Interested in Roatan?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for Roatan each week.
In general, Roatan is a safe island, however, theft can be an issue, as it is in many tourist areas. Certain parts of the island should beavoided however, as they are not considered so safe. Understanding your location and proximity to your hotel is important for your safety.
You will most likely see beggars in Roatan, it is best not to interact with beggars.
If you happen to rent a car, do not be surprised if the police are doing "check-ups". In this case all cars passing the particular roadway are required to stop for an identity check and possibly a car search.
When traveling internationally, it is always important to keep your passport or international identification card with you. Traveler's insurance can be a smart consideration, especially if you are planning rigorous physical activity, during your trip abroad.
Crime should always be reported to not only local authorities and your hote/tour group, but to your national embassy as well.
Some personal safety advice for travelers gleaaned from the forums:
• don’t carry a lot of cash
• have more than one credit and debit card (one credit card was hacked while down there)
• carry a credit/debit card with limited funds
• don’t take jewelry, or anything you can’t afford to loose
• when not at home lock the unit and lock up laptops, iPads etc.
• do not sleep with patio doors open
• ask for a safe in your room/condo to keep your passport etc. in
• have a photocopy of your passport
• stay out of dark unfamiliar places
• don’t get excessively drunk in public places
• don’t take off with someone without knowing them first
• consider lodging with electronic locks on the condo door and to forget using keys
You are on vacation but you still have to keep your wits about you. Be conscious of your surroundings. If something doesn’t feel quite right then it probably isn’t. Don’t leave your commonsense at the airport.
First of all... those State Department and other governmental warning about Honduras need to be read with an understanding that Roatan is removed by geography and culture and travel status from the rest of Honduras. Mainland Honduras has not developed a tourist infrastructure as is found in many countries. Only a few places on the mainland are frequented by international tourists looking for relaxing vacation time - it is more oriented toward adventure/backpacker type travel. The tourism on the mainland is simply quite different from tourism on Roatan.
Roatan is an island with an English-speaking tradition and has often been ignored by the mainland government. Long beloved by divers, the word slowly spread among savvy travelers that one could find a beautiful island paradise at prices well below those in more developed Caribbean tourist islands in the Bay Islands. Slowly hotel and condominium complexes and private vacation homes for rent by owners, plus restaurants and destination activities have developed to meet the increasing tourist trade. Package travel from Canada helped establish a steady flow of tourists staying on the island for a week or more. More recently the cruise ship trade has multiplied the number of day tourists to staggering numbers.
As demand has grown, so has tourist capacity. The island is no longer a hidden gem - it is well past the "discovery" stage. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the island.
And most of them never experience any crime.
Is Roatan completely safe? Absolutely not.
As Roatan tourism has developed, so has the need for manpower. The "native" population... old time island families of various cultural heritages... Spanish, English, Garifuna... just can't supply all the help needed to run tourist infrastructure. Behind the scenes, the tourist experience is driven by maids and cooks and security guards and all the rest of the low-wage jobs that allow tourists with dollars to live the happy island life for a few days each year.
Though wages are low, they are still attractive to mainland folks who find little occupational opportunity there. The result is the development of some very poor communities of "internal immigrants" - people coming to the island looking for work and living in colonias under very difficult conditions, often with the most rudimentary access to housing, clean water, medical care, etc.
As is found anywhere in the world where "those who have" spend time in contact with "those who have not" - there will always be some crime. The crime that affects tourists on Roatan is primarily property crime. Something like an i-pod, a computer, a camera... that is a casual entertainment device to a tourist... might look like an easy source for cash to one willing to steal.
This is not to justify crime - but it might help understand it. When one works full time as a maid or a guard and still can't earn enough to feed one's kids properly, there is a lot of motivation to steal.
The huge majority of people on Roatan are delightful, friendly folks. Being poor isn't criminal and doesn’t make one a criminal. But a few poor folks do turn to crime for cash. (Actually, crime isn't limited to those few poor folks... a few not poor folks on the island continue the long traditions of graft and bribes to enrich themselves as well - but this kind of crime is unlikely to affect the tourist experience directly, while burglary and petty theft by low-level thieves is more likely to impinge on tourists.)
Mainland Honduras has earned the moniker "Murder Capital of the World" due the extremely high per capita murder rate. This is primarily driven by the international drug production/transport business. Roatan has not been immune to this – for example, there are drug storage houses in the remote areas and there has been some drug-related violence.
There is occasional violent crime on Roatan. It is most often drug-related... either the drug trade, or people damaged by drug use. Anyone familiar with meth use will understand this reference immediately.
It is impossible to get any accurate reporting because of a lack of credible journalism on the island combined with a rampant rumor mill and rampant corruption. Nobody can accurately compare the murder rates for Roatan with Toronto, Paris, and Los Angeles.
Though tragic, these isolated incidents do not reflect anything like the wonderful, relaxing experiences of hundreds of thousands of visitors.
The more typical crime against tourists on Roatan will be property crime – theft of money and portable goods. This should not be overplayed, however. Most tourists, using normal traveler procedures, will not experience or even hear about a theft. The reports are scattered and hard to verify. There have undoubtedly been some burglaries. The same qualities that make a cabana attractive to someone building or renting an escape – no crowds, a beach to one’s self, a feeling of remote island paradise – also provide an attractive target for those looking to steal portable goods.
One of the facts that leads to a heightened sense of concern among tourist is that the legal system on Roatan does not resemble the one most of 1st world folks are familiar with. The police do not investigate enthusiastically. Tourists come and go – the police and judges and lawyers have to live with their island compatriots, so there is the persistent sense that bribes and graft drive a lot of the local law enforcement (and lack of it) and that tourists are unlikely to get a fair shake if an incident occurs. Again, this is common around the world. In the unlikely event that a tourist does experience a crime, they should report it and follow all the procedures – but it is unlikely they will see their IPod again…
In some resort rooms, a safe is available. It only makes sense to use it for passports, cash, and expensive electronics when you are leaving. Other places one might use the resort’s safe. It makes sense not to leave expensive toys and cash laying around in the room. If you stay in cabanas with no safes – hide key stuff to make it unlikely that a quick break in would result in finding it.
In any unfamiliar place, it makes sense for a traveler to be aware of place and circumstances and play by local rules. Most folks feel comfortable walking the more actively touristed beaches… West Bay, West End, and parts of Sandy Bay… in the daytime with no more protection than they’d use at home. Most folks are comfortable walking to dinner along West Bay Beach and in West End in the evening after dark.
Not sure anybody recommends that tourists walk any remote areas on the island after dark. Most of us would recommend against a tourist being in Coxen Hole at night. If drinking in bars, it is best that it be with known companions, not last into the wee hours and that a known taxi and driver be engaged for safe transport door-to-door.
Even ignoring these precautions, most folks would probably be fine, but there is really no point in even taking the minor risk of running into a bad guy in the dark. I don’t go out a lot at night in Roatan, and if I do I only take taxis and call drivers I know. I leave valuables at home and carry only the cash I need.
Many places on the island have private security guards, so those wishing a heightened sense of security might want to be sure this is part of their rental package.
It would be irresponsible to tell people Roatan is perfectly safe. Anyone who travels to unfamiliar locations should be aware of basic travel common sense. A lapse in sensible protections – leaving a door unlocked, valuables in an unattended vehicle, unattended bags on the beach – drastically increase the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime. And “stuff” happens, anywhere tourists go.
Be sensible, yes… but don’t be driven away by fear or let the fear-mongering keep you from enjoying your vacation.
Here are some personal safety guidelines for travel in Central America. Happy trails!
Here are some concessions to safety considerations when traveling anywhere in Central America:
:: Avoid the big cities as much as possible
:: Don't "party"
:: Know where you are and where you are headed; make major transitions with plenty of daylight left
:: Don't wear jewelry (not even a wedding band) and try not to flash camera equipment or money around
:: Some trips into unknow areas you can carry a “throw down wallet” with an expired card or 2 and the day’s cash in it.
:: Keep important documents and cash under your clothes (except what you need for shopping, buses, etc. for that time period) and keep close watch on your things, especially in crowded places and when tired
:: Ask locals about safety in an area - evenings, hiking, etc.
:: Travel really light so you don't feel vulnerable getting your bag off and on buses, shuttles, etc.
:: Consider learning language skills in Spanish