Tips for Traveling in Honduras

Honduras is a wonderful, tropical vacation destination … if you know what you’re getting into before you visit.

Many tourists who visit Honduras stay on Roatán, an island in the Caribbean about 40 miles off the coast of the mainland. It’s known for its beaches and for diving along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second-largest barrier reef in the world.

The island of Roatán is safer than Honduras is in general, particularly the urban Honduran areas of San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, and La Ceiba, which have high rates of crime and violence and are currently under a travel warning from the U.S. Department of State.

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Boats tied up along the shore at West End Roatán, Honduras

Roatán has regular flights from the United States, many of which originate in Texas. The airport is small and easily navigated, but lines are long and processes are slow. It’s your first taste of “island time.”

We rented a car for the week and negotiated a rate of $700 all-inclusive. However, we really shouldn’t have bothered. We could walk to dozens of restaurants from our villa, and the villa provided transportation for us to and from the airport as part of our weekly rental. The dive shop even sent a driver to pick up our gear and return it at the end of the week of diving. Additionally, we could’ve hired a driver for the one day trip we took to the east end of the island for far less money.

Plus, driving on Roatán can be a bit dicey. The roads are very narrow and can be steep and curvy, and driving safety doesn’t seem to be a top priority for many Hondurans. Case in point: as soon as we pulled out of the airport parking lot, we were behind a flatbed truck loaded with bags of concrete that were held in place by three men standing on the rear bumper. You know, all in a day’s work.

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Prices in Roatán are fairly reasonable, and you can find specials on food and drink throughout the day every day of the week in West End and West Bay. There’s no need to convert your travel funds to Honduran lempira if you’re visiting from the U.S., since nearly every business that caters to tourists accepts American currency.

Internet service on the island comes and goes, and with it credit card machines. We were only able to use a credit or debit card for about one out of every 10 transactions we had during our stay.

And speaking of debit cards, there is only one reliable ATM machine on the island, and it’s at the Petrosun fuel station on Carretera Principal in West End. By reliable, I mean that it has cash available almost all of the time, and there have been no reports of robberies or digital skimmers that steal your financial data when you swipe your card. Even the formerly-safe ATM at the airport has fallen prey to the latter scam in recent months. Why is the Petrosun ATM safer than all the rest? Because it’s guarded by two armed guards with automatic rifles, that’s why.

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Petrosun fuel station on Carretera Principal, West End, Honduras

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Thank you, sir, for keeping me and my cash safe. I hope your next shift is inside in the air conditioning.

It was very hot and humid during our June visit, and there are plenty of biting bugs flying around. Bug spray could be found at most groceries and resorts, but if you want to bring some from home, I recommend these wipes that you can pack in your carry-on luggage.

When your enjoyable vacation on Roatán comes to a close, plan to arrive at the airport at least three hours before your flight is scheduled to depart, particularly if you’re leaving on a weekend. Apparently there are occasionally (and randomly) no lines, but if there are lines, they are massive. What looks like a crowd milling about in the next photo is actually the line of people who already have their boarding passes, have checked their luggage, and are now waiting for immigration and customs. And that’s before you go through the security scanners to reach the departure gates.

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The line of people awaiting immigrations and customs at the Roatán airport on a Saturday. It spans the entire length of the airport. See those tiny yellow signs in the distance? That’s where you’re headed so you can get to security screening and the departure gates.

Luckily, there’s free wifi and a coffee shop and bar in the airport lobby, so you can pass the hours in line with a beverage while you share all your fabulous Honduran vacation photos on social media. Safe travels!

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