My most popular post is “How much does it cost to live in Roatan” from 2013 where I explained our basic expenses to offer a general idea. While our expenses haven’t drastically changed, there are still plenty of updates I can now provide a year later for any of you considering moving here soon. These costs per month are for our household (2 adults), and we share expenses equally.
How much does it cost to live in Roatan in 2014?
We are still in the same sweet two-bedroom apartment on the water about a mile outside of West End. We pay $550 per month plus 15% tax (national taxes went up this year), so it comes to $632.50 per month. Some places charge taxes, others don’t. Even with taxes we think it’s a pretty good deal for the location. We’re right on the beach in a quiet neighborhood where we’ve never had any issues. Our dog runs around the beach on her own, we watch a beautiful sunset over the bay from our hammocks on the front porch, and we can take our boat out for a snorkel anytime we want. We rent through Roatan Life Vacation Rentals and highly recommend them – they’re incredibly responsive anytime we have an issue and they bend over backwards with customer service.
Ours averages about $100 per month now. We have never once used our air conditioning, so if we did it would certainly go up. We have a normal-sized refrigerator, keep fans on permanently for our dog, and use our electronics often so charging them takes up a lot of energy. Electricity costs $0.48/kWh currently in Roatan, which is about 4x what most Americans pay. That adds up quickly – I’ve seen tourists spend over $400 in a week because they left air conditioners on the whole time with windows and doors open during the day. First of all, just don’t do that. Secondly, beware the cost of electricity! RECO (Roatan Electric Company) is pretty much the only player in the game right now, and while they do a good job hustling to fix issues when they happen, anyone driving around the island can see there’s a major problem with the wiring around here. Thus, when the wind blows we anticipate the power going out.
STILL EXPENSIVE. We tend to make it to the grocery store every 2-3 weeks. There are two major grocery stores in town: Plaza Mar and Eldon’s. They’re both basically like Safeway or Stop & Shop. It’s a pain to go to Coxen Hole after work, during rainy season, or on your one day off, so we tend to be lazy and try to get by with the mini-marts in West End. Having said that, the mini-marts offer a pretty good variety and they continue to add more. We spend probably about $400/month on groceries for the two of us. I’m estimating because I certainly don’t add up my receipts every time I pop into Golden Star mini-mart for a dozen eggs or a loaf of bread. In fact, there are no receipts, so that would be a useless endeavor anyway. We always eat breakfast at home, we (are really bad about it, but) try to bring lunch to work every day and we cook dinner probably 4-5 nights a week. Why? Because eating out adds up quickly (as it does anywhere). Typically if we eat lunch out we’ll spend $10-$15 each with a drink and tip. You can certainly eat cheaply getting baleadas or soup, but those aren’t really filling and baleadas every day will kill you. An average dinner out will cost us each $25-35 depending on drinks. We’ve spent more on special occasions, and we’ve spent less by sharing or just having one drink each. But typically someone else you know is there so you end up staying longer than you planned and therefore spending more than you planned. It’s the best part of island living meets the worst part of island living: you have friends (or make friends) everywhere, but being more social is so expensive! Every time we say, “We’re not going out this week,” we get coaxed out by friends for one reason or another. I’m not complaining though, I love this lifestyle!
We bought a scooter for $750 a few months after moving into this apartment – while it’s only a mile, that walk is long and we found ourselves paying too much for cabs. We share the scooter, which hasn’t been an issue at all so far. It costs about $7 to fill it with fuel and I’d guess we do that about every ten days or so. Add in a few extra dollars for the times he has the scooter and I need to get to West End quickly ($1.25 in a cab or $1 in a bus), and we spend about $30 on transportation. Overall repairs and maintenance have probably cost us $400 in the 20 months we’ve had the scooter. And old Rusty has been around the block a few times so that’s not too bad! (She’s actually not going around the block at all at the moment as she needs some more work. Good thing our friend is a trusty mechanic!) Pro tip: there are lots of Facebook groups for Roatan residents where you can share information with the expat community, buy/sell items, and learn about upcoming events. You will likely not be added to those groups if you do not live on the island. However, once you’re here if you want to buy a scooter, check Facebook. It’s our Craigslist.
We now have WiFi at the house! This was one of our best decisions ever. We battled the pay-as-you-go system for a while, but living here long-term you simply can’t do it. We Skype with our friends and families regularly, we watch movies on Netflix, we download music and movies, and we are both online on multiple devices simultaneously. We also have people over a lot and visitors who stay with us, so having WiFi makes life easier for everyone. The WiFi option we have came with cable in a great package deal, which made it cheaper than getting WiFi alone. We use a company called Cable Color, whose customer service is absolutely phenomenal and we’ve never had an issue. We can pay online, which is amazing around here, and it costs us $65/month for 1MB plus cable, including Showtime, Starz, and HBO (hellllllo, Game of Thrones!).
I hardly use my phone for personal use (going back to WiFi, most people are online so Facebook messages work much better than paying for each text), so the only money I spend on my phone is paid for by work. My other half doesn’t even have a phone. Typically I’d guess about $15 goes into the phone minutes each month – again, almost entirely for work purposes. I use Tigo, which I highly recommend over using Claro because Tigo sends fewer annoying text messages in a day. I also had a major issue with our shop phone through Claro, when I put about $20 on the phone only to have it all gone within 24 hours. I went to their store in person where I was told I was using the internet too much despite the fact I’d never activated it once. They disabled the option so I put another $20 on the phone. Gone again. I went back to the store – twice in 3 days – and was told that I’d signed up for promotional text messages which were charging me for every text. The company refused to take my number off any third party lists and told me I was basically out of luck. After trying to help them understand for a while that they’d be losing a customer if they failed to assist me with this problem, they still declined to help. Alas, I never put another lempira into the phone and I basically tell everyone to run for the hills rather than use that company.
We still pay for our laundry to be done for us – and you will absolutely NEVER convince me it’s not worth it. We spend about $30 per month on laundry between the two of us. It’s worth every single red lempira note to not have to wait days for my clothes to dry on my shaded lawn. If you have a sunny space to dry yours and a washing machine that works regularly, have at it. But most expats get their laundry done in town. We use the laundromat at Deliciosa in West End. That lady is the cutest and sweetest, always greeting me with a smile and “Hola Amanda!” and then asking me when I need everything done. She’s a gem.
Gardening/Cleaning Services: $40/month
We have a gardener come every week to clean up the beach, trim the hedges, and mow the lawn. He also is fabulous after a storm when branches have fallen everywhere and he hacks them to bits with his machete so it looks like the storm never even happened. He comes included in our rent, so as renters we like free services! We decided to start paying for our property management company to clean our apartment once per month at $40 a pop. This is so worth it to us. Living on the beach means sand is constantly all over the floor. Dog fur finds its way everywhere. Bugs are a normal sight in the tropics. Having our home thoroughly cleaned by professionals (and also showing our landlords and property managers that we care about the place) is the best. Totally worth it. There are lots of options for both types of services, so best idea is to see who’s already working in your neighborhood for a better deal.
Overall basic expenses for a month living in Roatan long-term: typically about $1,310. Add in social activities (eating out, drinks, any outdoor activities, etc) and I’d estimate it’s a good $1,700 per month for the two of us to live here comfortably long-term.
So at around $655 per month each, my regular expenses are still about 50% less in Roatan than they were in Washington, DC. I also spend less here on my social activities than I did in DC (beers here are $2.50 versus the $8 for a typical pint in DC). I make less here than I did in DC, so I saved a lot more with my cushy office job Stateside than I do here working part-time in the tourism industry plus freelance writing.
If you think you’re going to move here and make millions, you’re sadly mistaken. If you think you’re going to come here and live a good life, make enough to get by, and not actually count your pennies because you’re just having too much fun, then you’ll fit right in. This life is not for everyone, but if it’s right for you, it’s paradise.