fax it to the Embassy. Please include a copy of the data page of your passport and emergency contact information.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Honduras’ civil aviation authority as Category 2 - not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Honduran air carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, any Honduran air carriers with existing routes to the U.S. will be permitted to conduct limited operations to the U.S. subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional flights or new service to the U.S. by Honduran air carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety standards.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/iasa.pdf. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. Also, DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business except for flights originating from or terminating in the U.S. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801