Frequently Asked Questions About Travel to Honduras
1. Why travel to Honduras?
Since the 2009 coup that ousted elected President Manuel Zelaya, Hondurans have experienced wide scale repression and assassinations of human rights activists throughout the country. The presence of the international community adds to the safe and security of human rights defenders in Honduras. As U.S citizens we also examine the role of the United States in Honduras though the U.S funding and training of the Honduran military and police.
2. What security measures will the delegation take?
The safety of the group and the security of the host communities are paramount considerations. Delegation organizers and on the ground partners take careful precautions when assessing where delegates will travel and where they will stay. There is always some measure of unpredictability, but with experienced leadership, the risks of danger to delegates are mitigated.
In Honduras, we will meet with communities and people who have suffered political violence or repression. As there may be underlying security issues involved in some of our meetings, we ask all delegates to trust the judgment and expertise of the leadership team.
We are greatly concerned for the people we meet with, especially in politically and militarily turbulent areas. Therefore, we require that delegates follow the security guidelines that are discussed in the delegate training once you arrive. We will do everything to ensure your safety, but you must conduct yourself responsibly and thoughtfully as well.
Due to the amount of unrest and politically targeted assassinations in Honduras we are taking several security precautions for this delegation.
High profile and high visibility– one of the main ways we can provide support and solidarity to the human rights organizations and campesino communities in Honduras is to provide personal accompaniment. We do this by simply visiting with these organizations and communities to hear their stories and offer support where we can. As a U.S based human rights delegation, it is in the interest of the Honduran state and security forces to make it appear all is well in Honduras, particularly because of the close ties between the U.S and Honduras. It is likely that we will not see any unrest in the areas we will travel simply because of our presence. The more international presence and eyes on the situation we can provide, the more space our Honduran partners will have to organize and exercise their demands. We maintain a high profile by going on national radio interviews, announcing our visit ahead of time and wearing bright t-shirts and badges that establish we are an international observer team.
Travel Advisory- We also announce our visit to the US Embassy and state police for the area. This puts some accountability of our safety into the hands of the people that are responsible for the protection of civilians and US citizens in Honduras.
3- What will the weather be like?
The weather in Honduras will be anywhere from warm to hot during the day with slightly cooler nights that may require a light sweater. Rain is always possible, so remember a light raincoat and umbrella. Tegucigalpa is much cooler than the North Coast where we will be for the latter half of our delegation.
What clothes will I need?
During the delegation, you should plan on wearing comfortable and nice clothes, as you might for work. Shorts are not appropriate for our meetings, but pack some for relaxing, hanging out time. Comfortable shoes are important for days where there is a lot of walking. Also, you may want to bring something a bit nicer/fancier for press conferences, embassy meetings or for going out in the evenings to hear music, or go dancing.
5- What shots will I need? Are there other health concerns to be aware of?
You must consult a healthcare provider about any shots that might be recommended; we cannot make those recommendations for you.
Other concerns about health usually relate to the possibility of travelers diarrhea, or dehydration. It is important to wash hands frequently, especially before eating (hand sanitizer is always a good idea to have with you). It is also good to carry plenty of tissues or toilet paper with you, as some places don’t have any. Also, bring a water bottle and drink lots of water. We will provide clean drinking where we will be staying and at any other place we will be staying or visiting in the countryside as well. But, it is up to you to make sure you are drinking it! Sunscreen and bug repellant are always important as well. Let your delegation leader know if you are not feeling well, so s/he can be helpful and take good care of you!
Some people chose to take anti-malaria pills. If you chose to do this remember that there are sometimes significant side effects to anti-malaria pills such as night terrors and nausea. Others experience no side effects. Consult your health care provider for more information.
6. With whom do you partner with in Honduras?
We partner with a variety of organizations from youth organizations to indigenous organizations to human rights organizations to campesino and Afro-Honduran organizations. Some of our relationships date back more than 10 years. We are also an active member of the stateside Honduras Solidarity Network comprised of 30 organizations across the U.S.
7- Where will the delegation stay?
There will be a certain amount of discomfort and stress associated with adjusting to more austere living conditions in Honduras. The city is generally easier to adapt to than the countryside, where for many local residents, every day is a struggle for survival.
Our delegation to Honduras will vary in the quality of accommodations. Some nights will be spent in moderate hotels and some delegations include stays in communities with families or sleeping in tents. We will be staying in the large cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula and smaller towns in the countryside and North Coast.
Members of the delegation should be patient and open minded, and bear the discomforts with tolerance and good humor.
Despite some drawbacks, the visits to the countryside continue to be the experience most cherished by delegates. You will never forget your campo experience in Honduras.
What kind of food will we eat?
Please bring snack foods (we suggest granola bars, dried fruit or nuts). In Honduras a “plato tipico” (typical plate) has a slice of steak and or sausage, an egg, refried beans, sour cream, sweet plantains, a piece of crumbly or soft cheese and a salad served with fresh handmade tortillas. There will be lots of good seafood on the coast but we also will be on a tight schedule and will often get some quick baleadas (flour tortilla with beans, cheese, sour cream and sometime egg or chirizo). There are also lots of fresh tropical juices and fruit in Honduras you will enjoy.
9- What about changing money?
We will help you to exchange your dollars for the Honduran Lempira at the airport or local banks. You can also chose to withdraw money from ATM machines but we cannot guarantee ATMs will be always accessible. You will bring down your funds for delegation expenses on the first day and then your delegation leaders will take over and handle most of the delegation expenses for you so you wont need to carry large amounts of money.
10- What is a typical delegation day like?
We will plan a full slate of meetings and activities for the delegation. Each day will start with a fairly early breakfast ( 7:30-or so). After breakfast, there may be time for a group check-in or reflection. There may be one or two meetings before lunch. Afternoon meetings with some evenings planned. There will be a few days that are travel days where we are moving from one part of the country to another. We will be meeting with social organizations, resistance leaders, campesino communities, the press, and possibly the US embassy. We will be visiting campesino communites in the Aguan that are under heavy military, police and paramilitary presence. Conditions is some communities are very poor with families living in tents. See our question about security for information on security measures we will take on our delegation.
11- Can I make international phone calls? Will I have access to internet/email?
Access to internet and phones may not be always available or may be difficult to find time for. You will need to check with your cell phone service provider to see if your service will work in Honduras and what additional costs you may incur. We suggest you tell your friends and family that no news is good news and they should not expect to hear from you daily. Because of the nature of this delegation we will be making efforts to submit online reports/blogs during the delegation.
12. What kind of training will we receive?
A big reason why delegates have a positive and safe experience in Honduras is because they are well prepared. And the reason the communities and people who we meet with continue to welcome our delegations is because the delegates are courteous, inquisitive, friendly, and, at the same time, serious about their mission.
In order to prepare delegates for their time in Honduras, all participants are required to participate in a training session. This training will address safety, health, cultural and logistical issues, and will also help to establish cohesion between delegates and create a positive group dynamic. We will also receive a special training session on election monitoring before the elections.
13. Do I need to speak Spanish?
It is not required to speak Spanish to participate in this delegation or to be an election observer. If a delegate does not speak Spanish, his or her inability to communicate or understand what people are saying can be a source of frustration. We will try to provide translation for every meeting, however there are moments when the translator may not be available. That is why it is important for each delegation to identify other delegates as possible translators. Non Spanish speakers may want to learn as many common Spanish words and phrases as possible prior to the delegation.
14. Who are the delegation leaders?
Witness for Peace Southwest has been leading delegations to Honduras since 1999. We have in country trip leaders and partner organizations in Honduras that help set up and accompany our delegations on the ground.