I have written at length both on the blog and responding to tons emails asking me about the 'new' visa regulations on Roatan. Unfortunately unless you go for your residency, it has come down to doing visa runs, which are not cheap around here. I said I would do one and if they hadn't figured anything out by then I was leaving, but we all know how many times I've said I was going to leave the island and never did it! So as I'm gearing up for visa run #2, let me tell you about the first one I did. I'll continue this series as long as I keep doing these runs (which I imagine won't be much longer given the cost and inconvenience).
Visa Run #1: Miami Beach
Not exactly where you'd picture doing a cheap visa run, right? Well, there are ways this one can be done pretty cheaply from Roatan, if you're willing to put up with a little inconvenience (and you have a friend to stay with!)
There are insanely cheap Spirit Airlines flights that run from San Pedro Sula on the mainland to Ft. Lauderdale. I got a ticket for $180 round trip! But as many Americans know, Spirit is garbage and will nickel-and-dime you anywhere they can. Starting with $30 for regular-sized carry-on luggage, the fees go up from there. I was carrying a lot of bags because I was bringing stuff back for a friend who runs a hotel so she covered my baggage charges which was great. And if I wasn't bringing that stuff, I would have made do with the little backpack carry-on that Spirit allows for free, rather than paying all the fees for suitcases. It's only 4 days!
To get from Roatan to San Pedro Sula, you can get flights on SOSA or CM Airlines for around $100-$150 return. I had a way to get a free flight one way, and I paid $77 for a flight back. So my total for flights was around $260, but if you take luggage and have to pay both ways to San Pedro Sula, yours will be more. You can also take the public ferry from Roatan to the mainland ($25 each way) and then a bus to San Pedro Sula but that was just way too much of a headache for me and I think you only save about $50 off of flying, so I flew.
Okay, now - the reason these Spirit flights are SO cheap is because they're at 2am at a shitty airport. And the connecting flights come in at 4pm and go out the next morning at 8am, so you have a loooooonnng wait overnight both ways for these flights, in an uncomfortable airport with few options (especially on the way back to Roatan, where you get kicked out of the secure area and have to wait outside security with everything closed from 1am until your flight goes back to Roatan at 8am). Remember I said you'd have to put up with a little inconvenience?
I tried to book a GO Shuttle from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to Miami Beach for $25 online but the website was absolute garbage and wouldn't let me. When you exit the airport, you can just walk outside to the GO Shuttle kiosk and tell them when you want to go. Just sit on the bench and the guy will put you on the next available bus. I got lucky and ended up getting to share a private car for the same price - and my car buddy ended up being from Honduras, of all places! I got dropped off right at the door of the apartment I was staying at, which was super easy.
So this is where I saved huge, and someone else replicating this visa run might have to pay a little more. I have a friend who has an apartment in Miami Beach and she let me stay for free, so my accommodation costs were zero (minus some heavy housecleaning I did for her as a thank-you!). I felt very lucky to be staying at such a beautiful apartment in an amazing location and did NOT want to leave - would you?
There are inexpensive options for accommodation if you don't have fancy friends like mine (ha!), even in Miami Beach - check out Air BnB ... there are some rooms in South Beach for a little as $30/night! There are also hostel options - SoBe Hostel is in an amazing location right in South Beach and dorm beds go for around $20-30/night.
I didn't do much for 'entertainment' in Miami Beach, mostly because after coming from a little island my form of entertainment is going to McDonalds, eating sushi and seeing a movie (it would make you sad how much joy those three things gave me). Also, fancy macarons.
I also had a lot of shopping to do for my friend's hotel, and a little bit for myself too! I had four days that were mostly filled with shopping on Lincoln Road, walking around and eating everything.
I even got a day at IKEA which was magical! I love IKEA!
I also took some time out to just lay around and watch movies, write and relax.
And of course, I spent some time hanging out by THAT POOL.
I also spent a lot of time at the nearby Fresh Market and Whole Foods, where I bought ALL THE DELICIOUS THINGS.
I rode a bike around the beach at sunset which was the best $7 I spent...
I got to spend my last day hanging with my buddy Sam, who I met on Roatan when she was doing her divemaster and instructor courses. We went to the beach in South Beach - American snacks included:
After a day of shopping, eating Cuban sandwiches (yum! and so proud that I could order and chat to the lady in Spanish like the rest of the customers), and walking around Lincoln Road, Sam and I headed to Ft. Lauderdale so I could have a mini-reunion with a few more lovelies - some of the family from the yacht I ran away on in 2012, and my girl Dana from Our Wanderlust.
On the way to Ft. Lauderdale we were drinking fancy mineral waters from Whole Foods and had a guy yell at us from the next car over at a stop light, "MUCHO DRINKING LADY!!" - he thought we were just casually drinking entire bottles of wine in the car! I haven't laughed that hard in ages.
We went out to my favorite area of Ft. Lauderdale - my old stomping grounds of Las Olas - and had a fabulous dinner at The Royal Pig Pub followed by me dragging everyone to the best damn frozen yogurt shop ever, and finally to the place I lived in Ft. Lauderdale 3 years ago while I did my yacht crew courses - I had left a bunch of shit at the house and lo and behold - it was still there! Yay! After that Sam was kind enough to drop me off at the airport to save me another cab fare.
All in all this was a really fun visa run, mostly because I got to go to 'the real world', stock up on things I had run out of here (I think the majority of my spending was at CVS), stay in a lovely apartment and eat all the things I can't get here. The total cost of the flight and transportation were around $300 - accommodation on top of that (if I had to pay for it) would have run about another $150-200 for 4 nights, and eating/entertainment/shopping will obviously vary based on what you eat and buy - mine was a LOT but I had planned for that, and saved money by not having to pay for a hotel. The flights were totally miserable though, and I'm not sure I'd do this one regularly with those Spirit flights unless absolutely necessary.
Stay tuned for Visa Run #2, coming to you at the beginning of May! Want to guess where?
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