Traveler Tips for Honduras

Santa Lucia

 Photo by Dennis Garcia
Photo by Dennis Garcia

The Central American country of Honduras offers a variety of enticing possibilities for the adventurous traveler. While Honduras ranks among the most poverty-stricken countries in the Western Hemisphere, it is in the process of developing its tourist industry to bring in much needed foreign currency. Honduras is known for its tropical beaches, rainforests, natural beauty and Mayan ruins. Spanish is the national language, but English is spoken around the country in areas popular with tourists.

Travel Documents

Travelers to Honduras require a passport valid for at least six months. While US citizens do not require a visa, they do need to supply proof of onward travel plans out of Honduras. Visitors receive a 90-day tourist card upon entry to Honduras. This needs to be kept and shown upon exit from the country. The 90-day visa can be extended once for another 90-day period by visiting an immigration office and asking for a visa extension. An extension cost US$20. Immigration offices are found in most cities and towns in Honduras. Visitors should carry a photocopy of their passport at all times while in Honduras.

Weather

Honduras has a tropical climate with a wet season that runs from May through November in the interior of the country and from September to January along the north coast and the Bay Islands. The temperature is fairly constant throughout the year with a range from the mid-70s to the mid-90s. Temperatures in the mountainous interior are cooler and average in the 60s. Flooding and mudslides, common during the rainy season, hamper travel on the trails and roads. The hurricane season runs from August to November. Travelers need to take this into account when planning their visit to Honduras. The optimal times to visit are February and March when the dry weather makes for easy travel. This period is also the best time of the year for whale shark spotting along the Caribbean coastal areas.

Geography

Honduras is a land of ecological diversity. Most of the Honduran countryside is mountainous with coastal plains and beautiful white sand beaches. The Caribbean Sea forms the northern border of the country and the Pacific Ocean serves as the southern border. Guatemala lies to the west and Nicaragua to the east.

Attractions

Honduras has many attractions that cover a wide range of tastes from ecotourism to exploring ancient ruins to just relaxing on a beautiful beach while enjoying a tropical cocktail. According to Frommers, Honduras has 20 national parks, several biosphere reserves and nearly 100 protected ecological areas. Tourist infrastructure is developing including cruises, luxury hotels and ecolodges, and the development of new beach resorts. The Bay Islands, Roatan, Utila and Guanaga, are home to the world's second largest coral reef. The islands are known for their diving facilities. Each of these islands has a different character and facilities are available for a range of travelers from backpackers to the luxury-minded. The Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve is a rainforest designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The reserve features a variety of plant and animal life including some noisy howler monkeys. For tourists interested in exploring city life, Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba offer traditional markets as well as bars and restaurants that cater to tourist clientele.

Copan is a favorite attraction for visitors interested in Mayan culture. It is one of the ancient Mayan cities that features a complex cultural center. Copan has over 4,000 structures including the Acropolis with tunnels open to the public, the Hieroglyphic Stairway and the Great Plaza. Copan dates back to the 7th century and has often been compared to ancient Athens in terms of being a cradle of civilization in the Western Hemisphere. It was declared a World Heritage site in 1980.

Warnings

According to the Lonely Planet, Honduras ranks among the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere with over half of the population living at the poverty level. This poverty leads to a situation where crime is widespread throughout the country. This includes crimes against American visitors and residents, including kidnappings, rapes, and murder. The U.S. Department of State advises citizens to exercise caution at all times, travel in groups, and avoid picking up strangers in nightclubs. Americans are advised to “use the same common sense while traveling in Honduras that you would in any high crime area in the United States.”

Currency

Honduras uses the lempira as the basic unit of currency. The value of the lempira as of July 2010 was about 19 lempira to one U.S. Dollar. Bills come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50,100, 200 and 500. Money can be exchanged at banks and hotels legally. Unofficial money changers are found around the country. ATMs compatible with Cirrus, PLUS, Visa and MasterCard are found around the country in banks, grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies. Traveler's checks are also accepted although they are becoming less commonly used. A 2% fee is often charged for their use. Credit cards are accepted in many tourist venues.



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