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Border Crossing: Guatemala / Honduras

June 10th, 2013 | Posted by Brianna in Border Crossings | Dogs | Guatemala | Honduras

We cross borders by land in a CR-V with US passports and our two dogs. We do not carry drugs or weapons or disallowed fruit (usually). These articles are not a definitive guide to crossing borders nor should they be used as a sole source of information. They are our experiences.

When, Where, and Which Direction: June 1, 2013 – Entre Rios, Izabal, Guatemala > Corinto, Cortés, Honduras

What We Needed: Though we had a decently smooth crossing from Mexico into Guatemala last month without any preparation beforehand, we took the unnecessary stresses of the day as a reminder to be grateful for our fortunately successful crossings thus far and to do a little bit more research ahead of time in the future. A quick Google search returned very little on the northeastern-most border crossing aside from reports that an integral bridge had been washed away a few years ago, but there was information from a number of individuals who had overlanded at El Florido, the border crossing near Copán Ruinas, who had all had similar experiences and recommendations for others including needed documents and fees. The most organized and helpful information was provided by the folks at the 30forthirty blog, but they don’t travel with pets so we looked into that separately and reached out to others who we know do. What we expected to need during the crossing were our:

  1. Passports,
  2. Driver’s license(s),
  3. Vehicle title and registration,
  4. Cancelled Guatemalan vehicle import permit (did not end up needing this at our location),
  5. Certificates of vaccinations for the dogs,
  6. Certificate of good health for the dogs (in English and Spanish), and
  7. Copies of all of the above.

The Process: Turning onto CA-13 towards Entre Rios from CA-9N begins the trek towards the quiet border, 25 kilometers away. The road is fine and the first stop, a bit past Entre Rios, is marked by a plain, single story building on the right side with 3 or 4 doors and a snack shack of sorts. There were cones and a stop sign in the road, but most vehicles drove right through. Imported vehicles should pull off onto the side of the road here and kindly ask the guard-type man with the gun (he will probably be snacking) to direct you to the office for vehicle import permit cancellation. Here you’ll need your Guatemalan temporary auto import permit, the windshield sticker for that permit, your title, a copy of your title, your registration, a copy of your registration, the owner’s passport, and a copy of that passport. The man behind the desk does some form sorting and stamping and then sends you on your merry way – no fees paid and no paperwork to show for the cancellation.

Driving down the road a ways further, the second stop is comprised of a two room building on the right side of the road (one labeled for entry and one labeled for exit) also partnered with a snack shack. A few military men may be blocking the road or standing in the shade off to the side, and at least one money exchanger is ready to swap currencies as needed. Here, travelers need only their passports. Enter the door marked “salida” and sit quietly until the lady behind the desk is ready for you. This process is quick and painless; you should leave with a stamped passport. Some reports indicate an unofficial 10 quetzal exit fee, but we were charged nothing.

Honduran Border Crossing Complex

Click to Enlarge - Rough sketch of the Honduran border crossing complex.

The Honduran portion of the border is a few kilometers later, and the entrance to this area is marked by an open fence gate with a small single room building on the right side at which you do not need to stop. A few money changers hang out here. The complex inside is decently large, but all within a shared, paved parking lot and void of the overwhelming loiterers of many borders. There is a large building on the right side of the road, with a handful of medium sized buildings beyond and behind it. Overlanders with dogs will visit four of the buildings. The first stop is at an open window at the first, large building in front. After reviewing your passport, the official will hand it back to you with a short migration registration form to complete before issuing a stamp, collecting the entrance fee, and stapling the carbon copy of the form and the receipt for the entry fee into your book. The $3 USD entrance fee can be paid in US dollars, Honduran lempiras, or Guatemalan quetzales, and the receipt is issued in US dollars.

Next, travelers with a vehicle should park their car in front of the office directly behind the migration building at the window marked “aduana”. For a temporary auto import permit, drivers need to produce the registration, a copy of the registration, the driver’s passport, the driver’s license, and a copy of the license. We were not asked for a title or proof of cancellation of our Guatemalan permit, though we read that this is the case at El Florido. Perhaps because of the stifling heat and humidity, the official did not even exit the building, but simply checked our plate numbers from the window and completed the paperwork and transaction relatively quickly. The fee was $32 USD which could be paid in US dollars or Honduran lempiras. We paid in dollars and received change in lempiras at a good 1:20 exchange rate. Vehicles imported to Honduras receive only a paper permit, not a sticker.

If your dogs go unnoticed, you may be free to enter the country (though you may be asked at a later stop to produce papers that you won’t have). To make them legal, visit the office of the Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock where you can complete paperwork and pay a 500 lempira ($25 USD) fee for pet importation. This building is in the same row as aduana, but on the far right, where all of the truckers are hanging out. We’re not entirely sure what is required here, but we offered the official at the window the dogs’ Certificate of Health, their Certificate of Vaccination, and a Spanish Certificate with a Honduran flag on it that we downloaded from the internet and filled out from our US one. Have copies or allow the official to keep the ones you give him. A typewriter sitting next to a nice computer with printer will be used to complete internal paperwork, and then a stamped and sealed permit for the pet owners will be filled out by hand. The official may also want to inspect your pets in person. We haven’t heard of this pet import process anywhere else, so we’re not sure how official it is, especially the fee part.

Once the immigration and customs are settled, cars will be stopped at a fumigation station on their way out of the border area. This is a fence gate marked similarly to the entrance with a small single-room building on the right side, accompanied by men in navy jumpsuits prepared to spray your car. Show your import permit to the man in the small building and pay him 71.5 lempiras or $3.50 US. Lastly, almost immediately outside of the border area is a police checkpoint. Keep your papers handy.

Costs: As noted above, there is no cost to cancel a temporary auto import permit in Guatemala nor a fee to exit the country. Some reports from other travelers indicated a 10 quetzal fee per person for the Guatemalan exit stamp, but we weren’t charged it. Upon entering Honduras there is a $3 USD fee for the entrance stamp payable in US dollars ($3), Guatemalan quetzales (60Q), or Honduran lempiras (unsure what exchange rate they used); oddly, the fee as it is listed on the receipt is based in US dollars. The temporary auto import permit was also based in US dollars at $32, again payable in lempiras as well. Car fumigation costs $3.50 USD, payable in US dollars or Honduran lempira (L71.50). To import our two dogs we were charged 500 lempira and are unsure if they accept other currencies or even if this is an official fee (though we did receive a receipt).

Dogs: Technically, we think pet imports are supposed to have pre-approval from the Honduran consulate in our home country, as was also supposedly the case with Guatemala; however, this is a bit difficult as we haven’t been in our home country for 5 months, so we opted to head into the border with the documents we do have in order and some hope for a good experience. We paid $15 USD for downloadable instructions including the forms that they say are necessary for the import and then filled out those forms with the information from our US Certificate of Health. I offered it to the official as a translated copy of our other forms, and while he seemed satisfied with that, I do think we got lucky to have a nice, laid back individual helping us. I also reached out to another couple prior to our crossing who is traveling overland with dogs, and they said they had no issues with the dogs crossing into Honduras (but warned us to be prepared for the crossing into Nicaragua). Trish said that she keeps the same certifications we do with them and that has been enough for her thus far as well. With the US Certificate of Health, a copy of up to date vaccinations, the Honduran Certificate of Health, and a nice 500 lempira ($25 USD) fee, we were almost set. The official then grabbed some latex gloves and headed to the car to examine the dogs. At the door of the CR-Van, he asked us if they bite or not, and when we told him that sometimes Maya gets scared of new people, he took off his gloves having decided that a visual examination through the window would suffice. Phew! The dogs sat sweetly looking at him and in 3.5 seconds, the official was back in his office, stamping our documents.

Our Experience: We originally planned on crossing from Guatemala into Honduras at El Florido near Copán Ruinas, primarily because that is the way Google maps recommended we drive, but also because that was the crossing that we were able to find the most information about. Then, a couple of days before our departure, our hosts at Pasaj Cap recommended that we consider going further east before crossing the border as this would keep us on better roads for longer and probably end up taking less time. They had us at better roads. We weren’t able to find much information about the crossing, but figured if we had too much trouble, we would only lose a day backtracking. On the first of our two travel days from Atitlán to La Ceiba, we made excellent time on a decently straight, relatively well-maintained stretch of highway and were able to cross the border and find a place to stay in the next town with an ATM before dark. Ian covered most of our experience based reflections of these travel days in his post yesterday, so give it a read for some more qualitative details.

For the most part, our border crossing experience was smooth, taking just under two hours from start to finish with very few delays or purposefully negligent agents. We saw maybe half a dozen other travelers total during our time there and would definitely recommend this route to anyone headed from Atitlán or Guatemala City to the northern Honduran coast.

Vangabonds Border Crossing Number: 7

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