How to Move to Roatan: Safety Concerns

In case you missed the earlier parts of this series, here is Finding Housing, Working Abroad, and Moving with Families/Children. This is Part Four in my How to Move to Roatan series on common questions I get from readers everywhere. And this one has to be the most common question of all: Is it safe to live in Roatan?

The short answer is yes. The descriptive answer is complicated. So let’s try to break it down a bit…

Question: Is Roatan a dangerous place to live?

Answer: Everywhere is dangerous. I’m not being overly vague, I’m just being honest. I have lived in Roatan for over two years now and have never had a problem. I can say with absolute honesty that I looked over my shoulder far more often walking around Washington, DC, than I do around here. I have bars on my windows and doors here, just like I did in Washington, DC. I have also accidentally left my keys in the ignition of my scooter here and found them still sitting in there hours later. I don’t walk around by myself at 3am waving all my cash, just like I wouldn’t do anywhere else. Having lived in wildly different settings around the world, I can say I feel safe living in Roatan.

Question: What types of crimes do happen in Roatan?

Answer: Most crimes are theft. Anywhere in the world where you have wealth next to extreme poverty, you will also see theft. It’s a fact of life. That is one reason why there were bars on my windows and doors in DC as well – the dichotomy between rich and poor is enormous in that city just like it is on this island. I know people who have been mugged in Roatan, and people who have been mugged in DC. I know people who have come home to see their house has been robbed of all electronics and dive gear, which are big money-makers around here. It happens. Personally, I say do what you can to secure your belongings: purchase a safe, rent an apartment with good security, know the area you’re living in and know your neighbors. But at the end of the day if people want to steal from you, they’ll steal from you. Period. But that situation isn’t unique to Roatan. For the record, my parents were robbed three times living in three different middle-class suburban towns of Massachusetts. I was pick-pocketed in Barcelona, Spain. Theft happens everywhere.

Question: Isn’t Honduras the murder capital of the world?

Answer: Yes, Honduras has the highest rate of murders per capita of any country in the world at 103.9 per 100,000. Yes, that is a disgusting honor to have. Yes, the cost of life here is cheap. But – again – living in Roatan I do not feel unsafe; I do not fear that I could be killed any day. The majority of issues we hear about revolve around drugs and gangs. I have also traveled through mainland Honduras and did not feel that I was in any danger. I have friends who have lived on the mainland for years, happily and safely. Honduras struggles with drug trafficking and gang violence that has reached an incredible height. Luckily, the effects of those struggles are minimally noticed in Roatan. The complexity of the issues Honduras faces cannot be understated, so I will certainly not delve into it here. But what I will reiterate is that while this country has problems, I do not feel unsafe living in Roatan.

Question: Will my kids be safe growing up in Roatan?

Answer: Refer to Kirsty’s story about raising her awesome daughter, Spencer Rose, here in Roatan. Not having kids, I can only offer my outside perspective. But here’s what I will say: I love seeing kids run around and explore and learn about life first-hand here rather than the stifled experiences I see many kids having in the U.S. now. Kids can be dirty and break bones and cry, and they’ll bounce back to be even stronger. We see that every day here from both local and expat kids. They all play together and learn from each other and they experience life as it’s meant to be experienced as a child: carefree and full of awe. They do not feel unsafe in Roatan. And the parents whose kids are running into the surf and chatting with people in open-air beach bars? They don’t feel their kids are in danger, either. They know the kids are being watched over by the entire community, giving them the opportunity and space to grow.

I know I cannot possibly answer all questions related to safety in Roatan simply because each person’s perspective is unique. But what I can offer is a personal viewpoint from someone who is not at all invested in this island (I own no property, I do not run a business, and I am not in any way reliant upon Roatan’s success for my income). I often see complaints from both sides of the coin: expats hate seeing negative stories about Honduras – especially Roatan – in the news and outsiders think that the reality is much worse and issues are being brushed under the rug. I agree with neither side. Roatan, and all of Honduras, has problems. It is not perfect. I have yet to find any place on Earth to be perfect. But Roatan is pretty damn close to pure paradise, so that’s good enough in my book.

25 thoughts on “How to Move to Roatan: Safety Concerns

  1. I have read about at least 6 people being killed in a little over a month and that no one has been caught or charged with these killings , It sounds like the Island is getting more like the mainland


    • Hi Robert! Thanks for reading and commenting! There have indeed been a few killings recently, namely 4 young local boys in December. There were 2 men arrested within weeks and charged in those murders. That was pretty quick and efficient police work for an island in a developing nation to be honest.


      • From what I read on other site it says on news teledifusura 2 men were held for question but never arrested and since released, then the hairdresser was killed and the shop owner in town was beaten to death and it seems like at least 5 were not in gang or drugs like many say crime is about


        • Actually the man charged with the 4 young men’s murders is still in jail on the mainland awaiting trial. His son was released. The hairdresser, Destiny, remains an open case as police are still investigating leads.


          • I’m sorry, Mr. Walker, but I have absolutely no idea what you were trying to say in that comment as it is not remotely close to proper English. I am not at all interested in your opinions being on my site, though I’m more than happy to show you around this beautiful island if you ever care to visit. Although I’m sure you’re far too afraid to do so – and of course your career depends upon promoting that fear as well. I will not share in your misery; I am far too happy living in paradise to bother 🙂


            • Amanda: Which law firm did you work for in Washington? What kind of work did you do as an associate? How long did you work? Why did you want to be a lawyer in the first place and what led you to leave the practice of law so early? Who supports you as a full time happy blogger in paradise? How long do you plan on staying in Roatan? Thanks.


            • While I don’t understand your sudden curiosity (and despite the fact that all of this information is readily available on my site), I’ll oblige. I used to work for a legal association, which I’m sure you understand is not the same as a law firm. I last worked as their Communications Associate and I left on very good terms simply because I wanted to travel. I support myself quite comfortably in my little paradise. Thanks for insinuating that I am dependent upon someone else though; that was classy. I plan to stay on Roatan as long as I still love it! Any other questions, sir?


  2. I have lived in Iraq, Afghanistan & Yemen. Roatan is fine. Carry a flashlight, stay alert, (I personally always carry a knife but that is my own paranoia from too much time in really bad places & I do that in DC anyhow). There seemed to have been a small up-tic statistically in the last few months but that ebbs and flows everywhere in the world. Some areas you should maybe avoid, especially at night in like Coxen Hole but the same applies in every country. My biggest fears are ATM fraud (actually got hit my first week here but never again) and the dogs at the end of West End Road that look at me funny when I carry take-out home.


  3. I hate all the recent murders happening on our little Island but almost as bad is that no one seems to ever be punished for the crimes. The 4 boys were killed and police had the men held but officially were removed from the area for their and their families safety, many thought that they were on the mainland but that is not the case. Almost as bad is all the other crime. It used to be almost exclusively crime of opportunity, now it is people with guns shooting others, stealing guns and more, there have even been violent crimes at some of the gas stations where there are armed guards, the bad guys are just not afraid because they know if they are caught they will be free in a few days anyway, It is so sad all this crime. I pray that things get better in 2015


    • Hi Sarah! Thanks for reading and commenting! I agree that there is certainly an impunity issue throughout all of Honduras. It’s a systemic problem. Fortunately, Roatan has a very good network among locals and expats for conveying information and for establishing safe communities. In my opinion, bad things happen everywhere and I do not feel unsafe living in Roatan at all. I could just as easily have listed all the terrible events that happened in my area of Washington, DC, while I lived there. I definitely agree that it is sad and horrible to see these things happen, but I do not feel these issues are disproportionately high in Roatan.


  4. Hi Amanda, my husband and I are coming to Roatan for the first time at the end of the month. Hoping to catch up ith you and get some more info on moving to Roatan and possibly running a biz.
    Ho do I get ahold of you upon our arrival?


  5. Pingback: HuffPost: Top 5 Safety Tips for the Solo Female Expat | AWalk on the Run

  6. Hi Amanda! I’m considering coming to Roatan to live for a few months and your site has been very helpful. The safety issue and recent crimes are cause for concern but I agree everywhere can be dangerous. Still on the fence though about the move!


    • Hey Krista! Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m happy answer any other questions that aren’t covered here – don’t hesitate to email me at awalkins[at]gmail[dot]com. Hope to see you here soon!


  7. Hi Amanda – thanks so much for sharing – My husband and I bought a place at Pristine Bay about three years ago…we only get there about 3 times a year though (not enough for me). We have a 9 year old son (which is part of the reason we have not made the move permanent as he LOVES Football (5th year of tackle football coming up – State Champs last year) and Lacrosse which is not on the island (my husband and he brought their lacrosse sticks in July and when they were playing on the soccer field people were stopping in their tracks to see what they were doing).
    The reason I am writing though is because I find myself CONSTANTLY having to correct people for their assumptions about Roatan being the same as the mainland…In no uncertain terms – it gets aggravating as hell! The crime on Roatan is lower than St. Lucia, the Bahamas, Dominican and many other Caribbean islands. Is it crime free? No of course not – but I too feel safe there. As in any other Caribbean island – you don’t flash cash or expensive jewelry…be smart and anyone will come to love our little slice of heaven. Thanks so much for posting this,


    • It is difficult at times to see many who continue to push the theory that all is well because crime happens and Roatan is better than the mainland. Well I hope so because the mainland, 35 miles away, is the murder capitol of the world with two of the most dangerous cities in the world. There is crime everywhere but things are getting worse on Roatan, in the last few months there were the 4 guys killed on the western end of the island , Destiny the hairdresser brutally murdered, Marcelino Vásquez beaten to death, and Carlos Fernandez assassinated about 9pm on Roatan last night, Not as bad as the mainland but things are getting worse very quickly, NONE of these crimes has been attributed to drug problems


      • You can always say that things are getting “worse” as that is a relative term. Statistically over the last decade, the population of Roatan has dramatically increased (last official census was done in 2001 at 25,000 people, today the population is estimated between 80,000-100,000) and the number of tourists visiting Roatan has gone through the roof. You cannot logically claim that with growing numbers of people there will not be corresponding crime. Factor in dramatically disparate economic situations plus touristy areas universally attracting petty theft, and clearly you can see that Roatan is not perfect. But it does have less crime than the mainland and than many places in the U.S. Like I’ve repeatedly said, I love my life here and am more than willing to talk about it. Some people have had bad experiences – I will never deny that. Those experiences have not been my own, nor do I think that those same situations couldn’t happen elsewhere. You are clearly just one of those people who has too much time to sit around and be miserable. I recommend you take a vacation! You obviously need it…


  8. Our friend who lives in Roatan visited Chicago in a week that had 200 murders! I am working on building up my resistance to those sand fleas.


  9. Pingback: How to Move to Roatan: Minimizing and Getting Rid of All the Stuff | AWalk on the Run

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