If you plan to cross the border from Honduras to El Salvador, then you need to read this blog post. In it, I’m going to share my experience on how I easily got from Honduras to El Salvador for only US$12. By following this guide, your journey should be just as easy and just as cheap.
Before arriving in Central America, I had a lot of preconceived notions about the region. Traveling around by public transportation would be too dangerous and crossing borders would be like the Wild West, filled with criminals, drug lords, and gang members. I’d be stuck taking expensive tourist shuttles all the time.
Once I took my first public bus in Honduras and my second and third, I realized that Central America really isn’t as scary as the media makes it out to be. And crossing the border from Honduras to El Salvador is almost as tame as crossing from the U.S. into Canada.
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Here are the following steps you need to take to cross from Honduras to El Salvador if you start in Copan Ruinas.
1. From Copan Ruinas, take a minibus going to Santa Rosa de Copan
2. Take another bus from Santa Rosa de Copan to Ocotepeque
3. Take a shared taxi to the El Poy border of Honduras and El Salvador
4. Go through Honduras immigration to exit the country
5. Go through El Salvador immigration at El Poy
6. Walk to the Terminal de buses 119
7. Take a chicken bus (Bus #119) to San Salvador
8. Arrive at a gas station called Gasolinera Puma near Terminal de Oriente bus station
These steps look pretty complicated. Don’t be put off by the fact that you need to take 3 different buses and 1 taxi to get to San Salvador. It’s not as bad as it looks. Trust me! I’m over 50 and I’m probably the most anxious backpacker that’s ever traveled through Central America. Plus! A few days before crossing the border, I aggravated my already arthritic and torn-up knee to the point that every time I walked, it felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife. So, if I can do it, ANYONE can!
What about taking a shuttle from Honduras to El Salvador?
I had planned to take a shuttle to Santa Ana, El Salvador from Copan, Honduras. It cost $45 and took 3 hours! BUT the problem was that the shuttle goes through Guatemala, and that means a COVID test at around $46! No way was I going to pay over US$90 to get to Honduras.
If you want to do the shuttle still, contact Gekko Explorer. They have shuttles that currently leave at 10:00 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from Copan Ruinas and get you to Santa Ana in 3 hours. Their WhatsApp # is +503 7097 3747.
Step 1: Travel from Copan Ruinas to Santa Rosa
The first step in getting to El Salvador is to travel from Copan Ruinas to Santa Rosa.
Where is the bus station in Copan Ruinas?
The minibus station is located here on Google Maps.
Don’t go to the Hedman Alas bus station. This station is where you get the bus to Guatemala. They have buses to Antigua leaving at 3:00 pm.
What time does the bus leave?
Buses for Santa Rosa de Copan leave at 4:30 am, 6:40 am, and 8:00 am (and probably later). You’ll want to leave no later than 8:00 am in order to get to San Salvador before evening. I left at 6:40 am.
I would go to the bus station the day before to confirm the departure times for Santa Rosa.
How much does the bus to Santa Rosa cost?
The bus to Santa Rosa cost me 100 lempiras (US$4.17).
Where do they store your luggage on the bus?
My backpack was put in a trunk in the back of the bus. But other people had their bags put on the roof of the bus.
Getting to the bus station in Copan Ruinas
Most hotels and hostels are within walking distance of the bus station, but it is hilly and the streets are cobblestoned. Thus, it can be tricky walking to it especially early in the morning when it’s still dark.
If you want to hire a tuk-tuk to pick you up at your hotel early in the morning at 6:00 am, expect to pay about 100 lempiras (US$4.19).
Get to the bus station early to get a seat
You’ll also want to get to the minibus station early so you aren’t standing in the bus the whole way and so you can get a seat near the front. You want the driver and his helper to see you and to be there to help you get to your next bus.
I arrived at the station at 6:20 and people were already on the bus.
Do they sell coffee and food at the bus station early in the morning?
They also sold coffee and donuts for 13 lempiras at the station.
Step 2: Changing buses in Santa Rosa
We arrived in Santa Rosa at 10:10 am. In total it took us 3.5 hours. Not too bad.
The minute I got off the bus, I was introduced to someone who worked for the bus to Ocotapeque. He took me and another backpacker to his bus (he was practically running!). It was so quick that I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of the bus station in Santa Rosa for you let alone use the bathroom.
The bus to Ocotepeque was right around the corner from the bus station where the bus from Copan arrived.
Step 3: From Santa Rosa to Ocotapeque
My bus left Santa Rosa for Ocotapeque at 10:18 am. It cost me 120 lempiras (US$5).
Like the Santa Rosa bus, the helper put my bag in the back trunk of the bus. Other bags and such were on the top of the bus.
It was a minibus, slightly larger than the Santa Rosa one and it was jam-packed with people. People were standing in the aisle as the bus went zig-zagging up and down the mountains.
At one point, the bus stopped for gas and I hopped out, told the helper I was using the bathroom and went to use it as quickly as I could.
The bus arrived in Ocotapeque at around 12:30 am.
Step 4: Taking a Taxi to the Border
The moment I stepped out of the bus in Ocotapeque there was a taxi driver waiting to take me and another foreign traveler to the El Salvador border. Again, I didn’t even have a chance to look around or take a photo.
The shared taxi cost US$1 or 20 lempiras each.
I arrived at the border at 12:37.
Step 5: Arriving at the Honduras Border
Some borders are chaotic and jampacked with trucks and cars and people selling things left and right. The Mexico-Guatemala border is crazy like that. That’s one border I recommend using a shuttle for because it is crowded and chaotic and just feels unsafe.
However, the Honduras-El Salvador border is like a tranquil park on a weekday.
I got out of the taxi and yes, there were vendors selling food and stuff on the side. But that’s it. They weren’t shouting out for me to buy anything. There were no lines of trucks or cars or shady people hanging out wanting to sell you something or rip you off or rob you.
It was really chill.
Can you exchange money at the border?
One guy did come up to me to exchange money and I did. The exchange rate was $1 = 24.7 lempira. I had about 882 lempiras left on me. El Salvador uses the US dollar as its currency.
What do you need to do to exit Honduras?
When I got to the Honduras immigration, there were just 3 people in line ahead of me.
I had to submit my passport (of course), do a fingerprint scan, and get my photo taken.
Step 6: Crossing the El Salvador Border
Then I walked less than 5 minutes to the El Salvador immigration.
At the El Salvador border, you don’t need to fill out any forms or pay any money!
You also don’t need a COVID test or proof of vaccination.
The immigration agent spoke only Spanish.
The only two questions I was asked were “How long are you staying in El Salvador?” and “Where are you staying in El Salvador?” I had to show my hotel reservation on my phone to the immigration agent. She then entered the information into her computer.
There are bathrooms after immigration, but there was no toilet paper in them.
I left immigration at 1:14 pm.
Step 7: Getting the Bus to San Salvador
After exiting immigration, I walked for 10 minutes to the Bus Terminal de 119 (Google Maps).
I took a chicken bus (bus #119) to San Salvador. It took about 3 hours, arriving at around 4:30 pm. The bus cost US$2.
I brought my backpack with me on the bus and put it on the seat next to me. They did not charge me extra for it.
Why are buses so cheap in El Salvador? Riding the public bus around El Salvador is so crazy cheap. It’s strange given the fact that gas is super expensive. A Salvadoran told me it’s because public transportation is heavily subsidized by the government.
Step 8: Arriving in San Salvador
My bus arrived at a gas station (Gasolinera Puma) near the Terminal de Oriente (Google Maps).
There are taxis waiting to take you to where you want to go or you can call an Uber.
How to get to Santa Ana from San Salvador?
You need to go to Terminal de Occidente (Google Maps) to catch a bus to Santa Ana. It costs US$3 to take an Uber or US$6 for a taxi from the gas station to this terminal. It costs about US$1.50 and takes 1.5 hours.
How to get to El Tuco from San Salvador?
A friend of mine took an Uber to El Tuco for US$20.
Where to stay in Honduras
Roatan: I stayed at Roatan Backpackers’ Hostal. Private rooms were around US$25 with shared bathroom. There are no dorms. The hostel had a pool and kitchen. On the downside, it wasn’t in a very convenient location. Another option is Hotel Chillies. Same price but better location.
Lake Yoajoa: I stayed at D&D Brewery. Private rooms with private bath were US$20. Dorm rooms were around US$10. The beer is fantastic and the food is pretty good too. They are not listed on Booking.com. Book through the D&D website.
Copan Ruinas: I highly recommend staying at Hotel Iguana Azul. Good private rooms with shared bathroom were less than US$20. Dorm rooms were around US$10. No kitchen. Next door there is a nicer hotel run by the same owner as Iguana Azul called Case de Café Bed and Breakfast.
Where to stay in El Salvador?
San Salvador: A popular place is La Zona Hostel. It’s in a safe and upper-class area of the city.
The trip from Honduras to El Salvador was pretty easy and incredibly inexpensive.
How much did it cost to go by land from Honduras to El Salvador?
Copan Ruinas to Santa Rosa: US$4 (100 lempira)
Santa Rosa to Ocotapeque: US$5 (120 lempira)
Taxi to the border: US$1 (20 lempira)
Bus from border to San Salvador: US$2
How long did it take me to get from Honduras to El Salvador?
Copan Ruinas to Santa Rosa: 3.5 hours
Santa Rosa to Ocotapeque: 2.5 hours
Taxi drive to border: 7 minutes
Immigration: 40 minutes
Walk to bus stop: 10 minutes
Bus to San Salvador: 3 hours
Total: 10 hours
I didn’t have to do much walking that day when I crossed the border, so the problem with my knee was a non-issue.
If I can cross the border from Honduras to El Salvador using public transportation, then YOU can too! You don’t need to take an expensive shuttle.
PRO TIP: No one likes to think about insurance, but accidents do happen. I highly recommend getting World Nomads. This is what I’ve used for short-term travel. When I quit my job to travel around the world, I switched to Safety Wings. They’re very affordable (less than US$100 a month depending on age) especially for those of us who are over 40 years old. They now cover COVID19.
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More info on traveling in Central America?
- Get inspired and informed about visiting one of the best markets in Guatemala – Chichicastenango Market
- Check out this practical guide on crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala
- Here’s another guide on crossing the border from Guatemala to Belize.