Living in Roatan: Your Ultimate Guide to Existing in Paradise
Last Updated on June 7, 2023 by Madison Krigbaum
No matter the amount of time you spend researching before moving to a new country, there are always going to be things you don’t know until you know. Roatan Honduras is no exception. I spent weeks before my move researching everything from scuba diving to SIM cards to the tastiest restaurants on the island. As always, my research came nowhere near the real thing. Luckily for you, I spent a whole year living in Roatan, learning the lay of the land and taking notes on the need-to-know aspects of island life. If you’re planning on traveling or moving to Roatan anytime soon, you won’t want to miss this list of tips for expat living in Roatan!
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Honduras Travel Insurance
**I receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. I do not represent World Nomads. This is not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
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Tips for Living in Roatan
Living in Roatan for a whole year taught me plenty of useful Roatan travel tips for those visiting Roatan Honduras! Click here for a complete Roatan travel guide and tons of things to do in Roatan Honduras. And don’t miss my list of the best restaurants in Roatan!
Roatan Sim Card
Getting a SIM card in Honduras is quick and painless process through Airalo’s Travel eSIMs. Choose between the following data options for your trip to Honduras:
All you have to do is download the app and activate your eSIM for instant connectivity anywhere in the world! Not only does reliable data make your trip a lot easier, but it also make every trip a lot safer – especially for solo female travelers.
Most people in Roatan 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.
How to Get Around Roatan
Unfortunately, since the island is small and many parts are undeveloped, there aren’t a ton of options for getting around Roatan. Although you can rent cars and scooters, I would not recommend driving in Roatan unless you are a very confident driver. Drunk driving is not taken seriously around the island and the roads are super dark and windy. When living in Roatan, or if you’re a tourist visiting Roatan, the best way to get around is taxis or water taxis.
Roatan water taxis tend to be a bit more straightforward, since the rates are listed on their signs. But, if you’re asking yourself, “how much are taxis in roatan?” then you came to the right place.
If you’re a tourist, you can expect to be overcharged constantly for Roatan taxi rides. The best way to not be overcharged is to know exactly what you should be paying before ever getting in the car. Screenshot the guide below before hailing a taxi in Roatan!
Roatan Colectivo Taxi Rates
[Updated as of January 2022]
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 $5 per person. Unfortunately, these are only the prices if the taxi is shuttling three or more people. If you’re the only person in the taxi, you’ll likely be charged $15 for the ride (although if you have a nice taxi driver who wants repeat customers, this isn’t always enforced). Don’t let water taxis charge you more at night! As of 2023, the price is the same during the day vs. after sunset. [Updated from March 2023]
💡 Pro Tips:
- 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!
- In March of 2023, Yelson was my favorite water taxi driver! He was super reliable and the nicest guy you could ask for. Send him a message on WhatsApp at +504 9721-0912.
- If you’re not sure what a “colectivo” taxi means, it’s basically a shared ride. Taxi drivers can charge a lot more for a privado (private) ride, but if you decide to ride “colectivo” they can stop and pick up other passengers along the way.
- Stay tuned for updates on taxi prices in 2023!
Bay Islands Responsible Seafood Guide
You can find some seriously delicious seafood on Roatan. 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.
Currency in Roatan and ATMs
Roatan currency is the Lempira (HNL). As of early 2023, the conversion rate is 1 HNL to 0.041 USD. Credit cards are accepted in a lot of establishments in West End and West Bay. However, my recommendation when living in Roatan is to always have plenty of cash on you – especially when you’re traveling to other parts of Roatan Island.
Some ATMs in Roatan 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.
Grocery Shopping on Roatan
When living in Roatan, chances are you’re going to need to buy groceries at some point. You can’t live off of Salva Vidas alone (sadly)!
The main grocery store on the island is Eldon’s Supermarket. There are three locations on Roatan, but if you live on the West side, you’ll frequent the large Coxen Hole location the most. I won’t lie – Eldon’s is expensive. Roatan is an island, so almost everything at the grocery store is imported from the mainland or further away. To save money on staples, head to the more local Super Isleño across the street in Coxen Hole or to Ramirez in Sandy Bay. Ramirez is a nice middle ground between Eldon’s and Super Isleño.
There isn’t a large grocery store in West End, but you can find plenty of little produce stands on the main street. There is one mid-size market – Roa Market – but you’ll pay much more for groceries there than you will at Eldon’s. Don’t even try to buy groceries in West Bay – trust me. They’ll charge you $10 for a box of Triscuits.
No Uber in Roatan 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 HUGO 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.
Tipping in Roatan
Tipping is the standard in Roatan like it is in the U.S. Be sure to tip your servers, scuba instructors (below!), hair stylists, massage therapists, tour guides and the grocery baggers that bring your bags to your car.
Some restaurants do include the tip in the final amount, so be sure to check your bill before leaving a tip.
How Much to Tip Your Scuba Instructor
Having never scuba dived before coming to Roatan, 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 Roatan, 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 Roatan 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 living in Roatan, 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 all the general tips for living in Roatan you need on 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!
- Roatan Travel / Support Roatan Discussion Group – A great place to ask any questions related to tourism on the island.
- Ask Anything – Roatan – For general inquiries about anything on the island.
- Short or Long Term Rentals – Accommodation information for tourists and locals.
- Roatan Craigslist – For those selling miscellaneous things on the island.
- Roatan Buy & Sell – The same as Roatan Craigslist.
- Crime Watch – Crime updates and information on the island. Roatan 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.
- Roatan 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.
- Roatan Schedule – A great source of information about what activities are happening where each day of the week in Roatan.
Medical Care in Roatan
Unfortunately, I seem to be accident prone while traveling. During my year living in Roatan, I visited the clinic for care more times than I could count. If you’re looking for a high-end clinic with low wait times, I highly recommend the UNIMED Health System in West End. The International Care United at West Bay Mall is another great option.
These clinics tend to be pricier options, but they’ll still charge WAY less than anything you’d pay in the U.S. Expect around $60-100 for a doctor’s visit.
The cheapest option, and the option most islanders use, is Clinic Esperanza in Sandy Bay. The doctors in this clinic donate their time to bring reliable medical care to the people on Roatan. If you want to wait in line, a doctor’s visit + all medication will cost you around $4. If you want to skip the line, you pay $20 to be seen.
NOTE: Clinic Esperanza is always accepting donations! Click here to donate to a good cause.
Best COVID Testing Spot
Although the worst seems to have passed with the COVID-19 pandemic, some countries are still requiring negative COVID tests at immigration. If you’re departing from and returning to the U.S., this information is not relevant to you.
In my experience, there are two easy places to get a COVID-19 test in Roatan.
1. The International Care Unit at West Bay Mall – the clinic is open 24/7 with usually no waiting times. Give them a call to schedule your COVID test at +504 9472 9790.
2. UNIMED Health System in West End
You don’t currently need a negative COVID test to visit Roatan, unless you are unvaccinated. Either present your vaccine card at immigration, or a negative PCR test taken no later than 72 hours before.
All travelers entering Honduras are required to fill out a Honduras immigration precheck form prior to arrival. As of February 2023, there are two requirements for entry:
- One precheck form per person, either digital or printed.
- Proof of vaccination at least 14 days prior or a negative PCR test taken less than 72 hours in advance.
The easiest way to fill out the required forms is through the Prechequeo Migratorio app, otherwise you can create an account on the National Institute of Migration of Honduras website. If you’re having trouble filling out the forms, consult this helpful PDF guide to precheck.
Pack Your YETI
YETIs have earned their spot on this list of must-haves for living in Roatan. 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 Roatan, 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 Roatan sell can or bottle koozies. Although they don’t keep your drink anywhere near as cold, they only cost around $3 apiece.
Roatan by Day
Since the West side of Roatan 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 Roatan!
☀️ Roatan by Day:
Monday: All-you-can-eat pasta at Blue Bahia; Margarita Mondays; Live Music at Sundowners
Tuesday: Taco Tuesday; Live Music at Sundowners
Wednesday: Live Music at the Hangover Hut; Sundowners
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
Saturday: Craft market in West End; Rock n’ Roll Nights at Beachers Bar & Grill; Live Music at the Hangover Hut & Sundowners; Movie on the Beach at Blue Bahia; Roatan Farmer’s Market 9:00-1:00PM
Sunday: Roatan Farmers Market; Live music at Infinity Bay; Bottomless Mimosas at San Simon (Mayan Princess Resort); Best Day to Visit the Roatan Brewing Company; Cultural Festival at Punta Gorda; Live Music, Crab Races and Fire Dancers at Bananarama Dive Resort
Ordering Water in Roatan
One of the most important rules on this list of general tips for visiting Roatan is DON’T DRINK THE TAP WATER. You will get very sick. If you plan on living like a local in Roatan (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.
Ordering Gas in Roatan
If you’re living like a local, you may also find yourself needing to refill your stove’s gas tank. 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.
Laundry in Roatan
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.
Living in Roatan FAQs:
Roatan is an island in Central America approximately 35 miles from the coast of mainland Honduras. Roatan is 40 miles long and has a population of 110,000 locals and Roatan expats. It’s a popular destination for cruise ships and they receive many North American tourists (from the U.S. and Canada) and visitors from the Czech Republic.
The easiest way to get to Roatan is to fly into Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport (RTB) – the only Roatan airport. Getting to Roatan can be expensive from the U.S., depending on the time of year. To minimize the cost, some travelers fly to the mainland and take a small plane from San Pedro Sula to Roatan.
Is Roatan Honduras safe? is one of the most common questions I get after living in Roatan for a year. My answer is always YES…just don’t be stupid. If you’re unaware of your surroundings and participate in reckless activities, anywhere can be unsafe. However, if you’re smart, keep an eye on your belongings and follow basic safety rules, you’ll be very safe during your time in Roatan.
Yes! I knew many other digital nomads from the U.S. while I was living in Roatan. Since I knew I wasn’t staying in Roatan permanently, I decided to go with the “perpetual tourist” route. As a U.S. citizen, you can stay in Honduras for 90 days, visa-free. After 90 days, you can apply for one 30-day extension.
To do this, visit the immigration office in Coxen Hole. You’ll owe 500 Lempiras (20 USD) for your visa extension. Unfortunately, they cannot process your payment at the immigration office, so you have to bring the payment slip to the bank nearby. Afterwards, bring the receipt back to the immigration office to finalize your extension.
You can only apply for one 30-day extension before you need to leave the country. You’ll be allowed to re-enter 24 hours later.
In one word, living in Roatan is paradise. It’s the perfect place to relax, unwind and make lifelong friends on the most budget-friendly of the Caribbean Islands. You’ll meet a wide variety of interesting people, including expats, native islanders and locals who migrated from mainland Honduras.
While living in Roatan, I spent my days working online with gorgeous jungle views, scuba diving, dancing to reggaeton at beach bars, relaxing on Roatan’s beautiful beaches and eating plenty of tasty island cuisine.
March – June is the dry season and the best time to visit Roatan Honduras. However, visiting during the rainy season is well-suited for budget travelers, since you can find competitive prices on flights and hotels.
No! Compared to the rest of the Caribbean, the Roatan cost of living 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 for only $25 per tank! Baleadas – a typical Honduran breakfast consisting of a thick flour tortilla filled with refried beans, cheese and other fixings – will only cost you $1-2 in Roatan. However, there are many sit-down restaurants owned by expats that will charge closer to U.S. prices. Expect to pay 70 HNL ($3) for local beers in most spots.
Sadly, as of 2023 there is no Roatan Uber. Since Uber and Lyft have not yet made it to Roatan, cabs and water taxis are the main form of transportation for those without a car or motorbike.
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 move to the Bay Islands smoother and more enjoyable!
If you enjoyed these general tips for living in Roatan, you may also enjoy my related posts linked below. Don’t forget to follow along with the adventure on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps!
One of the best tips for the dry cleaning delivery service is to carefully separate the items you are sending out for washing.
Yes I always do this as well! Makes it easier for them and things don’t get lost.
This post is only a year old but it’s saying $4/100 lemons airport to west end. In 2022 I’m reading $30. What’s the actual price now?
Hi Mike, where are you reading $30? I can only speak to the price of a taxi from West End to the Airport as of 2021 unfortunately. I left Roatan in early 2022, so if the price has changed I’m not aware of it. However, I doubt that the price would have increased that much – $30 seems like a scammer price in my opinion.