Complete Guide: Copán to San Salvador overland border crossing

Traveling from Copán to San Salvador is a very long journey, especially when dealing with the inefficiencies of the Honduras/El Salvador border and taking public transportation. As part of my overland adventure across Central America, I completed the journey myself and this is a comprehensive guide to on how to travel from Copán and San Salvador as easily and economically as possible.

After visiting Copán in the morning, I walked back to the hostel where I desperately wanted to take a shower but the water and electricity was cut. I packed in the darkness, and headed out to the bus station to head to San Salvador. I got a 1pm bus to La Entrada (L70) and arrived at 2:35pm. That was followed by a quick connection to a bus to Santa Rosa de Copán (L50) at 2:40pm along a very poorly maintained and bumpy road arriving at 3:55pm. That was again followed by an immediate connection on a packed bus to Ocotepeque (L90) arriving at 6pm, just as the sun was setting.

I was worried during the bus ride if I’d make it to San Salvador today. With limited information online, I decided to give the border a shot. Took a shared taxi for L40 from Ocotepeque to El Poy and walked to the border where the Honduras guard confirmed my worry that the buses have stopped running to San Salvador (the buses only run from 4am-4pm).

Taxi stand in Ocotepeque for shared taxi to El Poy

So I walked back from the border to a group of taxis and took a different taxi back to Ocotepeque, paid for 3 seats (L45) since I didn’t want to wait for it to fill it up.

I stayed the night at a very basic hotel at the border town, Hotel Ocotepeque (L200 no hot water, next to the reception; L340 hot water, no a/c; L400 hot water, a/c). I decided to splurge and go for the one with a/c – it’s only $17 and I really needed a good rest.

The next day, I woke up at 7:30am and was out the door by 8:45am. Caught a colectivo taxi to the El Poy border for L15, walked, and then to my shock, there was an enormous line at the Honduras immigration. A shuttle bus had just dropped off what were around 50 people. There were only three officers working, so I waited for 45 minutes in line. No entry stamp for El Salvador, sadly, for land crossings, only air and sea.

El Poy border
Walking to Honduras Immigration at El Poy border
El Poy Honduras Immigration

This was a clear example of why borders don’t make sense for small countries. They are an obstruction to commerce and travel. I could have been in San Salvador last night had it not been for the border. It wasted so much time today – having to take a separate taxi there, walk, go through immigration, walk some more, go through El Salvador immigration, walk even more to the bus stop, and then wait for the bus.

El Poy Honduras, El Salvador border
El Poy Honduras El Salvador marker
El Salvador Immigration office

After crossing into El Salvador, I had to walk a few minutes to the bus station where I took a bus to La Palma (20 minute bus ride, $0.60). Went to the tourist center where I met a very friendly lady who gave me a lot of info and agreed to watch my luggage while I toured the town. The town was cute with painted murals along its walls. There wasn’t really anything else that was special. Had some really good quesadillas for lunch.

I left around 2pm since I didn’t want to get to San Salvador after dark. I had no hotel booked and was just playing it all by ear. There’s only a chicken bus that operates the route. It was an uncomfortable 2:20hr but only cost $3.70. Vendors would come on sporadically, I had to squeeze to share the school bus seat with an old man, and there were constant fumes.

I arrived in San Salvador Terminal De Oriente at 4:20pm without a hotel. I decided to just walk up to one of the guesthouses I saw on Booking since they had 3 rooms and hoped that I could get a discount by just showing up. I took a local bus 52 ($0.35) to the area and walked a bit further. The owner gave me the room with a shared bath for $20 instead of $22.59.

Summary
  • Bus from Copán to La Entrada, 1.5 hrs, L70
  • Bus from La Entrada to Santa Rosa de Copán, 1hr 15 mins, L50
  • Bus fromSanta Rosa de Copán to Ocotepeque, 2 hrs, L90
  • Buses to San Salvador run from 4am to 4pm. The other option is a private car ($80 USD). This was a bit too pricey and too sketchy for me so I spent the night in Ocotepeque instead
  • Shared taxi from Ocotepeque to El Poy border, 20 mins, L15
  • El Poy border crossing took 2 hours.
  • No entry stamp for El Salvador over land crossing
  • Bus from El Poy to La Palma, 20 mins, $0.60
  • Bus from La Palma to San Salvador Terminal De Oriente, 2:20hr, $3.70.

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