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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet

Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Honduras

Honduras - Consular Information Sheet
August 17, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Honduras is a democracy with a developing economy. The national language is Spanish, although English is often spoken in the Bay Islands. The climate is generally pleasant and temperate, with dry and wet seasons. The terrain ranges from mountainous to coastal beaches and jungle lowlands. Hotels and restaurants are generally adequate in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, the Bay Islands and the Copan ruins. Currency exchange is readily available at banks and hotels in the major cities.

ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and depart Honduras. A visa is not required, but tourists must provide proof of return or onward travel. Visitors are given a permit to remain in Honduras for 30 days. Honduran immigration may grant up to two thirty-day extensions for a total of 90 days. Thereafter, tourists must leave the country prior to reentering. On departure, visitors are required to pay an exit fee, either in dollars or in local currency, at the airline counter.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure. Minors who are dual U.S.-Honduran nationals or who are resident in Honduras require notarized consent from both parents if traveling alone or in someone else's custody, or from the absent parent if traveling with only one parent. In the event of sole custody, the parent must submit the custody decree to Honduran immigration upon departure.

For more information concerning entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Honduras at 3007 Tilden Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone: (202) 966-7702; or a Honduran consulate in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Juan or Tampa. The Honduran Embassy e-mail address, with contact numbers for their consulates in the U.S., is embhondu@aol.com, or may be accessed through http://www.embassy.org or http://www.state.gov. For tourist information or suggestions, contact the Honduras Institute of Tourism's hotline at 1-800-410-9608 (in the U.S.) or at 1-800-222-TOUR (8687) (within Honduras only) or their Internet site, http://www.hondurastips.honduras.com.

DUAL NATIONALITY: The constitution of Honduras prohibits dual nationality except for minors under the age of 21. All U.S. citizens, including dual U.S.-Honduran citizens, should enter and depart Honduras on their U.S. passports. Parents should not rely on birth certificates for travel of their children; rather, they should obtain U.S. passports for infants and minors born in the U.S. prior to travel. For U.S. citizen children born in the U.S. to Honduran parents, Honduran immigration provides an "evidence of continuance" (Constancia de Permanencia) stamp placed in the U.S. passport that allows the child to enter, depart, and remain in Honduras. U.S. citizens do not lose their nationality if they become residents of Honduras.

Dual nationals, in addition to being subject to all Honduran laws affecting U.S. citizens, may be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Honduran citizens. For more information, contact Honduran immigration in Tegucigalpa (telephone: 238-5613), San Pedro Sula (telephone: 550-3728), Roatan (telephone: 445-1226), La Ceiba (telephone: 442-0638), or Puerto Cortes (telephone: 665-0582). Please see the Dual Nationality flyer.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Political demonstrations occur sporadically. They can disrupt traffic, but are generally announced in advance and are usually peaceful. Travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place, and should keep informed by following the local news and consulting hotel personnel and tour guides.

There have been kidnapping attempts and threats against wealthy-appearing Hondurans and U.S. citizens. For more information, go to the U.S. Embassy's web site at http://www.usmission.hn and click on Security Matters - Kidnappings. There have also been incidents involving roadblocks and violence connected with land disputes that can delay travel, particularly in the north coast area including near Trujillo.

The area off the coast of northeastern Honduras has been the subject of maritime border disputes between Honduras and Nicaragua. The Honduran Navy has increased its patrols in this area, and all private vessels transiting Honduran territorial waters should be prepared to be hailed and possibly boarded by Honduran military personnel to verify documentation. Sailors should also be aware that the Honduran navy uses private Honduran as well as naval vessels as platforms. Fishing vessels should ensure they have proper permits. The maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Fonseca (on the Pacific coast) are still under dispute by Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador; proper caution should be exercised in that area.

While the Honduran side of the Honduras-Nicaragua border has been largely cleared of landmines, travelers should exercise caution in the vicinity of the border as some landmines, scattered by flooding during Hurricane Mitch in October 1998, may still exist in the area.

CRIME: The security situation in Honduras requires a high degree of caution and U.S. citizens are encouraged to follow local news reports (See link to sources at http://www.usmission.hn.) and contact the Honduran Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa for current conditions. Poverty, gangs, and low apprehension and conviction rates of criminals contribute to a high crime rate including murders. Many men in Honduras carry firearms and machetes, and disputes are sometimes settled with violence. Violent and petty crime are prevalent throughout the country. While crime affects everyone in Honduras, criminals have at times targeted tourists, particularly those coming from airports (a cycle of armed robberies followed by brief increases in police patrols) and hotels, as well as wealthy-looking residents in San Pedro Sula, Tela, Trujillo, and Tegucigalpa. Street crime is a principal concern, with thefts, including purse-snatching, pick-pocketing, assaults, and armed robberies on the rise in urban areas. There have been some incidents of sexual assault. Carjackings, kidnappings, muggings, and home invasions are not uncommon.

There has been an upsurge in armed robberies against tourist vans, minibuses and cars traveling from San Pedro Sula airport to area hotels and to Copan. Vehicles force the transport off the road and then men with AK-47s rob the victims, occasionally assaulting the driver or passengers. Robberies may be based on tips from sources at airport arrival areas; exercise caution in discussing travel plans in public.

Several U.S. citizens have been murdered in Honduras in recent years; most cases remain unresolved. There are problems with the judicial process, including an acute shortage of trained personnel, equipment, staff, financial resources, and reports of corruption. The Honduran law enforcement authorities' ability to prevent, respond, investigate, apprehend, file Interpol reports, and prosecute criminal incidents remains limited.

Copan and the Bay Islands have experienced petty theft, but tourists generally have fewer problems than the rest of the country. There have been three known murders of U.S. citizens residing on the popular tourist island of Roatan since 1998. All of these victims were either residing in Roatan and/or involved in real estate or commercial ventures. On Roatan Island, robbers have targeted homes and longer-term leased residences. Hotels and pensions are considered relatively safer. U.S. citizens visiting the islands should exercise particular caution around sparsely inhabited coastal areas, and should avoid walking on isolated beaches, especially at night.

Although not a primary tourist destination, the Department of Olancho has a reputation as one of the most violent areas in Honduras. Travelers in that area should use extra caution.

Incidents of crime along roads in Honduras are common. There have been frequent incidents of highway robbery on a number of roads including Limones to La Union, Olancho (route 41) via Salama and northward to Saba. Armed gangs operate along the road from La Esperanza to Gracias (CA-11a).

Honduran police generally do not speak English, and there are no special tourist police to assist visitors. Tourists and residents should avoid walking at night in most areas of Honduras, especially in the major cities. Night driving is also discouraged. Tourists in particular should not hike alone in backcountry areas, nor walk alone on beaches, historic ruins or trails. All bus travel should be during daylight hours and on first-class conveyances, not economy buses. Pick taxis carefully, and note the driver's name and license number. Instruct the driver not to pick up other passengers, agree on the fare before you depart, and have small bills available for payment, as taxi drivers often do not make change.

Do not resist a robbery attempt. Many criminals have weapons and most injuries have resulted when victims resisted. Do not hitchhike or go home with strangers, particularly from nightspots. Whenever possible, travel in groups of two or more persons. Use the same common sense while travelling in Honduras that you would in any high crime area of a major U.S. city. Jewelry should not be worn in downtown or rural areas. Do not carry large sums of money, ATM or credit cards you do not need, or other valuables.

There have been incidents of armed assaults against private sailing vessels by criminals posing as fishermen off the northeast coast of Honduras, particularly in the numerous small islands northeast and east off the coast of the Department of Gracias a Dios. Sailors should contact the Coast Guard and yacht facility managers in their areas of travel for current information.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Groups should send passport, date of birth and emergency contact information to the American Citizens Services section of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa via fax, 011-504-238-4357, prior to travel. Individuals as well as groups should keep a copy of the passport data page and leave a copy with a friend or family member. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care in Honduras varies in quality. Although doctors are generally well trained, support staff and facilities are not up to U.S. standards. Facilities for advanced surgical procedures are not available. The islands of Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja do not have a general surgery hospital. There is a decompression chamber on Roatan for divers. Travelers carrying prescription medicine should ensure that the medication is clearly labeled.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. 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: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Visitors to Honduras are at risk for gastrointestinal illnesses. Pay careful attention to the choice of food and beverages. Most well-known restaurants are considered safe. Tap water is not potable and should be boiled or chemically treated to help prevent cholera and gastrointestinal disorders. Safe bottled water is widely available.

All persons traveling in Honduras, even for a brief visit, are at risk of contracting malaria year-round if they travel outside of Tegucigalpa to low-lying areas. Take a prophylactic regimen best suited to your health profile. Because rabies is endemic in Honduras, visitors should avoid contact with animals whose immunization status is unknown.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299) or CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAVEL SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that 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/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Because of crime and poor road conditions, driving can be very dangerous, and travelers may want to carry a cellular phone in case of an emergency. Travelers should exercise extreme caution while driving on isolated stretches of road and passing on mountainous curves. Rockslides are common, especially in the rainy season (June through December). Traffic signs, even on major highways, are often inadequate and streets in the major cities are often unmarked. Travelers should drive with doors locked and windows rolled up.

Major highways have been rebuilt following the destruction caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, though many stretches are still under repair. Major cities are connected by an inconsistently maintained, two-lane system of paved roads, and many secondary roads in Honduras are unpaved. During the rainy season, even major highways are often closed due to rockslides and flooding. Hurricane Mitch washed out many bridges throughout the country, and temporary repairs are vulnerable to heavy rains.

Some 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 to La Union, Olancho (route 41) via Salama and northward to Saba, because of frequent incidents of highway robbery; and La Esperanza to Gracias (CA-11a) because of armed gangs and poor road conditions. The detour to San Pedro Sula north of La Guama (CA-5) via Santa Cruz de Yojoa is mandatory for heavy trucks and is a congested, difficult drive. Former route 1 north via Aqua Azul to CA-5 is generally a safer route for cars.

Honduran roads also suffer from a general lack of lighting and poorly 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.

Hijackings of private and commercial vehicles from the U.S. to Honduras have occurred. At present, Honduras and the U.S. have not signed a stolen vehicle treaty. Moreover, since Honduran law protects good faith buyers, even of stolen vehicles, it is difficult to recover stolen vehicles. Vehicle insurance may mitigate loss; please check with the National Insurance Crime Bureau www.nicb.org, private insurance carriers and our web site information on "Commercial Vehicle Hijackings" at http://www.usmission.hn for more information.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Honduran driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Honduran national tourist organization offices in New York via the Internet at www.hondurastips.honduras.com.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Honduras' civil aviation authority as Category 2 -- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Honduran air carrier operations. There are currently no Honduran air carriers flying to the United States. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. In addition, DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business except for flights originating from or terminating in the United States. Local exceptions may apply. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 256-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Honduran customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Honduras of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, and business equipment. For example, Honduran law prohibits the export of antiques and artifacts from pre-colonial civilizations. To protect the country's biodiversity, it is illegal to export certain birds, feathers and other flora and fauna.

U.S. citizens who intend to stay in Honduras for an extended period of time and who bring vehicles or household goods into the country should consult Honduran customs officials prior to shipment.

For specific information regarding customs requirements, contact the Embassy of Honduras in Washington or one of Honduras's consulates in the United States.

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 and may 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, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Honduras are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. For more information, check the U.S. Embassy's web site at http://www.usmission.hn for the handout on "If You are Arrested in Honduras."

CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. In accordance with the Vienna Convention, Honduran authorities must allow U.S. citizens to contact a U.S. Consular Officer if arrested or detained in Honduras.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Real Estate Investment: U.S. citizens should be aware of the risks inherent in purchasing real estate in Honduras and should exercise extreme caution before entering into any form of commitment to invest in property, particularly in coastal areas and the Bay Islands. Honduran laws and practices regarding real estate differ substantially from those in the United States, and there are many cases of fraudulent deeds and titles. In addition, the Honduran judicial system is weak and inefficient, often prolonging disputed cases for many years before resolution. Americans have spent thousands of dollars in legal fees and years of frustration in trying to resolve property disputes, even in cases in which local attorneys and Honduran and U.S. real estate agents had given assurances to the investor. There have also been incidents in which violence has been used against Americans involved in disputed property cases. American citizens should investigate purchases thoroughly and take all legal measures to prevent and, if necessary, resolve property disputes. Potential investors should engage competent local legal representation before making any commitments. Investors should thoroughly check references and bona fides of attorneys and real estate agents.

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. The enforcement of laws and procedures pertaining to property titles in Honduras is inconsistent. Squatters have also claimed a number of properties owned by U.S. citizens. Investors and their attorneys should thoroughly check property titles. For further information on investing in property in Honduras, contact the Embassy's economic section. For information on contracting Honduran legal representation, please check with other investors. You may also refer to the list of attorneys available on the Embassy's homepage at http://www.usmission.hn. In all cases, check references and bonafides.

Financial Market Investment: Due to poor regulation and lack of guarantees, investment in the Honduran "Bolsa de Valores," or stock market, as well as banking institution bonds and fidecomisos (trusts), pose high risk to investors. Extreme caution should be exercised if contemplating such activities. American citizens have lost large sums of money, which cannot be recovered, through investments in such precarious markets.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Honduras is prone to flooding and landslides from heavy rains, especially during the rainy season which generally occurs from June to December. Hurricane Mitch caused extensive damage and loss of life in October 1998. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.


CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Honduras 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. Travelers can register in person or fill out the form available on the Embassy website and fax it to the Embassy. Please include a copy of the data page of your passport and emergency contact information.

The U.S. Embassy and Consulate are located at:

Avenida La Paz in Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Fax: 011-504-238-4357
Web site: http://www.usmission.hn
Telephone: 011-504-236-9320 or 011-504-238-5114

For information on services for U.S. citizens, ask for ext. 4400.

The Consular Agency in San Pedro Sula is located at:

Banco Atlantida Building - 8th Floor
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Telephone: 011-504-558-1580

The Consular Agent at this office is available during limited hours to accept U.S. passport applications for adjudication at the Embassy in Tegucigalpa, perform notarial services and assist U.S. citizens with emergencies. Please call for office hours. The Consular Agent does not provide visa information or services.

For more details about all U.S. Embassy and consular services in Honduras, see the Embassy web site at: http://www.usmission.hn, or visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at: http://travel.state.gov.

* * * * * *

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated July 20, 2001, to update the section on Crime.



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