COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
Honduras is a democracy with a developing economy. The national language is Spanish, although English is often spoken in the Bay Islands. The climate is generally pleasant and temperate, with dry and wet seasons. The terrain ranges from mountainous to coastal beaches and jungle lowlands. Hotels and restaurants are generally adequate in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Tela, La Ceiba, the Bay Islands and the Copan ruins. Currency exchange is readily available at banks and hotels in the major cities.
SECURITY AND SAFETY ^
Political demonstrations occur sporadically. They can disrupt traffic, but they are generally announced in advance and are usually peaceful. Travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place, and they should keep informed by following the local news and consulting hotel personnel and tour guides.
There have been kidnapping attempts and threats against a few U.S. citizens. For more information, we strongly encourage travelers to visit the U.S. Embassy�s website at
and click on Personal Security Measures � Kidnap Briefing. There have also been incidents involving roadblocks and violence connected with land disputes that can delay travel, particularly in the north coast area near Trujillo.
The areas off both coasts of Honduras have been the subject of maritime border disputes between Honduras and its neighbors. The Honduran Navy patrols these areas, and all private vessels transiting Honduran territorial waters should be prepared to be hailed and possibly boarded by Honduran military personnel to verify documentation. The Honduran Navy uses private vessels as well as military vessels to patrol Honduran waters. In the event that any vessel is hailed in Honduran waters in the Caribbean by a non-military vessel or any suspicious vessel and directed to prepare for boarding, the vessel should immediately contact the U.S. Coast Guard Operations Center by radio or INMARSAT at
305-415-6800. Anyone needing more information can also contact the U.S Embassy and request the U.S. Military Group (USMILGP) Duty Officer.
While the Honduran side of the Honduras-Nicaragua border has been largely cleared of land mines, travelers should exercise caution in the vicinity of the border because some land mines, scattered by flooding during Hurricane Mitch in October 1998, may still exist in the area.
The security situation in Honduras requires a high degree of caution, and U.S. citizens are encouraged to follow local news reports (Please see link to sources at
http://www.usmission.hn/.) and contact the Honduran Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa for current conditions. Poverty, gangs, and low apprehension and conviction rates of criminals contribute to a high crime rate. Many men in Honduras carry firearms and machetes, and disputes are sometimes settled with violence. Both violent and petty crime is prevalent throughout the country. While crime affects everyone in Honduras, criminals have at times targeted persons, particularly those coming from airports (a cycle of armed robberies followed by brief increases in police patrols) and hotels, as well as wealthy-looking residents in San Pedro Sula, Tela, Trujillo, and Tegucigalpa. Street crime is a principal concern, with thefts, including purse snatching, pickpocketing, assaults, and armed robberies on the rise in urban areas. There has been an increase in street robberies by two-men teams on medium-sized motorcycles targeting pedestrians. There have been some incidents of sexual assault. Carjackings, kidnappings, muggings, and home invasions are not uncommon. The government has instituted a �zero tolerance� policy on crime. As part of this policy, the police patrol jointly with armed soldiers in major cities in an effort to reduce crime.
Thirty-five U.S. citizens have been murdered in Honduras since 1995, and most cases remain unresolved. There are problems with the judicial process, including an acute shortage of trained personnel, equipment, staff, financial resources, and reports of corruption. The Honduran law enforcement authorities' ability to prevent, respond, investigate, apprehend, file Interpol reports, and prosecute criminal incidents remains limited. Honduran police generally do not speak English. The government has recently established a special tourist police in the resort towns of Tela and La Ceiba and plans to expand this force to other popular tourist destinations.
The San Pedro Sula area has seen occasional armed robberies against tourist vans, minibuses and cars traveling from the airport to area hotels, infrequently targeting the road to Copan. Vehicles force the transport off the road, and then men with AK-47s rob the victims, occasionally assaulting the driver or passengers. Robberies in this area may be based on tips from sources at airport arrival areas associated with large amounts of luggage/supplies usually for groups � not average tourists; please exercise caution in discussing travel plans in public.
Copan, the Bay Islands and other tourist destinations have a lower crime rate than other parts of the country, but petty thefts and assaults do occur. Specifically, visitors to Copan and the Bay Islands have experienced some petty thefts and, on Roatan Island, robbers have targeted homes and longer-term leased residences. Hotels and pensions are considered safer. U.S. citizens visiting the islands should exercise particular caution around sparsely inhabited coastal areas and should avoid walking on isolated beaches, especially at night. While incidents of serious violent crime in these regions are infrequent, three U.S. citizens have been murdered in Roatan since 1998. However, all the victims in Roatan were either residing in Roatan and/or involved in real estate or commercial ventures. Coxen Hole should be avoided after dark.
Although not a primary tourist destination, the northern part of the Department of Olancho is known for lumber and narcotics smuggling and violence. Travelers in that area should use extra caution. See the description of highways/areas to be avoided for details.
Incidents of crime along roads in Honduras are common. There have been frequent incidents of highway robbery on a number of roads including Limones to La Union, Olancho (route 41) via Salama and northward to Esquipulas Del Norte. For more information, please see the section below on Travel Safety and Road Conditions.
Tourists and residents should avoid walking at night in most areas of Honduras, especially in the major cities. Night driving is also discouraged. Tourists, in particular, should not hike alone in backcountry areas, nor walk alone on beaches, historic ruins or trails. All bus travel should be during daylight hours and on first-class conveyances, not on economy buses. Please pick taxis carefully, and note the driver's name and license number. Instruct the driver not to pick up other passengers, agree on the fare before you depart, and have small bills available for payment, as taxi drivers often do not make change.
Please do not resist a robbery attempt. Most criminals have weapons, and most injuries and deaths have resulted when victims have resisted. Two foreign tourists were murdered in July 2002 while resisting an armed robbery on a public bus in which they were traveling. Do not hitchhike or go home with strangers, particularly from nightspots. Whenever possible, travel in groups of two or more persons. Use the same common sense while traveling in Honduras that you would in any high crime area of a major U.S. city. Do not wear excessive jewelry in downtown or rural areas. Do not carry large sums of money, display cash in general, ATM or credit cards you do not need, or other valuables.
There have been incidents of armed assaults against private sailing vessels by criminals posing as fishermen off the northeast coast of Honduras, particularly in the numerous small islands northeast of the coast of the Department of Gracias a Dios. Sailors should contact the Coast Guard and yacht facility managers in their areas of travel for current information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Honduran laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Honduras are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. For more information, please check the U.S. Embassy's web site at
for the handout on If You are Arrested in Honduras. Note � Under the new U.S. �Protect Act� effective April 2003 it is a crime prosecutable in the U.S. to travel to a foreign country to sexually exploit children via pornography, the Internet and other means.
MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Medical care in Honduras varies in quality. Although doctors are generally well trained, support staff and facilities are not up to U.S. standards. Facilities for advanced surgical procedures are not available. The islands of Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja do not have a general surgery hospital. There is a decompression chamber on Roatan for divers. Travelers carrying prescription medicine should ensure that the medication is clearly labeled.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS ^
Honduras is prone to flooding and landslides from heavy rains, especially during the rainy season, which generally occurs from June to December. Hurricane Mitch caused extensive damage and loss of life in October 1998. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Honduras is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstances.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Because of crime and poor road conditions, driving can be very dangerous, and travelers may want to carry a cellular phone in case of an emergency. Travelers should exercise extreme caution while driving on isolated stretches of road and passing on mountainous curves. Rockslides are common, especially in the rainy season (June through December). Traffic signs, even on major highways, are often inadequate, and streets in the major cities are often unmarked. Travelers should drive with doors locked and windows rolled up.
Major highways have been rebuilt following the destruction caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, though many stretches are still under repair. Major cities are connected by an inconsistently maintained, two-lane system of paved roads, and many secondary roads in Honduras are unpaved. During the rainy season, even major highways are often closed due to rockslides and flooding. Hurricane Mitch washed out many bridges throughout the country, and temporary repairs are vulnerable to heavy rains.
Some of the most dangerous stretches for road travel include: Tegucigalpa to Choluteca, because of dangerous mountain curves; El Progreso to La Ceiba, because of animal crossings and the poor condition of bridges from flooding; and Limones to La Union, Olancho (route 41) via Salama and northward to Saba. This stretch of road is also referred to by locals as the �Corridor of Death� because of frequent incidents of highway robbery.
Route 39 through northern Olancho Department between Gualaco and San Esteban is highly dangerous and should be avoided.
Route 43 in northwest Olancho Department from Talanga to Olanchito via Yoro route 23 will become a primary route to the north coast when the remaining 60% of the highway is paved circa 1/05.
The only recommended route to the north coast from the south is CA-5 to route 21 to CA-13 via Tela to La Ceiba and Trujillo.
Honduran roads also suffer from a general lack of lighting and poorly marked highways. Vehicles are often driven at night without adequate illumination, and animals and people wander onto the roads at all hours. For these reasons, and because of the high incidence of crime, the U.S. Embassy strongly discourages car and bus travel after dark.
Hijackings of private and commercial vehicles from the United States to Honduras have occurred. Honduras and the United States have signed a stolen vehicle treaty; however, it has not yet entered into force. Moreover, since Honduran law protects good faith buyers, even of stolen vehicles, it is difficult to recover stolen vehicles. Vehicle insurance may mitigate loss; please check with the National Insurance Crime Bureau at
http://www.nicb.org/, private insurance carriers, and our web site information on Commercial Vehicle Hijackings at
for more information.
For additional general information about road safety, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, home page at
For specific information concerning Honduran driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Honduran National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the Internet at
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Honduras's civil aviation authority as Category 2 -- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Honduran air carrier operations. There is currently one Honduran airline, Sol Air, flying to the United States. However, this airline actually leases its aircraft and crews from a U.S. company. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. In addition, the DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business except for flights originating from or terminating in the United States. Local exceptions may apply. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 256-4801.
Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.
March 10, 2004