No matter the amount of time you spend researching before visiting a new country, there are always going to be things you don’t know until you know. Roatán, Honduras was no exception to this rule. I spent weeks before my vacation researching everything from scuba diving to SIM cards to the tastiest restaurants on the island. As always, online research came nowhere close to the real thing.
Luckily for you, I’ve spent four months on the island learning the lay of the land and taking notes on the need-to-know aspects of island life. If you’re planning on visiting Roatán anytime soon, you’re going to want to read these Roatán travel tips!
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tips for visiting roatán
Travel has never been less predictable and there’s a very high chance some part of your plans may get cancelled or rescheduled. In the event that it happens, it’s always better to be prepared and protect yourself.
I always book travel insurance with World Nomads before traveling to a new country. I’ve never had any trouble getting reimbursed from them and their customer service is quick and easy.
Additionally, World Nomads is guaranteed to cover you in the event that you were to get COVID-19 before your trip and be unable to travel. In today’s world, this is a great guarantee to have. It can take weeks or even months to produce a negative test after contracting the virus.
TIGO SIM CARD
Getting a local SIM card in Roatán is a quick and painless process. For those staying in West Bay, head to Captain Van’s Rentals in West Bay Mall. Here you can purchase and install the physical SIM card and start with your first week or two of data. The cheapest and best option tends to be the 15 days of data for 220 HNL ($9). If you’re staying in West End, head to the grocery store inside Calelu’s to pick up your SIM!
For those staying in Roatán for an extended period of time, the easiest way to refill your data is through TIGO’s online dashboard. Simply create an account and enter a credit card to refill your data.
Most people in Roatán communicate via WhatsApp or Facebook messenger. Since you’ll need to receive a confirmation text code to set up your WhatsApp account, it’s always better to download the app before leaving your home country. Download WhatsApp here.
CABS VS. WATER TAXIS
Since Uber and Lyft have not yet made it to Roatán, cabs and water taxis are the main form of transportation for those without a car or motorbike.
Water taxis tend to be a bit more straightforward, since the rates are listed on their signs. However, if you’re a tourist, you can expect to be overcharged constantly for cab rides. The best way to not be overcharged is to know exactly what you should be paying before ever getting in the cab. Screenshot the guide below before hailing a cab in Roatán!
West End to West Bay: No more than 100 HNL
West End to Coxen Hole: 50 HNL
*West End to the Airport: 100 HNL
West End to Sandy Bay: 30 HNL
Coxen Hole to French Harbor: 50 HNL
Taking a water taxi from West End to West Bay (or vice versa) should cost $3 or 70 HNL per person. Unfortunately, these are only the prices if the taxi is shuttling 3 or more people. If you’re the only person in the taxi, you’ll likely be charged $9 for the ride ($4.50/each for two people).
*Cabs will charge a lot more to bring you directly to the airport. To get the best price, ask to go to the gas station across from the airport and walk across the street. You could save yourself as much as $15!
RESPONSIBLE SEAFOOD GUIDE
You can find some seriously delicious seafood on Roatán. However, it’s important to keep in mind that just because something is available for purchase, does not mean it was obtained responsibly. It’s incredibly important to protect the beautiful reefs in the Caribbean and purchasing seafood irresponsibly is in direct opposition of that goal.
If you’re not sure what types of seafood are considered responsible/irresponsible, check out the Bay Islands Responsible Seafood Guide.
Some ATMs in Roatán are unreliable, so I would advise against using a random ATM on the street. If you’re in West End, I always prefer to walk the five minutes to the Petrosun and take out cash from one of the two ATMs inside the gas station. I’ve never had an issue with either of them. Another good option in West End is the local grocery store, Roa Market. They’re able to charge your credit card and give you cash back with only a $2 charge.
If you’re in West Bay and in need of an ATM, I would suggest walking to the resort Infinity Bay and using the ATM in the lobby. There’s another ATM in West Bay Mall, but I wouldn’t suggest using it unless it’s an emergency. The last time I used it, my credit card was charged and I was not given the cash I paid for.
The most reliable ATMs on the island are located inside the banks in Coxen Hole. However, if you’re staying in West End or West Bay, it’s unlikely you’ll want to take a cab across the island every time you need some cash.
No Uber in Roatán sadly means no Uber Eats either. Thankfully, food delivery is still a widely utilized service on the island. There are a couple different options for delivery, but the most reliable tends to be HUGO. Simply download the app and choose your restaurant. You can set up a credit card payment option on the app or pay in cash when the driver arrives.
Another good option is Jaime Delivery. Their drivers are speedy and the delivery fees are very reasonable. You can download the app or message them on WhatsApp at +504 9450 6334.
ALWAYS TIP YOUR SCUBA INSTRUCTOR
Having never scuba dived before coming to Roatán, I was unsure of the etiquette surrounding tipping your scuba instructor/guide. Everyone I asked was giving me conflicting answers. Finally, I decided to go straight to the source and asked dive instructors themselves!
Although all dive shops organize gratuity differently, the most common answer I was given was tip your scuba instructor like you would your server at a restaurant. This means 10-20%, depending on the level of service. Many people abide by the $5/tank rule. However, if the dive costs $30 or more, $5 comes out to less than 20%. When diving in Roatán, keep in mind that most dive instructors are not paid a very high wage and gratuity can go a long way.
Electricity only become widespread on the island in the last 15-20 years. Since it’s relatively new, it tends to not be the most reliable. There are scheduled outages at least once a month. The best way to learn about these outages and plan for them ahead of time, is to follow the Roatán Electric Company’s Facebook page. Even when the outage isn’t scheduled, you’ll be able to find real-time updates on the RECO page.
If you’re staying in Roatán for an extended period of time, it’s good to plan in advance for outages. When working from home, I always keep my laptop and phone plugged in when possible. Additionally, I keep an Anker Bank portable charger charged 24/7 in case of emergencies.
I also recommend keeping candles around the house in case of unexpected nighttime outages!
HELPFUL FACEBOOK GROUPS
You can find out everything you need to know about Roatán in one of the island’s many Facebook groups. Whether you’re looking for an apartment, need help with immigration forms or are searching for a local’s phone number, you’ll be able to find your answer on Facebook. Below are the most useful Facebook groups for information on the island. You’ll need to request to join!
Roatán Travel / Support Roatán Discussion Group – A great place to ask any questions related to tourism on the island.
Ask Anything – Roatán – For general inquiries about anything on the island.
Short or Long Term Rentals – Accommodation information for tourists and locals.
Roatán Craigslist – For those selling miscellaneous things on the island.
Roatán Buy & Sell – The same as Roatán Craigslist.
Crime Watch – Crime updates and information on the island. Roatán is a very safe island so don’t be put off by the crime watch. It’s just meant as a source of information to keep locals and tourists informed.
Roatán Electric Company – RECO – The ultimate source of power information on the island. If the power goes out randomly or there are scheduled outages, check RECO’s Facebook page for an estimate of when it’ll come back on.
BEST COVID TESTING SPOT
Most countries are requiring travelers to produce a negative COVID-19 test before entering the country. Different countries are requiring different types of tests, so if you’re not returning to the U.S. this information may not be relevant to you.
There are many hotels and clinics in Roatán offering PCR and Rapid COVID-19 testing for tourists. Many of the hotels have a strict time frame for when you can receive a test and a corresponding time when the results are returned. Many are also requiring appointments to receive testing. Hotel tests also tend to be on the pricier end of testing in Roatán.
From my experience, the easiest place to get your COVID-19 test in Roatán is through the International Care Unit at West Bay Mall. The clinic is open 24/7 with usually no waiting times. No appointments are needed so you simply walk in, present your passport, receive your test and wait 15 minutes for the results. Tests cost $55, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a cheaper option on the island.
All travelers entering Honduras are required to fill out an immigration precheck form prior to arrival. As of May 23, 2021, there are three requirements for travelers.
- One precheck form per person, printed out.
- One customs declaration per family. Does not need to be printed.
- One heath form per person with passport photo and COVID-19 test results. Does not need to be printed.
You can access all required forms and create on account on the National Institute of Migration of Honduras website. The website tends to be difficult to use. When you’re filling out the forms, if text is missing try changing the adjusting the language back and forth between English and Spanish. This seems to fix the glitch in the form!
PACK YOUR YETI
Growing up in Wisconsin, I’ve never had an issue keeping my beer cold. That is, until I moved to the Caribbean. Even on a cool day in Roatán, cold drinks seem to warm up in the time it takes the bartender to transfer them from the cooler to your hand. After three months of choking down warm beer, I finally invested in a YETI tumbler and never looked back.
If you don’t feel like spending $30 on a cup, all the shops in Roatán sell can or bottle koozies. Although they don’t keep your drink anywhere near as cold, they only cost around $3 apiece.
As of May 2021, all of Honduras is abiding by a (relatively) strict 10PM curfew. This means that all bars, restaurants, shops and transportation need to be shut down by that time. There are some exceptions in Roatán. For example, there are a few bars that have been known to shut their doors and stay open until 1AM. However, it’s best to assume the curfew will be enforced and make sure you’re able to get home by 10PM.
ROATÁN BY DAY
Since the West side of Roatán is a fairly small community, each day of the week has its own specific activities/establishments to frequent. Save this guide below to take advantage of each and every beautiful day in Roatán!
Monday: All-you-can-eat pasta at Blue Bahia, Margarita Mondays at Sundowners
Tuesday: Taco Tuesday & live music at Sundowners
Wednesday: Open Mic Night at Hangover Hut (West Bay)
Thursday: Music Trivia at Sundowners, Karaoke at Happy Harry’s Hideaway
Friday: 4:00PM yoga at Cafe de Palo, live music at Tranquilseas, Sundowners and La Placita (West Bay)
Saturday: Craft market in West End, Rock n’ Roll Nights at Beachers Bar & Grill
Sunday: Live music with Muddy at Infinity Bay, Bottomless Mimosas at San Simon (Mayan Princess Resort), best day to visit the Roatán Brewing Company, Cultural Festival at Punta Gorda
First rule of visiting Honduras: DON’T DRINK THE TAP WATER. You will get very sick. If you plan on living like a local in Roatán (instead of the resort lifestyle), you’ll need to stock your apartment with fresh water. The easiest way to do this is send a message via WhatsApp to Skye Water. You can reach them at +504 9586-5586. Each water jug should cost 35 HNL and make sure to have cash on hand.
If you’re living like a local, you may also find yourself needing to refill your gas tank (for your stove). A WhatsApp message to BIP Gas is the easiest way to do this. You can reach them at +504 9435-2327. Depending on the size of your tank, a refill should cost between 200-350 HNL. You’ll need to pay cash and make sure to confirm the price via WhatsApp before placing the order.
When you’re living in a sweaty, dusty tropical climate…laundry becomes very important very quickly. If you’re staying at a hotel or resort, chances are they have a laundry service. However, if you’re living in local apartments or an Airbnb without a washing machine, you’ll need to outsource your laundry.
Victor runs a reliable laundry service that includes a pick up and drop off service. Give him a call at +504 9872-9540. Before sending your laundry away, it’s a good idea to get a final count of what’s in the bag. I like to make a note/take photos for myself and tape a note with the final counts to the front of the laundry bag.
Visiting a new country can be stressful and confusing. No matter how much research you do ahead of time, there are always going to be things you don’t know until you arrive. Hopefully this post helps make your Bay Islands vacay smoother and more enjoyable!
If you enjoyed these general tips for visiting Roatán, you may also enjoy my related posts linked below. Don’t forget to follow along with the adventure on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps!