La Gringa isn't here to advise tourists about what to see and do or where to stay in La Ceiba. A lot of tourist information is already available on the internet. But since lately I have been handing out some advice that isn't so easy to know about, I thought I would turn it into a blog article.
Taking a taxi from the airport is very expensive (L.200-300) by La Ceiba standards. If you don't have too much luggage, you can walk down the drive to the main highway (a long block) and catch a taxi for much less (maybe L.40-60). Taxis are abundant − you never have to wait long.
Another thing you should know is that during the daytime the standard taxi fare is 15 lempiras per person to go anywhere inside the central part of La Ceiba, not the 30, 40, 60, or 100 that the taxi drivers may tell you. As the price of gas has risen, what is considered the 'central part' of La Ceiba has shrunken and that is understandable.
At night the price rises to L.20. I've read that a taxi to the ferry dock costs L.60, but only L.20-40 going back to town. All prices are per person. Very few taxis are air conditioned. It is also customary for the taxi driver to stop to pick up and drop off other passengers. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. You will still pay the full price.
Always ask how much it will cost to go to your destination before getting into the taxi. If the price doesn't sound reasonable, just get another taxi. That is easier than arguing with someone later.
Some hotels can arrange for a taxi driver by the day which can be convenient if you have a long list of sights to see or just want to ride around to see the city. Car rentals are available but the price of gas is over U.S. $3.00 per gallon and driving in Honduras is an experience that you might just want to skip.
That is a lot of paragraphs on taxis, but it will probably be your main means of transportation. I just hate it when I read about taxi drivers ripping off tourists. The prices are set by law. If tourists are supposed to pay more, then they should change the law.
Always ask to view your hotel room before paying. Check that the lights, water, hot water if any, shower, and A/C function. If something doesn't work, ask to view another room. If they say they will fix it, just go to another hotel. Unless it is Carnival week, there are always hotel rooms available. It's not worth fretting about something that probably won't be repaired until after your vacation is over.
Pick up one of the free Honduras Tips magazines available at the nicer hotels. It has information about hotels, restaurants, activities, and sights to see for all parts of Honduras. It is also online at Hondurastips. I'm sorry to say that apparently it isn't updated regularly as some of the listed restaurants have closed and some new restaurants aren't listed yet.
This time tips as in 'propinas.' Some restaurants include a 10% tip (the customary rate for service) in the bill (my theory about why the service is often so poor). If you aren't sure if it has already been included, ask. And sure, if you get good service, tip more − but give it in cash to the waiter. He might not receive it if it is added to the bill. It is not customary to tip taxi drivers.
When you are ready, ask for the check. They won't bring it until you ask for it or the restaurant closes for the night, whichever comes first, even if you are there for lunch.
The exchange rate has held steady at 18.90 lempiras per U.S. dollar for the past two years. You can exchange dollars at any bank and many hotels without a fee. Banks always use the official rate. Hotels sometimes round up or down. Most people are happy to accept dollars but it's not easy to divide by 19 in your head and some people have inflated ideas of what the exchange rate is, so it's probably more convenient to exchange some money.
Cash, credit cards and travelers checks
Hotels, most restaurants, and larger stores accept MasterCard and Visa credit cards. Many smaller establishments don't. People sometimes have problems cashing traveler's checks. ATMs are widely available in La Ceiba and it makes more sense to me to use credit cards as much as possible and to pay the fee to get cash as you need it rather than to carry large amounts around with you.
Keep some money for the airport exit fee. The fee is $32 and must be paid in cash. I have no idea what they do with you if you don't have it, but rest assured, they won't be worried about you catching your plane if you don't have it.
Local calls are usually made from the hotel desk and charged to your hotel bill. Calls to the U.S. can be made at many of the internet cafes for L.1 per minute (about 5 U.S. cents). International calls made from your hotel probably will cost much more.
Internet access is not available in hotel rooms here, but internet cafes are on just about every block. I've been told that you can occasionally luck into an unprotected wireless connection but I wouldn't recommend bringing your laptop unless you absolutely need it. By the way, 'cafe' doesn't mean that these establishments have food or drinks.
Bargaining in the market or stores is really not customary here. If the price sounds unreasonable, give it a try, or just walk away and sometimes they will call out a lesser price to you.
Basic Honduran Spanish for tourists
This is a Spanish speaking country. Outside of the larger hotels, their aren't a lot of English speakers. If you are coming to La Ceiba, and don't know much Spanish, there are a few phrases that you will need to learn to recognize:
No hay agua (No eye ah-gwah) − There is no water
No hay luz (No eye loose) − There is no electricity
No hay. (No eye) − There isn't any of whatever you just asked for
No puedo (No pway-doe) − I can't
No se puede (No say pway-day) − You can't
No se permite (No say per-me-tay) − It is not allowed
Cuánto cuesta? (kwan-toe quest-ah) How much does it cost? This is especially important if you have blond hair or wear shorts (sure signs of a tourist).
Think I'm kidding? Noooooo.
La Ceiba doesn't have as much crime as San Pedro or Tegucigalpa, but there are robberies and worse. Use common sense. Don't flash your money around and don't leave anything valuable in your hotel room unless there is a safe. Leave your expensive jewelry at home. Travel by taxi after dark rather than walking.
That is just a few touristy tidbits off the top of my head. I hope you have a good trip and a wonderful vacation.