When our exploration of the El Salvador coast became, instead, a week and a half of lounging in El Tunco, our plans for afterwards changed as well. When we finally convinced ourselves we had to leave the town (which wasn’t easy), we began to look at our next destination. Our initial notion was that we would head into Honduras through one of the southern points of entry, head north through the centre, and explore North Eastern Honduras and the Bay Islands. Since we had not managed to get anywhere near those borders, we re-evaluated.
A couple staying at our hostel had booked one of the tourist shuttles directly to Copan Ruins in Honduras, which is very close to the eastern border of Guatemala. After some map-consulting, bus-estimating, and dollar-counting, we decided to do the same. We could undoubtably make it to Copan on chicken buses, but we guessed it would take us about two days and involve another night on the road. The general rule is that the tourist shuttles are about twice as expensive (at least) and take half as long. For shorter trips we have found it’s rarely worth it, but when you’re talking about a 10 hour shuttle (at best) it can be worth the cost not to spend two days of your life crammed in to the back of a bus with chickens squirming at your feet, constantly watching your pockets and worried that your backpacks are going to go careening off of the roof at every corner.
We paid $35 each for the transfer, plus a $3 charge for the surfboard bag. (No, there is not really surfing on Honduras’ Caribbean coast. But there is surfing through Nicaragua and the rest of Central America, so Tim’s surfboards get a bit of a scenic tour.) This $3 became a bit of an issue between us and one of the tour operators. We had been told, when we booked the shuttle, that it was $3 for our surfboard bag. We are carrying two boards in one bag. In San Salvador, when we changed shuttles, we were told to pay $3 per surfboard. With a lot of bickering, and a fair amount of hostility, we eventually were able to pay only the $3 we were initially quoted. This isn’t the first issue I’ve heard about with Gecko Tours, as friends of ours had problems with missing shuttles and trip refunds. I wouldn’t jump to travel with them again. If you do, just be sure to triple-confirm all of the details, times, and costs, as it appears that things can often be misinterpreted.
The route we were to take would mean an extra border crossing, but the shorter drive would apparently make it worth it. We travelled from San Salvador back up through Guatemala, and then entered Honduras very close to our destination of Copan. We had to pay 2 USD each to leave Guatemala, which seemed to be a function of travelling with this tour company. When asked why we had to pay a departure tax when we had all been under the impression it was unnecessary, our guide became a bit abrasive and started on about seeing the border people every day and not wanting to step on any toes. I heard later on that he had mentioned to one of our travelling companions that it is not an official tax, and exists because Gecko crosses these borders so often and essentially wants expedited service and feels the need to grease the wheels a bit. Hmm … It seems as though taking the quick and easy tour company option was costing us more than we thought. We paid 130 Limpera total to enter Honduras (It’s approximately 1 USD = 20 L) and then were on the final stretch – it is only about 30 minutes from the border to town.
We were deposited from the shuttle into town where we used our standard strategy of one person wait with the bags while the other goes and scouts a room. This was a quick process this time around, and we hauled ourselves and our gear into the hotel/hostel hybrid of Hotel Don Moises, exhausted after a long day of travel.