How much do you make?
You can read more about it in my tipping guidelines for diving on Roatan, but the short answer is: I work at a dive shop where I make a salary. I work 6 days a week and get paid $25 a day. That's $150/week, or about $600/month. (All dollar amounts in this post are in USD.) THIS IS THE ONLY MONEY I CAN 100% FOR SURE CAN COUNT ON HAVING EVERY MONTH. Unless I get sick. Sick days do not come with working under the table in foreign countries so if I don't go in, I get nothing. Weird, right?
If people are awesome and tip out the shop on their bill when they dive, this gets pooled and distributed once a week between the dive instructors and boat captains. I can't count on this at all. Sometimes it's a lot, sometimes it's nothing. This week I'm getting a grand total of $7. That blows. A couple weeks ago my weekly tipout was $196. So you never know. If people are awesome and tip me in hand, I split it half and half with my boat captain. I keep track of my tips and have been averaging $75-100/week....but it's really inconsistent.
If I get diving courses, I get a 10% commission on the course price. The other instructor at the shop and I split the commissions so it's fair (just in case one person ends up getting a bunch of courses and the other one doesn't). So I really get 5% (but I get 5% off the ones she does too). I've had months where we had zero courses, but usually I make between $30-100/month on course commissions. This is extremely low for dive instructors on Roatan. Partly because I split it with my co-worker, but partly because the resort my dive shop is at is more popular for fun divers, not as a place to do your courses.
(It should be noted that this pay structure is somewhat unusual for dive instructors here. You can read more about the other ways in my post about tipping guidelines for diving on Roatan.)
So guess what? That's it, that's all. I can count on my $600/month salary, and maybe up to $500/month in tips & course commissions, but not always.
What does it cost to live there?
Short answer: probably more than you think.
Roatan is not mainland Honduras. Honduras is a dirt cheap, third world Central American country. Roatan is a touristy island. Touristy + island = expensive.
Here's a breakdown of where my money goes each month:
- Rent: $400/month for a tiny studio apartment in West End. I have hot water (electric) and no A/C. My electricity, water and gas for the stove are all included. This is a typical price in West End.
- Groceries: about $250/month at the American-style supermarket here. AKA overpriced shit but there isn't anywhere else to get groceries. I sometimes get veggies off the veggie trucks that drive around but it's not that much cheaper than the store.
(Did you notice I'm already over my salary of $600/month just with rent and groceries?)
- Cell phone: I paid $40 for a knockoff piece of crap Korean fake Blackberry type thing to use with prepaid minutes. It's garbage but whatever, I didn't want to use my iPhone cause it would get stolen in about six seconds. I pay about $5-10/month buying minutes for the phone.
- Internet: I have to use a 3G internet stick at home because that's just what you do here apparently. Anyway it costs me $25/month to recharge it.
- My dog: she eats $20/month of food (at least the dog food here is cheap) and I like to get her treats and stuff when I can afford it.
- Home insurance back in Vancouver: $30/month covers all my shit I left in a storage unit. Also my laptop and dive gear that I have here.
- Travel/medical/dive insurance: I paid for six months at a time, but it works out to close to $75/month for all 3 types.
- Storage unit back in Vancouver: $55/month. This is an amazing price!
- Scooter: I have to fill that bad boy up with gas about every 3-4 days. It costs me $5 to fill it. That ends up being $40ish/month or so for my transportation here. Before I had this, I was paying $10/week to take the van to work (and had an hour extra on my commute every day), and paying taxis to go to the grocery store and stuff. The scooter is cheaper.
So those are the things I need to have. And the total is already $905!
Then there are things that I can only have IF I make enough tips that month:
- Going out - food & drinks: I didn't come down here to stay at home all the time! I love going out with my friends to eat or a wild Friday night. But it doesn't come cheap... going out for lunch usually ends up costing around $10-15, dinner maybe $20 or less... alcohol for me (local price...there are two prices at the bars here! sorry tourists!) is $2/beer or $2.50-3/mixed drink. I also have a small cupcake addiction that costs me $1.50/week. All these things can add up FAST!
- Shopping: the nice thing about Roatan is there's basically nowhere I want to buy clothes or shoes, or anything really. But sometimes I like to get things for myself...what have I bought the last couple months? A reef fish ID book ($50), a rice cooker ($25), new sheets because the ones that came with this place had a weird stain ($25) and a used yoga mat ($15). I wouldn't normally spend $100+/month buying random crap for myself, but you get the point.
- Massages: I know, I know. This is really just reserved for special occasions! But I would love for you all to come see what I do at work all day and tell me I don't deserve one! I haul dive tanks and gear in wheelbarrows like a damn mule from the shop 300ft through sand down the beach to the dock, then out of the wheelbarrow and on and off the boat and then after the dive break it all down, wheel the tanks to the compressor room about 400ft away off the beach, and take the gear back to the shop and rinse and store all of it. It's an incredibly physical job, mostly due to the absolutely retarded set up of my dive shop. So I need a massage every once in awhile! Luckily my lovely friend here does them, and charges me $55 for 1.5 hours! Please, no one from Thailand tell me how cheap they are there. I know. This is the best I can do here.
- DVDs: I don't have a TV. All I really have for entertainment at home at night is my computer. There are guys who walk around on the street selling burned DVDs and sometimes I buy them (but not if it's anyone official asking!). I get 3 DVDs for 10 bucks... I guess it's not bad. With only a 3G internet stick (see above), streaming anything online or downloading is out.
So there you have it! How much I make and how much it costs me to live here, in a nutshell. You can see that it can be pretty tough to make a go of it here unless you're making a significant amount of cash. Yes, I made more money back in Canada. Yes, I had many more things I got to spend my money on in Canada. No, I don't want to move back there!