We all know that traveling to foreign countries inevitably brings out the hassle of currency. How much should things cost? What currency do countries use? What denominations are best? Knowing a few simple tips about the currency and policies of the country you're visiting can save you a lot of hassle, so let's go through our Top Five Tips for currency on Roatan!
Tip 1. Cash is king on Roatan
I know that North America and Europe are all about the card, but here, cash reigns supreme. A lot of places can't or won't take credit card, and the places that do take it may have a pretty hefty fee attached, up to 22%. I know it's unnerving carrying so much cash around, but life will be much more convenient and cheaper for you if you plan your budget with the intention of only spending cash on the island.
There are several ATMs to use around the island, and some of them are good to use and some aren't. The ATM at the airport is the most convenient as you can just take out money right when you land, and it's the only place that has a US dollar ATM (most of the time. Sometimes they run out of cash. Because Roatan!). Other ATMs are normally maximum 5,000 lempira withdrawals (around $220). You can also do cash advances at Banco Atlantida in Coxen Hole or French Harbor, where you give your card and ID to a bank teller and can take out up to 20,000 lempiras without any fees from this end.
Tip 2. If you choose to use ATMs, still keep some reserve cash anyways
In keeping in line with the previous tip, you can take money out throughout your trip if you don't want to bring down loads of cash with you. However, the ATMs aren't always working, or might not have enough money in them, so you shouldn't wait until you absolutely need the cash to take it out. Keep a few days of reserve cash on you so that you're not stuck in a bind when the ATM decides to shut down.
Tip 3. Have US dollars, will travel
Exchanging money at airports sucks, because the exchange rate is normally terrible and there's a hefty fee attached as well. Luckily for you, Roatan has you covered!
Roatan accepts both Honduran lempiras and US dollars. The exchange rate varies from business to business, with some strictly adhering to the exchange rate for the day and some rounding up or down to make it a cleaner number (so if the exchange rate is 22.3, then they'll just exchange at 22). Whatever currency you pay in doesn't guarantee that you'll get the change in the same currency, either. You could pay a $10 tab with a $20 bill, and get $5 in US and 112 lempiras in change. You can also pay in mixed currency, which is a bonus.
Tip 4. Small bills, por favor
If you're spending money early in the morning, a lot of business won't have change for you. This applies especially to taxi and water taxi drivers. If you try to pay a $3 water taxi ride with a $20 bill at 7AM, you're most likely out of luck. Keep a good amount of $1 and $5 bills with you to avoid the complications of having to run around different businesses trying to get them to break your $20 bill for you. Furthermore, please keep in the mind that whatever time of day, most local business won't have change for $100 bills, so try to keep your denominations to $20 or less unless you're paying for things like hotels, or activities like scuba diving or zip lining.
Tip 5. Keep bills clean
In the United States, you can use a bill that's almost completely ripped in half, and business still will accept it as legal tender. Not so on Roatan. Most business cannot accept ripped or damaged US dollar bills because the banks won't take them. I won't get into the complicated reasons why because it's a lengthy foray into bureaucracy and international politics, but please understand that businesses are not being difficult when they won't take your half ripped $20 bill. Before you come down, check and make sure all your bills are clean - no rips, no tape, and no mustaches on Jackson's face.
So there are our Top Five Tips for using currency on Roatan! If you have any Top Five Tips that you'd like us to cover, let us know on our Facebook page or shoot us an e-mail, we'd love to help make your trip to Roatan the best it can possibly be!