Saturday, May 17, 2014

Crossing the border to Honduras

This was, by all accounts, going to be a difficult border. We were advised by everyone to be there early as the process would take the whole morning and be the most frustrating yet. People we had just met spend 5 hours there. Honduras is known to be frustrating to enter. As we already found the Guatemalan entry frustrating, what would this one be like then?

Getting there was frustrating too… Mike missed a turn-off and realised it only 20 km later! We had already had some serious delays that morning when an e-mail from grandparents needed immediate action. In other words we didn't arrive at the border early in the morning at all, we arrived just before lunch. At lunchtime everything closes, we were told. Add to that that it was Good Friday, which could mean early closure…

At the Guatemalan part of the border everything went very smoothly. Where we had been met by rude and unfriendly border guards when entering Guatemala, here we were met by very friendly and helpful people. The process was straight forward, go to Immigration and pay the exit fee of 10 Quetzales per person, then go to Customs to return the vehicle permit, no charge. Customs check the vehicle and that's it! Easy.

Guatemala Customs checking the VIN numbers
Entering Honduras was going to be the hard part, especially as we were now well into lunch time. The lady at the immigration looked stern but was, again, very helpful… Customs demanded 3 copies of a form we had just received from Guatemala Customs… which of course we didn't have. He kept asking about it and we just kept acting dumb, we're very good at that :-) In the end he gave up and handed us the necessary permits and we were away. The whole process took about 2 to 2,5 hrs and was considerably easier than entering Guatemala. The key is to have all your paperwork in order and knowing what has to be done.

At Guatemala immigration, to obtain the export stamp in our passports
First campspot in Honduras, the tents in an open
barn, lightbulb above us and food from the restaurant!
Riding into Honduras was immediately different to Guatemala. The atmosphere had somehow changed, the people and faces had changed too. First stop for us was an ATM. We stopped at a fuel station where they didn't have one. The bank in town was the only option but hard to explain how to get there. A friendly local directed us to follow him, which was up a steep cobblestone path into a historic village. The ATM worked and was the first one we had seen so far that didn't charge us anything for retrieving money!

Aerial view of the Guatemala/Honduras border crossing at Copán. Google earth isn't any clearer or more accurate in this part of the world. The border line is too far to the left and should be where the 5 is. The yellow line representing the road is positioned too far to the top as well. The actual road is below the buildings where the trucks are. 1: Entry to the complex (see photo of the DHL building above), 2: Car and motorcycle parking, 3: Guatemala immigration, 4: Guatemala Customs, 5: Actual border where paperwork will be checked, 6: Immigration Honduras, 7: Customs Honduras 
The day ended at a campground that wasn't really a campground but a very friendly family that opened up their garden and sheds to campers. They also have a restaurant! We could pitch our tents in an open type barn, nicely in the shade, perfect! Later they gave us a lightbulb and we had power to run the computer too!

All in all our first impression of Honduras is a very good one. People are friendly, no longer the stern Maya faces but people that know how to laugh! Welcome to Honduras! We love it already!