Have you ever heard of Belize? Great, you already have a head start on us before we traveled to this beautiful country in Central America. For us it was mainly the location of Belize on the map – Caribbean beaches, islands, beautiful reef and between our wishlist destinations in Guatemala and Mexico – the reason to visit this country. We therefore had no idea how to prepare for this mystery destination. But we can help you with that. Read on quick!
# 1 There is more than Caye Caulker
Some travel routes take Belize as a kind of bonus destination, for example in combination with Mexico or Guatemala. That is definitely a top tip, but don’t just stick to the most visited island of Caye Caulker. There is so much more to see and do! How about jungle hikes in Cockscomb Park, the Mayan temples at San Ignacio and the bounty beaches of Hopkins?
# 2 Watch the dollars
In Belize they use Belizean dollars, but you can also pay with dollars in almost all tourist places. In fact, the prices are often in US and not BZN dollars mentioned. So always pay attention to which dollar is meant. On a menu this is often indicated or the prices are double, but pay attention when you discuss a price orally. At the time of writing, 1 US dollar was equal to 2 Belizean dollars.
# 3 Don’t forget your Deet
There are so many mosquitoes in the jungle areas of Belize that almost no Deet can compete. We therefore opted for airy, but covering clothing. Our ultimate packing tip for Belize is therefore strong Deet and covering, but not too warm clothing. But be aware that this is no guarantee against mosquito bites. I was bitten daily.
# 4 Belize is much more expensive than surrounding countries
The price level in Central America is known to travelers as reasonably cheap. But not in Belize. For a basic hotel you pay quickly converted 50 euros, so much more than in surrounding countries. You will also find hostels and budget accommodations in Belize less than you are used to from Central America. High prices are not only found in the tourist corner. The prices in the supermarket are also quite high in Belize. To give you an idea of what traveling through Belize costs, we have listed the prices in this blog (quickly online).
# 5 Belize has the nicest jungle lodges and luxury resorts
We were impressed by the beautiful places that Belize has to offer. We slept in cabanas on bounty beaches, in beautiful jungle lodges and in luxurious, but small-scale resorts. It was all breathtakingly beautiful. So before your trip to Belize, take a moment to update your bucket list for great places to sleep. Because you will probably be able to check it all off in this country!
# 6 The border with Guatemala is not entirely certain, but it is there
Did you know that the border between Belize and Guatemala is under discussion? Guatemala disputes this border and believes that Belize belongs to its territory. Belize itself does not entirely agree, but this discussion is still not settled. On many maps, therefore, the border is also indicated with a dotted line. The last update we received was that a referendum was held in both countries on whether this should be submitted to an international court. Read this extensive article on Wikipedia to learn more about the colonial background of this conflict!
Note: that the border is under discussion does not mean that there is no border. That means just stamps in your passport, fill in many forms, bags through the scanner, etc.
# 7 The distances are very small, but transportation can take a long time
Belize is only a small country, about half of the Netherlands, and has less than 400,000 inhabitants. The country is really very small and that means that the distances are not great either. So you can easily go from one destination to the other. At least: if you would do the trip by car, but a taxi is unfortunately very expensive. The only means of transport that is cheap is the local bus. These are rattling, old American school buses that travel through the country at an extremely slow pace. A fantastic local experience, but one that almost makes you forget how small Belize is.
# 8 A trip to Guatemala or Mexico is made in no time
If Belize is your main destination, then consider taking one or more days in neighboring countries of Guatemala and Mexico. For example, the popular jungle destination San Ignacio is so close to the border with Guatemala that day trips to the Mayan ruins of Tikal are offered there. We made a trip of no less than five days from San Ignacio to Guatemala. At that time we visited the Mayan ruins of Yaxha and the town of Flores alongside Tikal. You will also be in Mexico in no time. Did you know that there are direct boat connections with Mexico from Caye Caulker and from San Pedro on Ambergris? A bit pricey, but super fast!
# 9 Don’t forget the exit fee at the border
If you leave Belize, you still have to pay an exit fee of 40 BZN dollars in cash at the border (ie 20 USD). So don’t make the mistake of using up all your money precisely and standing at the border empty-handed.
# 10 Leave your Spanish-Dutch dictionary at home
Are you coming to Central America to practice your Spanish? Then Belize may not be the ideal destination. In Belize, English is the official language and you can enjoy English everywhere. That was ideal on our trip through Central America, because this is how Sebastiaan was able to speak in Belize. The rest of the trip I had to have all conversations in my basic Spanish. That does not mean that nobody in Belize speaks Spanish. In addition to English, many other languages are spoken, including Spanish, African Creole, Old German and three Mayan languages.
# 11 Belize is a melting pot of cultures
We were surprised how a small country like Belize with less than 400,000 inhabitants can have such a wealth of cultures. That starts with the descendants of the ancient Maya, of whom Belize has three large tribes. They often speak their own Mayan language and maintain their customs and culture. Another special population group are the Garifuna. These are descendants of a slave ship that was shipwrecked and then settled as free people in the Caribbean. Their language, music and culture is African with Caribbean influences. In addition, you will probably also encounter traditional Mennonites. You can easily recognize them by their old-fashioned clothes a la Little House on the Prairie. Their language is a kind of old German and they descend from religious groups from Europe. Can you still keep up?
# 12 Belize has one of the largest living reef in the world
If there is something you can’t miss in Belize, it’s a snorkeling or diving trip to the Great Belizean Reef. Snorkeling among sharks, rays and tropical fish is a wonderful experience. And for divers, the Great Blue Hole seems to be one of the best dive sites in the world.