Honduras //

Travel essentials

Costs

Daily budget Basic US$35/occasional treat US$55 Drink Nacional beer US$1.50, coffee US$1 Food Almuerzo típico US$4 Hostel/budget hotel US$10/US$20 Travel Copán–San Pedro Sula (140km) by bus: 3hr, US$7

Emergencies

Cruz Roja (ambulance) 195; Fire 198; International operator 197; Police 199 (*199 from a mobile). See also crime and personal safety.

Health

The Honduras Medical Centre, Av Juan Lindo in Tegucigalpa, is considered one of the best hospitals in the country; in San Pedro Sula head for the Hospital Centro Médico Betesda, Av 11A NO between C 11A and 12A NO. Facilities in rural areas tend to be much more limited, though most towns have at least one pharmacy (some of which are open 24hr), and staff, who can issue prescriptions, tend to be very helpful.

In general, it’s worth trying to learn a little emergency Spanish, as English is not widely spoken. Basic medical care is relatively inexpensive (certainly when compared with the US); for serious problems or emergencies it’s best to head for a private hospital (or even, if possible, one in your home country).

Honduras has one of the highest rates of AIDS in Central America, so it is especially important to take all the usual precautions when it comes to sex. Make sure, too, if you seek medical help that all instruments are sterilized.

Information

The national tourist office, the Instituto Hondureño de Turismo (letsgohonduras.com), is fairly helpful. The main office, in the Edificio Europa in Tegucigalpa, can provide general information about where to go and what to see in the country. They also have booths at the Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula airports, and a free information service in the US (1 800 410 9608). Most towns you’ll visit will have a municipality-run tourist office. These vary in helpfulness; the better ones sell maps, can arrange homestays and can tell you the cheapest places to stay. National parks and reserves are overseen by the government forestry agency, ICF (icf.gob.hn). If you intend to spend much time in any of the parks, it’s worth visiting one of their offices for detailed information on flora and fauna.

Honduras Tips (hondurastips.hn), a free bilingual magazine found in the better hotels and tourist offices, has fairly up-to-date information on hotel listings and bus routes – it is updated every few months. The magazine also has maps of most towns in the country.

The best map of Honduras is published by Reise Know-How (reise-know-how.de), and can be bought in bookshops or online; unfortunately, the chance of finding it in Honduras is unlikely.

honduras.com The country’s official website and one of the best.

hondurastips.hn The definitive guide to the country, also published as an indispensable magazine (available free in hotels) detailing all the sights and latest developments of interest to tourists.

travel-to-honduras.com General site covering a range of subjects – everything from business and tourism to Spanish schools and volunteer work.

Internet

Internet cafés can be found in most towns; the average rate is L20–30/hr, or more on the Bay Islands. Many hotels provide internet/wi-fi access for guests, usually for free.

Mail

There are post offices in every town; letters generally take a week to the US and up to two weeks to Europe. Opening hours are usually Monday to Friday 8am to noon and 2pm to 5pm, Saturday 8am to 1pm.

Money and banks

Honduras’s currency is the lempira (L), which consists of 100 centavos; at the time of writing, the exchange rate was L19.5 to US$1. Coins come as 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centavos and notes as 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 lempiras. In heavily touristed areas – Copán, the Bay Islands – US dollars are widely accepted, but on the whole lempiras are the standard currency.

You will need cash for day-to-day expenses, though credit/debit cards are accepted at smarter hotels and restaurants (there is often a hefty charge levied for credit/debit card payments, especially on the Bay Islands). ATMs are widespread, though acceptance of foreign debit cards can be hit-and-miss. Make sure before you leave home that your PIN is four digits or fewer; your card will be rejected if it is longer. As a rule Visa is more widely accepted than other cards. Beyond the usual charges for using your card abroad, there are no additional ATM charges. Visa cardholders can also get cash advances in several banks, including Banco Atlántida; MasterCard is sometimes accepted but not to be relied upon.

Honduras has a number of national banks, of which the biggest are Banco Atlántida, Banco de Occidente and BAC/Credomatic. Many banks change travellers’ cheques – American Express is the most widely accepted brand (in US dollars). When cashing travellers’ cheques you will often be asked to show proof of purchase receipts and your passport.

Opening hours and holidays

Business hours for shops are generally Monday to Friday 9am to noon and 2pm to 4.30 or 5pm, and Saturday from 9am to noon. Banks in larger towns are generally open 8.30am to 4.30pm and until noon on Saturdays, while those in smaller towns shut for an hour at lunch; moneychangers generally operate longer hours. Museums often stay open at lunch, but close at least one day each week. On public holidays, almost everything closes, and public transport generally operates on a reduced schedule.

Jan 1 New Year’s Day
Easter week Semana Santa
April 14 Day of the Americas
May 1 Labour Day
Sept 15 Independence Day
Oct 3 Birth of Francisco Morazán
Oct 12 Discovery of America
Oct 21 Armed Forces Day
Dec 25 Christmas

Phones

International phone calls can be made from Hondutel offices (there’s a branch in every town), but are very expensive to Europe (around L50/min) – you are much better off visiting an internet café with web-phone capabilities. Many public telephones are out of use or damaged, so for local calls (eight-digit numbers) it’s better to buy a cheap mobile phone (US$20–30) and periodically top up the credit (recarga), which can be done in most small shops. Alternatively, you could visit an office of mobile-phone provider Claro (the largest provider in Latin America – claro.com.hn) to see if your phone will accept a foreign SIM card. All landline numbers start with a 2, while mobile numbers start with different digits (3, 8 or 9) according to the provider.

Visas

Citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the UK, the US and most European countries do not need visas for stays in Honduras of up to ninety days. Tourist cards, given on entry, are good for stays of between thirty and ninety days. The card is a yellow slip of paper that needs to be returned when you leave, or stamped if you extend your stay.

Honduras is part of the CA-4 border control agreement, which means you can move freely within Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua for up to ninety days.