Genny Ross-Barons watches tourists come and go on the Caribbean island of Roatan. Here, she offers tips on how to avoid looking like tourist.
From the moment you arrive to the glorious Island of Roatan surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, amidst white sand beaches and lush jungle flora and fauna extending to the highest ridges, if you look and act like a tourist — you will get treated like one.
Admittedly, even though I’ve lived on Roatan for more than three years, I still on occasion get mistaken for a tourist based solely on the fact that I obviously wasn’t born here. But for the most part I don’t get approached with insistent offers of souvenirs or a tour of the Island anymore.
Now, there is nothing wrong with being a tourist. But there is a whole new facet that can be added to your visit to Roatan if you blend in a little bit. The following 10 tips helped me out. I’m sure they’ll work for you too:
1. Do not wear anything made of synthetic fibres
A dead giveaway! Not only did I stand out, I was unbearably uncomfortable wearing a non-breathable fabric. This of course doesn’t apply to my swimwear, which is an assemblage of man-made fabrics designed to keep everything where it belongs. You know what I mean.
2. Do not wear new un-scuffed running shoes
…especially with knee socks! And at all cost avoid wearing sandals with socks…especially knee socks. Personally, I was a flip-flops-only-no-socks-of-any-sort kinda gal even before I moved to Roatan (wearing flip flops was no easy feat in the wintertime where I’m from — I had no choice but to wear what the weather dictated). In turn, if you are planning on doing a canopy tour or going hiking on Roatan, do wear appropriate footwear with socks…just not knee socks.
3. No t-shirts with:
Mickey or Minnie Mouse, or the name of another Caribbean island printed on them. I had visited many Caribbean Islands before moving to Roatan and always got the t-shirt. But wearing those t-shirts on Roatan is like working for Coca-Cola and wearing something with a Pepsi logo on it…not cool. As for Mickey or Minnie Mouse—Roatan isn’t Disney World — it’s better!
4. Dress for the weather
If the temperature is below 24C (75F) wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt. That’s downright cold for those of us who live here and have become acclimatized. I used to be able to deal with temperatures below freezing for a few months every year. Now, just holding a glass with ice in it makes me cold.
5. Minimal (if any) precious metal and gemstone jewellery*
The golden rays of sun by far outshine anything I could adorn myself with. The sparkle glistening on the shimmering Caribbean Sea can’t be matched. I quit trying to compete.
6. No big fat wallet jammed in your back pocket or purse*
I carry only the ID I need, with cash (US Dollars or Lempiras) tucked away in various pockets. My Sear’s Card, Zeller’s point’s card, and Blockbuster card (to name just a few) are of no use here.
*These two points are not to scare you into thinking you will be attacked for your worldly possessions when you visit Roatan. Just like anywhere in the world, even in your own neighbourhood for that matter, the more you look like you have something of monetary value to be relieved of — the more likely it is to happen.
7. Avoid sunburn lines at all cost
I fell asleep while lounging on the dock one afternoon. Oh, the sunburn I got. For the next few days (until the red tomato tinge of my skin settled down) I was teased relentlessly by friends on Roatan asking me why I was trying to look like a tourist. The flip side to that is if you are too pale. Now, I appreciate there isn’t much you can do to rectify that one until you spend some time here; just be sure to use sunscreen and ease into a healthy glow.
8. Minimal (if any) make-up
Natural beauty shines through (see #7 re: healthy glow.) Besides, make-up just runs down my face. The mascara and eyeliner that was intended to accentuate my eyes started to spread, giving me the appearance of a raccoon. Raccoons are cute, but this is definitely not the look I’m going for.
9. Order a local beer like you know what you’re doing
The funny thing about this one is I’m not a beer drinker. But I did learn that how a beer is ordered distinguishes a resident from a tourist:
• Salva Vida, ask for a Salva or “a Brown”—which refers to the colour of the bottle
• Port Royal ask for a Port or “a Green”—same as above
• Imperial is what you ask for if the bar is out of Salva or Port
• Barena is just called Barena. Note: Salva drinkers will tease you about drinking Barena. But if you are partial to a beer similar to Corona this is the one you want to order.
If you order a glass of wine (red or white) don’t look surprised when it is poured from a box not a bottle. I have become a boxed wine connoisseur.
10. Don’t check your watch every few minutes
I’m on Island time now. I don’t even wear a watch anymore. I do appreciate that as a visitor you are on a set schedule. But as hard as it may be to resist, repeatedly checking your watch is an absolute give-away that you are a tourist from a cruise ship! I mean, really, would it be so bad if the boat left without you and you had to stick around Roatan for a little while longer. Perhaps it’s the Roatan Vortex pulling you in!
This story can also be found at Honduras Weekly retitled “10 Tips to Avoid Being Mistaken for a Tourist.”