OPEN OR CLOSED
Open! The people of Honduras have freedom of religion. Like many nations in Central America, a very high percentage (over 90% according to the CIA World Factbook) of Hondurans align themselves with the Roman Catholic faith. Despite this high percentage, most citizens are not active in their faith. Locals are very accepting and willing to talk about faith and beliefs, however they are not likely to bring up faith out of the blue. Firsthand Experience Quote: "Honduras is very open to Christianity. Catholicism is practiced only nominally and very few people actually own a Bible, but when asked, they will probably say they are Catholic. There is a Catholic church building in every city and community."
You do not need a travel visa to enter Honduras for trips that last fewer than 90 days. So, for most mission trips, this is a non-issue. Just as a heads up though, while going through customs after arrival in Honduras, customs officials might ask to see a return plane ticket. This is their way of verifying that you are not planning on staying longer than the allotted time.
Reminder: As with most countries, Honduras requires that your passport have at least 6 months of validity when you arrive in their country. So, make sure your passport is up to date! Don't know how to update your passport? Click here to learn more.
The people of Honduras are very welcoming and hospitable. Their culture is very open, and it's not uncommon to be invited (especially if you're on a mission trip there) into their home to relax and visit. The people of Honduras appreciate when Americans come to the country. Firsthand Experience Quote: "Since the vast majority of Americans who go to Honduras are going to help improve the Hondurans' quality of life, the people are open and receptive to just about anyone coming from the U.S. This gives Americans a golden opportunity for evangelism and opportunities for discipleship."
FOOD & WATER
Honduras is a developing nation, and their citizens are working hard to make food and water sources more reliable. However, at this point a high level of caution still needs to be taken when eating or drinking anything. Hotels and restaurants in big cities (like Tegucigalpa, Honduras's capital) often times purify their own tap water for their guests, but even this should be verified with your trip leader or with the hotel/restaurant operator.
A high level of caution needs to be taken when eating food in Honduras. As a rule of thumb, only eat food that has been cooked or has its peel still intact. Uncooked food and food without peels (like some fruits and vegetables) are usually washed off in local water sources before being served. Because of the high probability of bacteria-tainted water sources in Honduras, the food could easily become tainted with bacteria as well. Food that has been cooked has had any bacteria killed, and peels protect the food inside, keeping it bacteria-free.
Firsthand Experience Quote: "Only eat those things which have thick, peel-able skins, like watermelon, pineapples, avocados, bananas etc. The tropical fruits are far better than what is imported to the states, so that makes it easier."
A high level of caution needs to be taken when drinking water in Honduras. Proper water treatment is lacking or absent throughout much of Honduras. To ensure that you stay healthy throughout your trip, only drink bottled water or water purified using one of these (cross-promo!) recommended tools.
Firsthand Experience Quote: "Use bottle water to brush your teeth. (It's easiest to hold the bottle of water in one hand while brushing with the other hand. That prevents you from mindlessly turning on the water faucet.) Never drink unbottled water unless you're told it's safe by a local missionary. Some of the newer hotels and restaurants have artesian wells, and their water is safe, but those are few and far between. Be prepared to drink a whole lot more soda drinks while you're there. It's hot; stay hydrated."
Ultimately, your doctor should help you determine which shots and medicines you need before traveling (that's the disclaimer). However, here's a list of recommended shots, as well as shots you may or may not want (optional).
- Hepatitis A Vaccination: Exposure to Hepatitis A usually occurs through food or water that has been poorly sanitized. This vaccination is recommended for everyone traveling to Honduras as a precaution in case you do end up consuming something that has not been sanitized well. The result of Hepatitis A can be several months of sickness and nausea, and that's keeping it PG. Needless to say, you don't want this. And you don't have to! Get this vaccination.
- Typhoid Vaccination: Exposure to Typhoid, like Hepatitis A, typically occurs through food and water that has been contaminated. Severe sickness and a high fever are among the signs of the disease. Untreated, the sickness and fever can be life-threatening. It sounds pretty bad (and it is), but you don't have to worry about it once you get this vaccine!
- Hepatitis B Vaccination: Exposure to Hepatitis B occurs through contact with blood or other body fluids of an infected person. In a mission trip scenario, this can occur during a medical clinic or while doing manual labor outside (injury). If your mission trip in Honduras involves a scenario like this, you may want to go ahead and get this vaccination. If your trip does not involve serious manual labor or a medical clinic, you can skip this vaccination.
- Yellow Fever Vaccination: Honduras is not a Yellow Fever infected country. However, they require this shot if you're traveling into the country from a Yellow Fever infection country. So, if you're traveling to Honduras from the United States, you do not need this vaccination. However, if traveling to Honduras is part of an extended mission trip in which you travel to Honduras from a country with Yellow Fever risks (like Brazil or Columbia), you'll need to get this shot.
- Rabies Vaccination: Exposure to rabies occurs when an infected animal bites and saliva is introduced into an individual's blood stream. While rabies is a serious condition, the way rabies vaccinations work lend it to the "optional" category...
- If you don't get vaccinated, it's pretty obvious that you'll need to find a nearby medical clinic if you get bit. Once there, you'll receive five shots to neutralize the virus in your body.
- On the other hand, for a complete rabies vaccination, you need to get three shots over a period of three weeks before you travel. However, if you get bit by an animal while you're in Honduras, you'll still need to find the nearest medical clinic and get two more "booster" shots to completely neutralize the virus in your system.
- So you see, either way, preexposure vaccine or not, you're gonna have to get some medical attention.
TIP: Plan to get your shots well before your trip. Sometimes light sickness can occur following a series of shots, and getting your shots early will help ensure that you don't begin your mission trip fatigued or with a head cold.
MALARIA & DENGUE FEVER
Malaria is a disease found in some parts of Honduras. Malaria spreads in lower elevations, so generally speaking, Honduran towns under 3,000 feet in elevation are at risk. Most notably, malaria is a threat throughout the Bay Islands such as Roatán, and not a threat in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. Outside of these areas, ask your trip leader whether or not your team will need to prepare for potential exposure to malaria. Depending on your mission trip itinerary, you may or may not need to prepare for this disease.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne illness that causes severe sickness and fever, and can be life-threatening if it's not addressed. There is no vaccination for malaria (yet), but there are several malaria-preventative prescriptions that can be taken during a trip to counteract any exposure to the disease. If you do need to prepare for potential exposure to malaria, visit your doctor and see what prescription is recommended for you.
TIP: Get your malaria prescription early, and get a week's worth of extra pills to "try out" before you go. Prescriptions to fight malaria sometimes come with side effects, and you'd be better to find out about those side effects before your trip, instead of during your trip. That way, if you need to go back to your doctor and get a different prescription, you'll have the time.
Dengue Fever is another mosquito-borne illness that causes severe sickness and fever, and it's a growing endemic throughout Honduras. Like malaria there is no vaccination for Dengue Fever yet, and there's currently not a preventative prescription available to counteract the virus (hopefully there will be one soon). So, what do you do? Worry about it constantly throughout your trip? Nope! Just make sure to apply bug spray regularly. Bug spray usually wears off after 3-4 hours and then it's time to re-apply.
Temperatures are pretty constant all year, with lows in the 70s and highs in the 80s, and lots of humidity. However, if you're traveling to a mountainous region, you'll experience temperatures that are a little cooler. The hot and muggy environment means that afternoon storms are pretty common throughout Honduras. If your trip involves working outside during the afternoon, be sure to prepare for those afternoon rain showers (bring a rain jacket!).
Firsthand Experience Quote: "The country is very hot and humid overall. However, it is a little cooler in the mountains. So I usually pack a light jacket or sweater. Ladies can wear slacks, capris and skirts (Skirts for church!). But be modest in choice of clothing. Men should avoid wearing shorts (except while playing soccer). Also, pack an extra pair of shoes just in case you step in something (mud or other) that can't be cleaned off. Do bring a rain poncho or umbrella for those afternoons when downpours appear out of nowhere."
TIP: Don't forget the sunscreen! Honduras is much closer to the equator than the United States, which means you're a lot closer to the sun than you are in the U.S. You can get burned quickly if you're not careful, even if it's cloudy or overcast. Ok, here's the nitty-gritty:
(these are 20-year averages)
Firsthand Experience Quotes: "Ten years ago Honduras was the 2nd poorest country in the western hemisphere (after Haiti). My sense is that it has moved up the ladder ever so slightly. Going to a third world county for the first time delivers quite a culture shock."
"They have some of the best coffee in the world. (They serve it strong.) So drink up and be prepared to buy a few bags of beans to bring home."
"I would caution that there is quite a bit of pickpocketing, especially by the children, so be sure to keep valuables at home and keep cameras tucked away when not in use. It's also wise to keep things in your hotel room tucked away in your suitcase while you're out for the day. No sense giving anyone unneeded temptations."
"Don't ever go anywhere alone. And don't go out after dark. (It gets dark around 6:00pm year round, by the way.) It's sad to say, but kidnapping is a threat. It's unfortunate that the actions of a few can affect the lives of so many. Don't be ruled by fear, but neither should you travel in naivity. As with trips to any new surrounding, be wise in your travels. The Hondurans are mostly a very gentle, loving people, but it's always wise to be alert and be aware of your surroundings at all times."
Firsthand experience provided by Deb Fredette. Photographs provided by Cassidy Lancaster under Creative Commons. Medical information retrieved from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Temperature statistics retrieved from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Last updated 20 June 2014.
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