We officially made it to Honduras. I’m not sure what you’re thinking, but my first thought was, “Holy crap, I’m in Honduras.” Audrey, Trent, Evelyne and I got up bright and early to head out to Guatemala City to catch the coach headed for Honduras. Well, perhaps it wasn’t bright but it sure was early – our alarms went off just before 3. The shuttle picked us up at 3:20 outside of Holistico, the Hostel we were staying at. Eight minutes later, the driver had our bags loaded and the four of us safely in the shuttle, and off we zoomed to Guatemala City. A quarter after 4 we arrived at the Hedman-Atlas bus station and got in line with our printed tickets. The man at the ticket counter asked us individually for our tickets and passports, typed our info into the computer and printed out our “official” tickets.
One of his colleagues came by to grab large bags to go under the bus, and three of us patiently waited to board the bus. Unfortunately for Audrey, the man checking the larger bags disliked her bright orange, carry-on backpack. He continually insisted that she could not take her backpack on board the bus. She took a few items out, shoved them in her checked bag and headed outside to get some fresh air. She came back in where he grumpily reiterated that she could not carry on her bag. She just kept saying no and shaking her head (seriously, dude, some things you absolutely do not check – especially going to Honduras – and her bag was carry-on size)! It was nearly 5 and time to depart, so everyone lined up with their carry-on outside the bus, where tickets were verified against passports. Bags were opened and quickly inspected on a dinky fold-out table; we were then free to board the bus, find our seat and “relax” for the next four or so hours to Honduras.
I will admit, the bus was pretty comfortable. It was certainly better than a hot and crammed chicken bus. There were movies that you could plug headphones in to hear (on sale for 10 Quetzales, which is a little over a dollar, but we had our own that worked just fine) and a delicious breakfast was provided. It was absolutely freezing, and you were only given one blanket to share between two seats, but Audrey and I each had our trusty Delta blankets, so life was good. And then we got to the border.
Getting up before 3 am, we were all exhausted. However, once the bus reached the border, we were all wide awake; adrenaline had us wired. The border crossing was absolutely terrifying. A great deal of it had to do with fear of the unknown, but realizing that border officials can be untrustworthy and the entire area being shady were contributing factors as well.
Once the bus came to a stop at the edge of Guatemala in El Florido, we grabbed our carry-on bags and proceeded to Migracion Salida. This is the exit immigration office to get out of Guatemala. Men were all around yelling “Cambio, Cambio!!” to change currencies. We had no idea what the exchange rate was, so we just walked past them and entered the Migracion Salida office. We showed our passports and the immigration cards we filled out on the bus. We paid the 10Q fee (about $1.30) and our passports were stamped. We trudged along the no man’s land that is known as a border crossing. This one is particularly desolate. It is mostly filled with truckers, change men, Honduran police and small tiendas.
We continued on up the road to Oficina de Migracion Honduras. This was a nice, new building where we went inside and waited in line to have our passports stamped. Evelyne was first in line and handed her passport over. The immigration official barked for her to pay the fee. She looked around at us and we were all a bit dumbfounded – we thought there was only one fee, the fee we had already paid to leave Guatemala. Conveniently enough, we had all planned to spend all our Quetzales since we weren’t returning to Guatemala. There were no ATMS at the border crossing, and the official would only take Lempiras (Honduran currency) or Quetzales. No dollars. Lovely. Fortunately, Trent had some Quetzales stashed and we paid the higher rate (it should have been about 21 Q or $3, but to pay in Quetzales opposed to Lempiras, the fee jumped to 30Q or $3.85). I should add that “officially” there is no fee to enter or leave Honduras, but, as mentioned previously, it can be shady. If you read many travelers accounts, $3 seems to be the going rate. At one point, Audrey and I paid a bit more, but $3 is average. Better to be on the safe side and just bring extra cash for border crossings.
The immigration building entering Honduras. After our passports were stamped and our 90 day tourist visas were issued, we were on our merry way. (If you’re ever traveling to Honduras, it’s important to note that Honduras is part of the C-4 Agreement. This means you can travel up to 90 days in total between Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua without checks or restrictions. The only problem with Honduras giving you a 90 day visa is your 90 days in the C-4 starts the day you arrive in any of the C-4 countries. So if you land in another C-4 country, go to Honduras and stay 89 days there, you’re going to have to fly out since all land-bordering countries of Honduras are C-4, which you would have overstayed your visa for. Just food for thought!)
We finally made it to the other side of the border. In total it took about an hour. Short lines and relatively painless, if you exclude the stress of having to find emergency money. Then we get to the best non-matching picture ever (seriously how many colors of green-ish is that)! Traveling definitely brings out your fashion sense. ;) One pair of flip-flops + one jacket + a freezing bus and not able to change shorts = awesomely mismatched border crossing picture! Terrified to take pictures, once Audrey and I had our passports stamped, our fees paid and our carry-ons back on the bus, we ran (literally) to the front of the bus and snapped a couple of pictures of the border crossing. It turns out that snapping pictures at a border crossing is completely legal (contrary to what I was told crossing into Mexico in 2010). So if you’re ever crossing into Honduras, take tons of pictures. ;)
Border crossing complete, we were on our way to Copán Ruinas. Only ten kilometers to go!
Since I had not crossed a land border since Mexico in 2010 (other than Canada and in Europe, which are pieces of cake), the Honduran border crossing was definitely intimidating. But we made it through without any mishaps and the great news is that after Honduras, crossing other borders is easy peasy. :)
After we arrived in Copan, we hired a mototaxi (Honduran tuk-tuk) at the Hedman-Atlas bus station to take us to Via Via, our hostel. Via Via is owned by Evelyne’s friend from the Netherlands, and it is a quaint place for backpackers and travelers to come and hang out, eat, crash or do all three. Plus, for 8 bucks a night, it is quite a steal!
We settled in, roamed around the small city a bit, took ample pictures and came back to Via Via to chill and watch the World Cup. Random side-note. Anyone notice the lady walking down the hill (bottom right of the picture) with the laundry on her head? It’s pretty crazy; you’ll walk down the street and see dozens of women in Guatemala and Honduras carrying things on their head.
This is the center of the square and at the heart of Copán Ruinas. There are mototaxis zooming along everywhere. Honduras played Ecuador that day, hence the Honduran flag at the front of the mototaxi.
I used this photo in my Antigua post, but I think it’s worth sharing again. Need a mototaxi? No problem.
World Cup is serious stuff. The inside of this little tienda was completely packed and men were literally lined up outside of it. That wasn’t just for Honduran games either. That was every single game. As soon as the games were over, they would disperse and go about their business, but as soon as the next game started, there they were again! That particular tienda had a teeny tiny television, but at least fifty pairs of eyes were religiously watching that little screen.
We ordered dinner and watched the Honduras v Ecuador game at Via Via. You can see the arms go up when Honduras scored its first and only goal. They ultimately lost to Ecuador, but it was still amazing being there when they were competing in the World Cup.
We were exhausted and apprehensive to roam the city at night (a fear that turned out to be foolish), so we hung out with fellow backpackers, threw down a few Cuba Libres and devised our plan to see Copan. ;)
Check back Monday to hear about mud baths and making friends with Honduran military!