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Before I came to Honduras, I wasn’t aware that it’s one of the most dangerous countries in the world. The first time I was confronted with this was on a highway about 50 kilometres out of San Pedro Sula. We were sitting in a tinted window SUV, well on our way to copan, when a police officer pulled us over.
“Find your passport. He needs to make sure that you’re not a hostage,” our driver said.
That I’m not a what?
Obduction, extortion and corruption is a daily burden in this Central American country, and only a few weeks ago, a mother of two was carnapped, but luckily saved by a routine road control. This had caused an increase of checkpoints on the roughly 200km stretch to Guatemala.
Honduras is the most dangerous country in the world with an average of 20 murders every single day. Nevertheless, we went to Honduras with a few butterflies in our stomachs.
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FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SAN PEDRO SULA
It was pitch black outside when we descended onto the Honduran city, San Pedro Sula. Glued to the window and eyes wide open, I caught the first glimpse of a small, dimly lit airport surrounded by palm trees. Not the happy beach types, but the dense, foggy deep-in-the-jungle types.
Getting off the plane, I was instantly met by a wall of sticky heat, a wonderful 92 % humidity. Air was thick, and the fear of what awaited on the other side of the airport doors slowly started to build up inside of me. As we walked towards the arrival area, I suddenly realized we were the only white people there.
No foreigners in sight.
So there we were: two clueless gringos fresh off the plane on a sunshine trip to the most dangerous city in the world. Guards were everywhere in the entry area, all with machine guns, sunglasses and serious expressions on their faces. After getting our bags and standing in line for inspection and body search, I noticed both bags had been opened and searched through. Imagine my panic, most likely coming from watching too many episodes of “Locked up abroad.”
After a frantic search for planted drugs in both bags, we were cleared through customs and got to the other side. Phew. No more excitement for me, please!
MURDER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
Today, San Pedro Sula is the most dangerous city in the world, and it’s not growing safer, principally because of the local gangs and Mexican cartels. Most homicides are drug-related, but you hear about killings on journalists, civilians and tourists, too.
Luckily, we didn’t encounter any crimes, gangs or incidents. However, we could always feel the tension among the locals. At Roatan island, people advised us against going to the mainland because of the crime rate and low security. We spoke to several people who hadb fled from their homes because of the unsafety and lack of public order and protection.
MEN WITH PUMP GUNS
Speaking of protection… In San Pedro Sula, you’ll see a lot of guns. And not just handguns. No, I’m talking about huge, badass pump guns. I saw armed security guards and locals in the streets, the malls, the restaurants, airports, inside the local 7-eleven even.
And why is that?
I mean, with so many guards, why do they need all those guns?
Also, you’ll see gun stores on many street corners. Although we didn’t feel particularly unsafe in this neighborhood, the city is still dodgy and dangerous.
SAFETY IN SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS
Visiting San Pedro Sula is only safe if you take precautions and use common sense. This means that you should stay in a safe area, don’t use public transportation or go out after dark, and don’t flash your camera and other belongings. If you follow these simple guidelines, you have done everything you can to protect yourself.
But still, if you ask me, I wouldn’t recommend San Pedro Sula as a destination. Aside from the fact that it has many dangers, there is also very little to do and see in this city. You’re better off heading to Copan Ruinas or Roatan Island if you want to explore Honduras.
Getting around: Consider the Hedman Alas bus company or domestic flights. Both have good, reliable service as far as I experienced it.
WHERE I STAYED
If you’re going to San Pedro Sula, consider staying at Dos Molinos. It’s in a safe neighborhood, close to shopping malls, and the owner Luis will gladly pick you up from the airport or bus terminal. We paid $31 per night for two persons.
In general, accommodation in San Pedro Sula is quite pricy, but at this place you’ll get a basic room (nothing fancy, but okay). The owners, Luis and Blanca, are very helpful, and most importantly: you’ll be safe. I recommend this hostel.
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