Car Travel

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Car Travel

Honduras is roughly the size of Ohio but not quite as easy to get around. A look at a highway map of Honduras illustrates that San Pedro Sula, in the far northwest part of the country, is oddly the hub of its highway system. Topography has dictated that fact. Highways fan out from San Pedro southwest to Copán Ruinas and the highlands, southeast to Tegucigalpa, and north and east to the Caribbean coast. If you were to drive from Tegucigalpa to Copán Ruinas, less than 200 mi as the toucan flies, you'd actually need to go via San Pedro to navigate the best route.

Seat-belt use is mandatory in Honduras. Use of cell phones and texting while driving is prohibited. Turning right at a red light is prohibited.

If the police stop you for a traffic violation, some officers are corrupt enough to solicit you for a bribe to forget about the ticket. Admittedly, many visitors do succumb to avoid the hassle especially if they know they are guilty, but we recommend not paying the officer—doing so would only contribute to the problem—and instead settling the ticket through your car-rental agency.

Gasoline

Although Honduras measures mostly in metrics, gasoline is sold by the galón, at about L70 per gallon. Most vehicles require the higher-octane súper. A few autoservicio (self-service) stations are beginning to appear in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula and knock a couple of lempiras off the gallon price if you pump your own gas.

Parking

When you stop for the night, always ask about a secure place to leave your car. Most lodgings offer guarded parking.

Road Conditions

Major highways in Honduras—Tegucigalpa to San Pedro Sula, San Pedro Sula to Puerto Cortés, San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba to Trujillo, Tegucigalpa to Choluteca—are in decent shape, and you can expect to zip right along at the posted speed limit of 90 kph (about 55 mph). Even major highways will require you to slow down as they pass through urban areas and sometimes the tiniest of hamlets. Watch for the "túmulos" signs that warn you of upcoming speed bumps. Off the major highways, secondary roads—the road from the crossroads town of La Entrada to Copán Ruinas, or from Santa Rosa de Copán to Gracias, are good examples—deteriorate and have frequent potholes. They're passable though. Always inquire about road conditions before you start out, especially during the rainy season, when landslides or flooding occasionally block passage.

Driving after dark on rural roads is never advisable. Robberies of drivers have occurred at night, but you also need to contend with pedestrians—both two- and four-legged—along the sides of the roads. When you stop anywhere for the night, always ask about a secure place to leave your car. Most lodgings offer guarded parking.

Roadside Emergencies

Honduras has no nationwide emergency-road-service organization à la AAA. If you are involved in any type of accident, even a minor fender bender, remain at the scene until the transit police (Policía de Tránsito) arrive to assess what happened.

Emergency Services

Policia de Transito. 222 nationwide.

Rules of the Road

Automobile Association. www.aaa.com.

Car Rental

Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula are the best places to rent a vehicle, and both have city and airport offices of many of the major international firms. Advance, Maya, and Molinari are three highly regarded Honduran rental agencies. Vehicles are not cheap. They start at L950, or about $50 per day for the most basic four-door sedans. The minimum age to rent a car is 25.

Local Agencies

Advance Rent-a-Car. C. Republica de Mexico. 235-9528. www.advancerentacar.com.

Maya. Aeropuerto Internacional Ramon Villeda Morales, San Pedro Sula. 668-3168. Av. 3, between Cs. 7 and 8. 552-2670 or 552-2671.

Molinari. C. 1, between Avs. 3 and 4, San Pedro Sula. 552-9999.

Major Rental Agencies

Alamo. 800/522-9696. www.alamo.com.

Avis. 800/331-1084. www.avis.com.

Budget. 800/472-3325. www.budget.com.

Hertz. 800/654-3001. www.hertz.com.

National Car Rental. 800/227-7368. www.nationalcar.com.

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