Frequently Asked Questions about Roatan, Honduras and Roatan Backpackeres' Hostel, and the Answers to Them
Q. What kind of currency is used in Roatan? Are US$ okay? What about CAN$? Are there ATMS?
Wow, that's a lot of questions. The official currency in Honduras is the lempira (called lemp for short), however US$ are used everywhere, as long as you have small bills ($20 and smaller are generally fine). Unfortunately there is nowhere on Roatan that I know of to change Canadian dollars, or any currency from bordering countries, so if you have leftover quetzales, colones or anything else, try selling them to a fellow hostel guest. There are several ATMs on the island, some distribute in US$ as well as lempira. Many have had problems with fraudulent charges on cards after using them, so I'd suggest using an ATM that's at a bank. DON'T go for travelers checks, they're a nightmare. Many of the banks don't even take them, and most businesses don't, as the bank puts a 30 day hold on the funds once you deposit them.
Q. What's the electricity, will my hairdryer/phone charger etc from the US work there, or do I need an adaptor?
Honduras is on the same 110V system as North America, with the same style of 2 flat prong plug-ins, so you can use whatever you've brought along from the US or Canada. If you're coming from Europe, you'll need a converter and adaptor (converter means to change the voltage from 110 to 220, and adaptor just changes the fitting of the plug-in so that it can be used).
Q. How can I make phone calls? Are SIM cards available?
There are no public phonebooths anymore. Most people use pay as you go cell phones, with all the little corner stores selling recargas (recharges, basically extra minutes) in pretty small increments, so it's usually just easiest to offer someone some money to use their cell phone (it's around 5 lemp/min even for local calls). If you have a phone and would like to get a local SIM card, they're available and inexpensive. The closest spot to buy one is at pulperia Elizabeth's, about a 5 min walk from the hostel, and you can get pay as you go plans, including packages with data. At the hostel, you can pay to use the hostel's cell phone. Skyping is another option for phone calls, but usually it's not very clear and a bit robotic sounding- fine for talking to mom, but not so great for a job interview by phone.
Q. What about the crime, is it safe to go?
Well, that's subject to opinion. Roatan is an incredible place, and most of the people you'll meet are fantastic: warm, friendly, down to earth, however there are bad ones out there too. There's crime everywhere in the world, Honduras more than others, Roatan less than the mainland. Is there a possibility that you might get something stolen while you're visiting? Yes, there is. If there are things that you would be heart-broken losing, leave them at home. Fancy electronics that you can't do without- get some insurance. Generally, if you avoid being in dark places without anyone around and you avoid leaving things unattended on the beach, you lock doors and use common sense, most likely you won't experience any problems.
Q. How rainy is the rainy season (and when is it)?
Rainy season on the island is different from rainy season on the mainland. Roatan's rainy season runs from October to January, with November and December usually being the wettest. That's not to say that it won't rain outside of those months, sometimes we'll get a huge downpour! During rainy season, we can have days of beautiful sunshine, followed by several days of round-the clock, non-stop rain (don't say I didn't warn you!). It's actually very beautiful and amazing, the intensity of rain that we can get. We've got lots of books and board games at the hostel if you get stuck with a few rainy days during your trip.
Q. Am I too old to stay in a hostel?
I don't know, how young do you feel? Our oldest dorm room guest was in his 70s. Generally, dorms are occupied by travelers in their 20s and 30s. Private options vary more widely, and we frequently have guests staying in the apartments that are in their 40s, 50s or even 60s. The apartments are very quiet, especially the casita and the cando that are at the back of the property, so it's easy to socialize out front if you want to make some new friends, but retreat to your place with a book if you feel like a moment to yourself. After spending a few weeks/months on the road, sometimes a quiet spot is needed!
Q. Is there any place to eat around the hostel?
At the hostel, there's an onsite restaurant called Mel's Diner. There are several very inexpensive comedores (eateries) that serve local food such as baleadas, pastelitos, and food plates like fried chicken and plantains, stewed beef, that kind of thing. One is about a 2 min walk away, another is about a 5 min walk away, and a few more around the 5 min mark as well. More touristy restaurants (which are a bit pricier) are about a 15 min walk away, and there's tons of touristy options if you hop in a bus or taxi to West End, which is a 5 min drive away. If you like to cook, there's a communal kitchen for dorm and loft guests, and each apartment has its own kitchen.
Q. We'd like to do our own cooking, where do we shop?
There's a convenience store about a one minute walk away, which has eggs, milk, juice, bread, beer, rum- the basics. There's a fruit and vegetable vendor about a 3 min walk away. If you'd like to do a big grocery store shop, there's a great one just a 3-5 min walk away. If you're using the communal kitchen, there are individual baskets to put your shelf goods in, and fridge items can be labeled with your name, so we know what to discard when someone leaves. The kitchen has a full size fridge with separate freezer section, a 3 burner stove top, coffee maker and a toaster, as well as basic pots, pans, dishes. Soap and sponge are provided, you're responsible for doing your own dishes.
Q. Is it true that toilet paper doesn't get flushed? Why? That's disgusting.
It is true. At the hostel, all over Roatan, Honduras and Central America, toilet paper is normally discarded in the garbage can after you've wiped, not down the toilet. Most places are plumbed with septic systems, not advanced sewage systems, so nothing can go down them except human waste. Shared bathrooms are cleaned daily with garbage cans being emptied on a daily basis. Honestly? You just get used to it- you'll probably find yourself throwing the paper in the garbage when you go home.
Q. What about the bugs? Will there be bugs inside?
I'm not going to sugarcoat this: the tropics are home to lots and lots of bugs. We fumigate on a regular basis, but ants still sometimes venture inside, and occasionally cockroaches too. Please do your part by always sealing up your food and washing dishes right away, and let us know if you see any critters. Spiders also live in the tropics, including tarantulas, so you'll sometimes see one if you're outside, and very rarely, one might wander in (if this freaks you out, just come find me and my broom and we'll have the problem solved in no time). You'll see many different types of ants, including the leaf cutter ones that strip our plants bare, and once or so a year, an invasion of housecleaning ants comes through in the thousands- give it a couple hours, they clean the house, and then leave again. In addition, there are mosquitoes, and malaria and dengue are in Roatan, so use repellent (the windows are screened). There are also very annoying no-see-ums that leave insanely itchy bites. Have I scared you away yet? Aw, common,all these bugs are way smaller than you are, don't be a sissy!
Q. I'd like to learn to dive while I'm there, how long does it take?
The full open water course takes 3 1/2 to 4 days (you can do the bookwork at home with PADI's e-learning if you're rushed for time). There's also a shorter course called the Scuba Diver, which takes 2 days and results in a certification with more limitations (40 foot depth limit, and must be accompanied by a PADI professional). If you're not sure that you'll like it, try a Discover Scuba. It's just a 1/2 day commitment- it won't get you a certification, but you'll be able to see if you'd like to keep going. SeaDivers (20 min walk) and Octopus Dive School (pick ups offered), both offer special pricing for hostel guests