A friend of mine recently invited me to tag along on a trip to the mainland of Honduras with her and her boyfriend. I had some paperwork to take care of, and since I didn’t make it to Canada this year I thought it might be a nice break to go to a big city for a few days. (Read: I WANTED SOME MCDONALDS AND AIR CONDITIONING.) So off to Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, I went. It’s not a popular tourist destination due to safety concerns, but if you have to go on an embassy run or are stuck there for a couple days, there’s definitely things to keep you entertained.
Disclaimer: Tegucigalpa is not the kind of city you want to be whipping out a DSLR camera or even your iPhone, so I don’t have as many photos as I’d like for this post. They’re all from my iPhone so not the greatest quality, but you’ll get the idea!
I grabbed a last-minute flight from Roatan on SOSA Airlines, which annoyingly stopped in La Ceiba for 10 minutes where we had to change planes and get on another one. Since Tegus (short version of Tegucigalpa) is only 40 minutes away I found this a little ridiculous but in Honduras one must go with the flow. The one-way ticket was $125 and the planes are all little 12-seaters. (Travel tip: no bathroom on board. Plan accordingly.) Flying in is an interesting experience, as the airport is down in a valley with mountains all around and a ridiculously short runway. Interesting maneuvers happen. Not for the faint of heart!
Once in Tegus my friends were at the airport to pick me up with Alex, their friend who lives in Tegus. I’m gonna have to take a second here to tell you about the not-so-nice side of the mainland. It’s not safe. Sorry, but it’s just not. It’s not safe for the people who have to live there, and it’s not all that safe for tourists either. So it’s not the kind of place you just want to roll out of the airport and grab any taxi that you see around. It’s best to find a trusted private driver. (Travel tip: many people on Roatan have trusted drivers they use in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. Ask me if you need help, I can probably find one for you.) I am certain there have been travelers who have moved through here without issue, but I just don’t think the risk is worth it.
We were VERY lucky to have Alex drive us around for our three days that we were in town. He refused to let us take a taxi anywhere, citing safety concerns. He also happened to be the nicest human being I’ve ever met, and I can’t wait for him to visit Roatan so I can return the hospitality. He drove us all over Tegus for three days straight, and on our last day he picked us up smiling at 5am, drove us to the bus station, and handed us each freshly made breakfast quesadillas complete with a napkin and candy snack, and natural blueberry juice with cups, all made by him. Dear North American friends, time to step up. Hondurans get a bad rap sometimes but man, do they ever do hospitality right. Thanks Alex! (Travel tip: Tegus people are the most insane drivers I’ve seen in my travels anywhere. Do not rent a car here and think you can just drive around. In a sprawling urban city there are shockingly few traffic lights, the city is winding and not laid out in a grid, the traffic is bad and there are some unwritten rules about who gets to go first at the hundreds of uncontrolled intersections. Not worth the stress to try and drive here. If you visit the Wikipedia link above, you’ll notice the word “disorganized” appears several times when describing the city.) It was a little shocking to see all the huge reinforced walls topped with razorwire literally everywhere, as well as bulletproof cars and armed guards protecting homes. I was very happy to have Alex guide us around!
First, I want to tell you all the things I absolutely LOVED about Tegus. Even before landing, I noticed the incredible natural beauty in this area – Tegus and its sister city on the other side of the Choluteca River, Comayaguela, are surrounded by stunning mountains and everything is very green. We spent a morning wandering around the exquisite gardens in the El Picacho park up around El Cristo, a massive concrete statue of Christ overlooking the city, and had some unbelievable views of the city below us. (Travel tip: lack of guardrails in many areas on the top of the 200ft+ high cliff means those from nanny-government countries should keep kids and daredevils close by.) This was my favorite place in Tegus and only cost about $6 for entrance to the park ($5) and then entrance to El Cristo inside the park ($1). There were some areas where I could have sworn I was back in Japan in a Japanese garden. It was beautiful. Alex even grabbed some fresh fruit off the trees for us to munch on while we walked around.
Of course, I couldn’t leave without trying some local snacks – this is deep-fried yuca with tomato sauce and queso! It cost me a whopping $1.25 and was delicious.
Also, I have to say that the people in Tegus were some of the nicest I’ve encountered. On Roatan people can be kind of stand-offish if you don’t know them, unless they think they can make some money off you. Men can also be pigs and throw out some pretty nasty catcalling. In Tegus, I got a lot of attention because I was a gringa, and also apparently the only adult female wearing shorts (Travel tip: even if it’s shorts weather, girls in Tegus wear pants, so if you want to blend in, don’t dress like you’re at the beach). Despite this, men and women alike were extremely polite to me and would come up asking me questions about where I was from and if I liked Tegus, and then they’d leave and go on about their day. No trying to sell me anything, no catcalling. It was refreshing.
We had another morning devoted entirely to exploring the biggest mall in Tegus – a behemoth of a place called MultiPlaza. It could easily have been a mall anywhere in North America – it looked exactly the same. We spent hours wandering in the stores, getting haircuts at the salon, drinking coffee and having donuts at Dunkin’ Donuts, and visiting the food court, where I managed to get Burger King, Popeyes and some Greek lamb gyro down in one sitting because I’m a fucking champion. I was a happy camper.
We also went to a movie, something I haven’t done in FOUR YEARS. We saw Hotel Transylvania 2 in 3D and while it was in Spanish, I got most of it and spent the rest of the evening all smug about my excellent Spanish comprehension (until we got back to the hotel and I couldn’t understand the clerk asking what time I checked in). I was mostly excited about my giant popcorn and hot dog and the A/C anyway. This is my excited face:
Our hotels were fantastic too – we spent one night at Hotel G y V which was in a swanky neighborhood across the street from the Venezuelan embassy. It was such an adorable boutique hotel! I ended up spending about $65 including tax for my room, which had A/C, a flat screen tv, a private deck and was just lovely and had everything I needed in the room. Breakfast was also included and was a great value with a full hot-cooked typico breakfast plate, plus coffee and juice. I would go here again. Ask for room 204! (Travel tip: sales tax is 15%, hotels and tourist activities are 19% tax and if you pay with a credit card expect an extra 4-5% service fee. Look very closely to see what’s included in prices everywhere in Honduras.)
The second night we stayed at Hotel MacArthur in the downtown core which I also liked. I paid only $44 with taxes included and had a perfectly adequate room with A/C. This hotel has a beautiful pool but sadly, we didn’t have enough time to jump in. The only downside to this hotel is that it is noisy – it’s an old historical building. When my friends’ phone alarm went off at 4:30am, it woke me up – and I was staying two doors down from them. Bring earplugs! If you’re leaving before the front desk opens in the morning make sure you let them know – we had to wake up the overnight watchman to let us out at 5am. The downtown is a little sketchy but has tons of shops and little restaurants and I did see some gringos wandering around. Alex informed me that it was okay to walk around in the daytime in El Centro (downtown). Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore the area – next time!
The rest of our time in our short trip was taken up with an entire morning/afternoon at the US embassy for my friend, and me dealing with my residency lawyer. We spent some time driving around to source some car parts for my friends (stuff like that is hard to get on Roatan). We also made a quick stop at another mall to check out the stores and so that I could visit a Honduran Wal-Mart (spoiler: it was disappointing).
On the way back, we decided to take the bus from Tegus to the coastal city of La Ceiba, where you can catch the Galaxy Wave ferry to Roatan. We took a Hedman Alas bus (I highly recommend choosing this safe and reputable bus line) which took about 7.5 hours to get to La Ceiba. I hate buses but this was absolutely worth is as I got to see tons of the Honduran countryside and IT. IS. GORGEOUS. It also cost less than $50 for the entire bus trip, and that was in the first class seats which you definitely have to get!! They have massive legroom and fully recline with a leg rest, plus you are given snacks and drinks when you board and again when you change buses in San Pedro Sula.
We left the hilly cloud forest in Tegus and watched the landscape change from mountainside to forest to dusty plains to a massive inland lake to farmland and finally to the coast in La Ceiba. I loved every second of the ride and fought sleep to spend the entire ride glued to my window. I couldn’t believe how diverse the geography and topography was as we moved through the country.
Once in La Ceiba, we were picked up by yet another friend (it’s a good thing to have friends on the mainland!) and shuttled around to do a little more car part-hunting, and then we were deposited at the ferry terminal. About $35 for a ticket, and off we went on the ferry. The trip is about 1.5 hours and not for people who get seasick easily. They don’t call it the ‘Vomit Comet’ for nothing. If you HAVE to take the ferry and you’re prone to seasickness, ask for an anti-nausea tablet when you buy your ticket (they’re free) and once on board, sit close to the bathroom (it’s at the back by the snack counter) and take the bags they pass out. Yes, they pass out puke bags.
Now, the bad: only two bad things happened which is actually not bad if you’re me – those who know me in real life know I am plagued with nearly comical bad luck, so only two is pretty good.
First, during our bus trip out of the city, me being glued to the window meant I ended up witnessing the gruesome immediate aftermath of this assassination. (Non-Spanish speakers: a guy and his two teenage sons plus his worker were dragged out of their car and shot to death in the road.) As a sheltered and spoiled Canadian living on the relatively safe island of Roatan, I can say I am very lucky to have made it to 30 years old without having to witness freshly shot dead bodies in the street. I was horrified and I definitely had a few minutes of an adrenaline rush/stomach turning as I processed what I saw. That kid’s shoes will forever haunt my memory. This was a sobering reminder that while my three days in Tegus were safe and carefree as I explored fancy malls, stayed in nice hotels and had a friend drive us around, the violence in Central America is very real and even if you take your common sense with you (all too rare these days), there are no guarantees here.
Second, my overindulgence in food unavailable on Roatan was the source of my happiness, but later, my misery. Between arriving in La Ceiba and boarding the ferry to Roatan, I started to feel sweaty (not unusual for me on Roatan – haha! – but the mainland was much more temperate) and unwell. I thought I was just hungry so we went for lunch but by the time we got on the ferry I knew something was seriously wrong. It ended up the most miserable 1.5 hours of my life. It finally culminated in me violently projectile vomiting at the end of the ride (thank you Spanish lady doing your makeup for hearing my pleading and getting the fuck out of the bathroom with seconds to spare). I assumed I had eaten something bad and felt better after throwing up and thought that was it. I walked off the boat with my held hung in shame – everyone thought I was seasick! HELLLLOOO! Don’t you guys know I’m a dive instructor!? I don’t get seasick on ferries!
Sadly, I barely made the taxi ride home before I was sick again. After a couple hours I broke down and called my friend and asked her for a ride to the hospital.
After treatment, I left with about 487 medications and a diagnosis of an intestinal infection, likely salmonella. I was back to normal after about a week. I can’t really blame Tegus for me being such a glutton, and I know you can catch this kind of stuff anywhere but it really put a damper on the end of the trip. I’m just happy it didn’t happen on the 8-hour bus ride!
So that was my trip to Tegucigalpa! All in all the 3 days cost me about $400 for all my transportation, food, accommodation, activities and a little shopping, and it was worth it to get off the island for a bit and be in a city. I had a wonderful time and would go again. I will definitely make more of an effort to practice my Spanish before going again, because unlike Roatan, few people speak English and you’ll need it to get around.
….. and yes, I got my McDonalds 🙂
Nothing in this post is sponsored, I just thought it would be helpful for anyone else going to Tegus. It’s not a popular destination so there’s not a lot of info online.
Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter … there’s lots of extras posted there that don’t make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I’m on Bloglovin’, so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there’s that.