Last Updated on March 24, 2021
Update April 2021: In addition to my article below, in which I share my experience traveling around Honduras as a female traveler, I recommend you check out the following articles to help you decide if travel in Honduras is safe at the moment:
- Honduras is poor, violent and unstable. – Washington Post, September 2019
- Crime in Honduras – Wikipedia
- The current travel advisory for Honduras by the U.S. State Department
Update August 2015: To give you a more up-to-date idea on the current situation in Honduras, I recommend also checking out this article on Medium.com, written by a couple that has visited Honduras just recently: ‘The Murder Capital Of The World That Isn’t‘. Now on to how we experienced Honduras in early 2011:
During the eight-month leg of our trip through Central America, we crossed paths with countless travelers coming up north as we headed down south, and listened to their tips and advice for places we had yet to visit. The only place that nobody could tell us much about was Honduras. Not on many itineraries, there are two popular Honduras destinations: enthusiastic divers evangelically promote the Bay Islands, where they go to get their diving certificates, and the travelers interested in Maya culture will head to Copan Ruinas, a mere 12 kilometers from the Guatemalan border.
But what about the rest of Honduras? We had read about a lake just as great as Lake Atitlan, sleepy fishing villages on the Caribbean coast, colonial towns and the Ruta Lenca, a series of indigenous villages in the mountains – so much more than just Copan!
Even though travel in other Central American countries has also been called unsafe on occasion, like Guatemala or Nicaragua, travelers continue to visit these countries without question. It is the culture of Guatemala and the sand, surf, volcanoes and colonial cities that attract people to Nicaragua. When it comes to Honduras, the hesitation travelers feel to visit Honduras often keeps them from visiting.
One recent reason for this current feeling of insecurity may have been a political uprising in 2009 that hit international news. Then-president Manuel Zelaya attempted an illegal political maneuver which resulted in his subsequent arrest and exile. As a result, Honduras found itself in a severe constitutional crisis and many embassies issued temporary travel warnings to Honduras.
When considering the time of our visit (end of 2010 into 2011), this could have been what was causing the distinct lack of international visitors to the country. However, neighboring Guatemala receives on average nearly 1 million visitors annually, while Honduras welcomes only one third of that at, 370,000 visitors per year.
Travel in Honduras can certainly seem unsafe. The first thing that stood out to us was the amount of machine guns displayed publicly. Even in supposedly safe and heavily visited Copan, with visitors ranging from backpackers to retirees, the sheer amount of armed policemen and private security guards on the main square and parked in front of banks was unnerving. If there is this much police presence, we thought, why exactly do they need it? Is it only precautionary? Or should we have taken out a life insurance policy in addition to our travel insurance?
During a forest hike with a local guide in Copan, we inadvertently learned more about the narco-trafficking happening in Honduras than we did about the Mayan sites on the tour. We learned the levels of involvement, from ‘mules’ who transport it up the pyramid to who runs things at a mid-management level. A pimped out pick up truck even passed and stopped for a chat with our guide, who later told us that although they seemed like friendly happy guys, they were definitely involved in the drug trade. They posed no threat to us, and they never even got out of the car or talked to us. We would have remained ignorant completely had we not been with a guide, but it was unsettling to say the least that it was that close to us – and in the middle of a forest no less.
On the Caribbean coast of Honduras we felt safe, and even in the center of San Pedro Sula, a city it is said has suffered from an increase in crime, during the day didn’t feel any different from other big cities. In fact the main bus terminal was a giant shopping mall and felt more developed and travel-friendly than most central city bus terminals.
Tegucigulpa, on the other hand, felt unsafe and shady from the start. We never planned on visiting the capital, as there were no sights we felt we wanted to see, and several areas are considered overly dangerous. Unfortunately, however, after we realized that our New Year’s Day travel plans meant buses were not running directly to the Nicaraguan border, we stood at a bus station studying the guidebook to figure out a hostel for the night. While we frantically flipped the pages of our Footprint, one of the locals came up to us immediately and warned us not to stand with our backpacks there or we would get robbed. We hopped right into a taxi after that.
However, after finding an overpriced but very safe hotel (front door locked at all times, same as all other hotels in the area) we have to admit that we calmed down after a first stroll through the historic center, despite (or because of?) the heavy police presence in the area.
We made it home before dark, and wouldn’t have wanted to venture out once the sun went down. We heard several gun shots in the evening, always followed by police sirens rushing through the city. The next morning in the light of day, we went out to explore before catching the bus. The parque central was bustling with people, vendors, newspaper stands, and interesting urban art. The Cathedral is impressive, and well-dressed church-goers made the Sunday morning in the city center feel festive. After that, Tegucigulpa felt safer, though the amount of police men with machine guns left us with a strong feeling of unease and unable to fully enjoy our walk.
Would we recommend traveling in Honduras?
While we were in Honduras we did not encounter one single safety issue, however due to the constant police presence (or in spite of it?) we never felt safe. Just two days after we had left the country, we read about an attack on a mini bus, just like the ones that we traveled in, in which all passengers were shot and killed.
We have always been huge supporters of traveling off the beaten path, and Honduras can certainly offer that to its international visitors. In all the towns we visited in Honduras outside of Copan Ruinas, we were almost the only tourists – in towns like Santa Rosa, Gracias or Lake Yojoa.
In our opinion, traveling in Honduras is not much more dangerous as in its neighboring countries (a similar attack on a mini bus took place around the same time in Guatemala City, a capital which experiences several such attacks each year). However, visitors flocking to other Central American countries also take that risk to discover once-in-a-lifetime places, experiences and cultures. The question with Honduras is, is there enough to visit and see as visitors to warrant safety risks. The ever present machine guns and gun culture made it feel much more unsafe.
We would say yes, Honduras is without a doubt worth visiting, and as long as you stay vigilant and avoid San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa at night, traveling in Honduras is safe. Although we did not visit the Bay Islands ourselves, we have never heard any negative safety stories from people who did go, and when considering the number of tourists who visit the Roatan or Utila, the popular diving island of Honduras are probably the safest and most tourist friendly spots in the country.
After 11 weeks in Mexico, we also examined safety of travel in Mexico which you can read here.
Have you been to Honduras? If so, would you say traveling in Honduras is safe? If you decided to skip a visit there, did safety play a role? We would love to hear your thoughts on whether or not Honduras is safe to visit in the comments below.
Tuesday 24th of May 2016
Hi, I have been talking to a girl in San Pedro Sula for over a year now and we really like each other. She is heavily involved in her church like I am, and claims the city is safe if you just keep out of bad areas and use common sense. I told my family about wanting to visit her someday, and they started to get all agitated and said I would get killed in a day down there. Do you think the fears are overblown? It sounds to me that gangs only go after each other, not random tourists.
Wednesday 25th of May 2016
That's a tough call - I feel like you'll be fine, but don't hold me responsible if you go and something happens ;-) But in all seriousness, you're right: the violence is gang-related and not directed against tourists. As long as you stay out of the dodgy parts of town, I think you'll be fine! Make sure to read Caroline's Honduras post for a different perspective on San Pedro: http://www.notatree.co.uk/ And did you read the Medium article I linked to? Go see your girl and let me know how it went :)
Monday 2nd of May 2016
I am taking my 2 kids (14 and 18) to Honduras for the Summer. We plan to rent a car and drive from San Pedro Sula to Copan and then from Copan to La Ceiba, where we will take the ferrry and spend a week scuba diving.
We have traveled to Honduras in the past, but have never "traveled" inside the country. Usually just beeline it to Rotan.
I am a bit weary of the car rental. My husband says I am putting our lives at risk.
Friday 6th of May 2016
I've just spent a few weeks rufing my motorcycle around Honduras. My last post on my blog us all about my experiences there www.notatree.co.uk. I had a great time. Use common sense and you'll be fine!
Friday 6th of May 2016
Laura - car rental or not.. that's a tough question. I felt pretty safe while traveling there, to be honest, but I am not sure how I'd feel about renting a car with kids.. maybe you should also post your question on a Honduras Tripadvisor forum? Just to get some more opinions.. Enjoy Honduras, Laura!
Monday 27th of July 2015
Hi everyone , I came back to Honduras after leaving in NY for 20 years and its very different from what it was when I was younger, it is very dangerous at night I wouldn't recommend to anybody walking around at night its almost as bad as the Bronx during night time lol. My advice is ... Honduras is for tourists that love nature and nice colonial villages, any of those places meaning the beach , villages , copan ruins , water falls , or places to go bird watching or to do extreme sports its safe but do it during the day . Avoid Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula . And if you can rent a car its very cheap and you can truly be safe . Also I don't mind the guards or the police , not having them around is when people should worry . Anyway I do recommend Honduras , the more visitors we get the better , we can learn a lot from foreigners and the government will do more to keep them safe if we get a nice flow of tourism. Just please don't go out alone at night unless you are driving and are going to a theater or an event where people you know will be. Be friendly , smile , we like Americans and don't be offended if some people smile when they see you , they will probably talk about how tall and white you are lol . We don't mean to offend. Also most people call north Americans gringos but to us is just a nick name its not meat to offend north Americans, you can call us catrachos ? anyway travel safe everyone.
Sunday 26th of July 2015
Hi everyone! Really make me sad to read here the amount of bad opinions about Honduras. Basically for two main reasons. I was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras Capital, but I had lived mostly of my life in the US. The person that wrote the article use Honduras to make political statements about the presence of guns, near a paranoid level.Reality is that Israel show more presence of guns that Honduras, but nobody is advocating for no visiting Israel. To be impartial, has to be say that North Americans are not used to see armed guards or military on the streets.Saying this is more a subject of impression tha is perceived in a wrong way.In Hispanic America we saw police and soldiers since we're babies.That is not a political issue to us I need to say that never ever in Honduras we have a single case of a former military person "going postal " The presence of more security in Honduras is due to the activity of Mexican drug cartels, shipping drugs to the US. Tourist very seldom are victims of grave crime in Honduras, unless the visitor lack prudence and common sense. A woman or man walking alone in night is a potential target in Honduras and London. I have over 30 years traveling to Honduras and never had a bad experience. I use common sense .The most common crimes against tourists can be theaft in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba. Small towns are safe, as are the Bay Islands. Tegucigalpa is not Paris, but is a city with over 400 year of history, has excellent museums, international cousine, quaint villages near by, excellent views from the city park El Picacho, and friendly people. All tourist can enjoy Honduras with the right attitude and caution.To be fair, I dont fear being shot at a mall or church in Honduras, as I fear here in the USA. Honduras is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, specially because of its people. Don't. let alarmist reports steal from you discover the beauty of the country of Five Stars.
Wednesday 23rd of March 2016
I'm currently in Honduras on my way north, travelling by motorcycle. I fully agree with your comment - Honduras is an incredibly beautiful country and the people are amazing. Definitely my favourite place in Central America. I think it's sad that so many people continue to believe it is not safe here. It is no different to anywhere else in this area of the world. l Use common sense and you'll be fine. If you want to read about our experiences we're writing a ride report on the advrider.com forum http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/out-from-under-the-dome.1089896/
Tuesday 26th of November 2013
I went to Honduras almost twenty yrs ago. I was shocked back then to see all the machine guns and folks guarding banks etc. But I did like the people and spoke fluent Spanish. I went to omoa, tegus, comayaguela, danli, choluteca, campamento, lago yojoa. Also I forgot we went to tela. We couldn't go to copan b c of hurricane warnings. I loved Honduras but there were dangerous parts. La valley de angeles tiene many things for souvenirs. I don't believe is to back again. I understand nowadays the maras. R quite bad. I also went to el Salvador. Frankly I enjoyed the bit of el Salvador better. Though again there were machine guns evwrywhere. I would go back to central America but is check out Guatemala Nicaragua panama . I do not regret going to Honduras however u have to be well aware of your surrpundigs and realize bad things can happen.