Pensando que los domingos las fronteras son más tranquilas (y basado en lo que leímos) decidimos pasar desde Nicaragua hacia El Salvador, cruzando casi 120 km de Honduras el domingo. Salimos temprano de León, y en menos de 2 horas estábamos en la primera frontera: El Guasaule (entre Nicaragua y Honduras). Había muchísimos camiones parados al costado de la ruta (como 1 km o más, y para ellos el cruce puede llevar varios días), pero al llegar al control no había nadie de gente. También habíamos leído que estas fronteras hay muchísimos “ayunadores”, gente que se ofrece a hacerte los trámites y a sacarte plata, pero no siempre hacen las cosas más rápidas. Al llegar, nos sorprendió que tampoco hubiera tramitadores. En menos de 15 minutos estábamos afuera de Nicaragua. Cruzamos el río, y la frontera de Honduras no fue muy distinta. Había algunos ayudadores, pero muy pocos, y después de decirles que no un par de veces, nos dejaron tranquilos. En menos de 30 minutos estábamos en Honduras. En Honduras nos pararon 5 veces los policías para controlar los papeles. Pese a lo que habíamos leído en otros blogs, nos trataron muy bien siempre y sólo una vez pidieron medio en chiste y medio en serio plata para un refresco. En casi 1.5 hs llegamos a la segunda frontera (entre Honduras y El Salvador). Acá nuevamente, contra todos los pronósticos, hicimos todos los papeles en menos de 1 hora. Finalmente, habíamos cruzado los tres países sin ningún inconveniente. Una vez en El Salvador, nos fuimos a un pueblito llamado Alegría para descansar después de tanta aventura ;).
Three countries, two borders and six police checkpoints in less than 10 hours
July 3rd, 2011
We decided to drive from Nicaragua to El Salvador through 120 km of Honduras on a Sunday. We figured (and had read) that Sunday would be less busy, making the border crossings faster and possibly letting us catch some checkpoint cops sleeping. We had read horrible experiences about these borders and police on other blogs that we were expecting a dreadful day. In then end, the whole thing was long but not bad at all.
Below is a brief account if you care about the details.
We tried to time the trip so that we did the Nicaragua-Honduras (Guasaule border) crossing in the morning, drive through Honduras during lunch brake and cross from Honduras into El Salvador (El Amatillo border) in the afternoon.
As we got close to the Nicaraguan border area we found the long line of large trucks that usually forms at the borders. Cars always drive on the opposite lane directly to immigration and customs because the paperwork is different. This was longest line we’ve seen so far stretching about three miles and we learned from one of the drivers that it can take them up to three days to cross the border. Car drivers have it quite easy. Once at the borders there were no ‘helpers’ (someone said they don’t allow them any more in Nicaragua) and we were stamped out in less than 10 minutes. We then crossed the river expecting dozens of people to jump and cling to our car while we made it to the immigration office. We even had our video camera turned on. What a letdown to have only a few tame helpers approach us. After telling them we didn’t need them a few times they were gone and we entered Honduras in about 20 minutes making this the fastest border crossing so far!
Next were the cops. Honduran cops are infamous for being the most corrupt tourists encounter driving through the Americas, resorting to inventing violations and rules to extract money from drivers. We knew about the safety triangle and fire extinguisher requirements so we had them handy (they are also required in Argentina but are never asked for there) and recently read about cops asking for reflective tape on the vehicle’s front and back. We bought four stripes of tape in El Salvador just in case but when we asked two different people in customs they told us they were only required for heavy vehicles so we didn’t stick them to the car.
As we had seen at other borders, the first police stop was just a few meters past customs and immigration. We were asked for the paperwork, triangles and fire extinguisher. After taking a careful look at the paperwork the cop said “The police of Honduras greets you” and told us to continue. We looked at ourselves in disbelief and continued. We went by five more checkpoints where most cars were stopped to check for papers. At two we were waved through and at the other three we were stopped. It was only at the last checkpoint that we saw a big dollar sign on the cops’ face, directing us with a grin to the side of the road (others had stopped us on the road for just a minute to check the papers, extinguisher and triangle). We knew we were in for some fun. He asked for all of our papers, triangles and extinguisher. When we showed everything he told us the car should have reflective tape, so we tell them we had been told that only trucks needed them but that we had them just in case. After a bit of back and forth he forgets about the tape and directly asks for five dollars ‘para la soda’ and from behind another officer shouts ‘veinte’. We tell them we don’t have money for them and they tell us to leave. The biggest disappointment for them was to stop a car with Massachusetts license plates only to find that we speak spanish. Not too bad.
Exiting Honduras and entering El Salvador took an hour of hassle-free paperwork. In El Salvador we didn’t even have to fill the immigration forms. We had to drive about four kilometers from the immigration to the customs office to get the paperwork for the car but that was it.
Our fear of crossing two borders in one day turned out to be unfounded. We think going on a Sunday helped a lot, especially moving fast through customs and immigration. As a bonus, we arrived to a lively street fair in Alegría, El Salvador (only happens on Sunday).
Coordinates for the police checkpoints in Honduras. The posts seemed permanent so if you are driving through you can expect them here:
N13 15.943 W87 10.701
N13 20.525 W87 15.056
N13 24.472 W87 20.014
N13 31.902 W87 26.552
N13 35.624 W87 45.242
Entry to Honduras: $2 per person + $36 auto
Exit from Honduras : $0
Entry to El Salvador: $0