Transportation around the island of Roatan is plentiful and easily managed during your vacation visit. Whether by taxis to rental cars, driving the one main road of the island and its subsidiaries shouldn’t be a major concern for your vacation planning.
Here’s the breakdown on Roatan transportation options from the perspective of an island expat.
Taxis on Roatan
Cabs are numbered and registered so you clearly know which vehicles are taxis. They are all white, 4-door cars with their registration numbers on the side doors.
Taxi fares are set – for the most part. Here’s the caveat: you can either take a private taxi or a colectivo. If you take a private taxi your costs will be higher.
If you are taking a colectivo, the car will stop periodically to pick up other passengers so don’t be surprised if you stop several times along the way for pick-ups or drop-offs. You also may end up holding someone’s child or bag as you squeeze in together. The more the merrier!
The cabs take the same routes as the buses, staying on the main road with set costs for travel between specific points along the way.
If you go off the main road (getting dropped at your house instead of on the main road at the entrance to your neighborhood), the driver will charge more at his or her discretion so it’s best to agree upon a cost before getting into the cab. Otherwise, each taxi should have a copy of the price list if you need to consult it.
But don’t think you’ll cut costs by sharing a cab here – you pay per person in a colectivo. It is always best to clarify costs before getting into a cab. Also keep in mind that prices go up at night and are no longer set according to the price list.
Public Buses on Roatan
Buses in Roatan are actually 14-passenger vans. They typically say the route (e.g. Coxen Hole-Sandy Bay-West End) on the front and/or back of the van, but not always. They are cheaper than taxis and take longer than taxis, but they run frequently and are really convenient.
The route between Coxen Hole and West End will stay on the main road except for one turn-off into the Colonia where the bus simply enters and turns around after a quick stop at the shops.
These are set fares as well, but the bus will not veer off its set path at all, so no door-to-door service here. Yell out “baja” (say: ba-ha) or “gracias” when you want to get out, and pay the driver upon exiting the bus.
Renting Cars/Trucks on Roatan
If you’re coming to Roatan on vacation, you might want to rent a car. If you’re staying right on the beach in West Bay or right in West End and you don’t plan on leaving much, you don’t need one. If you’re renting a house outside of those areas you will most likely need it. And if you’re staying anywhere else in West Bay off the main beach, you will definitely want a rental car.
Most expats who live here and own a business or a home have vehicles. Check with your hotel/property manager if you’re renting a house to see if they recommend a rental or not.
Bonus tip: also ask them if you need an SUV with 4WD as some roads are steep and unpaved around here.
Scooters/Motorbikes on Roatan
The majority of expats who don’t own a business use scooters or motorbikes for basic transportation. Scooters are the cheapest option for those of us living here long-term without much need for carrying large items.
More convenient than walking and cheaper than public transportation, a scooter is an excellent option if you’re living a little outside of the main areas like we are.
If you are here on vacation and think it’s a cute idea to rent a scooter and putz around the island on it at 5mph, you are the person I fear most.
You must drive with traffic – I cannot emphasize this enough. There is only one main road and nobody is expecting you to be driving at snail pace, so please help us prevent accidents and drive responsibly.
If you are too scared to drive a scooter at normal speeds, do not rent one. That’s for your safety and everyone else’s. I really don’t recommend that tourists rent scooters, but it’s your decision. If you’re moving here it’s a great option (even taking into consideration my little pothole issue).
Walking on Roatan
If you’re coming here on vacation and you’re staying in West End or on the beach in West Bay, you’ll likely walk everywhere you need to go. One thing to keep in mind: the roads here are fairly narrow and curvy so walking on the main road at night is not recommended.
Also keep in mind that the main street in West End is not a pedestrian path. Traffic is moving through there quite heavily at times so you need to be aware of where you’re walking.
Hitchhiking on Roatan
While not recommended for tourists, if you’re staying here for a few months and don’t want to invest in your own form of transportation, you can hitchhike as needed. There are tons of pick-up trucks on this island, so hopping into the back for a free ride is fairly common.
I do not recommend getting into a vehicle unless you know the person. The bed of a pick-up truck, however, is a great way to get around for free!
Boats around Roatan
Water taxis run between West End and West Bay for $3 per person (minimum of 4 people to run the route, so you may have to wait for others to join).
If you’re staying somewhere in West End, West Bay, or Sandy Bay with a dock, you can usually get a ride directly there for a higher negotiated rate.
We get dropped off at our dock from West Bay for $5 each, which is cheaper than a road taxi and a lot more fun. Additionally, there are places on the island that are boat-access only, which is pretty cool! There are water taxis available from Oak Ridge out to Port Royal and other neighboring areas. Ask at BJs Backyard in Oak Ridge for more info.
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