Continuing in the how to navigate Central America series, today we look at how navigate Honduras.
Navigating Honduras is essentially a guide on how to get to and from Utilia. It specifically covers how to get to Utilia from Plencia, Belize and the onwards journey to Leon, Nicaragua.
Buses are the most common way to travel via public transport in Honduras. The buses are frequent and very inexpensive however they can be slow and the frequency in the afternoons sporadic. Rapiditos (minibuses) are a quicker option for local routes, though they are a little bit more expensive.
The major issue with travel in Honduras is the safety concern. In the past this country has been voted one of the most dangerous in the world, this is largely due to their gang culture and high murder rates.
If catching public transport please be careful. Make sure not to use expensive technology, including phones, hide your money on yourself and make sure you can keep an eye on your luggage at all times.
Plecencia (Belize) to Puerto Cortes (Honduras)
The boat journey
I’m surprised this is a tale that I’m living to tell (and I’m not even being dramatic). This journey can only be described as terrifying and painfully uncomfortable.
We had read several blogs on this boat crossing before embarking on our journey. We thought the writers had embellished the truth for the readers benefit, however we soon discovered that the journey is actually that horrific!
The journey started out pleasant enough, we joined several others embarking the boat (a tiny boat considering the journey we were about to make) and we marvelled at how much space we had as we departed for Honduras (so we thought).
After 10 minutes navigating through the mangroves we ended up in Independence. Greeted by a huge crowd and enough luggage to sink the titanic, passengers started embarking and the cabin quickly filled up.
An Immigration officer boarded our vessel to check our documents and collect our departure fee. After what seemed an eternity (realistically it was an hour or maybe 2) we set sail crammed shoulder to shoulder with our fellow travellers and a bed tied to the roof.
The first hour of the journey lulled us into a false sense of security. As we sailed along in the calm waters we thought of all the blogs that had scared us in the lead up to this journey, and we started questioning the resilience of the writers.
The only discomfort we had experienced was the lack of personal space. Then we hit the Gulf of Honduras and everything changed.
The huge swell enveloped us while the giant waves smashed against the boat soaking us located close to the windows. The closed windows were no match for giant waves and the water continued to poor into the boat. Our fellow passengers started turning green and without warring the first batch of passengers started vomiting.
As we battled our own nauseousness, we spent all our energy on trying to zone out the half of the boat who were vomiting. Oh and the fact that one of the two outboard motors had just broken.
Rocking and battling against the waves was a slow and treacherous journey but eventually we made it to shore.Never more thankful for solid ground we disembarked with wet luggage and an urge to kiss the ground.
Immigration was definitely the strangest immigration experience I have encountered. The long wait almost tempted us to slink away unnoticed, an option I think was completely possibly. Common sense prevailed and we waited in a grassy area outside the immigration office with taxi drivers and other touts bombarding us.
Our original plan had been to catch a public buses to Le Cebia. Due to our delay there was a chance we would miss our connection and have to spend a night in San Pedro Sula, a notoriously dangerous city.
After a lot of discussion we decided to catch a private shuttle to Le Cebia eliminating any safety issues. After a lot of negotiation (that got us no where) we secured a shuttle to Le Cebia sharing with a lovely couple who had arrived on the boat from Belize City.
The Shuttle Journey
Due to heavy traffic and a breakdown it was a slow journey but we finally arrived in Le Cebia concluding our long travel day.
- Ferry: Plecencia to Puerto Cortes 4 ½ hours (cited 2 hours)
- Shuttle: Puerto Cortes to La Cebia 6 hours (cited 4 hours)
- Ferry: Plecencia to Puerto Cortes $130BZD ($65USD)
- Shuttle: Puerto Cortes to La Cebia $35USD (per person)
- Exit Belize – $37.50 BZD ($18USD)
- Entry fee Honduras – $3USD
*Immigration officers can be quite corrupt here, ensure you get an entry stamp and a receipt for your payment. If you can’t surrender your receipt for your entry payment you will have to pay another entry fee. No entry stamp incurs a hefty fine or a substantial bribe, someone on our bus paid a bribe of $130usd for not having an entry stamp.
La Cebia to Utila
We started our morning with little sleep (due to the long journey of the previous day) and a quick taxi ride to the port. Here we purchased our tickets with no issues and after a short wait filled with free wifi we boarded the ferry.
We were horrified and very nervous when the crew started handing out vomit bags, there was no way we could endure another day of rough seas! Luckily the whole trip was calm and comfortable trip.
- Taxi: La Cebia – Muelle de Cabotaje Port – 10-15 minutes
- Ferry: Muelle de Cabotaje Port – Utila – 50 minutes
- Taxi: La Cebia to Muelle de Cabotaje Port 100HNL ($4USD)
- Ferry: Muelle de Cabotaje Port to Utila 590HNL ($25USD)
Utila to Leon (Nicaragua)
This must have been our longest bus journey of the whole of our nine weeks in Central America.
It was an early start with us catching the first ferry out of Utila, when we docked in La Cebia a representative from the booking agent greeted us and told us to wait a few minutes. We were rounded up ten minutes later and without much information we were directed into vehicles.
We couldn’t believe our luck, we thought we had hit the jackpot and this comfy four seated for the whole of the journey to Nicaragua but it wasn’t to be our lucky day. In fact the taxi was only to take us down the road to meet a larger shuttle.
Our meeting spot happened to be a local fast food chain and our base for close to an hour as we waited for the arrival of passengers from the Rotana ferry. Once they had eaten we were divided between two vehicles and our luggage was loaded.
Finally we were ready to start our mammoth journey. The already lengthy journey was prolonged by the need of the two shuttles having to travel together. Thankfully the van was equipped with a screen and a good selection of DVDs which made the ride a little more bearable.
Immigration was the other issue causing us delays. Departing Honduras, the hold up was due to an issue with a passenger not receiving an entry stamp on arrival. After a fair bit of negotiating and a sneaky bribe we headed to the Nicaraguan border.
As we reached the Nicaraguan boarder we were forewarned this crossing might take a while and we could be here for a few hours. We hoped that our shuttle driver was just being pessimistic and exited our van to partake in our health checks (crazy huh). The health screening was basically a quick look over and a nurse recording our temperature.
Then we just had to wait, I got the impression the only reason for the delay was due to laziness of the staff. There was a silver lining though, the border crossing had free wifi to help us kill time.
From the border, it was a relatively short dive to Leon and around 4.30am we finally made it to our accommodation
*All the booking agents for this shuttle seem to use the same operators. This journey will include bathroom breaks and one decent lunch stop.
- Ferry: Utila to La Cebia 50 minutes
- Shuttle: La Cebia to Leon 16.5 hours
- Ferry: Utila to Muelle de Cabotaje Port 590HNL ($25USD)
- Shuttle: La Cebia to Leon $65USD
- Exit fee Honduras – no fee
- Entry fee Nicaragua – $12USD
There are cheaper options to complete these routes using public transport. In these circumstances we were happy to spend a little extra to save on traveling time.