Tegucigalpa is the capital of and largest city in Honduras.
Tegucigalpa (Hondurans in general, and people familiar with the city, shorten it to "Tegus", while most locals actually use the full name...) is a great example Central America of urban sprawl gone amok, spread out across very hilly terrain.
Of course, the city, a 400 year-old mining center, has a depth that is there for those with time and nerve to find it. It has a plethora of interesting, if decaying, old colonial buildings, and many old stone streets winding intriguingly up steep hills to hidden parks, stone steps, and old houses.
The defining event in recent Honduran history, and that of Tegucigalpa also, is Hurricane Mitch, which devastated the country in 1998. Mitch reportedly set the country back 50 years. Tegus is still recovering from the massive flooding of the river, and equally massive landslides, both triggered by the rampant deforestation of the hills surrounding the city. Indeed, signs of whole colonias (neighbourhoods) having slid off steep hills are still evident. Workers continue to toil daily in the river, removing silt deposited by the flooding. Many or most people lost friends and relatives during the crisis.
There are a number of bus international bus lines running to Tegus from other Central American capitals. These offer first class, very comfortable service at a reasonable price. A trip from Managua, San Salvador, or Guatemala City would cost between US$20-40. Ticabus, is the most affordable and frequented by backpackers. Hedman Alas, Nicabus, and King Quality, are other first class, reliable bus companies. Of course, it is also possible to travel on less comfortable, less expensive lines, but this is difficult or impossible to plan from afar. Internal travel in Honduras is easy enough, and made more easy thanks to the excellent transportation guide published by the Honduran tourism magazine called Honduras Tips, and available online at their website. Travel from La Ceiba, on the north coast, Empresa de Bus Cristina provides good service, at around US$10 for the 7-8h trip.
95% of buses coming to Tegus arrive into Comayagüela, the sister city of Tegucigalpa. It is also reputedly one of the more dangerous parts of the city. If arriving to Comayagüela after dark, do not walk around looking for a place to stay. Even in the day, walking from bus stations in Comayagüela to a hotel or hostel any distance away would be a bit risky.
- 1 Toncontín International Airport (TGU IATA). TGU isn't necessarily the best port of entry to the country, though there are a bunch of flights to various US cities and throughout Central America. It's considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world, due to a difficult approach surrounded by tall mountains, and a dramatic 45 degree turn just before landing onto a short runway. Low clouds and rain can make visibility a severe problem. San Pedro Sula is the other big airport and may sometimes be better value. Unfortunately the airlines in Central America are still able to keep prices high and competition hasn't yet gained much of a foothold, so flights inside the region can be pretty expensive.
The football (soccer) stadium is a great central point for learning your bearings map-wise of the city. Several of the larger roads meet in a round-about that uses the stadium as its hub.
As of June 2009, taxis (directos) will cost ~L80 for a 20 minute cross-town trip. Negotiating for the price (before getting in) is expected. Taxi drivers are a bit wild, so buckle up (oops, they don't have seatbelts). Prices increase with number of passengers and late at night. Don't be afraid to walk away from an expensive offer - taxis are everywhere and you'll likely win the negotiation by walking away.
Colectivos, like the city buses, run set routes from one point to another. If you see a long line of people weaving down a side walk, this is most likely a collectivo line. As of June 2009, colectivos cost L11/person.
As of March 2007, buses were L3 (US$0.16) but run set routes that most visitors won't know.
There are common bus stops throughout the town, but are unlabeled. Find a large group of people standing on the sidewalks for the largest selection of bus routes. To know the main destinations of the buses, look on the front of the bus above the windshield. Most buses operate to distinct neighborhoods and link to El Centro or the market in Comayaguela. In the market in Comayaguela you can also find many inter-city buses with various prices and various levels of comfort, ranging from the most common chicken-bus to double decker luxury buses.
Tegucigalpa is the capital city of Honduras. Set in a central valley surrounded by mountains, it’s known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture.
- 1 Parque La Leona. An old neighbourhood in the center of Tegus, overlooking the central park. It is a bit of a labyrinth to make your way up the old steep windy streets to arrive at parque La Leona, but it is a nice park, with a beautiful view, and a relaxed atmosphere. If walking, if you start facing the front door of the basilica in the central park, head to your left, and just keep walking up hill, and you will almost certainly hit the park as long as you continue upwards. Or ask someone in the area. In the park there is a little store/restaurant that sells typical Honduran food and has a patio overhanging from the park, with a spectacular view of the city, the valley, and the hills.
- 2 Parque el Picacho. A park overlooking the city which takes its name from the huge statue of Jesus Christ, also called "Cristo el Picacho", which is visible from almost any point in the city. Free parking is available at the entrance of the park, and entrance to the park is a nominal fee (around 5 USD). The views from the park are gorgeous. The park is well maintained, clean, and seemingly not very busy (though likely busier on weekends). To get to the park if you don't have a car, you can take the rapidito bus that passes the park on the way to El Hatillo. The bus leaves from a few blocks north of the central park. If you walk to the end of the Calle Peotanal that begins in front of the basilica, and follow it to the end, through the black gates, past the Museo de Identidad Nacional, all the way to the Bonillo Theatre, take a left there on the far side of the theatre, walk up one block and the bus leaves on the right. Or just ask someone in this area. On the rapidito ask the fare-taker to tell you when to get off for Picacho (about a 5-10 minute walk in to the park gate, then a further 15 to the big Jesus). The bus ride takes around 15 to 20 minutes.
- 3 Naciones Unidas El Picacho Park (National Zoo). On the same hill as the Picacho statue, with tropical animals such as monkeys, bright-colored parrots, and others. There is a separate entrance fee to enter the zoo. While not a horrible zoo, and worth seeing if you don't mind dropping a few dollars on the entrance fee, the zoo features mostly lethargic animals, the larger ones often noticeably insane as a result of their encagement. The zoo has a variety of monkeys, crocodiles, a jaguar, tapirs (anteaters), snakes, a collection of various raptors, and others.
- 4 Museo para la Identidad Nacional (National Identity Museum), Calle El Telegrafo. Museum of Honduran history and art. Traces the country’s history. It includes a virtual tour of the Copán Mayan ruins of western Honduras.
- 5 Catedral de San Miguel Arcángel (Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel). This 18th centrury cathedral with a baroque interior dominates the main Paza Morazán. Historic Catholic church filled with elaborate art & sculptures, including a massive altar.
- 6 Parque Nacional La Tigra (La Tigra National Park). The first national park in Honduras, by decree No. 976-80 whose principal objective is "The Conservation, Ecologic Preservation and Maintenance of The Hydrologic Potential of this Reserve". It was established on 1 January 1980 and covers an area of 238.21 square kilometers
- 7 Basilica de Nuestra Se Blora De Suyapa (Our Lady of Suyapa). Built in the 20th century, this modern Catholic basilica is dedicated to the Virgin of Suyapa.
- 8 Iglesia de Los Dolores. Baroque Catholic church built in the 1700s, with 2 bell towers, a dome, art & sculpture
- 9 Galeria Nacional de Arte (National Gallery of Art), ☏ . 09:00-14:30 Tu-Sa, 10:00-13:00 Su. Art gallery with works from national artists, from Mayan and 20th century artists to even today's. Used to be by Villa San Miguel and Iglesia Merced but now appears to be located next to Museo para la Identidad Nacional.
- 10 Chiminike. The largest children's museum in Central America
- 11 Museo de Historia Natural (Museum of Natural History).
- 12 Museo de Historia Republicana Villa Roy, ☏ . All about the history of the republic of Honduras.
- 13 Parque Cerro Juana A. Lainez (Eco Park Juana Lainez), ☏ . 07:00-17:00 daily. This park also has nice views from a hill in the center of the city. You wind your way around the ascent until you reach the summit. Just be mindful of safety matters here as elsewhere.
- 14 Parque Central. Tegucigalpa's center and site of Francisco Morazan statue. Location of many events.
- 15 Castillo Belluci (Open Air Museum). Tours between 07:00-09:00. Ruins of a castle-like mansion owned by Italians who lost it during repercussions of WWII whereby it transferred to another aristocrat before becoming abandoned.
- 16 Centro de Arte y Cultura, 7 Calle, ☏ . 08:00-17:00 T-Sa, closed Su-M. Art gallery specializing in contemporary art and sculpture. Operated by Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras.
- 17 Presidential Palace of the Republic of Honduras. Probably not a good place to just be wandering around aimlessly snapping pictures. Can also be the site of demonstrations.
- 18 Parque La Concordia. 08:00-17:00 daily. Park that has some replicas of Mayan temples and statues, but it's not in a very safe area, not much security, at risk neighborhood, etc. Be careful if you do go here.
- 19 Museo de Historia Militar, ☏ . 08:00-16:00 M-F. Museum about Honduran military history.
- Movies The Mall-Multiplaza has a Cinemark theater on the third floor. Showtimes for popular movies frequently are half English with Spanish subtitles, and half dubbed in Spanish. As of 2009, tickets are L63/person.
- Karaoke. There's a karaoke bar a few blocks west of Parque Central. There's no song list, so you just need to think of songs and hope they have them. They seem to have a good number of the more popular English karaoke songs (aka Beatles), otherwise you can sing Spanish songs. They also have cheap beer and they serve you small snacks (crackers with tuna on them) at no extra charge while you're sitting down.
- Parque de la Paz, Just south of the Estadio Nacionál. From the top you can see great panoramic views of Tegucigalpa, and the Peace Monument itself is also worth the trip up to see. However, see below for VERY important safety instructions.
- St. Michael's Cathedral, Los Dolores Church, and San Francisco Church. These are all old Catholic churches well worth visiting, and La Merced and the Basilica de Suyapa are really good, too. While not up to the level of a place like Cartagena, Colombia, such older churches are a nice surprise to the tourist who isn't aware that Tegucigalpa has older, Colonial-era attractions as well.
- The Mall-Multiplaza is a two-story, top-of-the-line mall, just like you would find in any of the biggest cities in the United States. Overpriced and somewhat opulent, but a nice place.
- Cascadas Mall the newest mall in Tegus located close to the airport is very modern and has many US restaurants such as Applebees inside it. Nopt as popular as Multiplaza
- San Isidrio Market down by the river. You can walk around the 16-square blocks of true Honduran markets and see where the Hondurans who can't afford to shop at the mall go to buy their things. Women travelers will be more comfortable with a male companion. The market gets "earthier" the nearer the river you get. If a local warns you that you are heading into an unsafe area of the market, thank them and backtrack. (See Stay Safe).
- 1 Centro Comercial City Mall, Carretera a San Pedro SULA (across from airport). 10:00-21:00 M-Sa, 10:00-20:30 Su. A large shopping mall with food court.
- 2 Villa San Miguel, ☏ . 07:00-19:00 daily. A little colonial-style mall with eateries and shops and balcony to look over downtown.
Tegus has a unhealthy variety of American food restaurants: McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Subway, etc. All follow "home office" food preparation procedures and travelers can eat at them without fear of getting sick. The food court of Multiplaza will do for on-the-go meals.
Tipping in Honduras is 10%. Tipping is not generally expected at smaller restaurants but always appreciated.
- 1 La Cumbre, ☏ . The nicest restaurant in town (US$20/person or so) on top of the "mountain" of "El Hatillio." The food is awesome as is the spectacular view of the city. Get there about 5:00PM to enjoy the daytime, sunset and evening views of Tegus all in one sitting.
- La Milonga is an Argentinian restaurant in the part of town called La Palmira. It is a mid to up scale restaurant, where meals are L100-140 (US$5-8) per person. They have a good menu full of healthy and delicious food, of which the tomato soup is particularly recommended. They also have a reasonably priced wine menu featuring Argentinian imports, and delicious L40 licuados.
- La Terraza de Don Pepe a well known eating establishment just off the central park, which serves typical Honduran food at better quality and slightly higher prices than your everyday Honduran comedor. Good for travellers looking to sample the local food while taking little risk of tainted food. The location, on the second story, overlooking the street below (hence the name of the restaurant) is nice. The entrance however is very hidden...But there is a sign. It is on the street to the east side of the park, one or two blocks to the north.
- Duncan Maya is located just off the park, on the same street as La Terasa, but a bit closer to the park. It is on street level. Duncan Maya is often open later than other places in the area and at a certain hour will be your only alternative to fast food places. That being said, the food is greasy and a bit over-priced. But, they do sometimes have live bands at night (very loud), and it's a must for the "local" experience. Their "bistec de caballo" (yes, horse steak) is excellent.
- 2 Casa Maria, Col Castaño Sur Ave Ramon E Cruz #202 (From Banco Ficensa on Blvd Morazan, go a block and a half down the hill. It will be on your left.). Some of the best food in the city, with a variety of international cuisine including French, Italian, and Nicaraguan. Prices are not too expensive with the average plate costing around US$15-$20. Staff and the owners are friendly and speak excellent English. They have a good selection of wines.
- Asados El Gordo has a few locations throughout the city and one on the road to Santa Lucía. Some of the best "parrilladas" or meat fests in the city accomponied by traditional sides such as beans, platanos, avocado, cheese, mantequilla (crema), and the oh so necessary tortilla. Very moderately priced: the "parrillada para dos" includes grilled chicken, chorizo, grilled steak, two plates of the sides mentioned above, and two drinks for just around US$20, and provides enough food leftover for another person to eat.
Friday and Saturday nights after nine may get a tiny bit dangerous as the alcohol content in the patrons goes up. In Honduras, empty beer bottles are left on the tables until the bill is paid, so you can get a very quick visual indication of where cooler heads will prevail and where tempers may rise just by looking.
Beers range in price from L12 to L30 depending on where you buy them. The cheapest way to go is to buy bottles from a store, however to do this, or at least to get the cheapest price, you need to have a supply of empties to exchange for new ones. You will have to pay more the first time to buy the bottles, but then you've got the cycle going.
Decent rum is incredibly inexpensive in supermarkets (US$6/bottle for what would be $25 elsewhere).
Honduras has four national beers, Salva Vida, Imperial, Port Royal, and Barena. They are all quite similar, all lagers. Port Royal is a bit skunkier, and Imperial may be a bit more flavorful.
The local hootch, known as "guaro" presumably deriving from "aguardiente" (fire water), comes in two brands, Tatascan and Yuscaran. This is cheap, strong cane liquor, the choice selection of drunks in Honduras. At 40% alcohol, a litre of this stuff could run you as little as a dollar. Probably best to avoid... or a one time occasion.
Several cheap hotels can be found 15 minutes east of the center on Avenida Gutenberg. There are also many economical hotelitos and hospedajes (as well as some upmarket ones) around Inglesia Los Dolores, 5 calle.
- 1 Hotel Granada 1. L 322.
- 2 Hotel y Restaurante Nan Kin. L 372.
- Real InterContinental Tegucipalga, Av. Roble, frente a Mall Multiplaza, ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 01232010, check-out: 01282010. The Real InterContinental Tegucipalga offers visitors to the capital 157 rooms, 7 suites, rooms and executive floors for guests who are the hotel for business. Also a restaurant, gym, pool, spa, among other services. L 3223.
- Tegucigalpa Marriott Hotel - 10 km (6 miles) from Tocontin International Airport, the Tegucigalpa Marriott is in the new city center, a short distance from the Multiplaza Mall. Has an executive lounge, meeting rooms, outdoor pool, fitness center and first-rated restaurants.
- Clarion Hotel Real Tegucigalpa, Col. Alameda Calle Principal, Juan Pablo II, ☏ , fax: . Clarion Hotel Real Tegucigalpa is located near the Cas Presidencial. In the vicinity of the hotel include cafes, bars and meeting rooms. It offers free shuttle service from the International Toncontín airport to hotel and vice versa. The 167 rooms for its guests by offering access to high speed Internet, fitness center and an outdoor pool surrounded by a spacious sundeck. L 2430.
- Hotel Paseo Miramontes [firstname.lastname@example.org/]. 4 km. from the International Airport and in the vicinity of shopping malls, government offices, banks and the vibrant sector of the city, HPM provides personalized quality service at an excellent price.
- 3 Hotel Capital, Ave.. Cervantes Calle Las Damas (3 blocks east of Central Park), ☏ . Check-out: 1300. Centrally Located in the historic district. Free Cable. Hot Water. $20.
- 4 Palmira Hostel, Avenida Republica del Peru 4ta calle (adjacent to Benito Juarez park), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 10:00, check-out: 16:00. Hostel in the former Embassy of Ecuador, one block from the United Nations building. About US$10 per night for a dormitory and $30 for a private.
The most important rule for street safety in Tegucigalpa is to never walk anywhere after dark. Are there areas of the city that are safe to walk in after dark? Yes. As an (assumedly) short-term traveler, do you know what they are? No.
In general, no one in Honduras will intervene during a crime. They do not want to get involved and reap the anger of the perpetrator. They will look the other way and walk right on by. Take special care at night. It is common for a foreigner to be robbed on the streets of Tegucigalpa at night. Thieves will stake out areas near tourist hotels, especially the Hotel Maya.
Cars are commonly broken into in broad daylight and the thieves don't even bother wearing masks. If you are driving, it is always worth it to pay to park in a guarded lot.
Follow these general guidelines:
- Keep to the main parts of the city and don't be tempted to go to places that you are not sure of.
- Keep to the main roads and avoid short cuts down back alleys etc.
- Never walk at night in the center of the city even for a short distance - always take a taxi.
- Be particularly wary of people hanging around outside hotels; it is a favorite place to catch tourists and mug them.
- Ignore the street children and people coming up to you in the streets with hard luck tales. Street children can become violent and the latter may be part of an elaborate scam or they might just simply be pick pockets. The best thing to do is just to walk on and ignore them.
- Do not carry large sums of money when shopping and do not wear expensive jewelry.
- Do not accept food and drink from strangers; visitors have known to be drugged and then robbed.
- If you must carry large sums of money or valuable possessions, carry two wallets: Keep one hidden with most of your money in it. The other should be in the most common place, your back pocket. Keep US$5-10 in the wallet, and a few stray lempiras. The lempiras can go to beggars (they tend to be persistent), and the dollars to appease any possible robbers. Typically US$5-10 is viewed as a day's salary in Honduras, and just may be enough to appease a robber without sacrificing your larger stash. Use caution, as there is no such thing as a predictable thief in Honduras.
- If you shop at the Mercado San Isidro in Comayagüela, don't go after dark and don't carry a lot of valuables with you. Even in the daytime there are pickpockets and "grab-and-run" thieves in the market. And definitely don't walk around in Comayagüela itself (apart from the market area) at ANY time, day or night.
- It IS possible to go to Parque de la Paz and take panoramic pictures from the top as well as a picture of the monument itself. However, you must be very careful. Do not ever walk up the hill by yourself or even in a small group. Have a reliable taxi or tourist guide drive you up and make sure not to wander around too much when you're at the summit. It ought to go without saying that this is only possible in the daytime.
- San Pedro Sula
- Copán Ruinas - A small town named after the nearby ruins of an ancient Mayan city.
- Nicaragua - There are direct buses to Managua with connections to go further south.
- El Salvador - Direct buses are available to go to San Salvador.
- "Valle de Angeles" (Valley of the Angels) A small tourist town is 25 miles away from Tegus and is a great place to do all of your tourist shopping (a little cheaper than airport prices) and the home of the best restaurant in all of Honduras - "La Casa de mi Abuela" (My Grandmother's House). Generally slow service (nothing new in Honduras) but so very, very worth it. Definitely get an order of the anafres (tortilla chips in bean and cheese sauce).
The Rooster's Guesthouse If you want to stay longer in Valle de Angeles and want to have a closer experience with Locals, try The Rooster's Guesthouse with private cabins, family rooms and dormitories.