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The Facts about Currency in Roatan Honduras (HNL)

I’m jittery with anticipation as I write this guide to currency in Roatan. Why, you ask? In six short days I’ll be taking a quick road trip to Minneapolis – Saint Paul International Airport, boarding a Sun Country flight, and four hours later, I’ll be touching down in sunny Roatan Honduras, for the first time in two long years. 

After a very long, hard year in 2020, I said enough is enough. Wisconsin winters are atrocious, outdoor activities were nonexistent (unless you wanted to freeze your nips off) and the travel bug was back with a ferocity that couldn’t be ignored any longer. I packed my bags for the Caribbean, quickly booked a flight to Honduras and moved to Roatan in January of 2021. 

My “month-long” stay in paradise somehow turned into a year in the Bay Islands during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although I turned over the keys to my island abode in favor of a Thailand Airbnb in January of 2022, Roatan will always have a place in my heart. 

One of the things I love most about Roatan is that it remains an “off-the-beaten-path” destination. Unless you’re an avid scuba diver, chances are you’ve only heard about Roatan recently…or maybe you haven’t heard of it at all. The cons of this, however, is there is very little information out there about Roatan. Thankfully for you, you’ve found a great source for all your questions about currency in Roatan.

Keep reading for your ultimate guide to currency in Roatan!

Currency in Roatan FAQs:

What Currency Do They Use in Roatan?

Roatan’s currency is the Honduran lempira (HNL). The bills come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500, but there are no lempira coins. The lempira was introduced as Honduras currency in 1931 when it replaced the current currency in Roatan – the peso. 

Can You Use U.S. Dollars in Roatan?

Yes! US dollars are commonly used throughout Roatan Island and the rest of the Bay Islands. In fact, US dollars are so commonly accepted that many local hotels/tour operators in Roatan and Utila will list prices in dollars as well as lempiras.

Keep in mind that Honduran banks in the Bay Islands do not accept very wrinkled or torn US bills. If you’re adding USD to your list of things to pack for Roatan, make sure the bills are in pristine condition. Additionally, if you pay in US dollars, expect to most likely get your change back in lempiras. 

What is the Current Exchange Rate of Lempiras to US Dollars?

The current exchange rate (January 2024) of Roatan currency to USD is around 1 USD to 25 HNL. To keep up with the latest exchange rates, download my favorite currency converter app

WHat is the Best Currency to use in Roatan?

Although US dollars are accepted throughout the Bay Islands, I always recommend using local currency over US currency. They won’t accept super wrinkled or torn US bills in Roatan, but you don’t have to worry about that when using lempiras. Additionally, it’s easier to use lempiras when the prices are listed in lempiras vs. having to calculate an exchange rate in USD.

Is it Expensive to Live in Roatan?

No! Compared to the rest of the Caribbean, the cost of living on Roatan is very low. I was able to live in a two bedroom apartment (with a roommate) steps from the beach for only 350 USD/month (although my monthly A/C costs for one room only at night were an additional $200).

If you stay on the island for a while and the expat community considers you “local” you can go scuba diving in Roatan for only $25 per tank. Keep reading for more information on local food and drink prices in Roatan. 

Natalie & Shannon sitting on their dive boat in front of Sun Divers. Currency in Roatan can be used to book awesome dive excursions with local shops.

How Much Money Should I Bring to Roatan?

If you don’t want to deal with currency exchange or taking money out of an ATM during your Roatan trip, you could theoretically bring all of your cash in USD along with you. For a 7-day trip, I would bring at least $700-1,000 USD, with the assumption that you’ll have some left over. 

However, I personally don’t think it’s a great idea to travel with so much cash on you. If you don’t want to worry about cash for the first few days, I would bring about $150-200 USD and a debit card with you.* After that cash runs out, you can easily get more cash from the West End Petrosun ATMs.

*This advice only applies to tourists visiting from the United States. I know tourists with debit cards from other countries have had issues using ATMs on the West side of the island (even Canada). 

Is Food Expensive in Roatan?

Local food in Roatan tends to be very cheap. Street food is extremely affordable and you can get baleadas – a typical Honduran breakfast food that consists of a homemade flour tortilla folded in half and filled with refried red beans, cotija cheese and mantequilla – anywhere on the island for around $1-2 USD. 

Fresh seafood is also very cheap, if you buy it on site directly from the fisherman. 

On the other hand, there are many expat-owned, high-end restaurants in West Bay and West End that will charge US prices or more for a meal. If budget is a concern, it’s best to do your research in advance and stick to locally-owned restaurants that serve traditional Honduran fare.

A heaping plate of jerk chicken, rice & beans, and fried plantains from Anthony's Chicken. Currency in Roatan can be used to buy tasty local food like this.

How Much is a Beer in Roatan?

Expect to pay 70 HNL (around $3) for a local bottled beer in most establishments. Imported beer, craft beer and draft beer costs more, but prices vary per establishment. 

In Coxen Hole, French Harbor, Flowers Bay and other (less touristy) parts of the island, you can expect to pay 50 HNL or less for a local bottled beer. Beer also tends to cost less on the neighboring backpacker’s island of Utila.

What is the Tipping Culture in Roatan?

Tipping in Roatan is the standard for many businesses like it is in the U.S. Be sure to tip your servers, scuba diving instructors (10-20% depending on the service), hair stylists, massage therapists, tour guides and the grocery baggers that bring your bags to your car. 

Be aware that some restaurants include the tip in the final amount. Make sure to check your bill before leaving a tip.

Is there a Roatan Airport Money Exchange?

Sadly, no. There is nowhere to exchange your currency for Honduras money when arriving at Roatan International Airport. However, there are ATMs in the RTB airport. You can find them near security on the right side of the building.

Where to Get Cash in West End Roatan?

The most reliable ATMs in West End are the two in the Petrosun gas station. There is another ATM located next to Roa Market on the main strip in West End. Unfortunately, this ATM is not attached to a bank or establishment, so it’s less reliable. In a pinch, Roa Market can also charge your credit card and give out cash for a $2 fee.

Where to Get Cash in West Bay Roatan?

If you have the option, it’s best to get out currency in Roatan before arriving in West Bay. If you absolutely need to get cash there, I would recommend taking it out from the ATM in the Infinity Bay Resort lobby. There is another ATM in West Bay Mall, but this is notoriously unreliable and oftentimes charges you for cash you don’t receive. 

You can withdraw currency in Roatan from the ATM in the Infinity Bay Resort lobby in West Bay.

Where to Get Cash in Coxen Hole Roatan?

Fortunately, getting cash out in Coxen Hole is an easy task. There are banks on every corner with reliable ATMs and money exchange options for tourists. Be sure to never use an ATM that’s not connected to a bank in Coxen Hole. Additionally, try to be as discreet as possible with the cash you take out. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re stressed about currency in Roatan, don’t be! The island takes USD as well as the Honduran Lempira, so you can withdraw money before you leave for peace of mind. Once you arrive on the island, be sure to take my advice about “safe” ATMs vs. “unreliable” ATMs. The last thing you need is a banking issue while you’re trying to enjoy the top things to do in Roatan. Don’t stress about currency in Roatan – order a margarita and sip it on the beach instead.

If you found this guide to currency in Roatan helpful for your next trip, you might also enjoy the related posts below! Thanks for reading and be sure to follow along for the adventure on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps

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