It was time to cross the border from El Salvador into Honduras at El Amatillo. I had actually been wrestling with the decision. Many riders cross here and some even do the border into Nicaragua on the same day. The Argentinian rider I met at the Gautemala/El Salvador border recommended this too. I knew I didn’t want to do two borders on the same day. Quite the opposite.
I was wrestling with how much time to spend in Honduras. I really wanted to see a bit of the country. Roatan was high on my list but way up north. I even had an invitation to stay at a place in Honduras.
On the other hand, I only had 30 days left on my C4 permit. On the C4 permit you have 90 days to visit Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. That wasn’t much time and I had a lot I wanted to see in Nicaragua. I could try to get an extension in country but I heard that that was a real pain to do. Or I could go into Costa Rica and then come back into Nicaragua for another C4 permit. But I wanted to go home for a couple weeks while it was still summer. Ahhhhhhhhhh …. what to do.
I decided to skip Honduras, except for a night at Choluteca. It was a hard decision in many respects. Perhaps one day I will see Roatan on a cruise.
The first step to crossing the border was getting close to it. I had a really relaxing ride to San Miguel, El Salvador.
Once there it was time to study the border I would be crossing around the pool with a beer :-).
I like to study so I know what to expect and can visualize the buildings and steps. Just takes the anxiety out of the crossing. I heard that this and the next border were the toughest I would experience. So I really wanted to be ready for them.
#1 Cancel El Salvador Entry Permit
After a night of study I was ready. As I got closer to the border I saw a gas station and pulled in. A man came running up to me. He introduced himself as Orlando. I thought maybe he was just a friendly local. I didn’t realize I was close to the border. He said he helped lots of Canadians cross the border. It was then I realized he had an ulterior motive. Soon another couple guys showed up. For a donation they would help me cross the border. I said no thanks and left.
It wasn’t that easy though as they followed me on a motorcycle.
Here is the overview of the border and the places I needed to stop.
#1 was a booth where they cancelled my motorcycle entry permit into El Salvador. The following border pictures I have taken from other blogs that I studied.
As soon as I stopped I was surrounded by fixers saying I needed their services as it was the hardest border to cross and I couldn’t do it on my own. Orlando was there too. He chimed in once in awhile to say that if I hired him everyone would disappear. I told everyone no and to leave me alone. They didn’t.
The Customs Officer approached me and said no I didn’t need any help. Luckily I was prepared for this onslaught and knew I didn’t need their help.
The Customs Officer checked my bike and directed me to the booth where another Officer cancelled my entry permit. I knew I needed copies and a photocopy store was right next door to the booth. I got 5 copies. Orlando was following me all the way and said I only needed 3. I knew that but like to have more just in case.
As I arrived back at my motorcycle my “groupies” were waiting for me. This time they wanted money for guarding my bike. I said no. The thought crossed my mind that maybe they did something to my bike. But it started fine and I rode off.
#2 and #3 Immigration
It is 2 and 3 because I made a mistake on the map 🙁 There is actually only one thing to do.
At the fork in the road keep left and you reach the El Salvador immigration office.
The window I had to go to was at the far end. So I rode under the canopy and parked right at the end.
I lined up, handed in my passport, the woman stamped it and that was it!
#4 El Salvador Permit Check
I left the El Salvador Immigration office and started to cross the bridge when another officer stopped me. He wanted to look at my cancelled motorcycle entry permit. I showed it to him and he waved me on.
#5 Honduras Immigration
Across the bridge was the Honduran Immigration and Customs building.
Upon entry to the building on the right is immigration. The officer took my passport, as well as my photo and fingerprints.
I then paid $3 US for a tourist permit.
That was it for that window. Now for the hard part.
#6 Honduran Customs
Across the hall is the Honduran Customs window. This is where it got frustrating. Patience is needed. I lined up and waited and waited.
While waiting I met a nice Mennonite family from Costa Rica.
I also met a family from Illinois. He was a retired US Armed Forces member. They were in a Nissan Pathfinder. He said he had been waiting 40 years to do this trip down to Argentina. We had a nice talk.
Now …. as the system works I would see these people several times during my processing.
The Customs woman was quite nice but didn’t speak any English. This presented a bit of a problem as my Spanish was ok for everyday conversations but not for this.
I handed her my passport, drivers license, registration, and cancelled El Salvador entry permit, along with a copy of each. I waited and waited as she filled out forms.
In the meantime, the Mennonite family was sent off to make photocopies and returned. She looked after them and sent them off to the bank. The Illinois family returned from being sent to the bank. She looked after them and they got their entry permit. Meanwhile, the Mennonite family returned again and were sent to the photocopy place. She continued with me until they returned with photocopies. They then got their import permit. This is what I had to look forward to.
Eventually, she got my paperwork done and directed me to get copies. The copy place is just beside the building at #7 on the map.
Back I came with my copies.
When I arrived back she informed me that my next step was to go to the bank down the street but it was now closed for lunch! Now what? Turned out this was great. She could do everything there. Why they can’t so that normally beats me.
I needed to give her $40 US and she didn’t have change. Of course I didn’t have exactly $40. Fortunately, there were lots of money changers around. She came out of her booth and found one that would change a $100 US bill at no cost.
She took the $40 and filled out a lot more paperwork.
After awhile she handed me back a bunch of paperwork including my motorcycle import permit. That is what I had been waiting for. I asked her if that was all and she said yes. As I took the paperwork, she started saying something to me that I didn’t understand. I apologized and she tried again but I still didn’t understand. Eventually she got frustrated and motioned for me to leave. I was hoping what she had to say wasn’t important.
A ways up the road is a Immigration checkpoint. The officer wanted a copy of my import permit. I never made a copy of it. Maybe that is what the woman was trying to tell me. But I had asked her about copies and she said no. Of course my Spanish isn’t that good.
After a few minutes I discovered that the Customs woman had made a copy of the import permit and had stapled it to another document. YAY! The officer at the checkpoint took it from me and I was off to Choluteca Honduras for the night.