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This post now includes information from October 2019. We did this trip in April 2018 and not much has changed since then. The busses and colectivos still stop in the same places and even prices remained stable.
After nine days in Honduras, Copan was our last stop. We had a great day here, exploring the Mayan ruins and observing macaws and toucans on Macaw Mountain. But eventually, the time came for us to leave and that’s when it got complicated.
We knew that we wanted to go to El Salvador next. Ideally, we would make our way from Copan to Santa Ana, but we were also prepared to stop in San Salvador since we knew transport was going to be difficult. There are regular tourist shuttles between Copan Ruinas and El Salvador, but they only leave three times a week, get cancelled often, are expensive and, and that was the main reason we didn’t take one, didn’t leave on the day we wanted to cross the border. So we didn’t have a choice but to do it on our own.
Fortunately, when asking for transport to El Salvador, we came across Josue. Josue was originally from Tegucigalpa but had lived in Copan Ruinas for the past years. He asked if we wanted to go together and we agreed because he seemed to know what he was doing
Not everyone is lucky enough to meet a guy like Josue, so in case you want to make the journey on your own, I have put together this guide for you. This is how we went from Copan to Santa Ana and I hope it can be useful for you.
Step 1: Copan Ruinas to El Florido
The easiest way to get from Copan to Santa Ana is to go via Guatemala. Yes, it involves another border crossing but the alternative is to go on a long trip through Honduras, starting by going northwards and risking getting stuck somewhere along the way. It’s different if you want to go to San Salvador, but to Santa Ana, you will need to go through Guatemala.
Your first step is to catch a bus or a tuk-tuk to the border post called ‘El Florido’. Make sure to leave early in the morning. Josue had arranged a tuk-tuk for us that left Copan at twenty past five. The ride took twenty minutes and we paid 100 lempiras each (so 300 in total).
There are also regular public buses. While our tuk-tuk was fighting its way up the mountain, with three people and three backpacks in the back, one of those buses passed us so I know for sure that they leave early in the morning as well. As of October 2019, the colectivo that leaves from the square with the cementery and hostel Yax kin costs 20 lempiras per person.
Step 2: El Florido to Chiquimula
At the border, make sure to get your Honduras exit stamp and your Guatemala entry stamp. After you have completed border formalities, ask for buses to Chiquimula. You can also find money changers at the border who give decent rates for exchanging any lempiras you have left. Buses in Guatemala aren’t very expensive but it pays off to maybe exchange 10$ so you have a bit of local currency. Since I knew I was going to come back, I exchanged a bit more, just to be on the safe side.
As I already said, ask for a bus to Chiquimula and then tell the driver that you want to go to ‘La frontera con El Salvador’. That way, he will know where exactly to drop you off. If you have maps.me on your phone (which I highly recommend you to download), the place is called Vado Hondo.
We got off at the intersection the driver pointed out to us, crossed the road and started waiting for the bus to the border. Our bus from El Florido left at six in the morning and it took us one hour and forty minutes.
Step 3: Vado Hondo to Frontera Anguiatu
Apparently, there are direct buses from the intersection where we stood to the border. Unfortunately, one of them passed us and didn’t stop for us.
When the next bus stopped, we told the driver we wanted to go to the border and he told us to hop on board and then change buses in Quezaltepeque. It was very easy. After thirty minutes, we stopped. The driver waved at us and directed us towards another bus. We could instantly jump in, we didn’t even have to carry our luggage as people were already taking care of transferring it from one vehicle to another. The moment we were on the bus, it took off.
When waiting in Vado Hondo, just stop every bus and tell the driver you want to go to ‘la frontera Anguiatu, el Salvador’. Don’t just say you want to go to ‘la frontera’ or you might find yourself going back to Honduras.
Altogether, it took us 1 hour and 35 minutes to get to the border and we arrived there at around twenty past nine.
Step 4: Anguiatu to Metapan
The border crossing was fast and efficient. We got stamped out of Guatemala and then had an official from El Salvador tell us that we didn’t need an entry stamp. Apparently, they only give out stamps at the airport, not at their land borders. It’s a shame because I really like collecting stamps in my passport.
After crossing the border and walking through a construction site for a bit, we found the bus stop. Here, you will need to take a bus to Metapan. This town is located close to the border and colourful chicken buses leave regularly.
While our bus was already there, we still had to wait for around half an hour before it left. It took around 30 minutes and we arrived in Metapan shortly before eleven o’clock.
Step 5: Metapan to Santa Ana
After stumbling off our bus in Metapan (I had just fallen asleep and was not fully awake yet), we only had to wait for two minutes for the bus to Santa Ana to show up.
The bus leaves in the same place where you just arrived. Don’t pay attention to what’s written on the outside of the buses, it usually isn’t true. Instead, ask around so people can point you to the right bus.
This last leg of our journey took us about an hour and a half and we arrived in Santa Ana at half past twelve.
Going by public transport was far cheaper than taking a tourist shuttle.
Here is what we paid in total (April 2018):
- 100 lempiras (4,20$)
- 40 quetzales (5,45$)
- 1,45 US$
In total, that makes 11,10$. A tourist shuttle will set you back between 30 – 40$ and it only leaves every other day.
And the prices are still pretty accurate as of October 2019. 20 lempiras for the colectivo to the border, 35 quetzales for the busses within Guatemala and 1,45$ for the busses within El Salvador (thank you to Florian for that information!).
Yes, you might have to change buses often but it was all fast and efficient and I was surprised by how quickly we arrived.
While in Santa Ana, one of the best things to do is hike the nearby volcano. And yes, you can also get there by public transport. It’s a really cool experience and you can learn more about it in my guide to hiking Volcan Santa Ana.
Also, if you decide to make this trip by public transport, please leave me a comment to let me know how it went. We update this post regularly with new information, to help out fellow travellers.
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