Relax, we have modern communications too!

Landing on an island without being connected at all times causes some people stress. Not having GPS to guide you every step of the way and not getting messages from a. work, b. children, c. mom leaves some people filled with anxiety. For most us, we are here to chill. A phone may be a necessity as an island inhabitant but not a way of life like it was wherever we came from. However, if you must… If your mobile phone carrier does not provide you with a reasonably priced option, you will have to buy some minutes once you get here.

On the island of Roatan there are two choices for mobile phone communication providers. Both offer Voice, Text and internet. These companies are Claro & Tigo. Although both generally work equally well there are those that will swear Claro is better for the West end and Tigo for the East end.

If you walk into any of the many Claro or Tigo stores on the island you can buy a calling only phone for about $15.00. Adding minutes to the phone (calls are generally about 15 cents per minute) is easy. Many of us find using our own phones from North America the best since we retain address books etc. Tigo and Claro will sell you an inexpensive chip and even install it for you. Buying minutes on the right day of the week can increase how many minutes you get by 2 to 5X.

* PRO TRAVELER TIP* Carry something that you will not lose. Put the chip that you take out of your phone for your domestic carrier. Carry a small paperclip or chip tool provided with your smart phone and you can change the chips easily. This way, the minute you land in the states you can swap out the chip and make calls. Welcome back to the rat race!

Roatan Phone Service – The Way it Was
I was thinking the other day about communications now and how things have changed on the islands in the last few years with the availability of cell phones.

Very nice compared to only a few years back when any sort of a phone call involved a trip to Hondutel (the phone company) and a long wait in line. For anyone who has never had the experience of using the government phone system, a little bit of background information is required. First of all, there were rules to be followed.

Rule 1: NO ONE other than an employee shall ever be allowed to dial a number.roatan communication company
Rule 2: NO ONE should be so rude as to try to interrupt a Hondutel employee in the middle of eating, applying nail polish or other cosmetic related activities, or while she is chatting with other employees who may or may not be likewise engaged in these activities.
Rule 3: NO ONE will ever be told which phone cubicle to go to until the connection has been completed and the person on the other end is thoroughly confused about who is trying to call from where and why and is given a reasonable amount of time to hang up.
Rule 4: NO ONE should ever expect a Hondutel office to remain open in the event of any sort of national holiday of any country in the world, or the opportunity to extend lunch or what might be considered a good day to go to the beach.
Rule 5: NO ONE should expect to be able to make a phone call without standing in line, and failing the existence of a line will be made to wait an appropriate amount of time to simulate having waited in line. Sometimes this wait was just so the girl behind the counter could dial the wrong number. I had that happen once and when I told the girl it was the wrong number and asked her if she could please try again she said okay and then just hit the redial button. So, I got to talk with the same wrong person twice. I suppose the best part of that system was the fact that it frustrated everybody to almost the same degree so it made for some interesting stories. Typically, these were woeful accounts of trying to communicate with the outside world, often told by people with tear streaked faces and funny looking patches of hair missing.

Just as much fun was to be had with the fax machine which they had at their disposal. I remember sending 2 or 3 faxes to a friend of mine and never getting a response back, which struck me as odd. I always used to write the fax number on the back of the message in order to make it easier for the girl sending the message. When I finally called him up (at $6.oo U.S. a minute) to find out why I hadn’t heard back, it finally came to light that I was the one who had been sending him faxes with nothing on them but his own phone number. Occasionally I would be told that they couldn’t send a fax that day because their machine had run out of paper. Startling in light of the fact that apparently, these women had taken special training to run the machine and were not mere amateurs. I know this must be true because every so often you would be told that it was not possible to send a fax because the girl who did that was having her hair done and might not be back that day.

Rather bizarrely when cell phones first became available in the country, the phone company fought back at this new form of competition by refusing to dial any numbers for you that were for cell phones. Oddly enough rather than stand in line only to be told that you were not allowed to call somebody because the company was in the process of crushing the competition, most people went out and got a cell phone of their own. With this one brilliant stroke, the phone company managed to put itself almost entirely out of the phone business in less than a year. The building is still there with the sign out front but I don’t know anyone who knows if there is still anyone barely working inside anymore. If there is I’m sure that they’re all relieved that there aren’t a bunch of people coming in and bothering them all the time like before.