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Make Great Memories: Belize Traveler’s Guide

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Last Updated on March 17, 2024 by Carolyn

Belize Traveler's Guide
Belize It! Belize is Beatuiful!

Belize Traveler’s Guide

This Belize Traveler’s guide will give you the basics and tips on travel in Belize, that will help you have the best Belize vacation. I wish I’d known some of these things before I went!

Why Visit Belize?

Belize is a small Central American country with a lot to offer. It has something to appeal to everyone, which makes it a great family vacation destination.

Easy To Get To

Many of the major airlines fly to Belize, some of them offering direct flights and many priced quite reasonably.

Belize is situated on the Caribbean side of Central America just below Mexico. It’s just a little over 4 hours from Denver on a direct flight, grab an early flight and you could be on the beach by noon! 

Language

 You may be surprised to know that the official language of Belize is English which will appeal to those North Americans who don’t feel comfortable in a Country where English isn’t spoken. This is because Belize is a former British Colony not gaining full independence until 1981. 

Spanish is also commonly spoken, and you’ll even hear Creole, Garifuna, Mayan, and a mix of all the languages above.

Currency

The Belize currency is the Belizean Dollar, and its exchange rate with the US dollar is fixed at 2 bz $ is to 1 US $.  US dollars are also accepted everywhere.

Climate

Belize has a very temperate subtropical climate. The average temperature year-round is a balmy 80 degrees F. Humidity averages around 85%. It has two main seasons; the dry season which starts around the beginning of December and ends towards the end of May and the rainy season which starts at the end of May and runs through the end of November.

Beach, Mountains, Jungle and Ruins

 Xunantunich Mayan Ruins-A highly recommended stop for Belize Travelers
Xunantunich Mayan Ruins Date Back to 650-700 AD

In a country that is only 8,865 square miles ( just a little bigger than the state of Massachusetts), Belize has a variety of terrain. 

The Eastern side of the country features beaches caressed by the Caribbean Sea and the world’s second-largest barrier reef surrounded by a scattering of Cayes ( pronounced “keys”).

 As you travel inland the beaches give way to wetlands and grasslands, home to hundreds of species of birds.  Heading further West the grasslands give way to dense jungles with rivers coursing through limestone caves that form the largest cave system in Central America. Within these caves are relics and remnants that give visitors a glimpse into the lives and customs of ancient civilizations.

Continue Westwards and the terrain becomes mountainous with thick jungle engulfing ancient Mayan ruins.

Is Belize Expensive?

Browse around on the internet for a while and you’ll see it mentioned fairly often that Belize is expensive. In general, I don’t believe Belize is expensive, like many places some things are expensive some things are not.

Here is a summary of what is and isn’t expensive in Belize:

Accommodations

Similar to many places, you can find cheap accommodations and you can find expensive accommodations. 

We visited in December which is the beginning of the high season and paid USD 45 a night for an ordinary hotel room in Belize City, USD 45 a night for a lovely farm stay in San Ignacio, and, USD 57 a night for a nice Airbnb on Caye Caulker. 

My take on accommodations is that they were reasonably priced and price didn’t have a whole lot of correlation to quality. I’d recommend booking ahead if you plan on visiting during high season. We started making reservations about a month in advance of our trip and many places were already fully booked.

Transportation 

Car rentals are expensive in Belize and the fuel to put in them even more so.  We rented from Belize Auto Rental the equivalent of Rent-A-Wreck and the car cost USD 318 for 5 days, rentals from the more known car rental agencies were about double that.. The vehicle was a well-used Jeep whose “oil change” light remained lit the whole time rented. (I did bring it to the rental agency’s attention, but they said ignore it).

Filling up your car is not for the faint of heart either, fuel prices are exorbitant, over BZD 13.00 a gallon.

Some other transport costs to note:

A cab ride from the Belize Airport to the ferry was USD 30.

The ferry itself cost USD 37.50 round trip to Caye Caulker.

Food Prices

After having spent time in Costa Rica I found food to be cheap.

Sample grocery prices in BZD.

  • 3 eggs  $1
  • Loaf of bread $3.25
  • Belikin Beer $3.25
  • A liter of Water and 2 bananas $1.50

Restaurant prices:

Breakfast ran about $15-20 bzd for two of us.

Lunch & Dinner:  Ranged from BZD 25 each for a home-cooked buffet including rum punch to BZD 73 for a seafood dinner for 2 with mixed drinks.

Tour Prices

You will want to do some tours while in Belize. Tours we did include
Snorkeling -full day including lunch $90 US each
Horseback Riding to Xunantunich Mayan Ruins and Tour of Ruins $95US each

Crystal Cave Tour $75US each

The Belizean Food Scene

In Belize as with most Central American countries rice and beans is a staple, making an appearance at almost every meal. It’s considered the national dish of Belize.

Breakfast

You have to try Fry Jacks; a fried breakfast bread that can either be served unstuffed or stuffed with your choice of filling. Another breakfast specialty is Johnny Cakes, a pancake-like creation made from a cornmeal mixture. And to accompany your breakfast I recommend ordering orange juice: I have no idea if it’s the freshness of the oranges or what, but orange juice has never tasted so good as it did in Belize.

Lunch

For lunch, I recommend stopping at a food stall. Oftentimes these “food stalls” are literally” holes in the wall” of what appears to be private residences. Don’t let looks deceive you, These food stalls are the Belizean equivalent of fast food and serve an array of street food that is far tastier than traditional fast food.

Food choices from these food stalls will vary and the menu might only be in Spanish so it is wise to familiarize yourself with some of the more frequent menu items, the first time we went to one we had no idea what to order.

Belizean Street Food: Garnaches, Salbutes and Panades.

Garnaches: A crunchy fried tortilla creation topped with beans, cabbage, cheese, and other toppings of choice.

Panades: Corn dough stuffed with meat, beans or fish and then fried until crispy on the outside, and served with a drizzle of curtido ( a savory onion pepper sauce)

Salbutes: A deep-fried tortilla usually topped with pulled chicken or turkey, lettuce, a slice of avocado, tomato, and pickled onions. 

Bollos aka Tamales: Seasoned meat (commonly pork or chicken) wrapped in corn dough and wrapped in banana or plantain leaves.

Dinner

Boasting a long coastal border, it’s not surprising that scrumptious seafood appears on many Belize restaurant menus. A few seafood specialties include Conch ( pronounced konk), Hudut, and Ceviche. 

Traditional Belizean non-seafood recipes include Pigtail, Cow foot soup (yes there really is a cow foot in it served without the hoof), Chimole (a black soup made of native spices with the black color coming from the charred ingredients), and Chicken stew ( served of course with rice and beans). 

 And then there’s the famous dish of Gibnut or Royal Rat as it now is affectionately called.

Gibnut is the infamous rat dish that made newspaper headlines.

”Queen eats Rat” was plastered across the newspapers after Queen Elizabeth ll was served Gibnut while visiting the former British colony in 1985. Gibnut is actually a large spotted rodent known as a “paca” elsewhere.

Getting Around

Getting around Belize is pretty easy. You have a lot of options from local flights and ferries to get you to the islands and a decent bus and road system to navigate the mainland.

I had read to not drive at night in Belize but after having driven in Costa Rica (where I do avoid driving at night), driving in Belize was a breeze.

You just have to be aware of the “sleeping postman” as they call their speed bumps. You will find them as you enter and exit every populated area, and when you approach bus stops and pedestrian crossings.  I did zone out as I was driving into town a couple of times and they quickly got my attention when I hit them a little too fast.

Useful Things to Know

Drinking Water

Mr Goby: A fish that eats reycled bottleds
Feeding Mr Goby our Plastic Bottle

Most of the tap water in Belize is not potable. Some hotels and lodges have rainwater catchment systems but definitely bring your reusable water bottle so that you can fill it when you have the opportunity.

We shouldn’t be surprised by the lack of potable water when we consider that the word “Belize” is Mayan for muddy water!

Sundays

It is not business as usual on Sundays, many restaurants and stores are closed all of Sunday with some closing their doors on Saturday afternoon. Be sure when planning your Sunday itinerary that you confirm venues will be open for business.

Tipping

Tips are not normally included in your bill when dining out, they are appreciated but not necessarily expected. 10% would be a base amount for mediocre service, and 15-20% would be appropriate for good service. Restaurant workers are typically paid wages of about USD 2.50 an hour, so please consider that when leaving your tip. It’s also recommended to leave cash for the tip when paying by card to make sure the server gets the tip!

Also consider tipping your tour guides, and housekeeping staff.

Staying Connected 

While many of us say we want to disconnect for a week, how many of us really do? 

Belize travelers will be happy to know there is a decent internet infrastructure all around Belize and for about BZD 30 my daughter had a sim card and enough data for the week we were there.

12 Hour Days

Situated at 17 degrees North of the equator, Belize’s days and nights are pretty much an equal 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness year around.

To maximize your day, plan on being early to rise and early to bed. 

Culture

Garifuna Drummers in Hopkins, Belize
Garifuna Drummers in Hopkins, Belize

Belizeans are super friendly sometimes almost to the point of making you feel uncomfortable about it. If you’re walking and look like you might be lost a local will almost always shout out “ What ya lookin’ for”, or they rain compliments upon you as you walk by. “Are you two sisters” was heard as I walked by some men with my daughter! We laughed. Some might feel uncomfortable about the heckling but I Belize it’s all in good spirit.

Belizeans are a melting pot of cultures that get along along in harmony, while still maintaining their own identity. The most prevalent population is that of the Mestizo who hail from Spanish/Mayan ancestors, but you’ll also find Mayan, Garifuna, and Creole people as well as a variety of expats who now call Belize home.

You Better Belize It

Don’t Belize me, plan a vacation to this wonderful country, you won’t be disappointed! And don’t forget to pin this Belize Traveler’s guide so you have it when you need it!

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