Is Honduras Safe? How Travelers Can Avoid Petty Crime

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If you want raw, natural beauty and a historical journey, Honduras is the perfect destination. That said, there are some things to look out for during your visit if you want to enjoy a safe stay.


A motor taxi running in the town Valle de Angels in Honduras Photo © iStock/MarcPo

Honduras has a rich history, which makes it a fascinating place to discover. Despite political unrest the country has experienced over the years, the majority of the locals are laid back and friendly. But, as elsewhere in the world, there are a few shady characters to watch out for. Here's what you need to know about crime in Honduras.

Petty crime in Honduras

Beneath the natural beauty of Honduras is a high crime rate. Most criminal activity is of the petty theft variety, with pickpockets and purse snatching occurring quite frequently against unsuspecting tourists.

Obviously the rule of thumb here, as with a trip to any other country, is to keep valuables concealed and avoid flashing around money or jewelry. Also be aware of your surroundings at all times. It's hard not to get distracted by the amazing landscape and all the things to do and see, but if you want to avoid being a victim you must pay attention.

Visitors traveling on the streets of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, particularly near hotels, should be aware that thieves often stake these areas out. Robberies here usually occur at night, but can also happen in broad daylight. The crimes are often carried out by two-man teams riding motorcycles that snatch items from pedestrians. Again, remain alert at all times.

Violent crime in Honduras

In addition to high rates of petty crime in Honduras, there's also a growing concern about violent incidents, such as kidnapping, rape, assault and murder. Armed robbery is a common problem, with thieves targeting both pedestrians and tourist vehicles.

In San Pedro Sula, armed bandits have attacked minibuses, vans and cars carrying tourists from the airport to local hotels. Some have even forced vehicles off the road to rob and sometimes assault the passengers and driver. Kidnappings happen occasionally, but most incidents are isolated and involve wealthy Honduran residents rather than tourists.

Murder is perhaps the biggest concern for foreigners. Between 2010 and 2015 Honduras had the highest murder rate in the world. Areas that see higher incidents of foreigners being murdered include San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba, with many incidents occurring shortly after the victims arrived. This may be due to tips obtained from criminal sources that hang out at airport arrival areas. Because of this, visitors are strongly advised not to discuss the details of their travel plans in public.

Advice to protect yourself

There are many things you can do to protect yourself, and lessen the chances that you'll be targeted during your stay.

1. Do not resist if someone tries to rob you

Many of these criminals carry weapons, and while they may not use them during their initial attempt to get money or valuables from you, they very likely will if you don't cooperate.

In fact, most injuries and deaths of foreigners happen as a result of a botched robbery attempt. Several tourists have been killed in recent years when they attempted to flee or resisted a robbery.

Nothing you are carrying on you is as valuable as your life, so just hand over whatever they want and get out of there as quickly as possible. A good tip to throw thieves off is to carry a little money on you or a fake wallet with a small amount of cash in it. Hopefully they will think they have got something and will move on leaving you alone.

2. When the sun goes down, the risk of crime goes up

You're strongly advised not to hitchhike or go home with anyone you don't know, especially those you may meet at a bar or nightclub.

Beaches are spectacular during the day, but should be avoided at night as they have seen a rise in recent attacks on foreigners. The Bay Islands and Coxen Hole in particular should be avoided after dark.

3. There's limited police presence where drugs are an issue

There's very limited police presence in the areas of Colon, Northern Olancho and Gracias a Dios, which ironically all happen to be well known for drug smuggling and violence. If you plan on visiting these areas, do so with extreme caution. The government has created a special "tourist" police force to cover the resort town of Tela and other popular destinations like San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, Tegucigalpa and Roatan.

Unfortunately, the number of officers is limited so coverage is somewhat ineffective. Keep in mind also that Honduran police do not generally speak English, so communication may be an issue if you don't speak Spanish. It's just another reason that you have to be on your guard at all times.

4. Avoid protests and demonstrations

It's also important to mention that political unrest can result in protests and demonstrations, and these can pop up at any time, and in any place. While they are mostly peaceful, they do have the potential to turn violent so avoid these gatherings whenever possible.

Given all of these warnings, it might seem for a moment that perhaps a trip to Honduras is not such a good idea. To the contrary – Honduras is an absolutely wonderful place to visit. You just have to exercise caution and take appropriate precautions while you're there to avoid becoming a victim of crime. Use your common sense and know what to avoid and look out for, and you'll be on your way to an unforgettable journey in one of the most natural and beautiful countries in the world.

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