The Bay Islands currency is called the Lempira. It is the national currency of Honduras, reflecting on the country's past and the Lenca people who used to live in the region centuries ago. Lempira was the Lenca leader who led the fight against Spanish conquistadores; his leadership and bravery are still recognized today as being exemplary.
About the Lempira
In addition to the local currency of Lempiras, the Bay Islands acknowledge that the majority of their visitors arrive from the United States, so the U.S. dollar is widely accepted. This definitely helps cruise ship guests so they don't have to exchange money at each port of call. Unfortunately, Canadian dollars are not accepted anywhere in the islands.
The Lempira is broken into bills and coins, just like most currencies around the world. The largest bill used is the L.500, and then the L.100, the L.50, the L.20, the L.10, the L.5, the L.2, and finally the L.1 bill. The coins are very rarely used, although you may receive exact change at larger places like grocery stores or banks. More typically, vendors and buyers alike merely round to the nearest whole Lempira and provide change accordingly.
As of March 2016, the exchange rate is 1USD to 22.64HNL. To get an approximate idea of the exchange rate as you purchase goods, divide the amount in Lempiras by 20. So, approximately, L.500 = $25 and L.100 = $5. That helps give you a framework for your transactions, although you'll want the exact calculations of course.
Because the exchange rate changes daily, most businesses will approximate the exchange rate to the nearest Lempira, meaning some businesses will currently exchange at L.22 to $1, while others exchange at L.23 to $1. It is always good to confirm before paying by credit card or in U.S. dollars.
Traveler's Cheques and Credit Cards
Traveler's cheques are not frequently used in the Bay Islands. You should not anticipate being able to exchange them easily, so it's best to avoid bringing them altogether.
Credit cards are typically accepted at all hotels and resorts, as well as for larger vacation rental companies. Many major activity providers will accept credit card payments as well. For any small purchases, cash is king. There is also typically a surcharge for credit card transactions, so be sure to ask prior to paying.
ATMs in the Bay Islands
You will find ATMs in Roatan and Utila, but bringing enough cash for your entire trip to Guanaja is advised. As with any international travel, you should notify your bank and credit card company about the location and dates for your trip, and monitor your bank statements for anything out of the ordinary during your travels.
Tipping Customs in the Bay Islands
The Bay Islands' tourism sector is heavily influenced by American standard practices. Most bars and restaurants are similar to those in the U.S., with workers earning a small daily wage and the majority of their income coming from tips.
For all your activity providers, it is customary to tip your tour guides, drivers, Divemasters, snorkel guides, boat captains, or whoever is taking care of you for the duration of your tour. Keep in mind that for many of these activities, the staff is working very hard to ensure your safety and to see that you have a fun experience.
Take a look at our FAQs if you have any more questions!