In one day through Honduras

February 22nd, 2018

We decided to drive through Honduras in one day. Not because it is one of the most dangerous countries in Central America, but more because we want to concentrate mainly on surfing for the limited time we have left in Central America.

To be able to master such a day with two border crossings and a driving distance of 320 km on roads that are unknown to us and perhaps not easy to drive on, you have to plan some stuff in advance.

A few days earlier, we had to fill in a form for entering Nicaragua - a gap text in word format. The day before the border crossing we drove to El Cuco (El Salvador). A popular surfer's village which for us is only a starting point near the border. The destination at the end of the day is Jiquilillo, the northernmost village of Nicaragua on the Pacific Ocean. Specifically, Rancho Esperanza a hostel with affordable camping facilities, that convinced us the most on the iOverlander app.

Get up early and leave to be at the border as early as possible is the motto. Our schedule: In worst case, 3 hours per border crossing. 3h 40min driving time according to app which we multiply by an experience factor of 1.8 - tank, food and toilet stops as well as slower driving speed due to difficult road conditions or traffic jams.
Especially the road in Honduras is a big question mark because it is still under construction and many construction sites could delay the trip. 12h in total. Speak from 6 o' clock in the morning until 6 o' clock in the evening, just before it gets dark, because driving at night is not an option. The plan could work.

At 6:30 am we leave El Cuco for the border. It's Sunday. It's no coincidence because until now we used to drive on Sundays across national borders in the belief that there is less work traffic which could slow down our journey.
On the border to Honduras we pass a relatively short column of trucks on the opposite lane. One tourist vehicle per truck is a rule of thumb. We take this right.

After the truck column, a border guard tells us to drive aside. Immediately one of the unofficial helpers stands at the car window to support us for a tip at the paperwork. Normally we do it all by ourselves, which is quite feasible, but this one can hardly be dismissed. First we need a copy of the vehicle import documents from El Salvador, and then we will have our vehicle title copied because we don't have many copies of it left. At a counter, an official checks the temporary import papers, signs and stamps them. We must have these copied again in threefold. The original will be checked and signed by the border guards before we can proceed. Our helper insists that we change to a generous exchange rate for the next border stations at his colleague, who is standing next to him with a thick bundle of banknotes of different currencies. We know better and keep our USD. After a few kilometres Douglas is searched by two nice policemen and his dog. We show our passport and can continue to the counter where the departure is confirmed on a receipt. A little further down the road, we are taken off the receipt and allowed to drive to the border post of Honduras. Here we are stopped by a man in a t-shirt, give him more involuntarily passport, title and import paper and follow him to the border post. For vehicle imports, which takes up most of the time, we show the person in charge our van and let him or her compare the relevant vehicle numbers. We'll go to passport control, pay $3 each and get a stamp. Now we have to copy the stamped page and my ticket. Copies are required twice for vehicle import. After some time of waiting and 45 USD handling fee, we can continue with the new import paper. A few hundred metres further on, this paper is checked again by a police officer. It's done - we're in Honduras and after only two hours at the border.

The drive through Honduras is, unlike feared, quite pleasant, the roads are newly paved up to a short last section and the traffic jams due to building sites are kept within limits.

Now the whole game starts all over again, but the queues at the counters are much longer and some of the trucks block the passage. At the border to Nicaragua, Douglas' wheels are sprayed with chemicals (fumigation), the receipt and a declaration form that we have to fill out is important. Unlike other places, the rest of the transition is in and around the same building. Check your passport and import document, get copies taken out, check confirmation of the Word document, find out an official who takes time to look into the van and sign the declaration form, in to complete the vehicle import. At the ATM next door we pick up Cordobas (the currency of Nicaragua) and USD as an emergency reserve. At the exit we are checked for passport and import paperwork and the exhausting entry from El Salvador via Honduras to Nicaragua is finished. After an hour and a half drive, towards the sunset, we reach our destination. Rancho Esperanza just before Jiquilillo, an absolutely idyllic place where we will surprisingly feel at home for a whole week.