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Honduras Backpacking Guide

July 19, 2014

I have sung the praises of countries like Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua, but I have to be honest about Honduras: it was more difficult for me to fully love as a visitor.

Yes, there are some good things to see, but the security situation also feels a lot more dubious here than elsewhere. (At least on the mainland, rather than on the relatively safer islands). Even if safety is not a direct concern to you, it can at least make you feel more inhibited when travelling there.

Honduras I think makes for a good stop on a larger regional trip. If you’re coming from Nicaragua or Guatemala, there’s no reason not to also tick Honduras off the list, and there’s a couple of good places to go. The Bay Islands in particular are a popular waypoint on the backpacker trail. But the country can also feel limiting, in part because of its record crime levels (its impact also felt indirectly in the level of travel infrastructure in place).

Why you should go to Honduras

Normally this is a longer list, but I would say there are really two headline reasons to go to Honduras:

  1. Budget Carribean on the island of Utila
    Beaches, tropical islands, widely spoken English and cheap diving make the Bay Islands a backpacker favorite. (Utila is the cheaper and most popular island with backpackers, whereas Roatan is more expensive and typically flooded with cruise ship tourists.)
  2. The best place to cheaply (learn to) Scuba dive
    The Bay Islands are also the best and cheapest place to get Scuba certified anywhere in Central America. Once certified you can enjoy easy access to the second biggest barrier reef in the world, and there’s even a chance to see huge whale sharks (on many a scuba diver’s bucket list) during certain times of the year. Scuba diving is magical, and if you get your first taste of it in Honduras it will surely colour your memories of this country.

Other things to do in Honduras

Utila, Bay Islands (via Wikimedia Commons)

You sure can party in Honduras, and indeed the Bay Islands are a place where many people do so. For many backpackers who are on a regional trip the Bay Islands are an obvious stop between Nicaragua and Guatemala, and so they have developed into a bit of a backpacker hub with a vibrant bar scene.

The Mayan ruins of Copan are another attraction. They happened to be the first Mayan ruins I saw personally on my trip, and so they were interesting to me especially at the time. As this site is a good deal quieter than other ones elsewhere, you do get to explore the site much more leisurely which is a plus. If you’re coming from the north or have seen other Mayan archeological sites in Mexico or Guatemala though, you may already be done with Mayan ruins by the time you get to Copan.

Safety issues in Honduras

The facts don’t lie: Honduras has the world’s highest homicide rate, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa are the most violent cities in the world (excluding those in active war zones) and Honduras is home to the world’s most dangerous airport.

While any experienced traveller probably has a good tolerance for at least some sketchiness in some places, the facts in Honduras don’t scream “welcome” and might weigh a bit more heavily on your mind — at least, they did to me.

To be clear: I experienced absolutely no problems in Honduras! I even went on a road trip through the country, going quite off the beaten track at times, and everywhere people were very helpful and friendly. Still, my Bat Sense kept telling me this is not a very safe place. While even in Guatemala the streets are lively in the evenings (street food is served, children are playing, grandmas are sitting on park benches), in a touristy place like Copan the streets were near-empty after 9pm as everyone locks themselves inside. The Bay Islands are safer and more relaxed, though speak to a local/expat and a few creepy stories are sure to come out.

Of course, don’t let this intimidate you too much, as it’s not exactly like bullets will whizz past as you cross the border. Honduras can be navigated safely if you act responsibly: make sure you know of all the common sense precautions, be careful at night especially, and be careful in the capital and San Pedro Sula.

Perhaps there’s greater tourism potential in Honduras to be unlocked, but it seems the security situation needs to improve first. As subjective as this is, I sadly never felt like I truly got to know the country the way I got to know others.

See also: 6 Safety Tips For Central America

More info on Honduras: check out the WikiVoyage page for some more destination info.

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15 comments

  1. Toni Solomon Reply July 10, 2016 at 12:24 am

    Check out Jungle River Lodge just outside of La Ceiba. Facebook as Jungle River. Great place to stay right on the Cangrejal River. Nice folks, tasty local foo,d Zipline tour, Great Rafting and Hiking, Pretty waterfall. Pico Bonito National Park right in front of lodge, panoramic views, breathtaking. Fresh water and cool river a welcome break from the dust and grime of traveling through Central America or to wash off the salt and sea after dive training in the Bay Islands.

  2. Adrian Reply April 14, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    Hi Marek

    Finding your whole section on Central America really helpful for my own trip across. I was wondering if you have any hostel/budget recommendations to stay on Utila? It’s the first time I seem to be having trouble finding anywhere before arriving.

  3. Adriana Reply February 25, 2016 at 5:37 am

    Hello! I have to say, Honduras is one of the most beautiful countries in Latin America, and I’m not say it just because I was born and raised here (Honduras). Secondly, I would like to clarify that Copan was one, if not the most, important Mayan city. Religiously speaking, Copan was the mecca for the Mayan, but people seem to like Guatemala and Mexico more, even though Mayans rarely inhabited those countries. Finally, I would like to say, safety issues seem a lot worse for foreigners, I believe. As you said, bullets don’t whizz around. I’ve never had any bad experience but it might just be me. I think precautions should be taken in any country, and its sad that we are often underestimated because of these “safety issues” that aren’t as bad as people make them seem or our dangerous airport, which I have to say, I have had no problem with in any of my landings, it is definately not the most dangerous in the world. I encourage you to give Honduras another chance because it really is a wonderful place.

    • Alyssa Reply March 3, 2016 at 6:26 am

      Hi Adriana,

      I am a female in my mid twenties planning my first solo trip in September to Guatemala and Honduras. I was initially so excited and confident in my choice but over the past few weeks started having 2nd thoughts (mostly based on comments from friends/family members and info read online). Currently I plan to fly in and out of Guatemala city making my way to and from the Bay Islands by bus or shuttle, I have the entire month of September. After hearing many safety concerns of inland Honduras, especially for solo female travelers, I have started to wonder if flying from country to country is a better option. What do you think, with common sense and being cautious do you think it would be okay and enjoyable to travel by land? Any input would be greatly appreciated, feel free to reply to me directly at [email protected].
      PS. I am fair skinned, blonde haired, blue eyes … I didn’t think that would make much of a difference but my male friends from Latin America seem to think it will make things more difficult/ dangerous for a solo female traveler, please tell me they are crazy!!
      Thanks in advance 🙂

  4. Ray Reply February 15, 2016 at 7:24 am

    Thanks for the feedback about safety issues in Honduras! I am potentially thinking of backpacking around the mainland for 2 weeks in late August/early September 2016.

    There is a 2018 World Cup Qualifier match in San Pedro Sula between Canada and Honduras that I am basing my trip around.

    Copan and Lago de Yojoa were the two main places I wanted to check out. While Ometepe, Le Ceiba and Utila seem to be the more logical and “backpacker friendly” places to also check out, I am wondering if I will be missing out on anything near Tegucigalpa? Not the city itself, but some of the smaller towns in the surrounding area.

    From what I gather reading other posts about Honduras, as long as you are back at your hotels/hostels before dusk and don’t walk around carrying expensive iPhones/cameras, then as a tourist, you should be fine as long as you stick to the main areas of whatever town you are in. I’ve been to Belize, Peru and Brazil before, so I do have some idea of how “sketchy” some places in Latin America can be if you’re not careful.

    I am fine with not going out at night (saves a lot of money at the bar), and would sign up for day trips at whatever hostels I stay at (power in numbers). Where possible, I would take the first class buses from town to town. I believe Hedman Atlas was the main bus company that runs first class buses between San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa?

    Aside from that, I would love to hear from anyone else who has been to Honduras about any other safety tips that they have (e.g. scams, cities/areas to avoid, etc.). Also, what level of Spanish did you have before you backpacked here?

    Right now, my knowledge is non-existent except for a few words. Otherwise, I have a basic understanding of French. Not sure if I should invest some time into taking Spanish classes before I go or if picking up a Spanish dictionary from Lonely Planet or Frommers should do the trick?

    • Adriana Reply February 25, 2016 at 5:49 am

      Ok, so near Tegucigalpa you can visit Valle de Angeles, Santa Lucia, Cedros or Ojojona, those are my favorites.

      I really enjoy taking photographs so I walk around with my iPhone a lot, again it really is just about taking precautions. Obviously, I don’t take pictures out at night with it.

      I would also recommend going to Comayagua which, if you see on the map, is a neighboring departamento with Fansisco Morazan and Cortes. So when you visit the Lago de Yojoa, you can visit Comayagua. What’s really interesting about it is that the oldest clock in America is in there. It was built in the Catedral de Comayagua, I think that’s pretty cool.

      I highly recommend you pick up the basics of spanish, to make your trip easier. Also, if you have the chance, ask for a baleada, it’s the most delicious thing ever.

      • Marek Reply February 25, 2016 at 7:40 pm

        Thanks for sharing, Adriana!

      • Roma Reply April 10, 2016 at 2:10 pm

        Adriana, I’m glad you mentioned Comayagua. I’m going there to teach for a year, maybe two. I have a lot of Honduran friends here in the US, and the ones who have been to Comayagua assured me that I would be safe there. It’s nice to hear a positive report. I’m pretty adventurous. I used a lot of information I got from Indie Traveler when I backpacked around the Philippines last year. I’m looking forward to living in Honduras, but still a little concerned about how limited I might be if I get the bug to travel around on my own.

  5. Ray Reply January 11, 2016 at 5:50 am

    Are the crimes in Honduras usually just gang-on-gang violence, though? Or is Honduras really that crime-ridden where foreigners and citizens are randomly targeted? What did you gather from your conversations with ex-pats and other locals you had met during your time there?

    • Marek Reply January 11, 2016 at 11:02 am

      Yes actually most of it is gang related, which shouldn’t affect tourists. Though I did meet one traveller who got into a hairy situation with an armed robber, and I spoke to a man who lived and worked on the Bay islands who had some creepy stories to tell which also involved tourists (though these admittedly came from a period of 8 years living there).

      My sense is Honduras is basically fine and hard crime targeting tourists appears relatively rare, though it’s still a good idea to heed local advice and to take extra care particularly at night.

  6. Janet Reply September 27, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Hi Marek,
    I am planning my trip through central America at the moment. I start with 4 weeks of learning Soanish in Guatemala and after that I want to spend some time traveling through guatemala. Form there I would like to make a short visit to Belize, mainly Caye Caulkner and move on to Honduras (Utila) to get my PADI. Now I have some trouble finding the best way to get there. My idea now is to go from Semuc Champey – Livingston (Rio Dulce too) – Belize – Caye Caulkner and then I am stuck… How do I move on from here to Utila… Do you have any advise for this?

    • Marek Reply September 27, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      I’m not entirely sure as people more commonly go to Utila from inside Honduras, which is what I also did. I’ve heard there are ferries from Belize to Puerto Cortes in Guatemala though from which you may be able to take a bus into Honduras. Sorry I don’t have anything more specific! But your route will probably just involve backtracking a bit back into northern Guatemala and then heading east.

    • Sheena Reply January 30, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      Check out Utila Buy & Sell on Facebook – people regularly ask about and arrange flights, shuttle vans, and other forms of transport from Belize, Guatemala, and sometimes even Mexico! They’re a helpful bunch.

      Re: security; I lived in Utila for three months while doing my divemaster internship (you can read about the experiences on my blog if curious). The biggest safety issue there was theft, particularly break-ins. The thieves know exactly when you leave your apartment (i.e., for the regular Friday night BBQ at the dive shop or other social events), and they’ll take the opportunity to break in through unsecured windows and doors. In these types of situations, common sense is king: choose accommodation with secure windows and a sturdy door/lock, keep valuables out of sight, and don’t step out of your apartment for “just a few minutes” to run to the store, etc.

      Enjoy Utila!

      • Marek Reply January 30, 2016 at 6:42 pm

        Great tips, thanks for sharing Sheena!

      • Tess Reply May 29, 2017 at 11:34 pm

        Hi Sheena, can you provide the link to your blog? I am thinking about doing the 3 month internship a the Bay Islands College of Diving as well. Thank you!

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