We wanted to write a little bit about Honduras and security as many travellers completely avoid the country or, if driving, cross from El Salvador to Honduras and then Honduras to Nicaragua in one day and only see a few hours of highways. Honduras is an amazing place with amazing people, some of the best food we’ve had on the trip, terrific ruins at Copan, fantastic highlands, great beaches, and great wild and unexplored places in the east.
Before entering Honduras we were both a bit nervous, especially considering that Honduras is ranked as the murder capital of the world. I also heard a lot of stories from other travelers about corrupt police, frequent and annoying encounters with the same corrupt police, and even armed robberies. However, after having spent an all too brief 8 days in Honduras, Honduras felt like any other Latin American country.
There are definitely problems in Honduras, which can seemingly be boiled down to three categories (in our opinion). One is corrupt/annoying police. Corrupt police are typically not a danger, it’s just a fact of life in all Latin countries and police corruption is probably worse in Honduras although we had no issues. The second category is gang violence and cartel violence. As everywhere, if you avoid bad parts of cities, don’t travel at night, and avoid known hotspots, this shouldn’t be a problem. The third category is the issue of robbery, assault, and occasional kidnappings that occur. These issues frequently stem from general lawlessness in many areas combined with corruption by local police and fear on the part of the citizens to speak up. These are serious issues for sure, but if you stick to the main highways and, best of all, talk to locals along the way about areas you are planning to go, and then only travel in broad daylight and avoid things like picking up hitchhikers, you shouldn’t expect to have any problems.
For birders and nature lovers, I’d like to pass along some things we found/experienced. The area around Copan and Copan Ruinas is generally quite safe and we wandered around with our binoculars and cameras with no problems, including the road up to and beyond the Macaw Mountain Park. Lancetilla Botanic gardens are very safe and Tela is purportedly much safer than it was in the past, though we only stopped for groceries and internet and made sure that the truck was in our sight at all times. Pico Bonito National Park and the town of El Pino are quiet and tranquil and we were told they are safe by the locals, though nearby Ceiba has a few more issues. La Muralla National Park requires driving a road that is considered dangerous to travel, though once you arrive in La Union and proceed up to the park it is much safer and there is a guard 24/7 at the park which is perfectly safe. On the road in from the Aguan valley, we passed through a Military checkpoint where we were advised that the road is very dangerous. When we asked if we should avoid using the road, the military said that it was fine to traverse but to not stop for any reason and certainly not to pick anyone up. We drove through and had no problems at all. We don’t know if there are any known issues in La Tigra National Park, but we had zero problems when we visited the eastern entrance above San Juancito.
Despite the problems and despite what you read in the news, Honduras is a vibrant country and life goes on as normal. The people we met in Honduras were all incredibly friendly and welcoming and we had no problems whatsoever. We took the usual precautions, avoided cities (as we frequently do), did not drive at night, and tried to stay low key, and we were safe and happy. We encountered a few check-points with police and military. The locals also told us that the military is very trustworthy and that their presence generally ensures safety and is a good thing. At every stop the personnel were very professional and were just doing their job. Things may be looking up for Honduras as we also heard from several Hondurans that the new government is cracking down and slowly cleaning things up a bit, particularly in the lawless areas of the Olancho.
We had a fabulous time in Honduras, but our time in Honduras could not have been what it was without the advice, support, and hospitality from several people we encountered along the way. Fabiola, John, Older, and Esdras thank you so much for sharing your love of birds and Honduras with us!