How to Get from Utila, Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua or Vice Versa.

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Finding out how to get from Utila, Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua can be a little tricky as there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information available.

On top of that the journey itself is an arduous one, since you need to navigate the local bus systems, have an adept level of Spanish, but overall there is a chance you may need to make a stop-over in one of Honduras’s main cities, which doesn’t exactly have the best reputation.

So travelling through this region can seem a little daunting at best. Though fear not, I have actually travelled through this region of the world and can help you reach your next destination in Central America quickly, safely, and without too much hassle.

So read on and I’ll help you get from Utila, Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua or vice versa.


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You have 2 options available to you for getting from Utila to Leon depending on your budget, style of travel, and time frame or your itinerary.


The Basics For Each Option: The Ferry

Regardless of whether you choose the longer Chicken Bus or the direct shuttle bus option, you will need to make your way to La Ceiba via a ferry.  Catching a ferry is the only way on or off the island of Utila. Ferries leave twice a day, early in the morning (6:20 am) or in the afternoon (2 pm). The cost is around 500 lempiras or $25 USD.

The journey will take around an 1 hour and 30 minutes. Though beware as the journey can be a little bumpy. On our way to Utila several persons threw-up, however it seemed as though they were a little hung-over.

But at one stage there seemed as though there was a chain reaction of persons vomiting from the rocky waves. You have been warned. Sea sickness pills are advised.


Option 1: Shuttle Bus ( 12 – 13 hours)

This is by far the easiest option available for getting from Utila, Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua. All that is involved is getting yourself to La Ceiba, if you can manage that, the shuttle bus company will take care of everything else.

This is the option which I chose, as I felt from a time management perspective it was more efficient to simply use this option, even if it was slightly more expensive. The company I used was Tornabe, a link to the website can be found here.

The journey will be roughly 12 – 13 hours of driving, but in total from arriving in La Ceiba to Leon, it will take around 16 – 18 hours. This is by far the most taxing option given in this article, since you are doing all your travelling in one day.

But on the bright side, you do get to your destination quicker, and potentially save 1 to 2 days. This is by far the best option we have found on how to get from Utila, Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua.

Upon exiting the ferry at La Ceiba the company will have taxis ready to take you to a meeting point in San Pedro Sula. They will greet you by either saying your name, or the name of the company. The meeting point is usually a Burger King, or some fast food restaurant to give everybody a chance to have some breakfast.

Here you will meet the other people who you will be sharing the shuttle bus with. It is not a private shuttle bus in the sense that it will only be you, there are others, and every seat will be full. So be prepared for this if you were expecting anything other.

It will be a long day, roughly 16 – 19 hours in total. As this will include your original journey from Utila on the ferry at 6:20am, so you may not arrive in León until 11pm – 2am in the morning. Don’t fret, there are frequent bathroom breaks, food breaks, while there is a border crossing which happens at Somotillo.

The company will help with all of this, and upon arriving in your final destination of León if you don’t have a hostel/hotel they will help you organize one. This will usually be the Barefoot Backpackers Hostel.

If you don’t like their suggestion, there is no pressure to go with the crowd as that is what I did. I found a quieter, cheaper, and bigger room in a hotel a block over from the Barefoot Backpackers Hostel.

Even after all the travel, I was quite happy with how quickly we were able to get from Utila, Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua.


Option 2: Chicken Bus (2 – 3 Days)/Potentially Cheaper

This is the longest option, while it does take longer to reach the final destination, the journey is spread out a little more evenly, as opposed to the shuttle bus where you undergo a massive 16 hour day of travel.

Using chicken buses is cheaper, but it depends on whether you think the amount of money saved is worth the time spent. The journey will take 2 – 3 days, involve a night spent in Tegucigalpa, and potentially Managua in Nicaragua, and combine the use of 1 ferry and 4 buses. As a result of your hard work and time, you will roughly save around $20 USD. 

Choosing this option is definitely for those who want to spend a little bit more time in Honduras, and aren’t as limited by an itinerary with a strict time limit

First you will need to arrive in La Ceiba via the ferry, from here you will need to catch a taxi to the La Ceiba bus station to catch a connecting bus to San Pedro Sula. Alternatively you can catch a taxi directly to the San Pedro Sula bus station, though that will take around 45 minutes.

From here you will need to catch a bus from San Pedro Sula to Tegucigalpa. This will take around 3 – 4 hours, and will cost anywhere between 100 – 200 lempira/$5 to 10 USD. This will be a chicken bus, so the space on the bus may be limited as it is often quite pack, with the condition of the bus not being the greatest, though it shouldn’t be cause for concern.

Once in Tegucigalpa chances are you will need to stay the night.

In the morning you will need to take an international King Quality or Tika Bus from Tegucigalpa to Managua, Nicaragua.  To check the times of departure of the buses, you can use this link here. This will take around 6 – 8 hours, including a border crossing in Somotillo. From Managua you will probably want to stay the night as it is another 2 – 3 hour bus ride to León.

If you continue towards León you will be arriving at night. The bus will drop you off in the center of town, next to a park with a large clock. If you are after a hostel there are some usually in the surrounding streets.

On the side towards the clock tower there are restaurants and more traditional backpacker places. On the otherwise is where I went, on this side of town it’s slightly quieter with a hostel being on every 2nd block.


 If you know of any other alternatives on how to get from Utila, Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua please let us know.

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Written by Lexi
Lexi Forrest is an experienced luxury traveler who has a passion for scenic destinations. She's traveled to 25+ countries over the past 10 years.