January 21, 2007

Cost of living in La Ceiba

Residencial Las Colinas, La Ceiba, HondurasHouses in Residencíal Las Colinas - expensive

I'm probably not going to live up to that title. For those who are interested, I thought I would just give you some idea of what it costs to live here in La Ceiba.

Just keep in mind that your absolute needs are probably different from mine. If I asked one person how much it costs to live in Dallas, Texas, he might tell me $2,000 per month. If I ask another, he might tell me $20,000 per month.

clay house, HondurasClay house on the highway - inexpensive

All prices are translated from lempiras to U.S. dollars, except internet and cell phone which are billed in U.S. dollars.


Electric - Our electric bill runs about $95 per month and we rarely use the air conditioning. We do have an electric stove and electric dryer because those rusty propane tanks scare the dickens out of me.

Gas - Piped in natural gas service is not available. We haven't refilled our propane tank lately, but it probably costs somewhere around $11-13.

Water - This depends on which colonia (neighborhood) you live in but it is generally very low, a set rate of $2 - $15 per month. The quality of the water is correspondingly low, too. Availability of water is often limited in many colonias. Purified bottled water costs $1.05 to $1.25 per 5 gallon bottle.

Telephone - I don't know. It's relatively cheap, but hard to get unless your house already has a line. The Hondutel website is horrific and tells me nothing. Almost every "frequently" asked question (every question is added to the FAQ) is answered by saying "call us to find out" or "come into the office to find out." Other telephone companies are now offering service in some areas.

Cell phone - Honduras has the highest cell phone rates in Central America. A $45/month plan will give you about 220 minutes. Most plans run around $.20-25 per minute. There is a surcharge for calling landline phones or cell phones from another company. On average, El Jefe spends about $45 per month. During our house construction, it was more like $75. Cost of a cell phone ranges from about $25 to about $500. Prepaid cell cards in several denominations are available and are often most economical for those whose usage varies significantly from month to month. Both companies offer specials about once a month with bonus minutes for the cards.

Cable/Internet - Monthly cable television costs about $16. It includes around 90 channels, about 40% are English-language, including a few movie channels. Cable plus internet costs $60 per month. I don't know what the speeds are. It's not too bad but it's not super speedy either. There is a lower speed available for $30/month and a higher speed for $120/month. Cable is not available in all areas. Other internet options are available, some are very expensive.


Renting - Apartments are relatively inexpensive. To give you some idea, a few years ago we rented a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath apartment with two terrazas (terraces) and maid's quarters with bath for $265 per month. Recently, a friend rented a fully furnished (down to towels and forks) efficiency apartment for $330 per month, utilities (but no phone) included. Average unfurnished houses can be rented for $300-$500 per month on up.

Buying - Mortgage interest rates are 10-12%. That's way down from 20-24% not too long ago. You might be able to find a small house for around $60,000, you could spend $300,000 and get a mansion, or anything in between. Whatever you want, cash is the way to go. And of course, location will make a big difference in price.

Household help - If you can find someone who wants to work (BIG IF), you can hire a live-in maid for about $110 per month, plus room and board. A daily maid costs about the same. I haven't found any interest in part-time maids. A full time gardener/handyman type person might be found for about $165-$250 per month. A once a week gardener might work for $12-$25 per day, depending upon if he has a helper and what tools he provides. We don't have any help right now, so I might not be current on these prices. Wages have gone up in La Ceiba due to all the construction going on. These prices are just to give you an idea − some people pay more, some pay less.

Groceries - If you eat like the locals (rice, beans, tortillas, a little meat, eggs), groceries will be a fraction of what you used to pay. A wild guess is about $250 per month for a couple. If you can't live without your American brand products, you'll pay a lot more, but probably still much less than you are used to over all. American cleaning products seem very high priced to me, but I'm 5 years removed from grocery shopping in the U.S., so maybe I'm out of touch.

Restaurants - In the local comedores (small restaurants), you can eat for around $2-$4. In an average restaurant you'll pay $5-$10 for a meal. In the nicest restaurants, you might pay $10-$25, but the high end would be for shrimp or lobster. Cocktails run around $2-2.50, and a local beer usually costs around 75 cents.


Gasoline - Even after last week's huge decrease, gasoline still costs around $3.00 per gallon with no sign that it will ever be reduced significantly. Honduras typically has the highest gas prices in Central America. The government has recently taken charge of importing fuel for the country and I don't envision this as being a good thing for consumers.

Taxi - In town, daytime 80 cents, nighttime $1.06. Taxi to our house from downtown $3-$4.

Buses - From 10 miles outside of town into town only costs about 60 cents and an in-town trip runs about 25 cents.

I hope that helps to give you some idea of what it costs to live in La Ceiba, Honduras. Keep in mind that this is just one person's experience and the cost of living seems to be going up monthly.
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