JULY / AUGUST 2017:
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In my “Beginner’s Guide” to Roatan, I provided information about:
- How to get from Utila Island to Roatan Island
- Why I chose West End
- What West End looks like
- Where to stay
- What ‘short term’ accommodation I found
- What ‘long term’ accommodation I found
- Banks and ATMs
- When to go
I couldn’t afford to live in hotel rooms on Roatan … the cheapest rooms start at US$35 / night. I needed to break GRANDPAcking Standards and find an apartment … this helped me keep my costs down in other ways too.
The detail is in the Beginner’s Guide but, in summary, I ended up staying in a Studio Apartment opposite Palapa Papa’s at the south end of town.
I had to pay a US$200 security deposit. This, with the month’s rent, was all paid up-front in cash. I chose to pay in HNL and they convered it all at the bank rate of US$1 = HNL23.5.
ABOUT WEST END:
I won’t repeat what I have already said in my Beginner’s Guide.
The first thing that you notice about Roatan is that almost everyone quotes their prices in US$s. Some of the locals convert US$1 to HNL20, others to HNL25. The official exchange rate was HNL23.50.
West End has a Noise Ordnance that requires most places to close at 10pm on weekdays and midnight at weekends. Some places with entertainment can extend this to midnight on weekdays and 2am on weekends.
West End is a ‘fun’ town … not a ‘party’ town.
I do a detailed ‘walk through’ of the beaches in my Beginner’s Guide.
In summary …
It averages about 15-20 meters wide.
The swimming is OK but you will find seaweed underfoot. You will find coral to snorkel on within 200 meters off the beach.
GRANDPAckers are going to be shocked at some of the prices.
On my first night, I went down to the Sunset Grill. The cheapest thing on their menu was Pupusas for US$5. Pupusas are just flour and water pancakes filled with small bits of meat and vegetables – they are one of the cheapest things that you can eat in Central America.
I like Pupusas but what I got for my money was a bit of a shock. They were the smallest Pupusas that I have ever seen. Poor value for money. But, you soon learn that food is poor value for money almost everywhere in West End (and Roatan) …
The next night, I went down to the street stalls that set up on Half Moon Beach. They wanted US$5 for 3 Pork Tacos! I was only paying US$2 for Tacos in Mahahual on the Riviera Maya in Mexico!
A Fried Chicken meal is HNL110-115.
Elsewhere, almost everyone seems to want US$10 for their cheapest main meal.
Somehow, I had to find a way to LIVE on Roatan on a ‘balanced diet’ … tacos and fried chicken were not going to ‘cut the mustard’.
I got onto the internet and went to the normal websites to knock up a list of all of the ‘cheap’ eateries in town. I decided to try them all to see what sort of value for money I was going to get …
Expect to see Breakfasts starting at US$5 / HNL115. Expect to see coffee starting at US$1.50 / HNL40.
EATING AT HOME:
At these prices, I decided to eat most of our Breakfasts at home (one of the main benefits of living in an apartment with a full kitchenette over an hotel).
More detail on prices can be found in the ‘Money & Shopping’ section, below.
In summary, I bought groceries. Some mornings I would have Bacon, Eggs, and Toast. Other mornings I would have Cereal and Fruit. I bought local Honduran coffee for my coffee maker. A decent Breakfast at home cost me an average of HNL40 each day.
I don’t really eat Lunches anymore. When I did, they tended to be snacks back at my apartment … like a Cheese Sandwich or something.
However, a good way to keep costs down is to change your lifestyle: eat big Lunches rather than big Dinners. Lunches tend to be better value for money than Dinners.
Keep an eye out for Lunchtime ‘specials’.
Don’t be surprised to see most mains displayed on menus in the US$10-20 (HNL235-470) price range. The ‘art’ is to know where to go on which days to take advantage of the ‘specials’.
I tried their 14 inch Deep Blue Pizza (US$14 down to US$7) and a Margarita (US$6 down to US$3). Pizza connoiseurs may not like these pizzas … the dough can be a bit ‘bready’. But, the Margarita was a good size and good quality.
I could only eat half the Pizza. It is big enough for 2 GRANDPAckers to share. This means that you each get a good Pizza meal for under HNL105 each. At full price it would be beyond GRANDPAcker price range (even on a “let’s treat ourselves night’).
OK if you want something quick and cheap.
But, they wanted HNL50 for a SalvaVida beer!
The Pork Chop was reasonable value for money.
Ronny’s is found at the south end of town on the southern beach. It is a rustic little place with a Tiki Bar.
Alas, I was harassed by flies and got a few sandfly and mosquito bites – so, come well protected.
C LEVEL / REEF GLIDERS:
C Level do an ‘all you can eat’ chicken wing night on Monday Night for US$10 but they don’t have an Happy Hour. You can order your wings in 1/2lb plates (about 8 wings) and try different flavours. You can also add french fries or potato salad free of charge. I couldn’t eat enough to justify the US$10 price tag and US$2 / HNL50 beers.
The C Level Bar also sells eCigarettes … for those trying to give up smoking.
The Booty Bar do 10 wings for US$5 all day. One of these in their HNL30 beer Happy Hour suited me a lot better than C Level.
Don’t fool yourself. Even if you are careful and try and stick to all of the ‘specials’, you are going to struggle to stay within budget.
Yes, you can eat more cheaply but you are not here to EXIST … you are here to LIVE … and that means being able to eat a balanced diet.
Expect to pay an average of US$7.00 / HNL175 for a cheap Breakfast (HNL135) with coffee (HNL40).
Expect to pay an average of US$6.00 / HNL150 for a cheap Lunch (HNL125) with fruit drink from a Minimart (HNL25).
Expect to pay an average of US$11.50 / HNL290 for a cheap Dinner (HNL250) with fruit juice from a Minimart (HNL40).
There are a couple of Tiki Bars (like Bar Arena) on the beach where you get them for HNL35 (all day and all night).
There is plenty of competition between the bars. This is good because it usually means ‘Happy Hours’. Several bars do Happy Hours (but not all). Happy Hours are usually between 5pm and 8pm. Some finish early. None finish later.
Again, ask for their price in HNL … some convert at US$1 = HNL25!
There aren’t that many around town. You will find one upstairs at Palapa Papa’s. I had many a fun night there.
Alas, I didn’t find anyone that had (what I would call) a ‘Pool Table based Pub scene’. One of my favourite nights out. 🙂
You can find live music somewhere in town almost every night.
They don’t have an Happy Hour as such but permanently offer a bucket of 6 local beers for US$10. The usual price is US$2 each, so this is effectively ‘buy 5 and get 1 free’. They also offer US$1 Tequila shots. For many GRANDPAckers, this means that Papas is a place to go after 8pm (when the Happy Hours elsewhere finish).
They have a Wednesday Live Music Night starting at 6:30pm. An 80s Friday Live Music Night starting at 8pm (which may turn to Karaoke at 10pm). And, another Live Music Night on Saturday starting at 8pm. On Sunday afternoons, they have a beach BBQ with a live band.
It was my favourite bar … you could chat easily with everyone without being ‘over-powered’ by the music.
Many of whom come to have a go on the Bouncy … that sends the adventurous flying out over the water.
They have a Taco Tuesday with Tacos going for HNL30 each.
It attracts a big crowd and it’s a fun night.
They offer US$1 Beers and US$1 Tequilla Shots all day. The US$1 beers are imported cheap Dutch lager.
Between 5pm and 8pm they have their Happy Hour where you can get a SalvaVida beer for HNL30. It is, usually, very busy during Happy Hour.
It is also a bit of a ‘pick up joint’. On my first night I was approached by a ‘working girl’ whilst I was still sitting on my first beer. When I left to find Dinner, a tout attached himself to me and it took me over half an hour to get rid of him.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
You pay 50%+ more for goods on Roatan than you do back on the mainland. You are advised to pre-buy high value items and bring them with you … e.g. DEET, filter coffee, cigarettes, etc.
There are 5 or 6 Minimarts around town. Prices differ, so shop around.
Grocery price examples:
- 1L bottle of local rum: HNL110
- 3L bottle of coke: HNL55
- 1L cooking oil: HNL110
- 50g bag of black pepper: HNL28
- 1 onion: HNL8
- 400g Bacon: HNL135
- 250g Cheddar Chees: HNL125
- 450g Sausages: HNL70
- 500g Honduran Coffee: HNL80
- 4x 1000 Leaf Toilet Rolls: HNL75
- 450g box of Cereal: HNL85
- 500ml Bag of Milk: HNL30
- 1 Egg: HNL4
- Large Loaf of Multigrain Bread: HNL85
TELECOMMUNICATIONS / WIFI:
Internet in West End is poor and variable. The internet signal drops in and out with frustrating regularity. Signal quality is, also, affected a lot by the weather.
My apartment had no internet but, occasionally, I could connect to the signal from their restaurant across the road. This was vaguely usable early in the morning but became unusable / unreliable as time approached noon. This lasted for the rest of the day until late evening when it became vaguely usable again. At no time could I rely on a good enough signal to stream videos … not even when sitting in the actual restaurant.
I need good internet (for my GRANDPAcking Blog work), so I bought a 1 month 5.5GB Data Plan for HNL565. I could have bought 1GB for HNL400 or 2.5GB for HNL450 … but, I wanted to make sure that I had enough. You top up in a local shop. The shop charges HNL5 for each top up.
This gave me a more stable ‘H’ strength signal in my apartment that improved to ‘4G’ at various places around town. Inside buildings / restaurants, the signal tended to be ‘H+’.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe here. This is NOT mainland Honduras. But, as always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
The main problem is Petty Theft … which is a ‘typical’ problem in Central America.
Choose accommodation that is secure. Break-ins are fairly common (especially with un-secured apartments / houses).
Also, you are advised not to walk in remote areas at night – even on Roatan. Roatan is not as safe as Utila.
The Bay Islands have a Sandfly problem: come prepared with repellents (DEET) and ointments. The sandflies here aren’t anywhere near as bad as those found in South East Asia … you don’t come up in 2cm diameter swellings … but you do come up in lots of small red, itchy spots with little whiteheads. The whiteheads can be easily knocked off leaving you open to infection.
The mosquitoes can be a problem too.
You can walk along the beach from West End to West Bay.
This is a busy beach fronted by a continuous stream of up-market beachfront resorts.
At the very south end of the beach you will find a restaurant that has an all-day Happy Hour … this means that you can walk to West Bay, stop for refreshments and relax a while before making your way back home to West End. But, make sure that you get home to West End before dark.
If you allow 3-4 hours (total) you will have a pleasant day out in West Bay.
I need to do a Visa Run before I head south to El Salvador. I will need to be out of the C-4 countries for 3 days so that I can come back in and get a new 3 month Tourist Visa.
I will tell you more about my Visa Run to Belize in a future post.
It is not possible to LIVE on Roatan on a GRANDPAcking Budget to GRANDPAcking Standards … It is more expensive in Roatan than it is in Utila. I will provide a detailed cost breakdown in my next post.
HOWEVER, just like on Boracay Island in the Philippines and Utila, it is possible to LIVE on Roatan Island if you bend the rules a little bit. Read my future post on ‘Roatan – Honduras – LIVING on a GRANDPAcking Budget’ for more details.
Roatan has a different ‘vibe’ from Utila. Utila is dominated by wanna-be SCUBA Diving backpackers. Roatan attracts an older and more affluent crowd.
Roatan is, also, a much bigger island than Utila with more places to go and more things to do.
Alas, Roatan DOES NOT make it into my RETIREMENT REVIEWS.
However, I suggest that GRANDPAckers consider Roatan over Utila.
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