Situated on the southwestern edge of the broad, fertile Valle de Sula, up against the flanks of the Sierra Merendón, San Pedro Sula (often shortened to San Pedro) is a bustling, hot, modern city. If Honduras’s governmental capital is Tegucigalpa , its business and financial capital is San Pedro Sula. According to recent statistics, the 800,000 inhabitants of the city and immediate vicinity produce 40 percent of the national GDP.
Unless they come to San Pedro on business, most foreign visitors stop in the city only briefly. In spite of its nearly five centuries of existence, San Pedro has virtually no remaining colonial architecture. There are two good crafts markets  and one historical museum , numerous restaurants  offering top-notch Honduran and international cuisine, and nightspots  for every taste and budget.
If you need to take care of some errands while on the road, San Pedro is a good place to do them, as it has just about every sort of store or business you could hope to find in Honduras . The city has a grid layout with numbered streets and is very easy to get around.
A large number of expatriates make their home in the city. Those who can afford to live in the wealthier, suburb-like neighborhoods, on the west side of San Pedro at the edge of the mountains, find it a reasonably pleasant place to live.
A word of warning: Crime in San Pedro is fairly widespread. Although much of the crime is related to gang activity that the typical traveler will never come across, tourist muggings are not unheard of, so pay attention to who’s around you and where you are, especially after dark.
San Pedro is at about 40 meters elevation, and the climate is steaming hot most of the year, with daytime temperatures varying between 25 and 38°C (77–100°F). Rains in the Valle de Sula, which normally hit between July and November, can be torrential but help cool the city down.
San Pedro is the central transportation hub for northern and western Honduras and is frequently the gateway to the country for foreign visitors on their way to the north coast or Bay Islands . Most bus travelers in Honduras  will eventually find themselves passing through San Pedro.
Aeropuerto Internacional Ramón Villeda Morales, 13 kilometers from downtown San Pedro, has a branch of BAC Bamer bank for exchanging money and three ATMs, Casa de Puros for picking up cigars, Wendy’s, Espresso Americano and DK’d Donuts, and several car rental agencies located in the international arrivals section. There are a couple of steeply overpriced gift shops. Taxis from town to the airport cost about US$10, and there’s no way to get there by bus. If you’re leaving the country on an international flight, be prepared to pay a US$34.04 departure tax (in dollars or lempiras, but change is given only in lempiras). Domestic flights are subject to a tax of US$1.50.
Several airlines offer domestic and international service from the San Pedro airport, including:
The relatively new bus terminal (tel. 504/516-1616, www.grancentralhn.com ) five kilometers south of downtown on the highway that leads to Tegucigalpa  has eliminated major headaches for anyone who needed to change buses in San Pedro. The terminal has a food court with chains like SuperJugos, Pizza Hut, and Antojitos Mexicanos; public restrooms; a health clinic and pharmacy; and a bunch of stores selling everything under the sun (in case you want to pick up a new fridge before hopping on the bus?). There is a branch of BAC Bamer (9 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–noon Sat.), with an ATM, and a Banco Ficensa also with an ATM (9 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–noon Sat.), where Western Union transfers can be picked up.
Smaller companies that run buses to towns around the country have windows in the terminal, while the bigger luxury lines have their own private waiting areas (note that Congolón and Cotisa lines are tucked in the same side section as Sultana). The schoolbus-style buses that go to the small towns surrounding San Pedro (known as interurbanas and rapiditos) do not have sales windows; the ticket is bought directly on the buses, which are lined up at the platforms (you have to ask around to find the one you need). There is a directory of companies and their destinations near the entrance.
King Quality (tel. 504/516-2167, www.king-qualityca.com ) runs one bus a day at 7 a.m. to San Salvador, arriving at San Salvador at 2 p.m. The bus is equipped with a bathroom, air-conditioning, and TV (whether you like it or not) for the 7.5-hour drive (US$41). The bus continues on to Guatemala city, arriving at 8 p.m. (US$63), and then on to Tapachula, Mexico (US$75).
Hedman Alas (tel. 504/553-1316, www.hedmanalas.com ) has two direct first-class buses to Guatemala City at 9:50 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily via Copán Ruinas  (US$45, 7.5 hours) and to Antigua, Guatemala (US$51, nine hours).
Tica Bus (tel. 504/516-2022, www.ticabus.com ) has an office not far from the food court (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–noon Sat.–Sun.) with daily service to Nicaragua at 5 a.m. (US$32, eight hours). The same bus continues on to Costa Rica (US$52, two days) and Panama (US$87, three days).
Congolón (tel. 504/553-1174) has two direct buses a day to Guatemala City at 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. (US$31.50).
Fuente del Norte (tel. 504/9843-0507) has daily service to Río Dulce, Guatemala, for US$18, Guatemala City for US$26, and Melcho or Tecún Umán for US$40. The bus departs at 6 a.m., but customers can purchase their ticket the day before; the company’s window is open 2:30–7 p.m. Connections are available to Belize City (US$40, eight hours).
As the country’s major industrial center, San Pedro Sula is well connected by paved road to the rest of the country. Highways to Santa Rosa de Copán , Nueva Ocotepeque , Copán Ruinas , Tela , La Ceiba , Yoro , and Tegucigalpa  are all fairly well maintained and can be driven on safely most of the year. During the height of the rainy season, however, road conditions tend to deteriorate. In 2008 bridges on the main road to Trujillo  washed out during the rains, but even if they haven’t been repaired by now, there is an easy enough alternative route along a well-maintained gravel road.