San Pedro LL / Panajachel / Lake Atitlan, Guatemala – to – Bay Islands, Honduras

Lake Atitlan to Roatan Island Map

MARCH 2019:


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OVERVIEW:

PLEASE NOTE: At the time of writing, US$1 = GTQ7.50 and US$1 = HNL25.

I spent 1 month in San Pedro La Laguna, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

I stayed in a 5 bedroom house with friends and paid GTQ1,500 for the month (US$200). I had my own Double Room and shared the rest of the house which included a Hot Tub, Balcony with lake view, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry.


THE CA4 COUNTRIES:

I entered Guatemala from Mexico and I got my standard (free) 90 day CA-4 Visa. Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua are known as the CA-4 (Central American 4) countries.CA4 Countries Map

I still had nearly 2 months left on that visa… more than enough to cover me for 1 more month in Roatan Island, Honduras.


YOUR OPTIONS:

Travel Agents in San Pedro La Laguna (SPLL) offer 3 different ways to get to La Cieba.

OPTION 1:

You catch a shuttle bus from SPLL to Antigua. You can leave at any time up to 2pm. The shuttle takes about 3 hours.

You stay in an Antigua hotel at your cost for 1 night.

You leave Antigua on a shuttle bus at about 3am to get to La Ceiba the same night. The journey takes about 15 hours. I didn’t want to spend that amount of time in a shuttle bus.

Prices average GTQ650.

OPTION 2:

You catch a shuttle bus from SPLL to Antigua (3 hours). You leave at about 4-5am.

You connect with another shuttle that takes you from there to Copan, Honduras (9 hours).

You spend 1 night in dorm accommodation in Copan (included in the price). You have most of the next day to visit the Copan Ruins. You leave Copan in a shuttle at 9pm.

You travel over-night to La Ceiba arriving in time to connect to the morning ferry to either Utila or Roatan Island.

The size of the shuttle bus(es) depends on how many people there are. I didn’t want to travel in an uncomfortable shuttle bus over-night in northern Honduras.

Prices average GTQ750.

OPTION 3:

Go to Puerto Barrios (PB) and make your own way to La Ceiba.

LAKE ATITLAN VIA ANTIGUA TO PUERTO BARRIOS:

The shuttle – First Class bus combo to Puerto Barrios costs GTQ225-GTQ275. This involves:

  • Catching a 5am shuttle from SPLL to Antigua (3 hours)
  • Connecting with a 2nd shuttle from there to Guatemala City (1 hour)
  • Connecting with the 2pm Litegua First Class long distance bus from there to Puerto Barrios (quoted at 5.5 hours)

The bus from Guatemala City to Puerto Barrios DOES NOT take 5.5 hours. Expect it to take 8 hours!

LAKE ATITLAN VIA GUATEMALA CITY TO PUERTO BARRIOS:

Two Agents suggested that I go via Panajachel instead.

You catch the 8am boat to Panajachel (30 mins), a 9am shuttle from there direct Guatemala City (by-passing Antigua), and connect with the same 2pm First Class Litegua bus to PB.

I chose this option and planned to stay over-night in PB to break up the journey.

The standard cost is GTQ300-350. I negotiated Get Wet Atitlan (located at the SPLL boat dock) down to GTQ275.


SAN PEDRO LA LAGUNA TO GUATEMALA CITY:

I was staying on the opposite side of town about 3kms from the SPLL boat dock. I left at 7am, jumped in a Tuk Tuk (GTQ5 plus another GTQ5 for my bags), and arrived at the boat dock before 7:30am.San-Pedro-LL-Boat-Dock.jpg

The boat to Panajachel arrived early. I gave the captain my travel voucher and boarded. We left at 7:50am and arrived in Panajachel about 8:15am.Panajachel-Boat-Dock-Landing.jpg

You walk 50m up from the boat dock to connect with your shuttle outside of the Xocomil Travel Agents.Panajachel-Shuttle-Pick-Up.jpg

The shuttle arrived late and we, finally, left at 9:15am. It was a standard tourist shuttle bus.Panajachel - Shuttle to Tapachula GTQ225

It did not go direct to Guatemala City. At 11:45am, we stopped at a petrol station in El Tejar and swapped to another shuttle. By 12:50pm we were at Guatemala Airport. By 1:30pm we were at the Litegua Bus Terminal.


GUATEMALA CITY TO PUERTO BARRIOS:

I went to the counter and presented my travel voucher. There was a problem. Get Wet Travel had booked me on the 12:30pm bus to Rio Dulce! An English speaking man behind the counter sorted it out… but, I had to pay an additional GTQ50 to make up the difference in price.

Call me cynical if you like, but I think that Get Wet Travel did this on purpose to make more profit.

Anyway, it could have been a lot worse… at least I only had to pay the price differential (and not a whole new ticket). They were kind enough to put me in a seat on the top deck at the front so that I had more leg room.

Central Guatemala City is too busy for these long distance buses so, at 2pm, we boarded a smaller minibus to take us to where the bigger bus was waiting. Our stowed luggage was tagged and sent in a different minibus. Our hand luggage was searched as we got on our minibus.Guatemala-City-Shuttle-Bus-to-Main-Bus.jpg

We arrived at the Long Distance Bus in their Litegua Terminal on the outskirts of town 45 minutes later.Guatemala-City-Litegua-Bus-to-Puerto-Barrios.jpg

I watched my luggage transfer between the buses to make sure that they weren’t lost. Again, our hand luggage was searched getting on to the main bus.

This Long Distance bus was comfortable with semi reclining seats, power points, free wifi, and a personal entertainment system. It had an on-board toilet.

We stopped at 6pm for 30 minutes for people to grab something to eat. Sure enough, we arrived in PB at 10:30pm.


MY PUERTO BARRIOS ACCOMMODATION:

I booked 1 night in the El Castillo Hotel. It was a short 500m walk from the Litegua Bus Terminal. I paid GTQ150 plus taxes for a Double Room.Puerto-Barrios-El-Castillo-Room-Entry.jpg

It was very basic and, in my opinion, over-priced. The aircon was so noisy that I had to turn it off.Puerto-Barrios-El-Castillo-Bed.jpg

The ensuite was OK.Puerto-Barrios-El-Castillo-Toilet.jpg

And, it came with a hot water shower.Puerto-Barrios-El-Castillo-Shower.jpg

The wifi was good enough for me to check my emails. I was asleep early.


PUERTO BARRIOS TO THE FRONTIER:

From the hotel, I walked 20m around the corner on to Calle 6. This is where you catch the colectivo (local, shared, minivan) to the Honduras border. I was on the road and waiting at 6:30am.

At 6:50am a colectivo passed shouting ‘frontera’. I jumped on. We were at the border 1 hour later. The price was GTQ15.


CHANGING MONEY:

I had already done my homework and knew the correct GTQ to HNL exchange rate: GTQ1 = HNL3.18.

I had GTQ1,065 to change which was worth HNL3,386. BUT, you never get this rate… even in an ATM you can lose 3-5% in ‘fees’.

I was approached by a money changer at the Guatemalan side of the border. She offered me HNL3,355. I accepted.


THE BORDER:

The border crossing was fast and simple.

I went to the Guatemala Exit window. The last time that I came through this border, I had to pay a US$3 Honduras Entry Fee which you could pay in US$s. This time they only accepted GTQ or HNL. I paid HNL75.


FROM THE BORDER TO PUERTO CORTEZ:

There are no buses direct to San Pedro Sula (SPS). You have to go to Puerto Cortez and catch another bus from there.

There was a bus waiting 300m from the border. Ignore the taxis: they provide wrong information so that they can charge you big money to get to PC. I jumped on the waiting bus.

Honduras-Border-MiniBus-to-Puerto-Cortez.jpg

We left 20 minutes later. We arrived in PC 75 minutes later. The price was HNL60.


PUERTO CORTEZ TO SAN PEDRO SULA:

As we entered PC, my bus stopped and transferred me to another bus that was going ‘direct’ to San Pedro Sula (SPS).

It had no roof rack, so my luggage was put inside on a seat. As we pulled away, the conductor said that I will have to pay for my luggage. The price was HNL75 each. HNL150 total.

I am used to being charged for my luggage, it happens a lot in South East Asia. And, in fairness, by the time that we left PC, the bus was full.

We arrived at the SPS main Bus Terminal at 11:30am.


SAN PEDRO SULA BUS TERMINAL:

ATMs

There are several ATMs in the bus terminal. I withdrew HNL10,000 from a BanCafe ATM.

TIGO SIMCARD:

Both Claro and Tigo have outlets in the terminal building. I had already decided to get a TIGO SIMcard.

The shop sold me a 4G LTE SIM for HNL155. I bought a 1 month 6GB package for HNL650 which included some call time. She configured it all for me and I walked away with a working phone.


SAN PEDRO SULA TO LA CEIBA:

To get to La Cieba, you have to go upstairs and walk past all of the quick food restaurants.

There are a couple of bus companies that go to La Cieba. I booked my ticket with Diana Express. It was scheduled to leave at 12:30pm and costs HNL115.Honduras-Diana-Express-San-Pedro-Sula-Bus-to-La-Ceiba.jpg

We left late at 1:15pm and arrived at the main La Cieba Bus Terminal at 5:20pm.

The last ferry to Roatan leaves at 4:30pm. So, I was glad that I had already booked 1 night in a hotel.


MY LA CIEBA ACCOMMODATION:

I booked a Double Room at the El Dorado Hotel. I chose the El Dorado because of its location: it is next to the main Bus Terminal.La-Ceiba-El-Dorado-Room-Entry.jpg

I paid US$17 for a Double Room. I was surprised to find that it had a big kitchenette / living area (albeit without any equipment).La-Ceiba-El-Dorado-Living-Room.jpg

The bedroom was small but sufficient.La-Ceiba-El-Dorado-Bed.jpg

And it came with aircon and Cable TV.La-Ceiba-El-Dorado-Bedroom.jpg

The ensuite was adequate and it came with a hot water shower.La-Ceiba-El-Dorado-Ensuite.jpg

Entrance was through their downstairs restaurant.

There were supermarkets nearby – including a Wallmart. Useful if you want to stock up with expensive items before heading out to the Bay Islands.


LA CEIBA TO THE BAY ISLANDS:

The online information about the ferries is confusing. It looks like you can only get to Roatan via Utila. This is not true.

The direct ferry to Utila leaves at 9am. The direct ferry to Roatan leaves at 9:30am. They leave from different ferry docks. Make sure that you tell your taxi driver which island you are going to.

The standard price for a taxi from town to the ferry dock is HNL100. This is for the whole taxi. You can share this with up to 4 people.

I arrived at the Roatan ferry dock (Galaxy Wave) at 8:30am. The ticket to Roatan was HNL750. You also have to pay US$1 ‘port tax’ (which can be paid in HNL).

When you buy your ferry ticket you need to show your passport.

To enter the Departure Lounge, you need to show your ticket and Port Tax receipt.

There is a Banpais ATM outside of the ticket office. Handy if you need more cash. With Banpais you can withdraw HNL10,000. This is good because most other banks limit you to only HNL5,000 per withdrawal.

We left at 9:05am. We arrived in Roatan at 11:15am.


ROATAN FERRY DOCK TO WEST END:

You arrive at the Galaxy Wave ferry dock which is a few kms north of Coxan Hole.

Taxi touts are waiting for you. They will quote you US$25 to the West End. This may drop to US$20 if you keep walking.

The cheapest way is to get out into the carpark where you can catch a shared taxi for US$5 per person.


CONCLUSION:

I am glad that I broke up this journey with a stay in Puerto Barrios. PB, itself, is not a nice place to stay… but I needed the rest after travelling for 15 hours that day.

Again, I am glad that I spent 1 night in La Ceiba. I started at 6:30am that morning but still didn’t make it in time for the 4:30pm ferry to Roatan Island.

TTFN


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