Honduras

About Honduras

Honduras is a Central American country with Caribbean Sea coastlines to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south (via the Gulf of Fonseca). In the jungle near Guatemala, the ancient Mayan ceremonial site Copán has stone-carved hieroglyphics and stelae, tall stone monuments. Offshore lie the Bay Islands, part of a massive barrier reef, which are popular for scuba diving.

Honduras is an absolutely wonderful country to discover. As a matter of fact, it offers three unique worlds to discover, making a trip here varied in culture, nature and relaxation. The world of Tropical Nature describes the many natural parks and curiosities that one can explore in Honduras. The world of the Maya is best represented by the city of Copan, an archaeological Mayan marvel, where the remains of two Maya queens were unearthed. Finally, the world of Caribbean Honduras has earned the nickname of "Banana Republic", which describes the beautiful coastal villages once ruled by banana companies. Also to explore are the Bay Islands, particularly the well developed Island of Roatan.
The major cities offer a full range of traveler accommodations, ranging from many first-class hotels to a variety of less expensive alternatives. Dozens of fine restaurants offer nearly every type of international cuisine, as well as delicious local dishes.

Capital :
Tegucigalpa Currency : Lempira Driver's License : International driver's license required Electricity : 110 volts, 60Hz Entry Requirements : A passport, valid 6 months beyond intended stay, and an ongoing or return ticket are required. It is the traveller's responsibility to check with the country’s Embassy for up-to-date information. GMT Time : -6 hr. Daylight savings time is not applied. Government : Democratic Constitutional Republic Land size : 112,090 km2 Language : Spanish, Amerindian dialects National Airlines : Islena Airlines, Atlantic Airlines and Aerolineas Sosa Population : 7,792,854 approx Religion : Roman Catholic 97%, Protestant 3% Required Vaccines : none Tourist Season : November through April

Cuisine
The Plato tipico is the most famous lunch. It consists of rice, beef, fried beans (frijolitos), and fried bananas (tajaditas). Tortillas and enchiladas are popular in Honduras, as well as baleadas which are filled with meat, beans and Honduran cheese. Tamales are a popular Christmas dish made of baked corn flour wrapped in plantain leaves with meat or fish in a sauce on the inside. Deep fried chicken with chopped cabbage is a staple takeaway dish. Plantains, beans and rice are an integral part of Honduran cuisine. Coconut is a common ingredient in coastal or island dishes.

The popular licuados are fruit juices and milk shakes, made with fruits such as mango, pineapple, watermelon and banana. If you would like to enjoy local beers, try the Salvavida, Port Royal, Imperial and the newest Barena.

Culture The cultural background of Honduras consists of mixed American Indian and Spanish descent. There are 8 other indigenous groups: the Lencas, the Chortiz, the Tolupan, the Garifunas, the Miskitos, the Pech, the Tawahkas and the Bay Islanders. About 80% of the population is classed as poor.

The Lenca people form the largest of the indigenous groups, covering the largest geographical area. Many Lenca traditions continue to be used, such as the construction of rural houses, techniques for sowing and harvesting crops, cooking traditional foods, firing of rustic ceramics and weaving of colourful baskets, hats and mats.

The Garifuna people, a mix American Indian and African slaves who escaped from a wrecked slave ship, conserve a unique language and culture. Garifuna music is different from the rest of Central America; the most famous form is punta. Other forms of Garifuna music and dance include chumba, Paranda and hunguhungu, a circular dance in a three beat rhythm, which is often combined with punta. In 2001, Garifuna music was proclaimed one of the masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO.

Honduran music is a mixture of indigenous, European and African influences. Traditional instruments include the marimba, the caramba and conch shells. The Lenca, the Garifunas and the Miskitos have kept many of their musical traditions alive. Honduran folk music uses rhythms derived from Spanish music.

Many great writers and painters, such as Ramon Amaya Amador, Jose Trinidad Reyes and Lopez Rodezno, have emerged in Honduras.

Geography Honduras, the second largest country in Central America, borders the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south through the Gulf of Fonseca. Its topography consists up to 80% of mountains, with the occasional narrow plains along the coasts, the large lowland jungle La Mosquitia in the northeast, and the San Pedro Sula valley in the northwest. Offshore territories include the Bay Islands, a collection of three large islands, and over 60 islets and keys.

History Today's city of Copan, found in the extreme western part of the country, was a major Mayan city that flourished during the period of 150-900 A.D. This ancient kingdom was known as Xukpi. By the time Christopher Columbus reached the coast of Honduras in 1502, the once great city of Copan was overrun by the jungle. Honduras then became part of Spain's empire within the Kingdom of Guatemala. The Spanish ruled Honduras for approximately three centuries.

Honduras declared independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. In 1822 it was annexed to the Mexican Empire of Iturbide, which was overthrown in 1823. Hence Central America formed the Federation of the United Provinces. This Fedration disintegrated in 1838 and the states became independent nations.

The Football War of 1969 was fought with El Salvador. There had always been border tension between the two countries. The war lasted approximately 100 hours and led to an arms race between the two countries. After two and a half decades of military rule, a freely elected civilian government came to power in 1982. Hurricane Fifí caused severe damage in 1974. Hurricane Mitch devastated the country and wrecked its economic system in 1998.

Nature Honduras is home to many ecological systems, ranging from rain forests, cloud forests (some rising up to nearly 3,000 m above sea level), mangroves, savannas and mountain ranges with pine and oak trees. The Bay Islands are close to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, where you can see bottlenose dolphins, manta rays, parrot fish, schools of blue tang and whale shark swimming among the corals.

The Pico Bonito National Park rises majestically behind La Ceiba, offering wonderful hiking and bird watching opportunities. White water rafting enthusiasts should head for the Rio Cangrejal. A great place to encounter some local wildlife is the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge. Here you may see monkeys, alligators, manatees and water birds. The Lancetilla Botanical Gardens are a beautiful place to visit when in the town of Tela. Bird watchers flock to the Hotel Hacienda El Jaral's lagoon between October and May to watch the arrival of some 6,000 egrets which nest nearby.

But the biggest ecological attraction is without a doubt the La Mosquitia lowland rainforest, found in the north eastern region, where it lies in the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve. Referred to as "The Last Lungs of Central America", this Reserve was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List in 1982.

Sports A variety of activities can be practiced here. A very popular one is horseback riding through coffee plantations, corn and tobacco fields. Some excursions companies offer tours to the Maya ruins on horseback as well. There are many wonderful hiking trails waiting to be explored. Also gaining popularity is deep sea fishing and bonefishing. Water lovers can enjoy sailing, sea kayaking, waterskiing, jet skiing, parasailing, and even floating on inflatable tubes down the mild rapids of the Copan River. There is great snorkeling and diving to be found here and many dive shops to go out with on the Bay Islands.

Hondurans love football (soccer). The Federacion Nacional Autonoma de Futbol de Honduras runs the popular football league while the Honduras national football team represents the country internationally.

Banks & Money
US dollars and travellers checks are easily exchanged for Lempiras in banks, major hotels, airports and exchange houses. US dollars are accepted readily in tourist areas and the Bay Islands.

In the larger cities, major credit cards are accepted in most restaurants, hotels and stores. ATMs can also be found in more populated areas and they can be used with debit or credit cards to withdraw money.

Climate Honduras is situated entirely within the tropics, which places coastal areas in a hot and humid climate, with a daily average around 28° C. In contrast, the elevated Central Highlands know a cooler more moderate climate due to the altitude, usually ranging somewhere between 15° C and 20° C. The rainy season lasts from May to October. Hurricane season is June to November.

For monthly average temperatures please refer to your destination of choice.

Communication The country code in Honduras is 504. Local phone numbers are seven-digit numbers. The modern telecommunications services offer direct-dialing, long-distance, fax and internet access. Internet cafés can be found in the tourist spots, as well as in hotels.

There is one weekly English newspaper, Honduras This Week, as well as six daily Spanish newspapers. Local radio stations and TV stations abound, as well as cable and satellite television.

Health All big city hotels and restaurants use purified water for beverages, ice and cooking. But bottled water and beverages without ice is still a better idea. It is also best to avoid street food vendors, as tempting as it may be.

Less frequented areas of Honduras may also be prone to Cholera, Chagas Disease, Polio, Dengue fever, Diphtheria and Malaria. If you plan an adventure trip, it may be a good idea to get inoculated. HIV & AIDS are a problem in Honduras so always be protected.

There are several species of venomous snakes and insects, but they should not become a great fear. Just watch where you stick your hands, and shake out your clothes and shoes in the morning. Bug bites can be a nuisance so bring some insect repellent.

There are no required vaccines to enter the country, unless you are arriving from a yellow fever affected destination. The following vaccines though are highly recommended for any tropical destination: hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus and yellow fever.

Official Holidays January 1 - New Year's Day March/April - Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter April 14 - Pan-American Day May 1 - Labour Day September 15 - Independence Day October - Americas Day October 3 - Francisco Morazan Day October - 21 Honduras Army Day December 25 - Christmas Day

Safety Street crime is a concern, with thefts and armed robberies on the rise in urban areas. You should cooperate with burglars if being robbed. Avoid walking alone, especially at night. Ask local people about which places are safe and which are not, and follow their advice. It is common for men to carry firearms and machetes, and disputes are sometimes settled with violence. But most of these crimes occur in the big cities, rural areas remain quite safe.

Use good judgement, take advantage of the safety deposit boxes provided by the hotels and ensure that your lock hotel door or your rented car. Carry your wallet and camera discreetly.

Shopping Honduras is definitely a great place to find wonderful handicrafts, particularly the Lenca ceramics, known for its strength, which is still made in the traditional way from pre-Colombian times. Other crafts include a variety of wood carving, woven basketry, embroidery, textiles and leatherwork.

This country is also world famous for producing high quality cigars. The most sought after cigars are the Flor de Copan range from Santa Rosa de Copan, and the cigars from the Danli region. You can also bring home a bottle of local Guaro or Gifity Rum.

Taxes & Tips The departure tax of around US $30, per person, must be paid when leaving the country.

The government sales tax is 12%, and is charged on all goods and services. Some luxury goods have a higher tax. Many hotels and restaurants add on a 10% service charge. Check your bill before tipping as it may have already been included.

Transportation There are four international airports in Honduras: San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, La Ceiba, and Roatan. A number of domestic airlines offer affordable flights within the country and to the islands. Boats from Belize come in to Puerto Cortes, not far from San Pedro Sula, twice weekly. You can also arrive to Honduras by buss or rented car from Guatemala, El Salvador, or Nicaragua.

Honduras has an extensive network of paved highways, which are generally considered the best roads in Central America. In more rural areas roads are generally unpaved. A variety of international rental car companies offer vehicles for traveling in Honduras.

Taxis are available everywhere in major towns and are not metered, so negotiate the fare before getting in. Ferries offer transfers to the Bay Islands and local bus companies are a great way to travel between towns. Hitchhiking is common in rural areas when there is no proper bus connection.

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