Thursday, September 17, 2015

Using US Dollars on Roatan

This is more of a public service announcement than a real post, so anyone not planning a visit to Roatan in the near future (although YOU SHOULD!! Come visit me!), you can skip this one.

This information is all over my site on numerous places, but based on search terms I see my blog getting hit for, I'm going to just make a standalone post so that it's easy for everyone to find.

So, you're coming to Roatan? Great! You want to use US dollars? Make sure you read this post, because - newsflash - US dollars are not the local currency, and there are some caveats to using USD here.


Yes, you can use US dollars.

I've never run into a business here that won't accept US dollars as payment. Most places even have the prices listed in both US dollars and lempira (the Honduran currency - 'lemps' or 'lps' for short). It's a good idea to know the current exchange rate though, because sometimes you'll get ripped off by paying in USD. Right now it's about 22lps to the dollar, but it's been rising rapidly over the last year, so best to check at the time of your visit.

Keep in mind we only use the USD bills here, the USD coins are not accepted anywhere here. Don't waste any space bringing them because you can't use them at all!

But - you absolutely cannot use US dollars that are ripped, torn, missing corners, or written on with pen or sharpie.

DO NOT BRING WORN-OUT OR TORN BILLS. Even a little bit. Just fucking don't. Seriously. Here's why: the banks on Roatan will NOT accept US bills that are ripped, torn, extremely worn, or written on. Why? Who fucking knows, this is Honduras, there doesn't need to be a logical reason for anything here. If you don't ask 'why?' your life will be infinitely easier.

Follow the train here though - because the banks won't accept shitty bills, that means restaurants, bars, landlords, utility companies, etc. etc. won't accept them either, because when they go to take them to the bank, the bank won't accept them. Which means when you pay a business or tip your divemaster with these bills, they're basically worthless unless we spend our free time hunting down American tourists who are leaving who will exchange them for us, or driving all the way across the island to the one gas station that sometimes exchanges crappy bills but also sometimes doesn't if the guy isn't there or doesn't feel like it that day.

Please....please....please. Bring bills in good condition! See the ones in the photo for this post? Those are too ripped to use here.

You can't use big US bills for much besides large invoices at a dive shop or hotel.

The taxi driver will not have change for a $2 taxi ride if you try to pay him with a $10 or $20. A restaurant will not have change for you to pay for a $12 meal with a $50. The corner store will not give you change for a $3 bill if you have a $20. Some smaller businesses won't even accept $50 or $100 bills because of counterfeit issues here - it's a good idea to make sure you get the 'new' bills with the latest security features if you want to pay with $50s/$100s, as some businesses won't accept the old style even if they're in good condition. See the old-style $100s in the photo for this post? Yeah, don't bring that.

Change is notoriously difficult to get - sometimes businesses go to the bank to get change and the bank doesn't even have any (see above where we don't ask 'why?' here...) so businesses really hoard it. So the message here is: bring lots of smaller denomination bills ($5 and $10, some $20) to pay for smaller things, and you can save the larger denomination bills for your diving or hotel.

You probably won't get change in USD.

When businesses get USD, they normally take it to the bank straight away and put it in their account. The lempira is always dropping, so they make money off having USD. It's fairly uncommon to receive your change in USD, even if you pay in it, because most businesses do not keep change in USD on hand. One reason is we do not use US coins at all (don't bring them, don't try to pay with them) so any change less than $1 USD has to be paid out in lempira anyway.

Another reason: if I get a $50 and I need to break it, I go to the bank and ask them to break it (I can do this because I have a local bank account. If you don't have a local bank account, most banks will not break bills for you.) I do not receive my change in USD. I receive it in lempira. Banks do not give change or break USD into USD, only lempira. So if the bank only gives change in lempira, you can bet the businesses are probably doing the same. (We aren't in the States. The local currency is the Honduran lempira and it's pretty sad when I see American tourists demanding change in USD. Please don't be that guy.)

Don't bring anything other than USD.

No, you can't use Euros. No, you can't use Canadian dollars. Or anything else.

The local banks will not exchange anything but US dollars for lempira. I learned this the hard way when I accepted a generous tip in Canadian dollars from some fellow Canadians when I was new to the island. I couldn't get it exchanged ANYWHERE on the the island. I had to wait for a friend to take a trip home to the States where he exchanged it for me and brought it back in USD.

On an island where cash is king (while illegal, you can usually get away with evading the 15-19% tax plus 4% credit card fee by paying cash rather than with your card), it's in your best interest to have the right kind of cash to use to avoid any issues. The absolute best thing to do is, if you can, change all your money before you even arrive on island (most major cities and most banks have a service here you can do this) and just arrive with lempira in hand. With lempira you don't have to worry about worn-out bills or anything like that. But if you have to bring USD, save yourself the headache and follow the guidelines in this post. Make sure you get accommodation with an in-room safe to keep your cash secure while you're on vacation!

A final note: the ATMs all over the island have had issues with fraud. I highly recommend bringing all the cash you'll need with you - do not rely on ATMs. Even if you don't fall victim to fraud, they are often out of cash or will only let you withdraw a small amount. Not worth the headache! Also, there are only a couple that dispense USD and they are often not filled. If you use an ATM, expect lempira.

Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I'm on Bloglovin', so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there's that.

Bets & Dives at Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas

Just off the shore of Nassau in the Bahamas is a breathtakingly beautiful island known as Paradise Island, and if you’ve ever been, you know that this destination truly lives up to its name. Paradise Island is primarily known for its resort Atlantis, a utopian dream composed of an expansive water park, pools, its beautiful beach, an aquarium and casinos. And with the Bahamas being rated as one of the top ten places for big animal encounters, the hotel readily provides you access to all of the region’s best diving sites.

Whether your desire lies in exploring the Lost Blue Hole or delving into the Tongue of the Ocean, Atlantis can organize two-tank, half-day dive trips for those that are certified. Don’t fret if you haven’t been certified for scuba diving, as the hotel does have a variety of classes for you to select from. After scuba diving, some might choose to cap the day off with something relaxing, perhaps al fresco dining with a few cocktails or a soothing massage, but for those adrenaline junkies, heading over to the on-site casino may well be the perfect answer.


The connection between extreme sports and gambling might seem a bit far fetched at first, but a recent study actually shows that there is a positive correlation between the two activities. After close examination of four individuals, it was concluded that the rush of online gaming matched the stimulating experience provided by adrenaline sports. Although the growth in gaming websites reveal the general consumer preference for online casinos over land-based ones, there’s something quite exciting about being physically present on the gaming floor, a feature which online portals have tried to capture by offering live dealers.

So if you feel like you haven’t gotten your adrenaline fix from diving, consider playing at one of the 75 gaming tables at their world-class casino that spans across a 7-acre lagoon, the gold standard of Caribbean casinos. If you aren’t familiar with the mechanics of their games, the resort offers complimentary daily gaming lessons.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Roatan Roundup: Month 37

Well, I've made it past the three year mark and things just keep rolling along, so here we are recapping month 37 on this little Caribbean island.

What's new?

I've been diving here and there, I've been taking trips with my friends to explore new places on Roatan above and below the water, and I've been writing A TON. You'll see below in the 'Posts From This Month' section that I think I've broken my record. I kind of feel like they should count for double too, because either a Windows 10 upgrade or Roatan's garbage electrical supply has turned my laptop into a brick, and I have been using my netbook for everything until my new laptop arrives on the island next week. Who invented netbooks anyway? Are they jokes? I feel like I'm time traveling back to 2002-era computers and internet... like, I type in a search term on Google and then I go make coffee and breakfast and come back and the results are just popping up. Trust me when I tell you that the posts this month, and everything else you see me doing on social media has taught me patience and restraint and I think I deserve a medal since I haven't thrown this thing through the wall yet. That being said, I've earned a break from this crappy computer and the next time you'll hear from me will be whenever the new one gets here!

Let's get on with the roundup!

1. Gratuitous diving photo:

Here's a teaser from an upcoming post about my epic dive trip to the seamounts between Roatan and Cayos Cochinos. (Many thanks to my friend Kieran for the photo - you can follow his amazing underwater photos on Facebook or Instagram.)

2. Posts from the last month:

Look at me go!! I cranked out an unheard of (for me) EIGHT posts this month:

3. Best thing I've found on the internet this month:

This part of the roundup is always my favorite. This month I've been mind-blown by this Ikea Concept Kitchen 2025 table... can it be 2025 already please? TAKE MY MONEY.

Remember, you can see all my roundup posts by clicking here or on the 'roundup' label below!

Guys, make sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I'm on Bloglovin', so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there's that.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Daytrip to Old Port Royal

One thing I find both terrible and embarrassing is that on a tiny island like Roatan, it has taken me YEARS to get to some of the destinations around here. To be fair, for most of the year, I spend 6 days a week, 9+ hours a day at a dive shop or on a dive boat or underwater, so I don't have a lot of free time. But lately I have been graced with plenty of it, so when my friends put together a motorcycle day trip to Old Port Royal, or 'the end of the road' (literally), I jumped at the chance to get out and explore.

As with most things we try to plan on Roatan, when the time came most people ditched at the last minute and it ended up being just me and two of my friends. Since they both had motorcycles, we decided that instead of my scooter trying to make it on some sketchy roads, I'd jump on the back of a bike. While it was lovely to be able to just enjoy the view rather than negotiate the road through notoriously dangerous and awful Roatan drivers, by the time we made it all the way to the other end of the island and back I could barely get off the bike because I  was so sore. (Note to self: buy motorcycle.)

When you get tired of the tourist trap that is the west end of the island, head east. Thank me later. I can't count how many times I said, "It's so QUIET here". I had a day filled with lush scenery, petting pigs, swimming at deserted beaches, eating fried lionfish on a picnic table hanging over the water, beers in the sun and taking it easy with cool people.

Here was my day through the lens of my iPhone.. enjoy!

Do you like to get away from the touristy areas when you travel and go exploring? Have you ever been to the east side of Roatan?

Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I'm on Bloglovin', so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there's that.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Clinica Esperanza - Roatan's Clinic of Hope

Many people coming to Roatan are eager to help the island in some way, and often will message me before their trip asking what they can do or bring to help. Today I'd like to highlight Clinica Esperanza, more commonly known on the island as Ms. Peggy's Clinic, which is just one of many deserving organizations on the island that can always use a little help.

Clinica Esperanza provides low-cost/no-cost medical care to the island, including pediatric care, dentistry, walk-in care and women's health. No one is turned away for the inability to pay, and those with more funds are able to pay to be seen sooner. I felt kind of guilty the first time I paid to jump the line, but everyone reminded me that the money to run the clinic and supplies has to come from somewhere, and at least my fees were going to support a place for people who don't have the means.

From their website:

The Clinic is currently located in Sandy Bay and all people are welcome. The Clinic treats approximately 80-100 patients in a typical day – usually about 65% adults and 35% children. It operates five days per week, starting at 7:30am and closes at 6:00pm or when the last patient has been seen. Services are also available 24/7 for and labor and delivery. More than 3,500 patients consider the Clinic to be their primary medical care provider. Thus far, more than 50,000 patients have been treated in the Clinic.
Due to the limited number of medical facilities available, patients have come from all over the island and the mainland to seek medications or treatment. The Clinic provides a needed service to people who would otherwise likely not seek treatment due to costs and the crowded condition of the local public hospital.

The clinic has volunteer nurses and nursing students from around the world to help the facility operate while gaining valuable life and nursing experience. I have several friends who are nurses at the clinic, and let me tell you, they see it ALL, and deal with people with such compassion and care it is unbelievable.  And after seeing the inside of the public hospital, which is horrifically underfunded and understaffed, I decided that I would have to seek private care for any medical incidents I had on the island.

One thing that I love about Clinica Esperanza is their focus on women's health. On an island where many women are having 5+ kids (way more than they often want, or have the means to properly care for), the clinic provides a women's health doctor to work specifically with women. Taking prenatal classes at the clinic is a requirement for using the clinic's birthing center, which is another thing that is often beyond the means of many local women.

The doctors, nurses, and support staff at Clinica Esperanza provide a desperately-needed service on this island and help maintain health for many locals who could not otherwise retain care. They treat their patients with dignity and a high level of care, no matter who is accessing the service.

How You Can Help

There are a few ways you can help Clinica Esperanza to continue to provide health services on Roatan. Please check out their Take Action page for various ways to support the clinic, either financially, with supplies (there's a request list here), or by volunteering.

For tourists coming from Canada, please get in touch with Not Just Tourists if you've got the ability to take extra luggage - Not Just Tourists provides suitcases full of much-needed donated medical supplies, but they need people to fly down with it!

Finally, Clinica Esperanza has their annual Sundae by the Sea fundraiser coming up on Roatan, which is a ton of fun - and even if you're not here, you can still participate in the online auction! Great for anyone planning to travel down at some point in time in the future, as you'll have some gift certificates to use when you get here. How it works: various businesses donate things like resort stays, restaurant gift certificates, diving, fishing charters, spa certificates, etc., which are bid on, and all the proceeds go to the clinic. The main event is on October 4, 2015 and will be held Caribe Tesoro in West Bay. The cost is $30/ticket ($35/ at the door, kids half price). The event includes some food and music. At the event, there’s a silent auction and live auction. For people on and off island, there’s also an on-line auction for many things at

Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I'm on Bloglovin', so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there's that.