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Country Reports

Honduras Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Any travel or stay in the Central American country of Honduras (population 8.9 million) - which suffers from extreme rates of violent crime, poor infrastructure, and a number of health concerns - will necessitate a substantial amount of vigilance on the part of the traveler.

CRIME

Honduras is the poorest and most economically unequal country in Central America, with two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line, including 20 percent in extreme poverty. The country suffers from extremely high crime rates, fueled by a lack of economic opportunities and the widespread presence of gangs (maras) ‒ notably the powerful Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 organizations. More than 200,000 Hondurans fled their homes in 2015 due to violence. While the vast majority of victims of crime are Hondurans, foreigners can be affected, targeted by thieves due to perceived affluence.

The homicide rate has declined in recent years - due in part to the use of military police (PMOP) to maintain order - but remains extremely high at 59 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016. Certain cities remain particularly dangerous due to the presence of gangs and drug traffickers, with homicide rates up to twice as high as the national average, including the capital Tegucigalpa (Francisco Morazán department), San Pedro Sula (Cortés department), La Ceiba (Atlántida department), Trujillo (Colón department), and Yoro (Yoro department). 

Besides murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, home invasions, credit card skimming, rape, and drug trafficking-related violence are common. Carjacking, highway banditry, and kidnapping are often reported along highways (e.g. the road to Copan). Highway crimes are sometimes committed by criminals disguised as security forces (to varying extents of believability) who set up roadblocks or fake checkpoints. Extortion is also rampant in Honduras.

Generally speaking, a significant uptick in crime is observed in the periods leading up to Christmas and Easter and during the October Semana Morazánica vacation week. Local authorities advise residents against discussing vacation plans on social networks to avoid tempting would-be burglars and car thieves.

Foreigners as well as locals can fall victim to extortion (e.g. threats made against victims or family members if "protection" money is not paid). As such, individuals in Honduras - both travelers and expatriates - should avoid posting information online that includes personal details, such as their location, place of work, or information about family members.

To minimize the risk of becoming a victim of crime, avoid poorer urban neighborhoods, do not use any form of public transportation or long-distance buses, avoid traveling by foot in cities, travel in groups whenever possible, and take basic security precautions (e.g. keep signs of wealth concealed, drive with doors locked and windows rolled up, etc.). Keep in mind that criminals, even very young criminals, may be armed; if assaulted, it is advised to comply with demands and to never offer resistance or attempt to negotiate.

Drug trafficking operations are particularly significant in the remote department of Gracias a Dios, where government presence and infrastructure are limited.

The tourist destinations of Roatán and the Bay Islands have lower crime rates than the mainland but risks remain. The Coxen Hole area of Roatán should be avoided after dark.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISKS

Demonstrations and strikes are relatively common and typically occur in or around city centers, public buildings, and other public areas. Roadblocks are sometimes erected by protesters along strategic routes (e.g. on the way to Tegucigalpa's Toncontín International Airport [TGU]).

While most protests remain peaceful, violent clashes do sometimes break out.

Political activism by foreign nationals is prohibited under Honduran law. Foreigners who take part in demonstrations or other political activities risk detention and/or deportation.

As in many countries, the frequency and intensity of protests often increases in the lead up to elections. Both legislative and presidential elections took place on November 26, 2017.

All protests should be avoided as a precaution.

NATURAL RISKS

Honduras (along with Myanmar and Haiti) has been the country most devastated by natural disasters over the past 20 years in terms of economic and human loss. Situational updates are available in Spanish on the website of the Honduran national civil protection (COPECO) in the event of storms or other natural disasters. 

The rainy season typically lasts from May/June through October/November. During this period, floods, landslides, and powerful storms can occur, often damaging infrastructure and causing subsequent travel disruptions.

The rainy season also coincides with the North Atlantic Hurricane season. Hurricanes, tropical storms, and storm remnants can hit the country during this period, with storms particularly common in August through October. In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch, one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the region, left 7000 people dead and caused severe material damage.

There is also a risk of earthquakes. A 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck in May 2009, causing property damage and several deaths.

Forest fires can strike during the dry season.

TRANSPORTATION

Driving conditions in Honduras are concerning due to aggressive driving habits, lax vehicle safety standards, and poor infrastructure (roads are often damaged by abundant rain, floods, and landslides). As such, vehicle collisions are relatively common.

Travel by car and bus after dark is therefore strongly advised against. As inter-city buses are often targeted by criminals, it is advisable to travel by air when possible for any long-distance journeys.

Due to risks associated with unlicensed taxis, it is advisable to only use "Radio Taxis" in Tegucigalpa and "Radio Taxi Barandillas" taxis in San Pedro Sula. In other towns and cities, choose taxis from taxi stations outside hotels and shopping centers, verifying that the driver's ID is displayed on the right-hand side of the windshield. Honduran taxis do not usually have meters; as such, it is advisable to agree to a price in advance.

HEALTH

Medical care and emergency services are limited and the quality of healthcare is generally below European/North American standards. Additionally, the health and sanitation conditions in the country are worrying. All travelers are advised to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance prior to departure.

Tap water in Honduras is not safe to drink. According to one study, eight out of every 100,000 deaths in the country are due to contaminated water, which can carry a number of diseases including diarrhea-inducing bacteria, hepatitis A, parasites, and carcinogens. To reduce the risk of contracting a food- or water-borne disease, wash hands regularly, drink only bottled or purified water, and avoid eating raw or undercooked foods and any foods that cannot be disinfected (berries, ice cream, etc.). It is also advisable to avoid swimming in bodies of fresh water (ponds, rivers, etc.).

A number of mosquito-borne diseases are present in the country, with transmission rates generally highest during and immediately following the rainy season (May/June through October/November). As of the first half of 2017, the cities most affected by mosquito-borne diseases were Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, Olanchito, Juticalpa, and La Ceiba.

  • Malaria may be present nationwide but strains are not resistant to chloroquine. The risk of exposure is highest in the departments of Colón and Gracias a Dios, and moderate in Atlántida, El Paraíso, Olancho, and Yoro.
  • The risk of exposure to dengue fever is high, particularly during the rainy season (May-November). Nearly 23,000 cases were reported nationwide in 2016.
  • Chikungunya has been present in the country since 2014. A spike in transmission rates was reported in 2016 but case rates have fallen considerably since then; only some 200 cases were reported in the first three months of 2017.
  • Rates of the mosquito-borne Zika virus are progressively falling in Honduras, but cases continue to be reported. More than 32,000 cases were reported in 2016, compared to fewer than 150 in the first three months of 2017. While the virus is usually relatively benign (and asymptomatic in 80 percent of cases), links between the Zika virus and severe birth defects as well as the potentially fatal neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) have been established. The Zika virus is also transmittable via sexual intercourse.

Climate

The climate is tropical (hot and humid) along the coast and drier inland. Temperatures are much cooler in the interior of the country than along the coastline. The rainy season lasts from May until October (when the air is often stifling) but it rains regularly all year long along the Caribbean coast. The interior of the country and the Pacific coast region are dry from November until April. Temperatures and humidity levels are milder in the winter months.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +504 Police: 199 Fire Dept.: 198 Ambulance: 195

Electricity

Voltage: 110 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

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