Travelers entering Honduras are allowed to bring with them anything needed for a vacation, including any sports equipment, plus 200 cigarettes, 100 cigars, half a kilogram of tobacco, and two quarts of spirits. When leaving the country, be sure not to have any pre-Columbian artifacts, endangered animals, or coral, particularly black coral, as these could be confiscated in either Honduras or your home country; you could even wind up in jail.
If you have to declare anything over $300, you may find yourself at the mercy of airport customs officials who may try to take advantage of unsuspecting foreigners by levying some outrageous tax in order to claim your goods. There are a number of private agencias aduaneras (customs agencies) that can help prevent this. If you contact an agency in advance of your trip, they can meet you right at the airport and help ease the process. One agency with offices in both Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula is Agencia Aduanera Arhsa (Tegucigalpa tel. 504/239-2452, San Pedro tel. 504/557-2419, www.arhsa.com).
Foreign cars are allowed into Honduras for a total of six months. Travelers overstaying the limit will be fined. When arriving at the border, be sure to have your title, license, and passport (with visa, if necessary). Insurance is not required. Cross during the week, or early Saturday morning, as it is necessary to make a payment at the bank, which is closed Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
Three-month permits are issued initially, for a US$50 fee. Sometimes you may be offered only a 30-day permit, but firmly request three months. Prices should be clearly posted on signs at border offices, and receipts should be given for every fee. If a border official will not give you a receipt, the fee is probably not required.
At border posts you will be pestered by tramitadores (people who help with official paperwork) offering their services. All tramitadores should have identification approved by the government—don’t hire someone who is not wearing identification. If the border offices are crowded, or if you’re not confident in Spanish, tramitadores can be quite useful in helping facilitate your way through the paperwork. But if you speak Spanish reasonably well and there aren’t too many people around, the procedures are not difficult to navigate alone. Basically, you first get your passport stamped by migración, then proceed to the aduana, or customs, where you must show your title, registration, driver’s license, and passport. After filling out a form, go to one of usually two or three banks at the border, pay a fee, and return to the aduana to receive your papers. As you leave the border entering Honduras, stop at the police station, where they will inspect your papers and register your car’s presence in the country. You are under no obligation to leave through the same border post—leave wherever you like. The entire process usually takes an hour or so, on an average day.
If you’d like to renew your permit when the time expires, to a maximum of six months unless you receive a work visa in the country, go to the Dirección Ejecutiva de Ingresos in the Banadesa building in Comayagüela, a block from Parque Obelisco, tel. 504/220-1138. Normally, if your papers are in one day before noon, you can pick them up the next day by early afternoon. Fines for not renewing your car papers run up to thousands of lempiras very quickly, so make sure you don’t let your permit lapse.
If you want to drive a car to Honduras and sell it there, you will have to pay some hefty taxes, around 35 percent of calculated vehicle value for passenger cars or 22 percent for pickup trucks. The same office in Comayagüela will help you through the process. Cars older than 10 years cannot be imported, and at the time of writing, there was a moratorium on the import of SUVs. (But you can certainly purchase both old cars and SUVs once in country.)
For information on touring through Central America and crossing Honduran borders on motorcycle, www.horizonsunlimited.com is your definitive information source. Permit regulations are similar to those for foreign cars and trucks.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition