Latin America has some of the best diving in the world at some of the lowest prices. Honduras is known as the perfect destination for budget travelers looking to complete their open water diving certification. People visiting Utila and Roatan can expect to pay as little as $200 dollars for their certification which includes books, instruction, equipment and dives.
Scuba diving prices are quite affordable across Latin America but many individuals don’t realize that scuba diving is a dangerous sport if certain precautions are not taken. The price for a certification course is important, but in the end nothing is more important than being safe.
The shop that you choose to dive with has a big impact on your experience and the skills that you will walk away with. So here are a couple of things every traveler should know when picking a dive shop:
Check out all the local dive shops to find the best fit for you. When completing your Open Water certification course (or any other courses), you will be spending an large amount of time at the dive shop with the instructors/divemasters. As a result, make sure you feel comfortable with the people and the environment.
When I was working as a divemaster in Bocas del Toro, our dive shop had two different instructors. One was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable while the other one frequently hit on his female students, creating numerous awkward situations. I avoided the flirty instructor and refused to work with him because he never took me seriously. I am very grateful that the other instructor took me under his wing and it taught me that a good rapport with your instructor is incredibly important!
Questions, Questions, Questions
Once you’ve decided on a dive shop ask to speak to either the person in charge or one of the instructors. Usually divemasters sit at the front desk during certain periods of the day. They often try to get people to sign up but they aren’t as knowledgeable as the instructors. Don’t expect them to answer all your questions; instead sit down with an instructor and discuss the class, schedule and any other possible issues.
Dive shops should always flexible, if the individuals or instructors are hesitant to answer any your questions or won’t honour any of your requests, than find another dive shop. They should be working around your schedule, not vice versa.
PADI rules allow instructors to have up to 8 students in an open water class. Instructors can take extra students by having a divemaster, assistant instructor or a fellow instructor join the class. In places were the certification costs are lower, individuals might find that dive shops have broken these rules, taking more than 8 students on their open water dives. Always ask about the class size before signing up because larger classes usually means that instructors will spend less time helping you develop the proper skills.
The most important piece of equipment is your tank and what lies inside of it. Humans can’t breathe underwater, so you are heavily reliant on the oxygen that is being pumped through your regulator. Therefore, it is immensely important that individuals check the dive shop’s compressor. If the area is dirty and unkempt then move on. A proper dive shop will teach individuals how to assemble their gear and preform a proper safety check. One of the components of the safety check is to smell the air that is coming out of the regulator. If the air smells funny (or just off) than there might be something wrong with the compressor. Don’t hesitate to speak up and make sure that your tank is changed if you think that the air smells funny.
After the compressor the other piece of equipment that should be running smoothly is your regulator (regulator, depth gauge and octopus). Make sure that there is no air leaking out of your regulator or octopus and your depth gauge works properly when you open and close your tank.
In many areas in Latin America there are numerous different dive shops located just steps from each other. This proximity means that travellers have the upper hand when negotiating a deal. Some shops will offer free dives after certification competition, free stays at hostels or bargains on equipment. It never hurts to ask.