Travel Crime Warning: Tourists Assaulted, Robbed & Terrorized in Roatan, Honduras

Roatan Honduras MapIn January we reported on an incident in Roatan where a U.S. family's rental car was shot up while on a beach access road. The family of four (with two children) were robbed at gunpoint and terrorized. The family had arrived in Roatan via a Carnival cruise ship.

This violent crime followed a warning issued in December 2013 by the the U.S. Department of State warning. You can read the warning here. Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. As I mentioned in our prior article, the warning indicates that "the vast majority of serious crimes in Honduras, including those against U.S. citizens, are never solved; of the 50 murders committed against U.S. citizens since 2008, police have only solved two."

This past week we have received complaints from tourists and cruise visitors to Roatan. One woman from the U.S. was attacked after she traveled to Roatan to dive.  Here are her comments:

"I ..i am female..came to roatan to dive and was basically attacked by 3 local men on this island. They assaulted me then robbed me..holding a knife to my neck. I heard them discussing kidnapping me for a ransom..or selling me to a slave market...to be taken out by boat. I got away when another tourist group drove by with several guys in the car. They saved my life. No one should go to this God forsaken island. I have learned a scary and nearly life ending lesson."

Another U.S. woman informed us that she and her two children (boys 15 and 16 years old) were robbed during a private excursion to a beach. They were held at gun point and knifepoint and robbed of all of their valuables. The woman, a single mother, stated that the cruise line, Royal Caribbean, did not warn them that there is a crime problem in Roatan or, in particular, armed robbery at the roads to and from the beaches in Roatan which seems to be a particular problem. The incident occured, according to the woman, at an access road to Palm Beach. 

In addition to these two recent incidents which were reported directly to us by the victims, concerned expatriate U.S. citizens living in Roatan have told us about armed robbery on the island, mainly against people riding in taxi's or driving on beach access roads. We have learned that a taxi with four cruise passengers was recently stopped by two local men at Palm Beach. The men held a knife to a woman's Roatan Honduras Crime - Cruise Passengersthroat and pointed a gun at a man's head. One robber reportedly fired a shot into the taxi. The men stole the cruise tourists' money, cell phones, cameras and other items. 

After our article in January, we received comments from U.S. and Canadians living in Roatan that it was unfair to lump the island of Roatan with the mainland of Honduras as a dangerous place to live or visit. Some property owners who have invested in real estate in Roatan under the hope and belief that they would live in a slice of paradise may be second guessing themselves considering what appears to be increasing violence against people arriving from North America.

Some people don't like us to write articles like this, arguing that "crime occurs everywhere" or just "use common sense." But all of the victims who contacted us were using common sense and doing what people normally do while on a vacation.  The point is that certain types of crime occur more often in certain places than others. The problem is that criminals in these poor countries are targeting U.S. passengers with iPhones, cameras, jewelry and cash. The New York Times recently published an article about crime problems in Roatan: Security Concerns on a Honduran Island.

From our view, there appears to be a rising tide of crime against cruise passengers throughout the Caribbean ports. Honduras and the Bahamas are the only countries we know with port facilities which are the subject of warnings about crime from the U.S. State Department. 

The cruise industry just convened their annual trade show, Cruise Shipping Miami, with much fanfare on Miami Beach. A delegation came from Honduras, promoting Roatan. I wonder what, if any, discussions the delegates from the Caribbean islands had with the cruise lines about keeping cruise passengers safe? 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Read our prior article about crime in Roatan.

 

Map & photo credit: Top - Global Healing; Bottom - Jim Walker. 

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Comments (15) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Jeff Dunsavage - March 20, 2014 12:44 PM

Folks really need to do serious homework before visiting -- and, in particular, moving to or investing in -- any of these "cheap pieces of paradise." Cheap is cheap for good reasons. The problem is, it is really difficult for people to find solid, credible, timely safety/security information about these destinations because the people who have the funds to promote and search-engine-optimize their promotions are the ones who have a personal/financial stake in drawing people, not in keeping them safe. Thanks, Jim, for reporting on these topics!

Froggy Bottom - March 20, 2014 10:37 PM

As an Ex-Pat living in Roatan. I can personally say that it is not safe to travel to Roatan. It is an absolutely pristine Island however, I suggest anyone thinking of traveling or investing in the Bay Islands; Have your affairs in order. There is not a functioning legal system in the Country. When you enter the Country you are totally on your own, if something should happen to you or your loved ones. Honduras has the highest murder rate per capita in the world. Cruise ship visitors think there is a safety net for them but I can not count the victims that have been left on there own, when jacked up by guns and machetes pointed at there heads.

Jesus Correa - March 21, 2014 8:17 PM

Dear All,

53 days ago the mew Major of Roatan took office with the commitment to make Roatan a CRIME FREE territory. A plan has been put in place where hi tech security cameras have been placed all across the Island with its corresponding monitoring system and a call center to access the security forces. The Municipal police is being selected among those that have impeccable police records,higher education as a must, fully bilingual and well paid. 6 Police Posts are in the process of construction on the main road of the Island from Oakridge (East) to West End.12, well equipped Police patrol vehicles will be constantly patrol the Island. Beach vendors are being forced to bear the merchant licence given by the Municipality after a deep background investigation is performed. Shortly visitors will be scanned when arriving and leaving the Island. Those with criminal records will not be allowed to visit Roatan and invited to leave by the same means they came, immediately.

Sad to say but Roatan burdens the fact that it is part of Honduras where the crime rate is very high, however if the statistics were only for Roatan,the Island is one of the safest havens in Central America.

John Nelson - March 23, 2014 6:49 PM

it is not totally safe anywhere. You have to be careful, even at home, so don't believe that these so called "paradise" destinations are perfectly safe and crime free. Unfortunately, some areas invites more press coverage than others, and the cruise industry is being targeted more than others.
http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Fort-Lauderdale-Florida.html

Vernon Albert - March 25, 2014 9:54 AM

Roatan is safe. This article is old news. I have lived on Roatan for 9 years and have never had a problem and I am in every village at all hours. Stop scaring people away from a very great place. All you are doing is taking food out of peoples mouths by trying to be an authority on crime. You are all off the mark. How many foreign people live on Roatan and have not had an incident? This is a great place to live with really great people. Come and enjoy and do not let the world make you not live "YOUR DREAMS"

Madame Marie - April 7, 2014 12:20 AM

Yikes! I just got off the Carnival Dream yesterday,April 5,2014. One of my stops was in Coxen Hole-Roatan. I didn't think I was ever going to see home again. Once I passed the security point and entered the district, I attracted a pseudo-travel guide. The man seemed friendly enough but wasn't quite understanding that I had no interest in his services. He continued to follow my every step knowing that I wanted to be left alone. He started to ask for money for the services he claims to have provided me ie:companionship. When I fervently protested that I had no money other than 10 dollars American, he insisted that he walk me to the bank to withdraw more. While making my way to the bank I became extremely nervous as he described a location called the Happy Frog. When we were at the Happy Frog I was told that the Hookers are kept here. I was one push away into the door. The establishment was secured with thick unpassable vertical wooden bars. There were women of all nationalities walking around aimlessly, with men who looked like they were in a meat market. I hoped that my debit card would provide me with money while in a foreign area. Once at the row of banks lined with police bearing machine guns, another problem arose. I couldn't read the word prompts on the ATM machine. My escort started poking at the screen telling me what to withdraw. When the police saw this transaction they intervened and told the man to back off. I hoped for reprive when I explained my ignorance and thought it wiser to just go into the bank. Yet another problem, tellers didn't speak English- NADA word! Unbenounced to me an undercover officer was watching. Because my escort wasn't allowed inside the bank the undercover took advantage of the timing and explained what he witnessed was something to be wary of and started to ramble off a list of possible outcomes and commenced with advice to me. He started to talk to one of the police officers as if to say, Yes she understands. I was then given a super fast lesson on the value of a Lempiras. 10 Lempiras = .50 cents I explained how the escort was asking for a tip and didn't know what to do. The undercover told me that it was up to me to make that decision. I hadn't the foggiest idea was WAS a norm if you were to give a tip for services rendered. In the end I had given 400 Lempiras and that seemed to be suffice. Albeit, he never left my side. My pseudo-travel guide walked with me from the moment I stepped out of security till the second I took one step back into the port. This gentleman, I'm glad to say, sat with me in the hair salon while my hair was being cut which was where I hoped to have given him the slip. Because of his persistent insistance of his presence an insurmountable amount of fear and tension weighed heavily upon my yoke the whole time I was in Roatan. I must say I will never desire to visit this very very scary location again.

Esly - April 8, 2014 6:59 PM

Crime happens all over the world!!!!! Are you guys not aware of that!!!! Saying that Roatan is horrible and a bad place to live or to visit because someone got killed isn't okay. That's almost as saying let's stop planes from flying into L.A or New York because someone was killed! NO! I'm not saying that the man whose life was taken is pointless but what I'm trying to say is that crime exists everywhere. This island is a beautiful paradise and it's peoples home you know! If you don't like it then get the hell out of their land! It's not fair that so many locals get affected by this because there will be less jobs for them. I'm just hoping that the government and president will do something to maintain security in this beautiful place many people call home.

Lee - April 9, 2014 9:36 AM

we are going to have to stop at mahogany bay via carnival magic in a few weeks. we may not get off the boat after reading that our lives might be in danger. I cannot believe that with all the other safer places to stop, carnival still stops at this obviously dangerous place.

Bill - April 11, 2014 11:02 PM

People visit Chicago and consider it safe enen considering t hey have hundreds of murders there every year. I was in Roatan 2 weeks ago and I woukd retire there in a heartbeat!

Lena Dixon - April 25, 2014 2:22 PM

To all Readers out there !!

I am from Roatan and i have been keeping up with the articles that are being written up about the crimes in Roatan. Let me just inform to each of you readers out there.. everywhere there is a crime.. there is bombs.. there is anything wherever we go doesnt matter if we travel to Honduras or any other country in the world. But not all what tourist is talking and providing negative feedback towards our island is the truth.

So before anyone can sit down and actually critize the island for the crime we should also see what is happening in your country.

What ruins us the island people is the social networks ( Twitter / Facebook etc )everyone takes advantage and publics asap on the web.. meanwhile you never post any of your crimes back in the USA.. but the bombs? the school shootings? the murders? So before we can sit down and point of the negativeness of a country or place also take the time and reflect on the place you live!

Thank you

Courtney - May 15, 2014 5:54 PM

I just visted Roatan last week. My husband and I had a wonderful time~ I was with a guided tour but we had no issues and talked to some of the natives that said that the one or two robbies has effected the island immensly. I didnt feel unsafe there at all.

GTH - May 31, 2014 10:18 PM

I agree with Lena Dixon. I visit Roatan each year and feel safer than I do in my hometown of Houston that had in 2012, 217 murders, 665 rapes, 9,385 robberies, 11,343 assaults, 26,630 burglaries and 67,978 thefts. I choose to live here and feel safe, yet we are careful. We have had our share of noting a school shooting, stabbings and luckily no bombings. If I could I would live in Roatan and feel safer there than Houston. Lena your right, the ignorance of some to use social media to exaggerate the issues is just. If you are a world traveler, you understand the risk which has not changed in the last 40 years of my travels and you understand the culture of where you go. But at the same time every incident of crime noted should be investigated at its fullest potential. The rate of solving crimes in Roatan needs to improve and if the new mayor is successful in his plan of a crime free territory, this will improve the rate prosecution and deter future issues. I am sad to hear that this plan stops at Oakridge as we love the east end, which is what the west end was 20 years ago. Cruise Law Forum is a great resource I look at, but also all content posted must be evaluated for truth when reviewing comments.

Janet Mittleman - July 31, 2014 12:11 AM

I have been to Roatan 14 times for scuba diving. We have 4 friends who live there and all of them been robbed many times. One of them has had 12 home robberies to date. Another friend has four dogs and a guard 24 hours a day. We have never been robbed but we do not venture off the main road. Our last visit in April of 2014 a crew member of a cruise ship was killed. The resorts that we stay at all have armed guards. Even in the grocery store we go to has a guard with a machine gun. Do not be fooled into thinking that Roatan is safe.

Steve - August 15, 2014 1:43 PM

I have been to Roatan twice, and it was quite nice. With that being said, Both times were with Holland America, and the second time we did not leave the confines of Mahogany Bay Cruise terminal. As with most places you can cruise to, there WILL be crime. If that scares you, either stay on the ship, or stay in the Cruise owned port facilities. However, Some places are worth the risk of going on a ship sponsored excursion. Roatan has some of the most beautiful scuba/snorkeling spots on the planet. It would be a shame to miss something on the fairly rare chance that your group will be hit by criminals. Just be aware of your surroundings, travel with companions, and if any place looks sketchy, tell your group, and get somewhere safer. Crooks with machetes are no match for a lead foot on the accelerator!

lwparish - September 9, 2014 5:38 PM

Madame Marie, you are much too naïve to be travelling any farther than the corner store. I spent 3 weeks on Roatan 2 years ago, and never had any problem.

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