San Pedro Sula: The Most Dangerous City in the World?

Thursday, April 26, 2018
San Pedro Sula has been nicknamed "Murder Capital of the World", but is it all just a lie forced by the media or is there something absurdly wrong with this second largest city in Honduras?

Military Police in the streets of San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Let's get that one question out of the way; "Is San Pedro Sula the most dangerous city (outside a war zone)?". No.

The Numbers Don't Add Up
Now that we got that clarified, let's talk about why. Some statistics falsely indicates that SPS has the highest homicide rate (per capita) in the world. Truth is (as of 2018) SPS doesn't even make the Top 20 cut for most homicide per 100.000 people (outside a war zone). How come the media keeps on pushing articles about SPS being in the top spot?

Poverty in San Pedro Sula outskirts, Honduras
Let's talk about pumping up numbers to fit your needs. Many statistics includes all the homicides in the suburbs of SPS, without accounting for the population (thereby increasing the homicides per capita). The outskirts of SPS has a much larger problem than gang shootings. Poverty is wide-spread and often nearby the riverbeds. As the rainy season kicks in, the water level rises and the poorest human beings around here loose what ever little they've already got.

Homeless woman with disfigured face walking in the streets of San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Most of the homicides that do occur in SPS is gang-related. No tourist-targeting in this city.
Just to add to the ridiculousness, some of the sources even count pedestrians killed in traffic as homicides, further increasing the homicide rate. Do I even need to explain how stupid that is?

San Pedro Sula is Changing
During the past four years or so, SPS has seen a remarkable decrease in homicide rates. So how come the city can't seem to shake off the whole "Murder Capital of the World"-thing?
There's a couple of reasons for the change, not really gaining attention in the media. First of all, it's a not as good a story as "Most Dangerous City in the World". Secondly the government is not interested in changing the reputation of SPS. Tourism is not a large income factor in Honduras and money-wise the governments Lempiras are more well-spent in other sectors of the society.

Security guard at a gas station in San Pedro Sula, Honduras
But there's military and secruity with guns everywhere! Yes, there is. As in most other Latin American countries. The guards will not only protect the store/restaurant, they will also hold the door for you. Consider it safety and good service at the same time.
Like any other city in the world, there are safer areas than others. We walked freely around SPS, took busses, taxis and had dinner from street vendors. We even drove around some of the so-called "dangerous" areas of the city, which seemed quite safe compared to the hype created by the media.

What is there to do, as a Tourist in San Pedro Sula?
Well, truth be told, SPS is not the cultural capital of Latin America. But visiting a city with such a tarnished reputation is quite enlightening and meeting friendly locals will definitely be eye-opening and increase your faith in humanity.

Flowers at Mercado Guamilito in San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Mercado Guamilito (Guamilito Market) is a great place to interact with the local vendors of SPS. Flowers, clothing, souvenirs and street food are the main things to buy here. Everybody is quite friendly, inviting and fair (no scams or pumped up tourist prices).

San Pedro Sula Cathedral, Honduras
Honduras consists mainly of Christian faith. The country is almost divided half-half into Catholics and Protestants. Near Central Park in the heart of SPS rises the main place of Christian prayer; St. Peter and the Apostle Cathedral (more commonly referred to as San Pedro Sula Cathedral). Built in 1949 and decorated with hand-carved wooden statues and religious paintings of Saints, it's probably the most prominent building in SPS.
BONUS: right across Parque Central (Central Park) from the Cathedral, lies the government building of SPS, nothing much happens there for tourists, but Honduran flags are waving in the wind on this bright white building.

"The Taster" at Cerveceria Casa del Bosque in San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Time for a beer! Hondurans are pretty skilled beer brewers. Besides the local commercialized bottled brands, several so-called "cervecerias" are scattered all over SPS. I can truly recommend Cerveceria Casa del Bosque located in the Colonia Altiplano district in the southwest part of SPS. The brewery is owned by an American, who has built a business here in SPS.

Even though, they're not always visible due to cloudy weather, SPS is surrounded by a beautiful and lush mountain scenery. Driving around the city sometimes feels like driving inside a bowl, as you can never see further than the mountains, creating a vacuum-like atmosphere, which is quite something.

Street Art in San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Throughout SPS I spotted several wall murals and paintings by different street artists. Some of them are quite captivating and they give a colorful glow to an otherwise grey city. I also happened to notice, that most of these works of art are respected and rarely destroyed by silly tags and other kinds of vandalism.

The Coca-Cola-sign lit up during night in San Pedro Sula, Honduras
I'm pretty sure the marketing department of Coca-Cola Honduras has been to Hollywood. Somehow a meeting resulted in the idea to place a large Coca-Cola sign on the hillside of the surrounding mountains of SPS. The sign lights up at night and can be seen from various places throughout the city. There's a hiking trail leading to the sign as well, but unfortunately we didn't have time to do the hike. Supposedly the view over the city is astonishing from up there. No matter how you spot the sign, you've gotta admit; Coca-Cola Honduras are absolute legends.

All in all, it's safe to say, that San Pedro Sula is... well, safe. The reputation greatly exceeds the reality and if you're having second thoughts, just remember not to believe everything you read in the main stream media. Happy travels.

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