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Is Roatan safe?
It’s the number one question most travelers ask when planning a trip to this Caribbean island.
The most popular destination in Honduras, Roatan has enjoyed the reputation of a relatively safe place in a country that has seen some of the highest levels of violence in Latin America over the last decade. If you look at the news reports, they mostly portray Honduras as a dangerous no-go zone 🛑
One of the Bay Islands, along with Guanaja and Utila, Roatan is a popular diving destination renowned for its marine wildlife that attracts visitors from all over the world 😃
Roatan is considered one of the safest destinations in Honduras, in addition to Pico Bonito National Park and Copan Archaeological Area on the country’s mainland.
In this post, I will look at all aspects of Roatan travel safety, so you are well prepared to visit one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean.
Roatán is an island in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Honduras. It’s the biggest of the Bay Islands along the Great Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and is known for its strikingly beautiful beaches and gorgeous aquamarine bays.
It’s popular for scuba diving and snorkeling due to its rich marine life 🐠 and clear waters. The island is also known for its lush tropical landscapes, delicous food 🥙 and welcoming people 😌.
Book a scuba diving tour in Roatan
Is Roatan worth it?
Yes, Roatan is worth a visit! Although it’s known as a scuba diving destination, there are plenty of other things to do on the island like ziplining, snorkeling 🤿 and wildlife watching 🦎. Despite being the most popular destination in Honduras, Roatan still doesn’t have mass tourism, which means you can enjoy this Caribbean paradise without crowds.
Honduras is still one of the least visited countries in Central America, but according to the Honduran Institute of Tourism (IHT), the country has seen a big jump in tourism since 2021, which means the secret is out and now is the time to plan your adventure.
Book snorkeling tours in Roatan
Is it safe to go to Roatan Honduras?
Roatan has evaded the violence that plagued many parts of mainland Honduras. As a foreigner, you are mostly safe on the island, because tourism is the main industry here, and the local government keeps close tabs on its source of income, meaning that visitors are well taken care of.
The safest parts of the island are Sandy Bay, West End, and West Bay, where most tourists and expats tend to base themselves.
What is crime like in Roatan?
Roatan doesn’t have widespread violence, but certain types of crime like property theft, vandalism and corruption still persist. Drug dealing is also a problem in parts of the island.
What does the US State Department say about Honduras?
The U.S. State Department has a level 3 advisory for Honduras and recommends reconsidering travel to the country. According to the agency, Honduras has high levels of violent gang activity with armed robbery and kidnapping common in the country. Violent gang activity, including extortion, violent street crime, and drug trafficking are widespread.
However, the U.S. State Department doesn’t address safety in Roatan, specifically.
So what does it mean for you?
The U.S. State Department often recommends to reconsider travel or exercise caution in a specific country because of its crime statistics.
That might seem a bit ironic because the overall firearm death rate was 11.4 times higher in the US than in other high-income countries, according to the National Library of Medicine.
News reports paint a very dark picture when it comes to safety in Honduras, but no place is perfectly safe. Although some destinations in the country are best to avoid, places like Roatan, Copan Archaeological Area, and Lake Yojoa are among the safest in Honduras.
Can you visit Honduras safely?
You can visit the country safely, but you should exercise increased caution and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Although mainland Honduras has a lot of issues that make many people deem it unsafe for travel, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy this hidden gem of Central America.
What’s happening in Honduras recently?
Like other neighboring countries including El Salvador and Guatemala, Honduras has faced a bad rep because of its safety issues, but things are starting to change.
In late 2022, the Honduran government declared a state of emergency as part of its crackdown on gangs which gave the police authority to search homes in gang-controlled neighborhoods, among other things in an effort to eradicate violent crime.
Last year, Honduras logged 36 murders per 100,000 people, which is high, but it’s a major progress from the early 2010’s when the country was engulfed by violence with 85 murders per 100,000 residents.
Register for the STEP program
Consider enrolling in STEP, The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service that allows U.S. citizens abroad to register their trip with the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, making it easier to locate you in case of an emergency.
Here are some of the benefits of enrolling in the STEP program ahead of your trip:
- Get updates from the embassy about safety conditions in your destination.
- Stay in contact with the U.S. Embassy in case of an emergency whether it’s a natural disaster, political unrest, or anything else.
- Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
Where to avoid in Honduras?
If you are traveling to Honduras, avoid Gracias a Dios Department, a densely forested region along the border of Nicaragua that has served as a major drug trafficking pipeline over the last 2 decades. Exercise increased caution in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, that have a high rate of gang violence which stems from years of corruption and poverty.
Safety tips for visiting Roatan:
Roatán is a beautiful island in Honduras known for its stunning beaches and coral reefs, making it a popular destination for tourists. While it’s generally safe for travelers, like in any other place, it’s essential to be mindful of safety precautions to ensure a trouble-free visit.
✅ Research before you go
Before your trip, research the area, culture, and local customs to have a better understanding of what to expect. This will help you to avoid misunderstandings that might put you in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
✅ Read online reviews
Choose accommodations in well-known, reputable areas or resorts. Check online reviews for recommendations.
✅ Skip risky areas
While Roatán is relatively safe, some areas may be less secure. Avoid wandering into unfamiliar neighborhoods after dark, especially by yourself.
✅ Avoid staying out at night
While Roatan is relatively safe, you shouldn’t be out at night, especially by yourself. When you arrive, ask your hotel managers about the area to ensure it’s safe to walk around.
✅ Get a travel insurance
Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and trip cancellations. It will also protect you in case someone steals your belongings or any other incidents.
👉 Safety Wing is one of the best insurance plans for long-term travelers and digital nomads that covers you in the event of stolen and lost luggage, hospital visits and other unforeseen circumstances. WorldNomads is one of the most popular travel insurance options that offers option for long and short-term travel.
✅ Stay hydrated and use sun protection
Roatán has a tropical climate, so drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and use REEF-SAFE sunscreen that doesn’t damage corals. Wear sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
✅ Be aware of currents
Be cautious when swimming, snorkeling, or diving. Follow local guidelines and safety instructions provided by tour operators. Be aware of strong currents and underwater hazards in parts of the island.
✅ Do not stay on the beach after dark
Staying out on the beach at night might be tricky, depending on where you are on the island. It’s best to wrap up your activities by the time it gets dark.
✅ Watch out for petty theft
Like in many tourist destinations, petty theft can occur in Honduras. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas. Use hotel safes for valuables. Don’t show off your expensive clothes or gear in public, as pockets of Roatan still have poverty.
✅ Avoid getting overly intoxicated
Getting intoxicated is not a good idea, especially in an unfamiliar place, even if it’s relatively safe.
✅ Be aware of local driving rules
If renting a car or scooter, be aware of local traffic rules and road conditions. Use reputable rental shops and transportation services with good reviews. Negotiate fares beforehand if using taxis.
✅ Respect local culture
Show respect for the local culture and customs. Dress modestly when outside of beach areas, and ask for permission before taking photos of people.
✅ Learn Spanish
Learn some basic Spanish phrases or carry a translation app to help with communication.
✅ Keep emergency contacts handy
Keep a list of emergency contacts, including local authorities and your country’s embassy or consulate.
✅ Always carry local currency
Use local currency (Honduran Lempira) when making purchases to avoid tourist prices which are often listed in dollars. ATMs are available on the island, but you should always have some cash on hand.
✅ Be careful about what you eat
Be cautious about consuming street food, and ensure that any water you drink is bottled or purified.
✅ Travel in groups
When exploring the island, especially in less touristy areas, it’s safer to travel in groups or at least with another friend.
✅ Have copies of your documents
Always have copies of your documents in case your passport gets lost or stolen.
What to avoid in Roatan?
Avoid showing your valuables in public and staying out after it gets dark. Don’t leave your food and drinks unattended in restaurants and bars, and don’t reveal your travel plans to strangers.
Use common sense and stay cautious, as you would in any unfamiliar destination. Roatán can be a fantastic and safe place to visit, but being prepared and aware of your surroundings will help ensure a positive experience.
Dangers of Honduras
As of 2023, Honduras still has a high level of gang crime, with two gangs, MS-13 and Barrio 18, responsible for most violence in the country. Most of Honduras’ safety issues stem from extreme poverty and lack of economic opportunities coupled with government corruption, as many local people turn to gangs to survive.
Honduras has problems with extortion, as gangs who control the turf demand money from residents and businesses; and one of the highest femicide rates in the world.
What to know about gang violence in Honduras
Gang violence is widespread in and around urban areas, according to Human Rights Watch.
The number of active gang members in Honduras ranges from 5,000 to 40,000, people according to the group. From 2015 through 2019, authorities arrested 4,196 gang members, the National Police reported.
However, one thing to know about Honduras is that foreign tourists are usually not a target of crime. As long as you stay away from big cities, you should be able to avoid trouble.
If you are spending time in Roatan or any other Bay Islands, the type of crime you should watch out for is petty theft and scams targeting tourists.
What are the most dangerous cities in Honduras?
San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras are the most dangerous cities in the country, with high homicide and violent crime rates.
How to get around Roatan safely?
Getting around Roatan, a beautiful island in Honduras, is relatively easy. Roatan has several transportation options to help you explore the island.
Here are some ways to get around Roatan:
🚕 Taxis: Taxis are readily available on Roatan, and you can find them at the airport, ferry terminals, and popular tourist areas. Agree on the fare with the driver before your trip, or ask them to use the meter.
🏍️ Scooters and Motorcycles: Renting scooters or motorcycles can be a fun way to explore Roatan. However, be cautious and ensure you have the necessary experience and safety gear.
🚲 Bicycles: Some areas of Roatan are bike-friendly, especially in the more developed areas like the West End. You can rent bicycles from local shops and use them to explore nearby attractions, but be careful around less-developed parts of the island where road conditions are less than ideal.
🛳️ Water Taxis: You can also use water taxis to travel between different parts of the island, especially if you want to visit smaller islands like Utila or Guanaja.
🚍 Public Buses: Roatan does have a limited public bus system, but it may not be the most reliable or comfortable option for tourists. It’s primarily used by locals for daily commuting.
🚌 Shuttle Services: Some resorts and hotels on Roatan offer shuttle services to and from the airport and popular tourist destinations. Check with your accommodation to see if they provide this service.
🚶🏾♀️Walking: If you’re staying in a central area like West End or West Bay, you can explore many attractions on foot. Just be mindful of the heat and sun, and stay hydrated.
Do you need a car to get around Roatan?
You don’t need a car in Roatan. You can get around the island by taking a taxi or scooter. Many parts of the island are also walkable.
Is it safe to walk in Roatan Honduras?
While it’s perfectly safe to walk in popular areas of Roatan like West Bay, West End or Sandy Bay, avoid walking in remote, desolate areas of the island, and don’t be walking on the beach after it gets dark.
Is there an Uber in Honduras?
There’s no Uber in Honduras. Taxis are cheap and plentiful, especially around popular areas like Roatan.
Are taxis safe in Honduras?
Taxis are typically safe in Honduras, but you should always negotiate your price upfront to avoid overpaying.
What is the best time to visit Roatan?
November through April is the best time to visit Roatan with plenty of sunshine and little chance of rain making it ideal for outdoor activities like hiking, diving, and exploring archaeological sites.
However, it’s also the most expensive time to visit Honduras when prices on accommodations and tours are the highest. If you want to find a compromise between the high season and the low season, visit Honduras during the shoulder months of October and May when prices on accommodations and activities are lower, and there are fewer tourists. You can still enjoy many outdoor activities, but there could be occasional rain showers.
So, is Roatan safe to visit?
Although Roatan is not perfectly safe, it’s safer than most destinations in Honduras. The island has a well-developed infrastructure and the local government tries its best to keep the island free from crime as tourism is the main source of jobs and money here.
If you follow basic safety precuations, you can have the best time of your life on this tropical island!
Is it safe to drink tap water in Honduras?
Tap water is not safe to drink in Honduras. Always buy bottled water or if your hotel offers filtered water, get it from there. If you are staying on the road, bring your reusable water bottle.
Is Roatan safe for tourists?
Roatan is relatively safe for tourists. While the island is not crime-free, you are not likely to become a victim of serious crime while visiting the island.
Is Roatan safe to live in?
Roatan is the most popular destination in Honduras and home to a sizable expat community, with many of its members working in the tourism and real estate industries.
Is Roatan safe for cruise passengers?
Roatan is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean with cruise ships regularly docking at its port. As a cruise passenger, you are perfectly safe in Roatan, as long as you follow common sense and avoid flashing your valuables in public.
Is Utila safe for tourists?
Utila is one of the Bay Islands that’s a popular destination for backpackers and a perfect option for budget travelers, as it has lower prices than Roatan. On top of being cheaper, it’s also relatively safe.
How many days should you spend in Roatan?
Plan about 5-7 days for your adventure in Roatan. This is a good amount of time to enjoy the island and explore the area beyond popular diving sites.
Does Roatan take US dollars?
You can pay with US dollars in many stores, restaurants, and hotels in Roatan, but you should always carry local currency, the Honduran Lempira.
Can I drink tap water in Roatan?
Just like in the rest of Honduras, tap water is not safe to drink in Roatan. Most hotels and restaurants offer filtered water, and you can buy bottled water in stores throughout the island.
Where to stay in Roatan?
Roatan has several areas, and the best place to stay depends on your interests, budget, and the type of experience you’re looking for.
What is the nicest area of Roatan?
The nicest parts of Roatan are West End and West Bay Beach, that boast gorgeous beaches, world-class resorts and clear turquoise waters perfect for diving and snorkeling.
Here are some popular areas and types of accommodations in Roatán:
- West End: A lively area with a vibrant nightlife scene, restaurants, bars, and dive shops, West End in Roatan is a popular choice for younger travelers and those looking for a good social scene. You can find budget-friendly hostels, boutique hotels, and vacation rentals here.
- West Bay Beach: West Bay Beach is known for its stunning white sand and crystal-clear waters. It’s a great spot for snorkeling, swimming, and water sports. You’ll find a range of upscale accommodations, like Mayan Princess Dive Resort, beachfront hotels, and vacation rentals in this area.
- Sandy Bay: Sandy Bay is a quieter area compared to the West End and West Bay. It’s a good choice for travelers seeking a more relaxed atmosphere. There are mid-range hotels and vacation rentals available here.
- Coxen Hole: Coxen Hole is Roatán’s largest town and where you’ll find the island’s airport and cruise ship port. While it’s not known for its beaches, it’s a convenient location for those in transit or looking to explore the island’s local culture. There are a few hotels and guesthouses in this area.
- Utila: While not on Roatán itself, nearby Utila is another popular destination for travelers seeking a more laid-back, budget-friendly atmosphere. It’s famous for its diving opportunities and backpacker-friendly accommodations.
- East End: The East End of Roatán is more remote and less developed than the western side of the island. It’s a good choice if you want to escape the crowds and experience a more tranquil environment. There are some eco-friendly resorts and vacation rentals here.