How Much Does it Cost to Live in Roatan (2014 update)

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?

Rent: $632/month

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.

Electricity: $100/month

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.

Groceries: $400/month

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!

Transportation: $30/month

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.

Cable/Internet: $65/month

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!).

Phone: $15/month 

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.

Laundry: $30/month

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.

 

30 thoughts on “How Much Does it Cost to Live in Roatan (2014 update)

  1. You let your dog run around the beach on his own? So I guess you do not clean up after it when it shits? Very irresponsible don’t you think?

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    • Hi Dave! Thanks for reading! First, Lina is a she. And yup, she runs around and lounges on the beach for hours by herself…literally by herself. There is nobody else on the beach, except for other neighborhood dogs who run around and go swimming (and relieve themselves wherever they’d like). Also, her favorite spot to unload is in the high grass on the edge of the jungle, since you were curious.

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      • I have literally never seen one person on this island clean up dog shit in the three years I’ve been here. Not to mention up to 50% of the dogs running around everywhere (including the beaches) are strays, so I don’t think anyone will be pooper scoopering that. This isn’t North America or Europe where there are laws about where your dog can and can’t poop and what you have to do with it. This is life on a third-world tropical island. There’s dog shit. There’s also lots of awesome stuff. Balance 🙂

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          • Hi Walt! Thanks for reading and commenting! Unfortunately, I won’t be convinced that putting my dog’s biodegradable poop into a non-biodegradable plastic bag to add to an already massive landfill is “responsible.” The less plastic we use, the better!

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            • Who said anything about plastic bags? It is irresponsible to let the dog roam a public bach whether others do it or not, you know there is a reason it is not allowed in many developed countries, I am sure you have seen kids there with ringworm, Hmmm, Or just walking and having it squish through your toes is not all that great, But, you likely don’t care.

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            • Hi Walt! If you read my previous response for overly curious readers, my dog prefers to poop at the edge of the jungle. And since you’re wondering, no, nobody walks through there. Ever. And the other neighborhood dogs and the strays who come to the beach to romp around with Lina in the sand? They’re pooping in the jungle, too. Welcome to the islands! (Also, I’ve never seen anyone with ringworm here, but I have seen it back in the U.S.)

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            • wow, wonder what the cavemen did back in the day with their pet dinosaurs wandering about pooping everywhere???
              love your columns, can’t wait to visit this summer,

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          • Yup it looks like a neighbor needs to discipline his dogs more…much like I’d recommend many people do with their children!! When Lina is outside on the beach it is only when at least one of us is home to watch her and we never allow her to roam around. She stays out front where we can see her at all times. Oh, and since you’re always curious, Lina took a huge dump in the high grass again this morning. Nobody walks through there into the bug-infested jungle though, don’t worry.

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  2. Thanks Amanda, I’ve been thinking about the tropics for years. Spent two years on Guam and dearly love Palm Tree Christmases.

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  3. Great post. I love running across posts like this and getting as much information as possible. We plan on moving somewhere in the Caribbean but haven’t found that one place that we never want to leave. But when we do all this info will come in handy. Thanks!
    (loved your response to the dog poop comment lol)

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  4. Hey Amanda, Great blog. I really enoying hearing more about Roatan. The cost of living seems pretty reasonable. You mention earning less. What is the job potential and wages like there ? What do you do about health care? Thanks!

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    • Hi Mark! Thanks for reading and commenting! Wages really vary based upon your work, but generally speaking many expats work remotely for companies back home or work in the tourism industry. You certainly make enough to live off of, but typically not much more than that. As far as healthcare is concerned, I have travel insurance as well as catastrophic care back home. Most retirees maintain full coverage back home though. Hope that helps but I’m happy to answer other questions if you have them! Feel free to email me any time.

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      • We are considering Roatan. We will be living on my husband’s Army Retirement of about $2000 a month. I have healthcare issues so my question is what kind of healthcare is available? I can guess there aren’t specialists but how far might I travel for like a rheumatologist or pain specialist? If it’s ends up a long trek I might just keep my specialists here in Texas.
        also I didn’t see much about street markets or farmers markets like other islands? For my health I must have fresh produce. I prefer organic but understand things would be limited there.
        What is buying online and having things shipped like?
        Thanks so much for any info.

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        • Hi Kimberly! Thanks for reading and commenting! In terms of healthcare, if you need specialists you would probably want to keep the ones you have at home. Since you’re based in Texas, that would honestly be the easiest thing as they already know you, and the flights directly to Dallas or Houston are only about 2.5 hours. That’s what I would do at least.

          In terms of organic and fresh produce, you can definitely find what you want here, you just might have to look a little harder than you’re used to back home. We don’t have farmers’ markets (which I miss dearly from living in DC), but there are several fruit/veg stands and trucks and you can pretty much find anything else between the grocery stores and specialist stores (check out The Bulk Gourmet). You might have to stop at a few places, but I would bet you could find everything you’d want here.

          Shipping items here isn’t very easy at all – most of us just ship things to a person who is visiting or coming back if we need something quickly. There are so many people who come back and forth multiple times a year that you can always find someone wiling to help you out and bring an item.

          Hope that helps! Feel free to email me if you have any other questions!

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  5. Pingback: Personal Announcement: Working in Roatan | AWalk on the Run

  6. Pingback: How much does it cost to live in Roatan? | AWalk on the Run

  7. I stumbled across this article and I must say I love your blog! If you don’t mind answering what kind of job opportunities are available in the area?

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    • Hi Kristy! Thanks for reading and for getting in touch! There are so many jobs you can do remotely now that your opportunities are really endless. In terms of jobs on-island, tourism is the major industry, real estate is another huge industry, and of course there are regular business needs from accounting to marketing to administrative tasks. Depending on your own background, you could look for work in that same sector or create your own business if applicable. Hope that helps!

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