Copan was beautiful. Utila was glorious. But Honduras in general? Not the easiest place to travel. Getting into the country was difficult and getting across the country was difficult, so it came as no surprise that leaving would also be difficult.
Getting from Utila, Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua proved to be one of the longest (36 hours!) and most expensive travel days in our nine weeks in Central America. We took tuk-tuks and ferries and taxis and buses and made an overnight stop in the murder capital of the world. Yuck.
We left Utila on the afternoon ferry and caught a tuk-tuk to the bus station where we bought cheap tickets to San Pedro Sula, aka The Murder Capital. A wonderful girl at Pirate’s Bay Inn on Utila had arranged a hostel for us in San Pedro Sula and because we were arriving after dark they had sent a taxi to meet us at the bus terminal. After a restless night in a matchbox sized room we took a taxi back to the bus station to catch the 5:30 am TicaBus to Nicaragua. So far that’s ferry, to tuk-tuk, to taxi, to taxi, to bus. Got that?
Up until this point we had avoided the large, expensive tourist buses, but we had been warned over and over about how difficult and potentially dangerous trying to take public transport all the way across Honduras would be. So we sucked it up, paid our $35 (each) and boarded the comfy, air-conditioned bus, which would take us directly to Leon.
We stopped only twice, once in Tegucigalpa to pick up more passengers, and then again at the border and in twelve hours we made it to Leon. In Tegucigalpa we were explicitly told not to leave the bus station, and as we pulled through the heavily barbed-wired and gated bus yard, equipped with its own armed guards, we got the distinct impression that Honduras’s capital was not a place to wander around.
The bus left San Pedro Sula only 25% full and filled up in the capital, but we were shocked to find ourselves surrounded by locals, likely wealthier locals, versus other travelers. Out of 100 people on the bus, only around 10 of us were not carrying Nicaraguan or Honduran passports, which is pretty telling regarding safety in traversing Honduras, especially considering the $35 per person price tag.
The border kinda sucked, but mostly because it was HOT, and we had to wait in line behind all the other passengers from our bus. The bus company helped facilitate the crossing, which was really nice, and the whole thing was relatively painless.
The mega-bus showed three movies (all in Spanish) and while it may have been nice to have some entertainment and practice our Spanish, the selections of Alvin and the Chipmunks, Madagascar, and Senor Popper y Los Penguinos made for a mind-numbing series of annoying voices (the chipmunks) and poorly-dubbed movies that simply don’t translate well (Senor Popper). I will admit that I loved watching Madagascar in Spanish. Brings me back to my high school Spanish days.
The 12-hour ride was not horrible, but if you can avoid seats near the bathroom then you really should as I spent the whole ride getting smacked in the back of the head by the bathroom door. One hundred people and no bathroom stops equaled a big headache.
Needless to say we were stoked when our 12-hour bus ride came to an end and we disembarked from the bus with the 10 other gringos as the 90 or so locals rode on to Managua. A short taxi ride later we were at our hostel Hostel Colibri drinking Tona, eating the ubiquitous rice and beans, and crashing after a long 36-hours traveling through some the sketchiest places in our hemisphere.
Bay Islands, Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua Round Up
- Ferry from Utila to the mainland ($25/person)
- Tuk tuk to the bus station (~$4/taxi)
- Bus to San Pedro Sula ($6/person).
- Taxi to and from hostel in San Pedro Sula (~$5/taxi)
- Bus from San Pedro Sula to Leon, Nicaragua ($35/person)
- Taxi to hostel (~$4/taxi)
Dollars and Sense
Dollars- see above
TIP: Make sure to book ahead for major transport (like the TicaBus). There were about a dozen travelers at the bus station in San Pedro Sula without tickets, waiting to see if anyone was a no show. Do not travel stand by in the murder capital of the planet.
TIP: Although not ideal for budget travelers, reputable taxis are a safe way to get around unsafe places. If locals are concerned about your safety and recommending you take a taxi, you may want to listen.