Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Roatan Visa Runs: Miami Beach


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!)

Flights

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?

Transportation

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.

Accommodation

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.

Entertainment

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?


None of the links in this post are affiliate or something that I received compensation for. Just giving you guys all the info!


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.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Roatan Month 28-32 Roundup


Poor, poor little roundups. Totally neglected the last 5 months! I actually haven't been posting much, as many of you have noticed, so you guys didn't miss out on much. Anyway, let's get a coffee and catch up, shall we?

1. Gratuitous diving ocean photo:

This is the same as month 27. I have no more diving photos! I stopped working as a dive instructor around the same time (by choice, for all of you who have been asking), so I guess this isn't very surprising. I am still trying to keep it ocean-themed at least... so here is a photo of me in the water in South Beach, Miami a few months ago - which is a hint for an upcoming post:



2. Posts from the last 5 months:


That's all I managed to get out in the last 5 months. Sorry dudes.


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

Is it weird that I want a Jibo like RIGHT NOW? I would love a little robot pet who can order takeout for me. Sold.





You can always see all my roundup posts by clicking on the 'roundup' tag 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.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Turning 30, Island-Style



Well, some people celebrate turning 30 by drinks out with friends, or maybe a fancy dinner. As you might have guessed, I am not 'some people'.


When I realized that I would be celebrating my fourth birthday in a row on Roatan (wait, what?? how and when did that happen!?) and it was my big 3-0, I decided I might as well make it one to remember.


So how does one celebrate turning 30 in a memorable way?


Island-style, of course:


Full pig roast with all the fixins.

Reef-themed birthday cake.

Volcano candle, which is apparently a real thing.

Beer-shaped piƱata full of condoms and candy.

50+ friends. (Woah!)

An awful lot of vodka sodas.

And one professional photographer friend who gave me the best present by capturing everything.




Welcome to my 30th birthday party, folks. It was one of the best nights of my life!




(Chrissann and other animal-lovin' friends - warning that pig pics you won't like are coming up. Sorry!)


All photographs by Shawn Jackson of Jackson Photography except the one of the sign above and the first one of the cake below. Massive thanks to my talented buddy Shawn for taking these for me, since we both knew I wouldn't remember much of it :) Now all you guys who keep saying you only ever see me in dive gear can see what I look like out of the water!
























So far, 30 has been pretty damn good.

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 start planning my 31st party, which has to somehow top this one. So there's that.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Radio Silence

Oh, hey there. Guess what? Contrary to what many of you seemed to believe by the content of your emails, I did not die here in Honduras! I am still alive and kicking (and definitely knocking on wood). I am healthy and happy and all is well.

Pardon my pause in posts for the last two months (eeeek...yikes). You'll have to trust me when I say it just got away from me. After a few weeks it just felt weird, and I let it keep going and going like when you keep watching a Friends marathon and after hour 6, you're not quite sure why you're still sitting there, but there you are. Not that that's ever happened to me...

Sometimes I feel like I don't have much else to say on here about expat life on Roatan. I'm nearly at 3 years here, and this month I've celebrated my 3rd blog birthday. I've been writing here for three fucking years about mostly the same stuff. Are you guys bored of it yet? And sometimes I get mad that I can't write about things like where I spend the majority of my day now and current events on the island, because there's always some asshole here who has a problem with me and uses my blog to put fuel on their fire. It sounds dramatic but I guess it kind of can be. At this point in my life here I'd rather just shut up and avoid problems. I'll leave them tucked away until the day I leave for good.


Every year I run into more and more people on Roatan who shyly (or rather boldly, if we're in a bar and it's after 10pm) come up to me and ask if I'm Rika from Cubicle Throwdown. YOU BET YOUR ASS I AM!! It makes my day to meet readers and while it's always a little weird that you guys know so much about my life and I don't have a clue about you, it makes me feel like a celebrity... and just in case I haven't said it before, I have always wanted to be famous. And I have no problem settling for quasi-internet-famous because I still get to turn to my friends and say, "SEE!?! People KNOW me!" while they shake their heads over their beers at my high level of ridiculousness. Honestly though, it's so hard to explain the feeling I get when people tell me that my blog and I have inspired them to execute their own cubicle throwdown, to pursue scuba diving as a career (side note: is now a bad time to tell you I don't work in diving anymore?), or just to plan a vacation to Roatan. The fact that I, some random girl on the internet, have had even a tiny effect on people's lives is humbling. For those of you just joining us, or my die-hard readers who have followed this roller coaster ride for three years, all I can say is THANK YOU for being a part of it. It's been an interesting three years.

I have lots to fill you guys in on, so I hope you'll stick around -  and on my end, I promise it won't be another two months before I post. I have a trip to Miami to tell you about, a brank-spankin-new FAQ for the Roatan FAQ section, and most importantly - everything about my party-to-end-all-parties amazing 30th birthday bash, island-style!

In the meantime though, I'll be here for a little bit, doing what I do best on Roatan:


Chat soon, rockstars. xo


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 drink less and blog more. So there's that.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Daytrip to Cayos Cochinos


Once in awhile you just need a vacation. (Even if you live at the beach.) This was one of those days!

Cayos Cochinos (Hog Islands) are a chain of islands and little cays located between the Bay Islands (Roatan, Utila and Guanaja) and the mainland of Honduras. These tiny islands are sparsely inhabited (the last census had the population pegged at 108), and drop-dead gorgeous. Only about an hour and a half by boat from Roatan, it makes for an easy day trip and a great way to get off the island for a bit. Yes, I see the irony of leaving one tropical island for another :)


Last week one of my friends had a birthday and organized a trip for 9 of us to head out to Cayos Cochinos for the day. Because seven of us are dive instructors, plus 1 divemaster and 1 advanced open water diver, we also loaded up the boat with tanks and our gear so that we could do a dive in the unspoiled reef near the big island.


We headed out early in the morning and were treated to a pod of dolphins following the boat about halfway to Cayos! They were sneaky ninjas though, and I didn't get a great photo. From there it was off to the island that has the marine park and research station on it to pay our park fees ($10/day) and take the obligatory "Cayos sign photo" that everyone does here.


After we had registered and paid our fees, we went out for a dive. It was amazing how different the reef is over there than Roatan despite it being so close. There was a lot more soft coral and it felt more lush that Roatan's reef, and definitely more similar to the south side sites than the north side ones. I was beyond thrilled to find a black & white crinoid on my dive, which I've been searching for on Roatan for almost 3 years with no luck.

After the dive, we busted into our enormous stash of booze and chips (I think we had 14 bags of chips for 9 people) and cruised over to a tiny cay called Chachauate, where there is a Garifuna village and some ladies who cook lunch for tourists. While pulling up to the island and getting off the boat we couldn't figure out why everyone was running up to us and trying to sell us earrings (if you are reading this because you'd like to go to Cayos, PLEASE do not buy anything made from turtles, flamingo tongues or coral from these kids. These are protected marine life. The wooden and coconut jewelry is ok to buy.) Then we looked around at each other and realized we totally looked like tourists with our cameras and backpacks - and technically we were! - but we were so used to living on Roatan and not being seen as a tourist anymore that it came as a bit of a surprise and we had a laugh at ourselves.



The kids on Chachauate love to play with visitors and will generally mob you once you step off the boat. They are adorable and I don't blame them for being excited to have new people to play with (on an island for 40 people, wouldn't you?) The kids only speak Spanish and Garifuna, so having a few words of basic Spanish is fun to be able to interact with them, but they mostly just want you to get in the water, carry them around in deeper parts, do swimming races and jump around with them.






We got lunch from one of the local ladies. She originally offered fried fish for $10 and lobster for $25 but there was no way we were paying gringo prices so we settled on everyone having the fish for $6.50 each. It came with a big plate of fried plantains for us all to share, a tomato-onion sauce and coconut rice & beans.


This dog decided he was going to be my best friend at lunch and I nearly took him back with me:


We spent a lot of time taking pics of the stunning surroundings!



After Chachauate, we started heading back to Roatan... with birthday champagne, of course!



We reached Roatan around sunset and the boat captain let us get in the water with some of the toys we brought. Here's my friend Ty killing it freeboarding:


Epic sunset as usual, to end the day.


Our trip to Cayos Cochinos was on a private charter that we organized ourselves, but there are tour companies on Roatan that regularly make Cayos trips. They cost $165-$180 per person and are a full day trip, with stops for snorkeling, fishing, Chachauate, etc. Lunch is always included as are marine park fees, and on some boats they will feed you breakfast as well. The tours normally don't do diving and need a minimum of 8 people to go (max 12-16 depending on the boat). It's a blast! Contact me if you'd like a recommendation.




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 take more island 'vacations'. So there's that.