Belize

Belize straddles the Caribbean and Central America so perfectly that it is one part perfect beach destination and one part a jungle covered adventure. Unlike the majority of Central America, Belize is a relatively well established tourist destination and it is very easy to see why. With vast national parks, jungle trails that give the British Army’s infantry more than enough reason in the past to do their jungle training there (until BATSUB was mothballed), friendly locals, amazing diving and archaeological sites to rival any of its neighbours, Belize truly is a fantastic destination for any independent traveller.

Culture And Etiquette.

A large portion of Belizeans are Catholic, but a variety of other faiths are also represented. Common courtesy is very important here in Belize – as it is in many places – and you will find it common that strangers will want to stop and chat even if you are complete strangers. Part of Belize’s charm is the friendliness of its inhabitants. Despite this friendly informality, the use of formal titles such as Mr and Mrs is commonly used and it is considered impolite not to unless you know that person.

What you need to know

Visas.

A visa is not needed in advance for the majority of countries, including the UK, Europe, the USA, Canada, New Zealand or Australia, the Caribbean and many more besides. Citizens of these countries can get a 30 day visitor permit on arrival. If you do happen to want to stay longer, then you can extend this to a 90 day visa at the embassy after you arrive.

Health.

Routine vaccinations such as MMR and Polio are always highly recommended, and all adults should have these regardless of travel.

The only other vaccinations that are recommended for Belize are Hepatitis A and Typhoid, as these diseases are still present in the country.

No other vaccinations are necessary. Proof of Yellow Fever vaccination is only necessary if you are entering Belize from a country where the disease is present.

Crime and Safety.

In general Belize is very safe for travellers, and requires no more safety precautions than you would reasonably take for yourself at home. Common sense with personal safety and valuables is often more than enough to keep you safe.

Costs and money.

The currency of Belize is the Belize dollar, although it is not uncommon to see the US dollar being used, particularly for higher end hotels and businesses. It is always best to use local currency where you can, although it is good to keep some US dollars as a back up emergency stash. ATMs are common too and are integrated into international networks so you won’t have any trouble getting cash.

Because of its generally touristy nature, Belize is relatively expensive by Central American standards. Most budget travellers can get by on about £20 – £30 GBP per day, but £40 – £50 GBP is more realistic if you want a bit of comfort and you want to see and do a few things.

Accommodation will be one of your biggest costs. A basic hostel in a touristy area will still set you back about £15 GBP whilst budget hotels typically start at around £30 GBP a night and creep up from there. The higher end hotels can be hundreds of pounds a night.

Food is quite reasonably priced by western standards, but will still take a chunk out of your budget. Eat at small, local family run businesses where a good meal will be just a few pounds and get fruit snacks at stalls to save some money. Unless you have a huge windfall, avoid the lobster at the pricey upscale restaurants!

Transportation costs are surprisingly reasonable too. Public transport is obviously the cheapest way to travel, a few GBP will get you to most places. Taxis will usually double that whilst there is a huge hike for boats and ferries between the islands which will set you back around £10 – £15 GBP per trip.

Activities can be the biggest expense of all, depending on what and how much you do of course. Entrance fees to museums and national parks aren’t too bad, at around £5 or £10 GBP (or in some cases less), but organised activities, especially those involving diving can run up to £100 or so. Shop around.

When to go.

It is generally accepted that the ‘winter’ months (late October to March) are the best time to go as they avoid the sweltering heat of the summer months, but these months also bring a surge in tourists with them and places get crowded. To be honest the rainy season is just as good a time to visit, and the benefits far outweigh the occasional short downpour (which is often at night anyway).

Places To See

Altun Ha ruins.

These fascinating Maya ruins are easy to get to from Belize city and are well worth spending a whole day here. The ruins are fantastically well preserved, especially the temple, and offer a great insight into the Maya culture. There are many places offering half day tours in the city, but it is easy to make your own arrangements and explore at your leisure.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

The diving and snorkelling here is absolutely world class, although a little pricey, but the chance to see an abundant array of marine life, including sharks and rays, is not one to pass up.

Belize Zoo.

I certainly don’t believe it is the best zoo in the world, but it is a very good one! This is a pretty large zoo, well maintained and in fairly good condition with decent enclosures for the animals and good for a relaxing day out. The main showcase animals are all native to Belize and Central America.

Things to do

Adventure activities.

From jungle treks to kayaking, caving to rafting, there is so much to do in Belize to satiate that desire for adrenaline. Most things are a little pricey, but you should be able to budget enough to do one or two.

Go wildlife spotting.

Apart from the zoo, Belize has a ton of national parks and reserves where you can see wildlife in abundance, particularly birds and fish. Jaguars are obviously much rarer to see out in the wild, but is possible within certain protected areas.