I just got back yesterday from a quick mileage run vacation to Honduras. I rented a car and spent one night in San Pedro Sula, the most dangerous city on Earth (outside of a warzone). Last year, I spent three days in San Pedro Sula and wrote a whole trip report about it here. It was my first time driving in Honduras and it was pretty insane but good thing I’ve had prior experience driving in Latin America (Panama City, San Salvador, and Costa Rica). After spending one night in San Pedro Sula, I spent the next few days exploring the Northern Caribbean Coast of Honduras. Here are 10 Things I Learned From My Recent Trip to Honduras:
1. Renting a car in Honduras is not for the faint of heart – I’ve previously written a series about renting a car in Latin America since I’ve had experience with car rentals in Panama, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. I rented from Budget Rent a Car and the guy told me I was his only customer for the day (I arrived in the afternoon). My rental car was beat up in every way imagined and I made sure to take a video and photos of the car. Upon returning the car, the Budget Rent a Car agent was surprised my car was not damaged. He said that he got 10 calls the day before with cars being involved in an accident.
2. Driving in Honduras was quite dangerous – If I had to rank my driving experiences in Latin America, I would say Panama is the easiest with smooth roads and easy to read signage. Costa Rica would be next since the roads aren’t in that bad of a condition. Driving in El Salvador is a combination of Costa Rica and Panama, but taken to the next level with pot holes, livestock, and pedestrians sharing the same road together. Honduras takes it even up a notch with the multitude of pot holes, animals, livestock, bikers, pedicabs, pedestrians, buses, and big rigs that share a single lane (often having to pass on a two lane divided highway). In addition, there are multiple police checkpoints and sometimes even kids will set up roadblocks to ask for money (fake tolls).
3. There’s an abundance of tire shops in Honduras – There are a ton of tire shops (llanteras) along the road from El Progresso to Tela and from Tela to La Ceiba. There was basically a tire shop every mile or so on the countryside roads which I thought were quite bizarre. It definitely makes sense now since a lot of the cars on the road are really old and getting a flat tire must be common occurrence in Honduras.
4. Google Maps is not accurate in Honduras – For example, I used San Pedro Sula as a base to start my driving excursion to La Ceiba and Google Maps said it would take 2 hours and 34 minutes without traffic. It actually took me close to 5 hours because there is no live-traffic updates in Honduras and you can’t travel 65mph on the small two lane divided highways. There was a ton of traffic in El Progresso (near San Pedro Sula International Airport) because of construction and I felt like I was in Tijuana going to San Diego on the San Ysidro border.
5. Honduran Bed and Breakfast (B&B) hotels are awesome – This year, I’m saying at more Bed and Breakfast hotels thanks to the generous $100 off $100 ‘VISA Checkout’ hotel promotion from Orbitz back in November of last year. I stayed at the La Delphina Bed & Breakfast Hotel in La Ceiba and the Hotel Cesar Mariscos in Tela which were both fantastic beachfront properties. However, I do miss chain hotel amenities such as the in-room complimentary bottles of water and the bath products. Both B&B’s didn’t have a shampoo bottle, but thankfully I had some left from my stay at the Crowne Plaza San Pedro Sula.
6. The Bay Islands of Cayos Cochinos is simply amazing – The highlight of my trip was a spontantous visit to Cayos Cochinos which is part of the Bay Islands of Honduras. I went on a boating excursion recommended by Richard (the owner of the La Delphina Hotel in La Ceiba) which picked me up in front of the hotel in Sambo Creek. It was a 45 minute boat ride to the various isolated islands but most noteably Cayo Cochino Menor (small) and Cayo Cochino Grande (big). I went snorkeling, dolphin watching, swimming, hiking, and a visit to Cayo Chachahuate where I had lunch with the inhabitants of the island, the Garifunas (Afro Caribbeans). Best of all, the 8 hour tour was only $45 which included everything except lunch.
7. Caribbean food in Honduras is delicious – A typical Caribbean entree is basically a protein (fish, beef, chicken) with rice, beans, and plantains. I had seafood soup, chicken, and my favorite dish – fried fish.
8. Everything is really cheap in Honduras – Renting a car was $35 per day with the mandatory Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI) and taxes included which wasn’t too bad at all. SLI insurance in Honduras was $5.99 per day which wasn’t too bad, but gas was quite expensive. At 17.99 Honduran lempiras (0.86 USD) per liter for regular gas, that translates to $3.26 USD per gallon which wasn’t too bad since gas prices are notoriously expensive in Latin America. A baleada (the national food of Honduras) won’t cost more than 20 lempiras ~ $0.95 USD and that can get you full alone. A typical combination dish with a protein, tortilla, and two sides in a Mall food court costs 35 lempiras ~ $1.66 USD. Bottled beer at restaurants and bars start at 15 lempiras ~ $0.71 USD and won’t cost more than 40 lempiras ~ $1.90 USD.
9. 64.5% of Hondurans live in poverty – When I visited the Garifuna community on Cayo Chachahuate, I saw extreme poverty on the island. Some of the kids were definitely malnourished with no shirts. A European visitor brought notebooks and pencils to give away and the kids almost mobbed her. She eventually ran out of supplies to give away leaving some children empty handed. An American was giving away candy to the children and she was almost mobbed as well. At San Pedro Sula International Airport, I saw many Americans that were part of a missionary group in order to help the country of Honduras. The average monthly wage in Honduras is less than $183.
10. There’s definitely a sense of government corruption – This is mostly seen at San Pedro Sula International Airport where passengers must pay a mandatory $40 USD departure tax before getting on an international flight out of Honduras. I’m not sure why this high ‘$40 departure tax’ isn’t included in the ticket costs, but it definitely goes straight into the Honduran government’s pockets.