HONDURAS

HONDURAS Flag
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Honduras has a developing economy. Facilities are generally adequate, but vary in quality in areas most visited by tourists such as the capital city of Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, the Bay Islands and the Copan ruins.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A passport is required for travel to Honduras. On departure, visitors are required to pay an airport exit fee at the airline counter during check-in. Reservations for outbound flights should be reconfirmed at least 72 hours prior to scheduled departure, or as soon as possible for shorter in-country stays.

For additional information concerning entry and customs requirements, travelers can contact the Embassy of Honduras at 3007 Tilden Street N.W., Washington D.C. 20008, tel: (202) 966-7702; or the consulates in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Juan or Tampa. The Honduran Embassy also maintains a website at http://embhondu@ix.netcom.com. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Honduran consulate.

SAFETY/SECURITY: Unmarked minefields still exist on both sides of the Honduras-Nicaragua border, especially in the Rio Coco and remote Atlantic Coast regions. Although an international mine-clearing effort headed by the Organization of American States (OAS) has made significant progress in clearing these areas, landslides and floods resulting from Hurricane Mitch in October 1998 scattered many of the remaining mines, rendering the border unsafe once again. Travelers in the vicinity of the border should exercise extreme caution and confine travel to major thoroughfares and crossings, such as El Espino (La Fraternidad), Las Manos, and Guasaule.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Violent crime has escalated in the post-Hurricane Mitch environment, particularly in the cities of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. In the aftermath of Mitch, many Hondurans were left homeless and unemployed and the trend has been for these persons to migrate to the large cities in search of food, shelter, and employment. Personal security requires a high degree of caution. Throughout Honduras, street crime is the principal concern. Incidents involving armed robbery, purse snatching and pickpocketing increased considerably in late 1998 and early 1999. Criminals tend to more readily engage in physical abuse of their victims. Travelers should pay attention to their surroundings and refrain from displaying jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items to decrease their risk of becoming a victim of crime. In addition, kidnappings motivated by profit are becoming increasingly commonplace. U.S. citizens in Honduras may now be at greater risk from this type of crime.

Criminals in San Pedro Sula, Tela, Trujillo and Tegucigalpa have targeted tourists. U.S. citizens visiting coastal resorts should exercise particular caution in and around sparsely inhabited coastal areas, and should avoid walking on isolated beaches, especially at night. The Bay Islands have experienced fewer problems of violence against tourists.

Armed robberies, bus and carjackings along Honduran highways, especially those leading from the San Pedro Sula Airport, have become a major problem for visitors to northern Honduras. In early 1999, a bus traveling from San Pedro Sula to Guatemala was hijacked and driven off the main road to a remote area. The passengers were robbed, and a woman was raped. In the past, organized bands of armed criminals with cellular telephones have targeted tourists laden with luggage arriving at the San Pedro Sula Airport. While this problem has abated, travelers bound for El Progreso, Tela, Trujillo, and La Ceiba by road should remain alert. The road through Santa Barbara is another area for concern. Although the police recently dismantled a criminal organization that preyed on travelers near Goascoran, Department of Valle, on the Salvadoran border, visitors to this area should still exercise caution. There have also been incidents of highway assault on the Pan American Highway that runs through southern Honduras.

Although not a primary tourist destination, the Department of Olancho has a reputation as one of the most violent areas in Honduras. Armed assaults of buses and private cars, sometimes involving rapes and killings, have been on the rise between the towns of Limones and La Union in Olancho.

The Honduran National Police Force has moved from military to civilian control under a new Ministry of Public Security. The police have experienced difficulty in providing a reasonable level of security and investigation of crimes is limited, due to an acute shortage of trained personnel, equipment, and financial resources. While government plans include budget increases, equipment purchases and the creation of specialized units, such as tourist police to safeguard tourist sites, the ability of the national police to respond to criminal incidents remains limited.

The loss or theft abroad of an U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad," for ways to provide a more trouble-free journey. Both this pamphlet and "Tips for Travelers to Central and South America" are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov_su, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov, or at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa.

MEDICAL INFORMATION: Medical care in Honduras varies in quality. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not accepted for hospital admission, physician service, or medical testing in Honduras. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide for payment of medical services outside of the United States. Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Travelers have found that, in some cases, supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, has proven to be useful. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax service at (202) 647-3000.

Tap water is not potable in Honduras and should be boiled or chemically treated to help prevent cholera and gastrointestinal disorders. Safe bottled water is widely available. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers' hotline at tel.: 1- 888-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299) or by visiting the CDC Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAVEL SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions which differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Honduras is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstances.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions: Fair
Rural Road Conditions: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Road conditions have deteriorated throughout Honduras in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. Major cities are connected by a poorly maintained, two-lane system of paved roads. Many secondary roads in Honduras are unpaved. During the rainy season (May through December), even major highways are often closed due to rockslides and flooding. Many bridges throughout the country were washed out by Hurricane Mitch and temporary repairs are vulnerable to heavy rains. Four of the most dangerous stretches for road travel include: Tegucigalpa to Choluteca because of dangerous mountain curves; El Progreso to La Ceiba because of animal crossings and the poor condition of bridges from flooding; Limones, Olancho to La Union, Olancho because of frequent incidents of highway banditry; and Tegucigalpa to Copan (CA-22) because of armed bandits and extremely poor road conditions.

Honduran roads also suffer from a general lack of lighting and inadequately marked highways. Vehicles are often driven at night without adequate illumination, and animals and people wander onto the roads at all hours. For these reasons and because of the high incidence of crime, the U.S. Embassy strongly discourages car and bus travel after dark.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Honduras' Civil Aviation Authority as Category 3 -- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Honduran air carrier operations. Flights to the U.S. by Honduran air carriers are not permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted by a carrier from a country meeting international safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at (800) 322- 7873, or visit the FAA Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.html. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 3 countries for official business. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.

CURRENCY REGULATIONS: Personal checks are not readily accepted in Honduras, but major credit cards are accepted.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States. Foreign countries my not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Honduran laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use and trafficking in illegal drugs in Honduras are strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines. Lengthy detention during judicial proceedings can also be expected.

PROPERTY ISSUES: U.S. citizens contemplating real estate investment in Honduras should thoroughly investigate the implications of such an outlay, particularly concerning property in coastal areas and the Bay Islands. The Honduran Constitution contains provisions restricting or prohibiting land ownership by foreigners in coastal and border areas, notwithstanding subsequent passage by the Honduran Congress of laws authorizing such ownership in certain areas and with particular restrictions. In November 1998, the Honduran Congress took steps toward amending the Constitution to permit non-Hondurans to own land in coastal and border areas if the land is used for tourism purposes.

In general, the enforcement of laws and procedures pertaining to property titles in Honduras is inconsistent. Squatters have also laid claim to a number of properties owned by U.S. citizens. It is recommended that potential investors engage competent local legal representation before making any commitments. Investors or their attorneys should thoroughly check property titles with the following authorities: the Property Registry Office, the municipality having jurisdiction in the area in which the property is located (being especially observant of marginal notations on the deed and that the property is located within the area covered by the original title), the National Agrarian Institute (INA), and the National Forestry Administration (COHDEFOR).

Further information and guidance on purchasing estate property in Honduras may be obtained by writing, calling or faxing the U.S. Embassy Economic Section at the following address: U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa, Economic Section, Attn: Legal Advisor, Unit 2928, APO, AA 34022, Tel: 011-504-238-5114 or 011-504-236-9320, Fax: 011-504-236-6836.

Y2K INFORMATION: U.S. citizens contemplating traveling or residing abroad in late 1999 or early 2000 should be aware of potential difficulties. They may wish to consider taking practical precautions against possible disruptions of services triggered by the Y2K computer phenomenon. Monitor the home page of the Department of State for updates on Y2K issues.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children, international parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Honduras. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida La Tegucigalpa; tel. 011-504-236-9320 or 011-504-238-5114; fax 011-504-238-4357. Travelers may also visit the Embassy's website, http://travel.state.gov/honduras.html.

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