Things you should know before traveling to Belize
Belize is quickly becoming a major destination in Central America because of its unique mixture of Caribbean crystal clear blue waters, best diving and snorkeling on the second largest barrier reef in the world, Mayan ruins, caving and tropical jungles. Personally, I feel everyone should give Belize a shot and visit it. So if you're on board, here's some fun info and advice to make your trip so much fun!
roof top caye caulker hotel
road trip, Belize
A FEW HISTORICAL FACTS TO GET YOU GOING:
1. The territory that now belongs to Belize was also home to a couple of different ancient Mayan Cities and Cultures. Right next to the Guatemalan border, in the heart of the jungle, you'll find these ruins.
2. For the rest of the territory, it was occupied by the Spaniards for a short spurt because it was almost instantly taken over by the British. The country grew a lot under their direction, which is also the reason why English is the native language spoken in Belize.
3. Since the territory once belonged to Guatemala, it refused to recognize they became an independent nation in 1981. But the issue has been brought back to international courts to decide whether it stays independent or becomes part of Guatemala.
4. Belize used to be sugar and banana producers, but the prices have gone down and poverty started taking over. Now their main industries and income are tourism and oil.
ambergris caye in belize adventure tour
white sanded beach ambergris caye in belize
1. Currency – Each US$ is equivalent to 2 BZ$. It's best to have cash on hand, most businesses charge 5% if you use credit cards. Your best option in this country is to visit the banks. There are very few ATMs around the country.
2. Visa – You don’t need a visa if you are from the European Union, the Caribbean Community, the US, Costa Rica, Chile, Guatemala, Iceland, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, Tunisia, Uruguay, and from the Commonwealth Realms & Monarchies. If you aren’t from any of those countries go to your local Belizean or British consulate. Visitors can stay in the country for 30 days.
3. Departure tax – As in most countries you need to pay a departure tax that can only be paid in US$, the amount of this tax is US$35.
4. Driving – The only requirement that travelers have to be able to drive in Belize is to have an international driving permit and to carry their passport at all time. Most licenses are international so it's not a problem.
5. Health – This is a third world country, so it is important to drink only bottled water and to be more careful with food. Also bugs are a big issue here because of the tropical weather, so bring lots of your favorite bug repellent.
6. Tipping - Belize is no different than most countries or the US. The people earn very little, so anything you leave is great. However, each restaurant bill comes with a 10% service added on.
swimming with turtles feeding on sea grass
sharks of belize
sting rays of belize
THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN BELIZE:
1. Jungles and Maya Ruins – The territory where Belize is now located used to be the place where the Ancient Maya lived. There are ruins of old Mayan cities hidden in the jungles that run close to the Guatemalan border. “Caracol” - is the most popular to visit. Mayan ruins are always a fun learning experience, definitely worth visiting. Also the jungles are filled with all sorts of exotic animals.
macal river jungle and rain forest of belize
2. Beaches – This is a Belizean speciality and a not-to-be-missed adventure. Imagine, white sanded beaches, crystal clear blue water of the Caribbean Sea, small islands, and the best diving and marine life off of the second largest Barrier Reef in the world. This makes this tiny country a great place for travelers looking for beautiful beaches (not flooded by tourists yet) and water sports. The coast line is also where you will find most of Belize's best restaurants and hotels.
beachfront belize caye caulker
3. Belize City – This is the largest city of the country and a great for exchanging money, getting your transportation for the islands and to see the museums. Not the best place for staying a long time.
belize city sailboats
4. The Cayes – As you may already know Belize’s maritime space is formed by a beautiful coral reef. That reef over the time formed a series of Cayes (tiny islands), not too far from mainland. Because of the crystal clear water, white sand and reefs, they are one of the best areas in Central America for Diving and Snorkeling. The ones worth checking out are Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker.
boats and climbing trees caye caulker belize
grilling fresh seafood caye caulker belize
FUN FACTS ABOUT THIS TINY COUNTRY:
1. Sometime in the next few years it will be decided whether it remains independent or goes back to Guatemala by popular consult.
2. Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language, due to British influence.
3. Belize’s coral reef is known as the second longest barrier reef in the world.
4. Its population, 300,000 people, has a unique and colorful culture that resulted from the mixture of Mayan, Spanish, British, and African influences.
learning how to drum in belize
TIP: If you are going to start planning a vacation to this small country, avoid the months between June and November. This is when the hurricane season takes place.
Overall Belize is a great place for those looking for beautiful, deserted beaches, water sports, and lush jungles. That is why my family and I keep on coming back.
dock on ambergris caye in belize
biking ambergris caye in belize
Looking for a great place to stay? Click for rates and availability for the 10 best hotels in Belize.
About the Author
Marina K. Villatoro is an expat living and traveling in Central America with her family for over 10 years. She blogs all about her family's adventures and life at TravelExperta.com. With all the miles under their belts, she's written usefulFamily Travel Guides for these parts all tested approved by her family!
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All photos courtesy and copyright Marina K. Villatoro