The capital city of Honduras is dirty, dangerous, and expensive. Just the type of place most people try to avoid. So naturally I decided to go urban exploring and check it out.
When I began this little travel adventure of mine, I told myself I wanted to see everything. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Curiosity is part of my DNA. Happy places are only one part of the whole story.
After hearing rumors that Tegucigalpa was a dangerous city, of course I want to learn more about it first-hand. In my experience most “dangerous” rumors are exaggerated quite a bit.
But that doesn’t mean one should completely forgo basic common sense.
Urban Jungle of Honduras
Tegucigalpa is a sprawling city of about 1 million people surrounded by mountains in the heart of Honduras. There’s really no infrastructure set up for budget travelers. It’s possible to find a few cheap roach-filled motels; but good luck locating a clean, friendly, low-cost backpacking hostel.
This is probably because most travelers don’t have good reasons to linger here for any length of time.
The city came into view through the window of a chicken bus as we wound down through the mountains. A 200 yard swath of garbage was strewn over the side of a steep hill, burning away with thick black smoke.
Not exactly the most inviting first impression…
Rich Gringo Syndrome
White skin doesn’t always help you travel cheaply in big Latin American cities. The taxi I found wanted $120 Lempiras ($6 US) which is 6 times the price of a cab ride in the nearby town of Comayagua.
The driver naturally assumed I was a millionaire like all gringos are, and adjusted his prices accordingly. Eventually I talked him down to $90 Lempiras ($4.50 US) though, and off we went. I can already tell I don’t want to visit the city for very long…
Secret Embassy Meetup
My first order of business was to rendezvous with a Dr. Juan Almendares, founder of the Honduran charity Movimiento Madre Tierra. I chose to give his anti-mining organization the donations you guys made through my site last month.
I phoned the good doctor from my razor-wire protected hotel balcony to schedule an appointment the next day. “Meet me in front of the Brazilian Embassy” he says.
The Brazilian Embassy? Isn’t that where ex-Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya, sought asylum after he was ousted by a military coupe in 2009? It all seemed a bit James Bond-ish..
After meeting with the friendly charity staff (sadly no offers to become a secret agent), there were a few hours to kill before my bus ride out of the city and across the border into Nicaragua. So I decided to “gear up” for a covert photography session in the streets.
To prepare for the mission I wore my dirtiest-looking clothes, stashed my police-strength pepper spray into an easy access pocket, and wrapped my big DSLR camera in a Keffiyah scarf. You can never be too careful! :D
Unfortunately despite my preparations, I still stood out like a sore thumb in this city. Everyone was staring at the bald-headed gringo wandering around alone through the streets on foot.
Taxi cabs began pulling over even though I hadn’t flagged them down. The drivers couldn’t possibly understand why I’d want to walk when they had a perfectly good car ready to take me anywhere.
12 Angry Men
While I was roaming the area, a posse of young men started yelling at me from a distance. They were visibly drunk and looking to pick a fight at 11:00 in the morning.
Many poor Hondurans living in the countryside migrate to Tegucigalpa searching for work. Often there is none available for them. This is a big reason why crime is so bad – people are desperate here.
But it was easy for me to keep clear of this angry group of drunks. Guatemala City was starting to feel safer to me than this place!
Luckily I wasn’t around for much longer. My sight-seeing in Tegucigalpa consisted of automatic weapons, razor wire, out-of-work drunks, and urban sprawl.
The whole experience was eye-opening – but it was time for me to continue my journey South. ★
Details & Information:
Location/Map: Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Place to Stay: Casa del Viajero Hotel ($64 US)
Useful Notes: Exploring the city on your own is possible, just be careful and be smart. Going with a group is probably safer.
Ever visited a city that you didn’t feel very safe in?