Honduras Feature

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Honduran Souvenirs

You won't waltz away with a souvenir ancient Mayan ceremonial headdress—it would be illegal to take such an item out of the country anyway—but Honduras will provide the answer to the "What did you bring me?" questions you're sure to hear upon your return home. (And don't forget to treat yourself to a keepsake, too.)

All of Honduras's best-known souvenirs have made it to many points of sale around the country if you need the efficiency of one-stop shopping. (San Pedro Sula's Guamilito market, the vendors in Valle de Ángeles near Tegucigalpa, and Roatán's amazing shop Yaba Ding Ding are three places that seem to have everything from around the country. The international airports in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa also have a few quality shops.) No matter where you make your purchase, quality is high, variety is good, and price is reasonable. One word of warning though: the indigenous clothing and textiles you see for sale here are frequently Guatemalan-made, especially the closer you get to the border. (Always ask.) If you like it, go ahead and buy it, but it won't be a "made in honduras" memento of your visit.

Baskets

Palm, wicker, bamboo, and even pine needles get woven into elaborate basketry in several communities in Western Honduras in an age-old process that has never been industrialized. Many small baskets purchased in souvenir shops give you a twofer and contain bags of coffee or spices.

Ceramics

Honduras's most distinctive souvenir is its indigenous Lenca clay pottery, crafted in the villages around Gracias. Artisans fashion their works with their hands, cornhusks, and twigs in a process that has changed little through the centuries. Some have likened the brown, white, cream, and red patterns on the plates, bowls, cups, urns, and vases as resembling works of the Navajo in the southwest United States, but, of course, the designs have different meanings. The pottery provides an added benefit in addition to simply looking nice: nearly all the pieces you see are made by women's cooperatives, so your purchase helps provide employment at the local level and keeps an ancient art alive.

Cigars

Experts rate Honduran cigars right up there with the best Cuban product. The industry here has its roots in Cuba, with cigar manufacturers having set up shop in southern Danlí when Castro came to power. Tobacco has a longer history in western Santa Rosa de Copán, the center of cultivation in colonial times. Either is a good place to purchase fine cigars.

Coffee

Honduras hasn't extensively promoted its fine coffee to the tourist market the way neighboring Guatemala and Costa Rica have. In general, a mediocre-quality coffee stays behind for the local market, with the good stuff being exported. Your best bet for export-quality product is a souvenir shop or even a last-minute purchase at the airport on your way home. The foil packages will fit perfectly into your carry-on.

Hammocks

You may have spent a lazy afternoon in a hammock at an out-country Honduran hotel. Some half-dozen local manufacturers make fine-quality Honduran hammocks if you'd like to continue that lazing back home.

Mahogany

Mahogany is prized as one of the world's most durable woods, and Honduran mahogany will not disappoint. Vendors here do actually sell mahogany doors and trunks, but for ease of transport and to avoid the hassle of shipping your purchase, you may want to stick with a small box or necklace that you can pack for the trip home.

Shirts

Though not usually lumped in under the "handicrafts" heading, Honduras does produce T-shirts of fine quality, and really does sell more than the "life's a beach" shirts you'll see in the Bay Islands. T-shirts with decorative Mayan hieroglyphs are sure to please the history-minded traveler or person on your shopping list. For something more elaborate yet, Omoa, on the Caribbean coast, is a center for embroidered, tropical-style guayabera shirts, buttoned up and with a straight hem, worn untucked.

Market Savvy

Chances are, you fall into one of two marketing types: you're either the type who delights in haggling in a traditional market, or you approach the notion with a bit of distaste, meekly agreeing to the first price quoted you. Regardless of your style, we offer these tips for shopping in a Honduran market.

Brush up on your Spanish numbers. Vendors may speak limited English on the mainland, but the Bay Islands, where many more people speak English, are a different story.

Market vendors are not set up to take credit cards. Have cash in hand, preferably small bills. Paying in lempiras rather than dollars will frequently fetch you a better price.

Bargaining takes place in markets. Prices are generally fixed in standing shops, although the shop person might be open to bargaining if you pay in cash—businesses pay high commissions on credit-card purchases in Honduras—and if you don't go shopping with a guide (who, in turn, will expect the shop to pay him a "finder's fee" commission).

If you do bargain in a market, counteroffer a bit more than half the quoted price. From there, you and the seller can compromise, often something in the 75% range.

Don't bargain too hard. Items are already reasonably priced, and those extra lempiras mean more to the seller than to you.

Once you and the vendor agree on a price, it's understood that you've made a commitment to buy the item. Honor it.

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