El Salvador to Honduras at El Amatillo

So El Salvador to Honduras was our second border crossing within the 72 hours of our PCR test results expiring.

This was a looong border crossing! Mostly because we got stuck waiting behind a couple who had an issue with their TIP paperwork for a little over an hour and a half. Had we not gotten stuck behind them I imagine the process would have taken 2 hours instead of 3 hours and 46 minutes. Yes, I timed it.

To prepare for the El Salvador to Honduras border crossing you need a negative PCR test administered within 72 hours of entering the country and you need to fill out a prechequeo online. Make sure you print out copies of the test results as you’ll have to leave a copy at the border. I’m not clear how far in advance you need to fill out the prechequeo, but we filled it out while exiting El Salvador, so as long as you do it before you get to immigrations in Honduras you should be fine? I’m guessing if you don’t fill it out the process just takes longer when you’re physically there.

The night before we crossed the border we stayed in Punta Mango, El Salvador. The beach was huge, the water was warm and great for swimming. No giant waves. We also had the entire beach to ourselves. There was literally no one else on it. Punta Mango is a little under 2 hours from the El Salvador>Honduras border.

We woke up at 5 am and made our way to the border crossing shortly after, the clock was ticking for us to make it to Nicaragua by that afternoon before our COVID tests expired, we were so anxious and honestly had no idea if we would make it.

We drove up to the El Salvador exit, once again we drove against traffic and passed the long line of trucks that we’ve found to be inevitable throughout Central American borders.

The first checkpoint we hit, was a bridge where we were asked for our El Salvador TIP and our passports.

After this we pulled over on the right side of the road where there is a yellow building you can make copies in and right past that building another little blue and white building where you can either close your TIP or put a pause on it if you plan on driving back through El Salvador.

We are planning on driving back through El Salvador, so we put a pause on ours. To do this we had to go to the blue and white building and visit the window on the left hand side, talk to the official there, then she’ll have you go get your original TIP signed by the person who asked for your TIP originally at the bridge, go make a copy in the yellow building, bring it back to the official in the blue and white building, then go back to the yellow building to make a copy of the original and the final step of this part of the process is leaving the copy of the TIP with all the stamps and signatures with the official in the window. This sounds like a whole buttload of running around, but everything is right next to each other, so at least you’re running in small circles.

Once you finish that up you have to get back in your car and drive until you approach the El Salvador immigrations exit. It’s going to be on your left hand side and you can pull over, park and go up to the windows on your left. Here you’ll talk to an official, he’ll ask for your passport (there is no exit stamp) and he’ll ask if you’ve filled out the prechequeo for Honduras. We hadn’t filled it out, because we didn’t know about it, so he instructed us to leave our car parked where it was and run around the corner behind the building where we’ll see a staircase and a shop window with a sign that says “Internet”. It is not an official building, so it might look a little sketchy, but it was fine. You walk up the staircase talk to a man and he’ll ask for your passport, email, name and a few other questions to fill out the prechequeo for you. It takes 5 – 10 minutes and I believe he charged us $5/person. When he finished he printed out a sheet of paper for each of us, verifying that he filled it out.

We got back in our car and officially drove out of El Salvador. When you’re between borders, you’ll approach a roundabout where you have to go straight. Then you’ll arrive at the first checkpoint to enter Honduras. It’s a little bridge with a barricade where you’ll pull over. You can leave your car in line to cross the bridge to walk over to the little building on the right where you’ll be asked for the results of your PCR test and have your temperature checked by a nurse. The nurse will ask to keep the copy and will write down your temperature on a little white piece of paper. Then you get back in your car and the barricade will be lifted so you can start the immigrations process into Honduras.

You drive straight until you approach a blue and white building directly ahead of you that says “El Amatillo” here you’ll park you car and go inside. On the right hand side there will be windows where you begin your immigration process. It costs $3 USD/per person to enter Honduras, they will also take your fingerprints from both hands with a scanner. Once you’re done with this, you can begin the temporary import process across the room at the aduana window.

So up until this point everything had moved fast crossing the border. It took us 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete all the prior steps, buttttt here we got stuck behind a couple traveling in a Mercedes sprinter. They hired a translator because neither one of them spoke Spanish, but something was off with their paperwork so instead of the 30 minutes it should take to get a TIP it took them over an hour and a half and we along with a few truckers had to stand there waiting behind them for what felt like forever.

The man was standing at the window staringgg down the woman who was preparing the TIP paperwork and trying to figure out where the error was, but she later on told me this made her feel completely uncomfortable. The man’s wife also came into the government building without a mask on, which was totally inappropriate. Everyone else was wearing a mask and Honduras has a countrywide mask mandate. I really hate when I see American people in Central America not wearing masks, I find it to be completely disrespectful.

So, anyway we were starting to get really antsy since we had to make it to Nicaragua by 4 PM and it was 11 AM at this point. I asked the woman filing the TIP paperwork if there was anything I could do/fill out to start the import process and she was so nice she let me come behind the glass window, sit at the window next to hers and start filling out my own paperwork.

For this TIP I needed my passport, the title of my car, my drivers license and $35 USD in exact change. I also needed copies of all of these documents. For your drivers license you need a copy of the front and back. I filled out all my paperwork, got my documents and copies in order and as soon as she was done with the man ahead of me’s paperwork she was able to start typing in my information while also helping all the truckers out. It took 30 minutes.

When she was done typing everything up, she told me I could pay her directly for the $35 TIP fee instead of going to the bank, on my paperwork she wrote that the bank was closed. Normally I think you would have to go to the bank yourself to pay the fee and come back with the receipt as proof to receive your TIP, but in this case she would be bringing it to the bank for me and others at the end of her work day. I didn’t have exactly $35, so I had to go outside to the currency exchangers and break a $100 bill. The man didn’t want to do it at first, but I offered to tip him and he helped me out.

I paid for the TIP, the woman in charge at aduana was nice enough to make me a copy of it in case I needed one and she also stamped a page of my passport with the TIP information. There was no search at this border, I’m not sure if that’s the case every time, but it was our experience.

We got back in our Subaru and drove to the last checkpoint before officially entering Honduras. We were asked for our passports and had our TIP paperwork checked and were sent on our way.

The entire border crossing process from exiting El Salvador to entering Honduras took almost 4 hours, but had we not gotten stuck behind someone it would have probably taken 2 hours.

All the officials at the border were super nice to us and interacting with them was pleasant. There were also helpers at this border crossing that you can hire in case your Spanish isn’t good and you’d like help translating and preparing your paperwork. The helpers were very nice as well and when they realized I spoke fluent Spanish didn’t try to push their services on me. I had a nice time chatting with them while we waited. I tipped one guy, cuz why not?

About half an hour after driving into Honduras we were stopped at a checkpoint by the police. They asked to see all our of paperwork, searched our car and asked if we were carrying cash. I thought it was strange they asked if we had cash on us, so I said we didn’t and when they asked to see our passports I gave them copies and held the originals up for them. I didn’t want them to try and hold our passports hostage for a bribe. All our paperwork was in order and after about 15 – 20 minutes they let us continue on our way. It was annoying, but guatever!

We drove through Honduras in under 3 hours, just in time to cross into Nicaragua!!!