Saturday, November 19, 2011

Honduras Border Crossings. Arrests, bribes, road blocks and one crazy story! The worst, most painful, time consuming and stupid ridiculousness in the entire world!

What did we learn in our time in El Salvador….? Surfing is tuff! David and I left El Salvador losing both our GoPro cameras to the ocean, with a bruised ankle, a broken toe nail, and an aching knee…thanks El Salvador! You’re lucky you’re such a beautiful country!

Onward we went to the El Salvador and Honduras border at Amatillo located in south eastern El Salvador.

Again we had to fight our way through the hoards of money changers trying to get our attention as we got close the border. Whistling, running to the middle of the road almost getting in our way, saying hello in English and shoving/fighting amongst each other for their selection.

I was tired of this and told them all to go away…which they did not do….so I became Alex the silent border crosser, nothing to say, silent as the night sky a brick wall of no emotion or movement.

This eventually had them flocking over to David where he pulled out his Spanish flash cards and started gibberish in Spanish to which kept everyone entertained. I think David will now be our official border crosser entertainer for the handlers to keep them busy while I do my thing with Customs without being bothered.

Border Crossing procedure for El Salvador and Honduras Border in Amatillo – Ok pay close attention, or you might just end up getting fined severely or arrested as we almost did as you’ll read later on getting out of Honduras.

-First off, the Aduana to turn in your El Salvador paper is pretty far from the border about 4km before the actual bridge to cross you’ll most likely be waved at by an official to pull over. This is where you get a guy to make copies of your El Salvador importation paper (or do it beforehand) which you’ll have to turn in later to other officials to cross the bridge further up ahead. At this same location you’ll leave your original copy to the official in a white building. Then take your copies to the bridge, get yourself to the immigration office of El Salvador to leave the country (remember El Salvador doesn’t stamp, it’s all digital). Now you’re done with El Salvador, next cross the bridge to Honduras. You’ll be stopped right away by immigration and aduana officials where they will ask for all your original documents, they walk you over to the Customs/Aduana building that looks like this, if you can believe it.

Honduras Aduana Office...yes I'm serious
Aduana in Honduras

They’ll process you here for your vehicle. You’ll then go get more copies across the street of various things, go back to the Aduana building to fill more stuff out, then wait while the official takes your documents to get digitalized into the database at the bank across the street. Once finished they come back, you wait some more, then they take you to get more copies of things. Then you go back to Aduana, wait again, then they take you to the bank where you’ll pay $35 dollars per bike, then you make more copies, then back to the aduana to fill out a declaration form, then they give you your permit and your finally off! This took us 3 hours; it could take you more or less. (David gave me mysterious and confused looks as he watched me walk across the street every 5 minutes to make copies.)

Thanks Honduras, your 40 copies of everything is really cost and time effective!

Immediately go to the immigration office to get a little piece of paper to pay to get into Honduras. You will be told by both the Honduras immigration official outside and Aduana that you do not need to get anything at the immigration office as you already have a Guatemala stamp in your passport with is valid for 3 months through 4 countries when you first entered Central  America. Although they are correct, still go to the immigration to pick up a little piece of paper saying you are in the country, yell and cry if you have to. In our case we were both assured we did not need this, and I was denied getting this little piece of paper after my repeated attempts at asking for it as I’m sure the official was getting insulted, a tourist telling them how to do their job (but I was correct that I needed it)….which almost gets me arrested as you’ll read later on. (Whether this was done on purpose to us, David and I could not decide)

Dear Honduras border crossing….I hate you, I hate you very much, I hate your 40 copies of papers you’ll store for a month then throw away, and I hate your disorganization and lack of compassion for travelers. In conclusion, stop the hate, be cool and start acting like a professional government agency! That is all, thank you for your time.

Ridiculous amount of copies!

Among this daunting task I found time for some money exchange with a nice, non-hassling guy.

We continued onward

We then found what’s probably craziest most remote tennis court in the entire country of Honduras where David and I had a nice match to fulfill the task of playing tennis in every country.

Security all around Honduras is also an issue thank to armed guards with guns anywhere you go...including gas stations, malls and stores

Honduras also has lots of these little pit stops with their famous Pupusas, which is like the Colombian Arepas.

We had driven all day and it was now 8pm and very dark with no sleeping accommodation anywhere near by so we were forced to stay at our first “love motel”, where you can just drive into the room without anyone seeing you

Then paying through a red box without anyone seeing you

Then leaving again without anyone seeing you.

It was an interesting process to figure out. It was especially difficult to figure out as when the guard can barely contain his laughter at two tourist motorcyclists asking how you use a Love Motel.  I even had to negotiate and convince to let us stay for more than 6 hours, which was against protocol.

So if you plan to cheat on your significant other....go to Honduras!

Regardless this $12 dollar motel with its locked up TV and great garage was an interesting experience.

The following day we headed to Nicaragua.

I must say that road conditions did not improve and are pretty bad in some areas of Honduras

Hondruas Road conditions

Remember the pain in the butt it was to get into Honduras in the first place…well get ready because getting out is even worse!

Border crossing Honduras to Nicaragua at Los Manos- Ok get ready for one of the worst border crossings of my life!

-You’ll know you’re at the Los Manos border when you start to see the crazy ridiculous line of hundreds of semi trucks parked trying to go in and out of the country. 

You might have to squeeze in through some of them like this, as there’s no other way around.

Again you’ll have to swat off the hoards of people waving huge stacks of cash trying to trade with you. 

Remember you need to negotiate down or up the price they are giving you, as they always give you a horrible rate, you can get much better, you just have to put forth the effort. First you’ll turn in your original importation paper from Honduras to the Aduana. Then go next door to immigration to get “stamped” out and pay a $3 processing fee.

Then headed over to Nicaragua, where you’ll first buy $12 dollar mandatory insurance from a random guy that looks like any average Joe. Then pass to Immigration, pay the $12 dollar processing fee, get your papers and recipes. Then next to Customs for the bike. They’ll process you, give you a paper with your bikes information that you take to an official outside that inspects your bike, then take it back to Aduana and off you go. You’ll then be stopped on the way out at the gate and where you’ll show them all your papers to continue on. And they’ll charge you a one dollar municipal tax-which basically just has them opening the gate for you.

*In our case remember how the officials entering Honduras wouldn’t give us those papers or any stamp…well yes they are needed. So I was detained in the immigration office, while David was watching the bikes watching me as I was dragged into the building. After my failed attempt at explaining the situation to the immigration official that they wouldn’t give me a stamp or paper and that I had the Guatemala stamp in my passport for central America, and showing the entire office my passport along with my vehicle importations papers trying to convince them all that I did enter legally and get processed by both aduana and immigration, but that the two official government entities of immigration and customs wouldn’t give me a Honduras stamp or paper telling me just to get moving along with my Guatemala stamp I already had, I was transferred to the man in charge, or as I call him; pissed off for no reason mustache man, on a power trip of control on his daily mission to create havoc for any for any traveler. Again I explained the situation and he said he would either detain aka arrest me for entering the country illegally with no entry stamp or pay a ridiculous $300 dollar fine. 

This was indeed legitimate, but I stood my ground saying I wasn’t to be responsible for the mistake of his department had made with us after my repeated attempts with them trying to give me a stamp and paper they denied me, and I had all other papers proving my processing into the country.

At this point it had been several hours of trying to talk my way out of a dangerous situation. David got concerned and tried looking for me, and knew it was a bad situation as he wasn’t even allowed to enter the building.

I attempted at bribing mustache man with no luck. I had unfortunately gotten an uncorrupt official, which is good, but unfortunate for our situation. I was sure he was incorruptible as he was now threatening me of arrest for such an attempt. My indirect approach to the bribe was the only thing that kept me from sleeping behind bars that day.

So I talked angry mustache man into calling his superior aka the head of the entire immigration department of the country of Honduras. Again he was instructed to keep me detained. At this point I knew things were getting hot, and I grabbed the phone from the official frantically speaking to his superior to hear me out before I had the phone ripped from my hands. As he listened I convinced him to return our passports and let us go so that we may go back to fix the issue at the border we came in from. I will say that this took lots of lying about being affiliated with the US government, having a group of 60 rich and politically influential foreign bikers under my supervision coming into the same border in the next few days and my threats of a bitter international affair taking place if we weren’t let go immediately. Somehow my own threats and intimidation managed to get me out of the building with our passports and papers. A little intimidation can go a long way, wohoo!

After hours of this dilemma, I was about to jump on the bike and just cross the border after hours of being on the edge of arrest and frustration, I figured no entry stamp in or out of Honduras, so no problem. But this was impossible as the official went out of his way to stand in our way to reach the other side into Nicaragua, sensing that I was going to do it. So a few of his buddies were watching us like hawks until we finally turned around and left.

So we counted our loss and good fortune for the day and headed back.

After a regrouping and thinking how we did our best to try and cross legally and correctly but that wasn’t enough for Honduras, it was now time to take matters into our own hands. We thought up an ingenious plan of jumping the border as best as we could legally/illegally, use whichever term you’d like, as justice was not served we sought to make it right.

The following day we headed early to the border in hopes of getting a different group of officials. We parked amongst the semi trucks to hide from the officials, walked behind the building to reach the Customs office. We were lucky to have a tour bus of over 80 people keeping immigration officials busy in which the meantime I sneaked into Customs to export the bikes saying that yesterdays issue had been resolved, and convinced them not to have us bring our bikes to be screened again and waste their precious time as they had done it yesterday. They agreed and processed me quickly, and I ran my way back to the bikes. We then waited and found a line of semi trucks passing through, to which we trailed behind, then drove next to the trucks using them as a moving shield to hide us from immigration and officials as we carefully sneaked our way across the border. So we snuck/jumped into Nicaragua undetected.

So there you have it, a ridiculous ordeal getting into and out of Honduras. Corruption, disorganization, tension, threats, frustration, days lost, incompetent employees you name it, it was there. The sad thing is upon entering Nicaragua the immigration official was aware of the Guatemala stamp in my passport, saw it, and handed me a little paper for Nicaragua saying that’s all I needed. Thanks for the headache Honduras!

Regardless we were now in Nicaragua, alive, not in jail, or paying stupid fines. Another fine day for captain adventure.

Until next border crossing I bid you a pleasant and peaceful farewell!


  1. That's my country!!
    Good story, sounds familiar, and the good part is, it makes good conversation in the future.
    This is part of the fun in Central America, I crossed 10 Central American borders in 20 days and had the same fun :)

  2. So who won the tennis match? Did you go easy on David?

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