Tuesday, December 14, 2021

[CHOLUTECA] Don't Go to Choluteca

The logic behind it was simple. Why should I endure a bus trip that is more than 6 hours long plus immigration time when I could just split the itinerary into smaller segments, right? And so the León – Tegucigalpa journey became León – Chinandega – Choluteca – Tegucigalpa, with intermediate stops at two border towns. I’d say it has been effective. So far only the Choluteca – Tegucigalpa leg lasted a bit over three hours. The rest were manageable at two hours or less. And then, Choluteca.

Chinandega was fine. There was nothing to see but it was okay as a town. I didn’t feel hassled in anyway. Nicaraguans are very open about their plight with poverty, especially when they realize that they can talk to you in their mother tongue. I’d admit that some of them came this close to scamming me but erred on the side of decency in the end, like a faith-in-humanity-restored kind of soap opera. Unfortunately, their counterparts on the other side of the border are not as nice and actually kind of in-your-face.

The exit tax for Nicaragua was USD3. The immigration officer asked for NIO108 (~PHP155) which is accurate as per the day’s conversion rates. At the Choluteca border, it just feels like everybody is trying to scam you, from the common knowledge about those pesky rickshaw drivers all the way to the immigration officer himself. The entry tax to Honduras is also USD3, but the immigration officer asked for HNL100 (~PHP210). PHP60 difference from the actual conversion rate, which is not much, but still a 30% hike.

But let’s talk about the rickshaw guy. As you cross the bridge connecting the two countries, any rickshaw driver approaching you with a smile and open arms SHOULD BE IGNORED. I gave this hustler the benefit of the doubt. After all, I had baggage, it was hot AF, and his counterpart at the Nicaraguan border was already happy with NIO20 (~PHP30). I mean, if this guy is just trying to make ends meet, why not help him, right? After all, he is offering a service and I still had some leftover Cordobas I won’t be using anymore.

The rickshaw ride from the bridge to the immigration office on the Honduran side, which is immediately at the end of the bridge to your left, is just about 5 minutes. You can breeze through that bridge even with luggage at around 10 minutes of walking MAX. In short, you don’t really need that effing rickshaw ride. Once there, the guy would play your personal assistant, pointing you where to go and carrying your luggage for you inside the building which is also unnecessary because the building is open air and the immigration counters are right there at the entrance. Only an idiot will get lost there.

Once out, the guy will usher you again to his rickshaw. He will then pedal for a minute MAX to reach the main road which, once again, you can traverse on foot in less than five minutes this time around. There you will see chicken buses to Choluteca stopping by frequently. As I got off the rickshaw, the guy said $20. I let out a chuckle of mixed disbelief and disgust. USD20? What are you, a fucking UberX? HNL20 (~PHP40) would have been more appropriate and on par with his Nicaraguan counterpart on the other side of the border.

The guy then let out a violent smirk as I handed him HNL100 (~PHP210) just to avoid an altercation. He said he wouldn’t go lower than HNL200 (~PHP420) which is like ten times worth what he deserved. I gave it to him to avoid any more hassles, but I was full-on annoyed for around 5 minutes straight. Dude, one of the last Uber rides I took in New York was a 10-minute ride in a decent sedan from Hell’s Kitchen to Javits Center. It cost me $15. Did I complain? No. Because that’s effing New York. And then you have this MoFo with a wooden rickshaw who pedaled for, what, 6 minutes, asking for $20. In shithole Choluteca of all places? The nerve, dude. The nerve.

My view of the entire Pacific department was tainted by that single incident. Even in Choluteca the town, everyone seemed keen to scam you like robbery in broad daylight. Even as I found a spot at some local park to destress and be Zen, somebody would approach me starting with small talk that would obviously lead to another scamming opportunity, at which point I just rudely gave them the talk-to-the-hand gesture because I’ve had enough.

If you really want to go to Choluteca for whatever reason you might have, skip the town. Head south to the Pacific coast. I haven’t been, but I’m pretty sure the beaches there will offset whatever third world BS you’ll have to deal with just to get into the country.

[CHOLUTECA] Don't Go to Choluteca

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