Honduras was never on my bucket list as they say. Still, I thought seeing Central America would be interesting and it definitely proved to be. Finally getting to Latin America changed my opinion on thinking all Spanish speaking countries were alike. I can say I never regretted getting this location as an assignment. You might think for some of the less positive portions of this article that I did not have a great time. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Country: Honduras | Cities Lived In: Comayagua | Resided Late 2007 – Late 2009
Weather: Though Comayagua could get hot in the summer, it was never hell hot like Kuwait. I never went anywhere it felt overly hot. There was a predominant rainy season but it never rained all-day long during the rainy season. The locals thought it got cold in January. It was hard not to laugh at them while they had jackets on while we were wearing polo shirts. In other words, I felt the weather was perfect here.
Food: Honduran food was basic. One of their favorites was called a baleada which I call a lazy burrito because it was just a flour tortilla, beans and a squirt of white cheese. No, all kidding aside Honduran food was never extravagant but it was edible. Still, every street did appear to have a carne asada stand, and no one could prove that it was burro meat (anyway my neighborhood burro was still around). Plato typical consisted of steak, chorizo, refried beans, rice, avocado, cheese, pico de gallo, mantequilla, corn tortillas, and fried plantains. Let’s not forget the fried fish, no matter whether you were at the ocean or inland the fish was always fried. Of course on the north coast, there was always more seafood. Still, I was spoiled with the access to fruit like mangoes in my backyard or buying lychees or a coconut on the highway.
Drink: The primary rum drank was Flor de Cana from Nicaragua. The following bear was Barena a light pilsner which felt it was trying to be Corona (yes you could put a lime in it). The other beers were Salva Vida is a lager, Imperial is a dark pilsner, Port Royal was a pilsner.
Grocery: Grocery stores in Comayagua were sparse. I lived next to a grocery store called Jumbo when I first got there and it felt more like a mini market. We finally got a bigger supermarket but it was still not exploding with choice. When we did our monthly trips to Tegucigalpa we went to the Costco Clone (Pricesmart) to get food or one of the bigger grocery stores there.
Restaurants: My boss said to me as I got ready to move to Comayagua “There is no Taco Bell here I hope you can handle it”. There was a Wendy’s, Pizza Hut and Dominos. Later on, we did get a Burger King and Pollo Campero. There were some decent local restaurants such as a steak place called El Toritos, a restaurant near the town plaza and a Honduran BBQ joint but nothing you would call fine dining. Thou most of the local Chinese food did not resemble American Chinese food. Our frequent trips to either Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sulu would greatly extend the type food we had access to.
Nightlife: For a guy who mostly listened to electronica Honduras was a bit hard on nightlife. Still, Comayagua had a really nice colonial bar called Sangrias (irony they did not serve sangria) that was owned by a Canadian. Sangrias had that Cheers type feels to it where everyone knew your name. There were some other discos in Comayagua that played a combination of Puerto Rican Reggaeton and Dominican Bachata. Nightlife in both of the big cities was much more varied and enjoyable with there even being an electronica club in Tegucigalpa. Heck, there was even an EDM music fest on the Island of Utila called Sun Jam.
Cost: This is the cheapest location have ever worked. Still, it has its hidden cost such as goods imported were about 25% more than the US. They also had an IVA Tax (sales tax) of about 12.5%. However, if it was made in Honduras t was usually pretty cheap. Local labor did not cost much either and you could get a maid for fairly cheap. Either way to ensure you are not given a gringo price you should argue it.
Shopping: Having lived and visited 2 Central American countries a lot of the shopping is the same. There are some western clothing stores like Zara and a Honduran department store called Carrion you will find in just about every city. Still, I would not call Honduras a shoppers paradise. If you need electronics or other big-ticket items I would go check out PriceSmart.
Ease of Driving, Licensing and Car Purchase: Driving in Comayagua was fairly easy as there were only two main Boulevards. Driving in the big cities was harder and had the Mayem of most Latin American cities. Getting my drivers license was quite easy. I showed them my Nevada drivers license and paid for a “physical”. After that, they gave me my Honduran drivers license that was good for 5 years. I don’t know if it would be this easy for everybody.
Most of the cars there were totaled by accidents back in the US. They had been repaired, purchased and shipped to Honduras. In other words, they were neither safe nor reliable. If you move there I advise that you ship a car there. Better yet ship the most lifted SUV or truck you can buy because Honduran roads were horrible and if you really are an adventurer you want to get backcountry. I bought a car because I “thought” it was priced well. I drove it into the ground in months because a car was an inappropriate vehicle for me at this location.
Public Transportation: Taxis were cheap, at only 20 lempiras per ride. What I did not understand is that was per person and that is why I thought they over charged us. So they were not really a taxi but more a Collectivo. Either way you should argue over the price. There were plenty of buses to be caught in the big cities when I did not have a car. If you left at the right time you could catch one with air conditioning. I only had to ride a chicken bus once while I was there as you can usually manage to find something better with a little bit of work.
Safety/Crime: Honduras had the world’s highest murder rate when I lived there. It no longer does as Venezuela has overtaken it. People would tell me horror stories when I got there that I could not walk from the gas station on the highway to Wendy’s at night. Another coworker told me someone tried to break into his house. These people tried to put me into a state of fear. It did not work. I walked around with a stripped down wallet the first two months but after that I let it fill back up.
I had three strange incidents while I was living there. Leaving la Libertad the barrio one night I did have a guy call me a bitch. I had mace and a stun gun so I let it be. I did have an 11-year old kid break into my house one day. He stole a cell phone. The weirdest incident out of all of them was a shoot-out in a restaurant in Tela, luckily we were not being shot at so we got up and just left. For being a “dangerous” country I found the danger to be quite low. Still, I lived there during the coup that kicked out President Manuel Zelaya, as much as I did not favor him I think the issues Honduras suffered afterward were due to that coup. Still, when I would leave the club at 3 in the morning and walk home I never got mugged. People said I would be and I told them the barrachos (drunks) and the muggers are already asleep. Lots of times Honduras has a tranquil feeling to it when I was out of the city and in the countryside.
Housing: I did not have the housing issues some people had. I found a decent townhouse in an okay neighborhood and stayed there my entire 2 years. It only cost me 400 USD a month. I only paid a months deposit and signed a lease in Spanish. It had minimal issues and my landlord was the towns, top gynecologist. He repaired the townhouse when it had issues. He even got bars put on the back windows when I had the 11-year-old break in. Other people did not have as much luck and appeared to move every 6 months over repairs not getting fixed. I was tired of moving and stayed put.
Dependability of Utilities: I would call Sunday turn off electricity day because every Sunday you had better have an activity planned because the lights were going off. As far as water it was undrinkable and we bought potable water from the local pulperia (small corner convenience store).
Ease of finding a non-US Government job: Honduras is not known for its high employment. In Comayagua, the only other expats were a bunch of Bilingual school teachers. I don’t think those jobs paid much but it gave them that travel abroad experience. There were divemaster and dive instructor jobs on the Bay Islands. Those were probably not the only jobs on the Bay Islands for foreigners. I did hear the locals protested there were too many foreigners working on the Bay Islands. Sadly the locals did not speak English so they could not fill those jobs.
Ease of learning the Language: Spanish was a world easier to learn than German for me. You can basically guess words in Spanish. One example yes traffic is traffico. How easy is that? I used a phrase book, then a pocket translator and then a great book called Espanol para Gringos. I was able to have in depth conversations with people within a year or so. Then again some people never understood me. My boss told me you have a great vocabulary but your pronunciation sucks.
Ruins of Copan
Pulhapanzak Waterfall Zipline
Adventure Factor: I bought myself a crappy Chinese motorcycle the first or second weekend I got there. The biggest mistake I ever made not to import a motorcycle or go to Tegucigalpa and buy a Japanese one there. Either way, I had fun driving through the mountains of the greater Comayagua area. My first Zen moment in Honduras was when I was up above La Libertad the Pueblo and a cloud rushed past me.
No, it was not dangerous up there like everyone preached to me. People actually waved and smiled unlike down below. I did convince two other coworkers to get motorcycles while I was there and we rode around a bit.
The adventure did not end with riding motorcycles. Adventure consisted of finding lowly populated beaches near Tela. Spending a day island hopping and snorkeling the Hog islands from La Ceiba. Driving boats throughout Lago Yajoa. Zip lining across Pulpanzak Falls, Pico Bonito, and Copan. Whitewater rafting in Pico Bonito. Did we mention ancient Mayan pyramids? Well, we should have as they were in Copan also! I also visited a huge Spanish fortress in Omao. Punto Sal was probably the only location other than the Philippines where I got to see monkeys in the wild.
Let’s not even mention the scuba diving. Honduras was probably the best in the Caribbean that I experienced. Diving Roatan I would see at least one turtle every other dive. Diving in Utila I would see a turtle every dive. I even had dolphins swim up to the boat in Utila. These guys wanted to hang out with us.
There were some places I never even made it to such as La Mosquita which my gut tells me is a great jungle for exploration. There was even a rain forest close called Cerro Azul Meámbar National Park that was close to home that I never made it too.
Typical Activities: Comayagua was horrible for typical activities. There was a crappy movie theater that no one went to. Those typical activities were better in both Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sulu. There was a crappy little water park that had some strange monkeys called my Pequeno Paraiso. There were 2 small malls. If you were not the traveling or adventuring type you could get bored fast.
Most Charming City and Pueblo: Can Central American cities be charming? I am going to say I saw more colonial architecture in Tegucigalpa. Tegucigalpa also had the Jesus Cristo statue and the Coca-Cola sign. As far as most charming town, hands down it was Copan, even though Copan was rathered polished it had a sweet colonial charm to it. Comayagua had a beautiful main plaza with a cathedral but lost its charm if you got too far away from it.
How Long should you stay: I lived in Honduras for 2 years. When I left I was not tired of the location. My management was mostly insane being the primary reason I left. Would I have ever gotten tired of this location? Would the high crime have finally turned me off? I don’t know but even now I still often daydream of this location and maybe I can even say I miss it. It was simple there and that gave it charm. I had some coworkers that complained to no end about the location. Trust me I complain a lot but I call Honduras two of my happiest years and I did not even get to maximize my neighbor country travel like I did in Europe. If I got the chance to return I surely would.
On the serious side if you ever feel like living in Honduras or any of the locations we mention or even just traveling there let us know and we can give you some advice. We have made the trial and error so you don’t have to.