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Sometimes, and in some places, the classic travel advice of “be aware of your surroundings at all times” and “use common sense” doesn’t fully cut it. Honduras may be one of those places. Although, could this be recency bias based on violence seen in the region or should there be a deeper cause for concern? For much of the early 2000s up to 2015, Honduras saw extreme and copious amounts of violence, often making lists for Most Dangerous Places in the World.
However, recently the government has put forth efforts to increase the police force throughout the country while also emphasizing tourist safety, especially in the Bay Islands, an area consistently less dangerous than the mainland. The country is undoubtedly dripping with potential as a tourist destination with its affordable prices, unbridled nature, and charming colonial villages, but is the metamorphosis complete or is the country still a couple of years away from safely welcoming tourists? AllTheRooms explores below.
There is no way around this subject, murder rates have historically, and are still, incredibly high in Honduras. In 2012, the United Nations gave the title of “Murder-Rate Capital of the World” to Honduras, a badge of dishonor that they wore, at times with a dark ironic pride, until 2015. Since then, the city of San Pedro Sula, once the most dangerous city in the most dangerous country, has fallen to the 26th most dangerous city in the world.
According to Business Insider, San Pedro Sula is a metaphor for the country as a whole — there has been improvement but there is still much more to do. The violence, however, is highly concentrated in places with elevated gang activity, although the drug trafficking occurring throughout the nation is connected to the gangs, which causes additional violence. Since much of the violent crime is gang-related, this should put tourists somewhat at ease, although certain cities should still be avoided as gangs can, at times, target foreigners for exploitation purposes.
While tourists are not always the targets of violence, they are often subjected to non-lethal crimes like robbery, pickpocketing, and scams. Whenever using public transportation, or even just wandering around tourist destinations, it is advisable for tourists to exercise caution with their things. Leaving wallets or anything else in back pockets is unwise. An important thing to take note of is authorized versus unauthorized taxis. Authorized taxis will have red license plates and inside will display an ID number with a photo of the driver. Unauthorized taxis, on the other hand, have been known to participate in mugging scams where they will drive unsuspecting people to muggers.
Female & LGBTQ Travel
Women need to take extra precaution when walking alone in Honduras, especially at night. Much of Latin America also has a reputation for a negative machismo culture, something that is prevalent in Honduras. It is likely that women could face sexual harassment in the form of catcalling and other suggestive noises. While gay marriage and same-sex adoption are illegal in Honduras, there is also a law against discriminating against anyone based on their sexuality. Openly gay citizens do not need to hide their sexuality, however public displays of affection are not advisable.
Places to Visit & to Avoid
Utila: One of the previously mentioned Bay Islands, Utila is known as a favorite for backpackers and also has the second largest barrier reef in the world.
San Pedro Sula: Sure it has dropped in the danger rankings, but 26th is not something to ignorantly scoff at.
Copan: Near to the border with Guatemala, Copan is the site of ancient Mayan ruins not often visited by tourists.
Gracias a Dios Region: This piece of country is notorious for drug trafficking and has very little governmental presence.
Trujillo: The Caribbean city is a prime destination for its national park, Spanish fortress, and beach views.
Comayaguela: It is likely that most foreigners coming to Honduras will pass through the capital, Tegucigalpa, at some point during their visit. It’s best to avoid the neighborhood of Comayaguela though, as it is a hotspot for gang activity.
Conclusion: Is it Really Safe?
The United States State Department currently lists Honduras as a Level 3 Travel Advisory, meaning it is recommended to reconsider any travel to the country. With that being said, not all of the country is nearly as bad as its reputation suggests. Honduras should be praised for its recent attempts to change its status in an already unsteady Central America, but it is not perfect yet. Our conclusion: currently Honduras is not a vacation for the faint of heart. It should be a destination for experienced travelers who know how to get around, plan, and enjoy a country safely; families and party travelers may want to go elsewhere for the next few years.