Island Living at Affordable Prices in Roatan & The Bay Islands
Doors carved with Mayan monkey gods lead into the master bedroom suite. Beautiful wooden furniture—a king-size bed, an eight-foot-tall mahogany wardrobe, a giant pigeonhole desk—stand out in contrast along the white walls. Marble steps take you into a giant, beautifully tiled shower room. The sound of waves fills the house as gentle ocean breezes waft through cotton curtains. A large picture window looks out to the Caribbean. All you can see for miles and miles is the white sand bay verging the blue-green sea, stretching towards the horizon.
Welcome to your new home in Honduras.
Roatan has all the makings of the perfect retirement haven: lush countryside with beaches and mountains, a tropical climate, international airports, safe cities, friendly people, and, most importantly, a very low cost of living. You can eat well for just a few dollars a day in Roatan. The country produces rice, beans, plantains, bananas, mangos, pineapples, papayas, melons, oranges, and more, for pennies a kilo. Seafood is inexpensive and plentiful along the entire Caribbean coast.
Roatan and the Bay Islands have a varied landscape. The Bay Islands provide unparalleled Caribbean beauty, where dense tropical foliage spills out onto white-sand beaches to meet tropical waters. Not far away, the northern coast recedes into a backdrop of mountains and cloud forests that slope down to valleys to make way for rivers. Vast expanses of land on a central plateau are farmed for coffee, tobacco, wheat, fruits, and vegetables. Large cattle ranches also occupy much of the flat lands. Elsewhere, mahogany and other hardwood trees flourish.
Roatan is a place where you can indulge your dreams, even on a limited budget...a place where Caribbean breezes lift fresh ocean air through your windows...where the sunlight glints off the water at odd angles...where the sound of waves lapping at the shore is just hypnotic enough to spirit away the dissonance of the 21st century...
We have compiled this special report to give you a taste of what Honduras is all about. Read on…and maybe you’ll fall in love with this amazing country, just like we have.
Publisher, International Living
Where to Buy Real Estate
Roatán, the largest of the Bay Islands located just off Honduras’ Caribbean Coast. The island is small—only 37 miles long, and five miles across at its widest point. But it has some excellent opportunities if you know where to find them.
The island is a fascinating mix of people, culture, history, and accents…Spanish, English, pirate, slave, indigenous and Garifuna are all rooted here.
Until the 1970’s, there were few Spanish speakers (outside of government officials). The islanders were English-speaking. Then, the fishing and shipping industries attracted Spanish-speaking migrant workers from the mainland. Still, English remains widely spoken on Roatán today. If you have trouble communicating with someone, there’s always another islander nearby whose English is strong and who is happy to help you sort things out.
Proximity to the world’s second-largest reef means Roatán is a popular spot with divers.
Property sample in Roatán:
Overlooking beautiful Anthony’s Key is a three-bedroom, three-bathroom oceanfront home. The property is fully furnished and has sumptious fittings (many area rugs, custom luxury mini blinds, rare sumpwood cabinets, black/stainless steel appliances and granite countertops in the kitchen) and ceiling fans throughout. Price: $246,565.
Buying Real Estate
A real estate agent and a local lawyer are essential in purchasing property. Initial steps before having any property titled include the verification of the property background in the registry and making sure that municipal taxes such as the Real Estate Property Tax have been paid. Then a notary issues the preliminary deed, after which the 1.5% transfer tax and 0.15% registration fee are paid at a bank. Registration at a property office and the change of ownership in the Cadastre office follow.
Title is held in the same manner as fee simple, or freehold. You receive an Escritura Pública (publicly registered document) and, if buying in a corporation, you will hold bearer shares.
Foreign investors, as individuals, can only purchase up to three quarters of an acre of Honduran land and must start to build on that land within three years. There are also restrictions on buying land within 40kms (25 miles) of the coastline or international borders.
You can own more land without these restrictions by forming a Honduran corporation. A Honduran attorney can perform the legal work to create the corporation. By forming this corporation, you are entitled to all the rights of a Honduran citizen regarding ownership of your property.
There are good medical facilities in or near the communities where expatriates are likely to settle. Clincia Esperanza is operated by North Americans and is an accredited Hospital. Woods Medical is a private Hospital with modern facilities. The CEMESA facility in San Pedro Sula and the Honduras Medical Center in Tegucigalpa are both top quality medical centers. But outside of these populated areas, medical care is generally only adequate for minor illnesses and injuries.
Many of the doctors were trained in the U.S. and so are familiar with modern techniques and speak English.
If you have an ongoing medical condition, it might be worth considering having a health insurance policy that includes a medical evacuation component should you need more sophisticated medical care.
U.S. and Canadian citizens do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days in Honduras. For a list of other foreign citizens who do not need a visa, inquire at your nearest Honduran consulate.
Honduras has a number of permanent residence visas that are available to expats. Categories include retirees, investors and people married to Honduran citizens. Contact your nearest Honduran Embassy for specific application requirements.
Before you apply, here are some things the American Embassy in Honduras recommends you do:
Hire a Honduran lawyer with expertise and experience in residence requirements.
Make sure all of the required documents are in order before submitting your residence request. Delays in gathering the documents may result in having your petition dismissed and you will have to start over.
All supporting documents need to be translated into Spanish. Official documents from U.S. governmental agencies need to be authenticated (through apostilles) in the U.S.
Initiate the process in Honduras. Applications are only accepted in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Some Honduran consulates in the states may offer some residence services, but generally the work has to be redone.
U.S. Embassy in Honduras, Avenida La Paz, Tegucigalpa M.D.C., Honduras; tel. +504 2236-9320; fax +504 2236-9037; website:
Honduras Embassy in the U.S., 1014 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001; tel. (202) 506-4995; fax (202) 525-4004; website: The Embassy of Canada in San José, Costa Rica, has overall consular responsibility for Honduras. There is a Program Office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Program Office in Honduras, Centro Financiero CITI, 3rd floor, Boulevard San Juan Bosco, Colonia Payaquí; tel. +504 2232-4551; fax +504 2239-7767; e-mail: ; website;
Canadian Embassy in Costa Rica (also responsible for Honduras), Oficentro Ejecutivo complex, Sabana Sur, San José; postal address/Apartado Postal: PO Box 351-1007, Centro Colón, San José, Costa Rica; tel. +506 2242-4400; e-mail:; website:
Honduras Embassy in Canada,151 Slater St. Suite 805, Ottawa, ON, K1P-5H3; tel. (613) 233-8900; fax (613) 232-0193; e-mail: ; website: www.embassyhonduras.ca.
Taxes in Honduras
Income tax: Foreign residents living on their foreign income, including pensions, are not subject to income taxes on their foreign income. Only the income earned in Honduras will be taxed at a flat rate of 10%.
Capital gains tax: Capital gains earned by non-residents selling real property located in Honduras are taxed at a fixed rate of 10%.
Sales tax: The sales tax rate in Honduras is 15%.
Currency and exchange: Honduras uses the Lempira (HNL). US$1=19.1 HNL (May 2014)
Opening a bank account: Before opening a bank account in Honduras be sure to find out what services the bank offers. Some backs do not have online access and other may not have the function for you to pay things like utility bills.
Honduran banks offer accounts in dollars and Lempiras. It’s a good idea to open one of each, that way any money coming from the U.S. can be deposited into the dollar account and then transferred to the Lempira account.
To open an account you’ll need to have a form of identification and two reference letters. It is preferable that your references have accounts at the bank at which you are applying.
Make note to avoid banking on the 15th and 30th of the month, in particular. These are paydays in Honduras and the banks are quite crowded.
ATMs: ATM machine functionality is sporadic. Some ATMs may give you the option of receiving U.S. dollars or Lempiras, but the ATMs will only give Lempiras, so be aware if you key in “$300 U.S. dollars” you will only receive 300 Lempiras.
When you move, or if you’re just thinking of moving, somewhere new, it’s a good idea to talk to people who have already done what you’re about to. Get in touch with expats in Honduras, they’ll be able to help you with any questions or concerns you might have and you’ll be able to compare notes on moving here.
Our International Living Facebook page is a great place to meet other like-minded, Honduras-bound expats and get advice.
"How to Get to Honduras"
Honduras is accessible. If the islands are your destination there are weekly direct scheduled flights depart from Dallas, Atlanta, Miami and Houston to Roatán. In the winter, charters fly from a variety of cities, including Toronto, Montreal and even Milan, Italy. Alternatively you can fly via San Pedro Sula on the mainland any day of the week and catch a regular hop to the islands.
To find the best value flights, try a cost comparison website like Skyscanner or Travelzoo.
Making Money in Honduras
Getting a work visa
For details on getting a work visa for Honduras, contact your nearest Embassy or Consulate. You’ll find a list here:
Setting up your own business
For information on setting up your own business in Honduras, see
Making money overseas
If you’re interested in finding a way to fund your life overseas, there are a whole host of “jobs” that you can do from anywhere in the world. These are jobs that you can do from the front porch of your beach house…jobs that allow you to work in the morning, leaving the afternoon free for relaxing, reading, snorkeling, sailing…
These days, the world is more interconnected than ever and the possibilities for a portable paycheck are almost never-ending. You don’t need an MBA or thousands upon thousands of start-up cash to create a business for yourself that can easily fund your life overseas.
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