13 Jan

Honduras-Guatemala Border Crossing @ El Florido

A short border crossing report for those overlanders venturing away from the Pan-American highway. The crossing between Honduras and Guatemala at El Florido is fairly well-organized, and it has an actual concrete building to boot! Not many other travelers, just transport truck drivers vying for the attention of the Customs agents. Naturally, we got by using our apologetic Canadian nature and our elbows when needed.

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We found steps for northbound border crossings to be a little harder to come by when we were researching this trip. The route most commonly traveled by overlanders is north-to-south, from Alaska to Argentina. We found one very helpful blog for crossing our next two borders: Drive Chuck Drive! Following steps taken by the 1982 VW Vanagon Camper named Chuck, here’s our experience at El Florido:

Leaving Honduras – Monday, November 30, 2015 @ 9:40am.

Border at El Florido, 20 minutes east of Copán Ruinas.

The drop gate to enter the border area was opened for us with no questions asked. Continue driving until you reach the very official-looking brown building on your left. Park out front. The main entrance leads you to Migración (Immigration). Other than the official, there is not a single soul in line to enter or exit Honduras. Explain to the official that you have had a lovely time in his country and you would now like to leave, please. Exit stamps are given in your passports.

The next door down is the Aduana (Customs), however there are no signs to indicate this. There’s a gentleman behind an office desk, acting as reception. Explain that you want to cancel your Honduran temporary vehicle import permit (TIP) and he’ll direct you to one of several people working away at their desks. Hand over your TIP and passports. The TIP paperwork is stamped canceled and returned to you. Get back in your car and continue down the road. An official checked our canceled TIP and passports and we were on our way. The entire Honduran exit took about 20 minutes. How efficient and organized!

Entering Guatemala – Monday, November 30, 2015 @ 10:00am.

Upon entering the Guatemala side of the border, there is a large parking lot on your left. We didn’t see it right away as it was obscured by semi-trucks on road. Park and walk back across the street to the El Florido Migración, which is well signed. Passport stamps are given for entry, real easy. Just look at the line-ups and bilingual signage!

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The Aduana is just a little further down, but harder to spot. To give the experience a ‘secret garden’ feel to it, a cute white cottage doubles as the Guatemalan office with the Customs windows on the front porch. The building is slightly hidden by full bushes and colorful flowers. It was quite pretty and serene, minus the armed guard keeping watch from his rocking chair.

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They even have a string of lights and some festive decor out for the holidays!

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Explain at the window that you would like a temporary vehicle import permit and hand over the following documents: Passports, Car Title, Registration, and Driver’s License. The gentleman took a while to enter everything into the computer and didn’t seem entirely familiar with the process, but he got it done. Keeping all our documentation including passports, he handed us a slip that needed to be paid at the bank and sent us off down the road a-walkin’.

We walked about 5 minutes down the road to the local Banrural bank to pay 160 Quetzales for Bruno’s temporary import (about $21 USD). No other currency is accepted. There is an ATM at the bank where you can withdraw Quetzales from your bank account.

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Return to the Customs cottage and apologetically bump to the front of the line. All original documents are returned to you, along with one paper vehicle permit and one sticker for your windshield.

For what it’s worth, we neglected to put the sticker in the window – Bruno doesn’t like all that adhesive stuff. We were stopped twice for routine passport checks in Guatemala, without anyone looking or asking for the sticker. There is no fumigation at this border, so breathe easy. Congratulations, you’re now in beautiful Guatemala!

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  • Wow, beautiful! Guatemala is near the top of our high-priority destinations list. Out of curiosity, what does being stopped for a “routine check” entail?

    • Amanda

      Definitely go! There’s so much to see, I still have places in Guatemala on our “bucket list” that we never made it to! By ‘routine check’ we meant that we weren’t pulled over for any infraction. The roads are often bottlenecked to a single lane so the officers can pick and choose who they pull to the side. They usually just want to see passports, find our where you’re from, where you’re going to. Maybe see the car paperwork, but very rarely do they actually inspect inside the car.

  • Paul Jetton

    Planning a trip to Guatemala over the holidays. In your experience, do you think a 4WD vehicle is essential, or could the drive from Copan to Guatemala City be done in a sedan?

    Also, where was the last photo of the green hills and river taken? Looks like an awesome spot!

    • Amanda

      Hi Paul! Our route was from Copan Ruinas to Rio Dulce, then north to Tikal and Belize. We never got close to Guatemala City (our southbound route followed CA-2), but I know that most major roads are paved, secondary roads are hard-packed. At one of our border crossings, Travis remembers seeing a Chevy Cavalier (packed to the brim) with Ontario license plates, so I’m pretty sure it’s do-able, just don’t go off-roading! 😉 Also, I remember seeing tons of mega tourist buses pulling into Copan – presumably coming from the capital. If they can do it, so can you 🙂

      I believe that last shot was taken on the way to Lago de Izabal. Lots of rivers flowing out to the Caribbean Sea as we headed towards Belize… Guatemala will be an awesome, warm place to spend the holidays! Let us know if you have any other questions.