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Honduras is one of the origi­nal 5 Central American Provinces (HONDURAS, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica) that chose, after their independence from Spain in 1821, to remain individually independent Of the above five, Honduras is the second largest country, with approximately 112,500 square kilometers of territory, yet it has fewer inhabitants (Approxi­mately seven million) than either Guatemala and El Salvador. It has the most mountainous territory and is the only one of the five that does not have active volcanoes within its territory. Honduras is made up of mainly rural areas with several major cities in the different parts of the country. Teguci­galpa is the biggest and is the capital city, currently with a population that stands at about 1 ;500,000, San Pedro Sula in the North of the country has be­come the industrial capital and has a population of approximately one mil­lion, which when added to the popula­tions of Choloma, Villanueva, La Li­ma and El Progreso, all adjacent to San Pedro Sula and which form the metro­politan Sula Valley area, creates the most populated and fastest growing area in Honduras, Other important cities are La Ceiba, a port city on the Atlantic coast that has close to 150,000; and Cholutecaon the south­ern part of the country (close to the Pa­cific Ocean) has a population of about 80,000, Honduras, together with Costa Ri­ca, are the only two Central American countries that escaped civil strife dur­ing the decade of the eighties, and al­though it has a history of military regimes, it now has had over.30 years of uninterrupted civil government, which is elected democratically. The government of Honduras has three branches for powers, the Executive, (the presi­dent), the legislative, (A congress with 128 representatives) and the judicial Elections are held every four years, The country is divided into 18 depart­ments, including one that is formed by the Bay Islands, The main language is Spanish, however in the bigger cities, and at the islands, English is widely spoken. Honduras is located in the Central American Isthmus, has a border to west with Guatemala, to the southwest with El Salvador and to the east with Nicaragua. To its north lies the Caribbean Sea and to the south the Pa­cific Ocean. With over 800 km of Caribbean coast, it is blessed with some of the most pristine beaches left in the Caribbean. With four interna­tional airports in operation throughout the country, (Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba and Roatan) and serv­ice by TACA, American Airlines, Co­pa Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines and Aero Mexico, it is easy to get to the specific part o(the country you wish to visit Local :flights are offered by several different local airlines, mainly Islena Regional (Owned and Operated by TACA), At­lantic Airlines, Sosa Airlines and Cen­tral American Airlines, all servicing the mayor cities and tourist destina­tions in Honduras. In addition, the paved highway sys­tem, although limited in the number of ,existing roads, offers the best high­ways in the Central American region, Because of this, it is quite easy to get around between the main cities of Honduras, There is fairly good to ex­cellent bus service between most of the cities, especially between San Pe­dro Sula and Tegucigalpa but expand­ing rapidly into the rest of the country, The local currency is the Lempira, named after a famous Indian chief that lost his life while fighting off the in­vading Spaniards, The currency has been relatively stable with the dollar for the last years, maintaining an ex­change rate of approximately 19 Ips. to 1 USA dollar. The Lempira comes in 500,100,50,20,10,5,2 and 1 denom­inations, in addition -to coins that in­clude .50, .20 and .10 Ips. There is a free exchange market, so it is easy to reconvert your Lempiras into dollars or vice versa, Credit cards are widely accepted, USA dollars are accepted at most businesses, and Euros are only' accepted on a limited basis in the des­tinations where European travelers are more common, such as Copan, Utila and Roatan, Normally, immigration authorities will give you up to a 90 day visa to be within the country, Due to immigra­tion treaties between the CA4 coun­tries ( Honduras, Guatemala, El Sal­vador and Nicaragua) your total com­bined stay in any of the above coun­tries can not exceed 90 days, If you plan on staying longer; you must leave the region before your 90 day visa ex­pires for at least 72 hours (3 days) be­fore reentering to insure getting anoth­er 90 day visa. Take note that the clos­est countries for this operation are Be­lize and Costa Rica. Perhaps the easi­est and most inexpensive form to trav­el to Belize from Honduras is to take the ferry that operates twice a week from Puerto Cortes to Belize. Service has a cost of $50.00 USA per person One way and travel time is under two hours from Puerto Cortes. Please see the ferry route map or the Puerto Cortes general information section for more information! Please note that fines for overstay­ing in the region have become expen­sive, and that they will be applied be­fore allowing you to leave the region. There are two basic seasons in Hon­duras: Verano, or summer is actually the dry season, and is roughly from December through May, and Invierno, or winter, which is the rainy season, that is basically from June through No­vember. Although these seasons are generally true for all of Honduras, they are more significant and predictable in the central, southern, and western Honduras. The Central American Countries have signed an agreement in 2005 that insures that their borders are now open 24 hours a day, so it is no longer an is­sue to arrive at the borders before night fall to insure you will not have to spend the night waiting for the border to re­open the next morning. The only offi­cial border that closes at 6:00 p.m. dai­ly is the Corinto border between Guatemala and Honduras on the Caribbean CA 13 highway. Between Omoa and Puerto Barrios in Guatemala. The Ministry of Tourism has re­cently established a program to assist travelers called the Tourist Police. Within tills program, regular police of­ficers are being trained to be tourist friendly and assist the local communi­ty to develop tourism in the area. The tourist police are already a reality in the cities of Tela, La Ceiba, Roatan, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. The tourist police are seen on bicycle, mo­torcycle and specially marked patrol cars and use a friendly looking uni­form consisting of kaki pants and a po­lo shirt sporting the tourist police logo on them. Feel free to talk and consult any question with these friendly offi­cers who are looking to ensure that your stay in Honduras is pleasant and safe. Results of this program have been extraordinary, with statistics showing that tourists have been free of criminal incidents in the cities where this police force has been deployed. Although Honduras is probably the safest country in the region, it is a good idea to use your common sense and keep away from walking the streets late at night or taking a stroll on the beaches at night If you are driving, it is recommended that you do so during the day, as there are many trucks out there that drive without their complete set of lights, creating a true highway hazard!