Copan Ruinas to Utila/Roatan by chicken bus and ferry in one day
Updated: Jun 10
The day starts with an ungodly alarm!
Yes, shuttles run this route for $50 per person, but where’s your sense of adventure? Read on to find out how to get from Copan Ruinas to Utila/Roatan by chicken bus and still make the last ferry, at 4.30pm, in one day. To make this journey in one day you haven't really got time to dilly dally so it's a good idea to pack some snacks for the journey.
Also, I'd like to start addressing the elephant in the room. Many people worry Honduras isn't safe & many that do venture here listen to the rumours around the backpacking community that San Pedro Sula isn't safe so you must take a shuttle when travelling from Copan Ruinas to Utila or Roatan. Whilst it may not be a good idea to wander around some parts of San Pedro Sula at night, this journey is done during the day and doesn't involve you leaving the bus station. The bus station at San Pedro Sula is a busy station connected to a shopping centre, so just make sure to engage your normal backpacker "spidey senses" and keep your belongings in sight you will be absolutely fine. The Honduran people are so friendly that any person approaching you will either be wanting to welcome you and know where you are from or to help you, or both!
Map of route from Copan Ruinas to Utila/Roatan
Copan Ruinas to San Pedro Sula
Unfortunately to be able to make all the stops from Copan Ruinas to Utila and make the last ferry in one day you need to take the 6 am bus out of Copán Ruinas. The bus leaves from the Terminal Empresa ETUMI on C.Acropolis heading out of Copán Ruinas town, look out for it when you visit the ruins as it’s on the road out of town heading there.
The bus schedule is 4:30 am, 6 am & 7 am. There are later buses but you will never the last ferry on the later ones. There are reports of people taking the 7 am bus & making it to the ferry but we decided not to risk it and got the 6am instead. We arrived at the bus stop 15 mins early to snag good seats & the bus was waiting. It then hung around a bit, left 5 minutes late & stopped 2 minutes up the road for 15 minutes waiting for the driver's mates who were running late!
The bus had the usual quirks of public transport, a lady got on with a box of chicks, and one lady, who was standing in the aisle, sat on my shoulder for a bit! We made it to San Pedro Sula for 10:30am.
Duration 4 hours 45 minutes. Cost 160L.
San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba
We were all on track to make the journey from Copan Ruinas to Utila in one day with a 10:30 am arrival, we bought tickets for a bus that was “leaving in 5 minutes” only to be sat on the bus whilst all the other buses around were leaving. Painful, the clock was ticking! Eventually, at 11:15 am we were on the road. The journey was pretty uneventful, we bought some food from one of the vendors who jumped aboard the bus. In hindsight it seems most of the buses leave at 11:15 am whatever the salesperson tells you. You could try your luck outside and jump on the bus that looks like it’s leaving but I’ve not tried and tested this (let me know in the comments if you do this and it works).
The bus arrived in La Ceiba at 3 pm and then it was time to grab a cab.
Duration 3 hours 45 minutes. Cost 180L.
Taxi to the Utila Dream Ferry port
This part of the journey was the only part we felt a bit aggrieved at the price. The taxi drivers are pretty stubborn on the price as they know you only have so long to make the ferry. There was a bit of traffic, but we arrived at the port at 3:50 pm. On the map, I've marked Transportes Cristina, a popular budget bus company in Honduras, but whichever bus company you use, your journey will involve a taxi to the port.
Cost 50L pp & duration 20 minutes.
Buying tickets for the ferry to Utila/Roatan
This can be done online but I would advise booking when you arrive at the port or at least when you are sure you will arrive in time. Most people buy the ticket at the port, the boat was only half full when we were there.
If you buy the ticket to Utila at the port it is 800L which can be paid cash, even in USD, or by card without a fee. After taking this journey I found that it is slightly cheaper to buy your ferry tickets online. The Utila Dream website is really easy to use and you can book for the same day. Just watch out for the fact that the website uses the US date format, a group mixed up date and month and booked their tickets for a date in the past (the website lets you!) but there was no problem with changing at the desk. If your destination is Roatan not Utila head over to the Galaxy Wave website as again it's a bit cheaper to book online.
Once you have a ticket you then need to pay the port fee. The port fee office is over the road and costs 35L per person.
Food at the port
After the back-to-back buses, you now have a bit of time to grab a bite to eat, the café at the port serves sandwiches, burgers, fries & chicken wings. Prices 40-150L.
Ferry from La Ceiba to Utila
The ferry departed a little after 4:30 pm, the downstairs is heavily air-conditioned if you’re feeling a little sticky after your day's travel. We opted for upstairs on the way there and downstairs on the way back. It was nice to see out on the journey over, but everyone on the top deck (especially those at the sides) got pretty wet from the sea spray.
The journey from Copán Ruinas to Utila or Roatan is definitely possible to do in one day. As a safety net, we booked a room in La Ceiba which had free cancellation until 6 pm on the day of stay through booking.com, which we cancelled when we knew we’d make the ferry to Utila. By doing it this way we saved 80% of the price, a couple who were staying in Copán Ruinas at Iguana Azul with us took a shuttle and caught the same boat but paid a lot more than we did to get there. They have since shunned the tourist shuttles!
Please add a comment if you take this journey, we’d love to hear from you.