BELIZE – What a wonderful place to vacation! The beauty of Belize’s natural resources and the friendliness of the people will make your visit unforgettable. Though just a couple of hours away by plane, Belize can sometimes seem to be in a different world! It’s important to keep in mind that things will be different – after all, that’s why you’re going on vacation – and that you shouldn’t expect things to run exactly as they do “back home” (things in the islands rarely run with the precision of a Swiss watch!) Be assured that Belize welcomes visitors, and that you will be treated with warmth and friendly hospitality during your stay. English is the main language spoken and the official language, though Spanish and Belizean Creole are widely spoken. The country is in the Central time zone and does not observe daylight savings time as in the US.
Proof of citizenship is essential! All visitors to Belize must have a passport (must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the duration of your stay). Expired passports are not acceptable. U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Belize, but citizens of other countries may need one – please see the bottom of this page for a list. PLEASE be sure that you are carrying correct documentation – you will not be able to board your airplane without it. No vaccinations are required.
Airlines sometimes make last minute changes to flight itineraries. For this reason & for your own peace of mind, we recommend that you verify your flight times 72 hours and again at 24 hours before departure (check the times online, or call us or the airline). International flights require check-in at least 2 hours prior to departure. Your international flight will arrive in Belize City (BZE). If you are traveling to Ambergris Caye, or the mainland resorts south of Belize City you will be transported by a shuttle plane that takes 15-40 minutes. Travelers staying on Turneffe or Glovers Atoll will be met at the airport by a representative and taken to the dock area where you will board a boat to your island.
When you check in for your flight, or on the plane, you’ll be given a “Tourist Card.” Complete both the top & bottom sections before you land. As you clear immigration, you’ll show this and your proof of citizenship to the agent. After he signs it and stamps the card, you’ll keep one part and he will keep the other. Keep this in a safe place; you’ll need it to leave the country. Lost paperwork can be remedied, but at considerable hassle. If you lose your tourist card, get to the airport several hours before departure, and ask airline or immigration personnel what to do. You’ll also complete a customs declaration form (one per family). Carrying any contraband, like guns or drugs, is a very bad idea. Belize has very serious laws regarding their possession. Avoid jails!
For those staying on Ambergris Caye, most everything is within walking distance. There are no car rentals on the island, but you can rent a golf cart or bicycle to tour the island. Golf carts rent for about $70 per day or $350 per week (including tax and waiver). During low season, they often go on sale for 1/2 off. Bicycles can be rented for $2.50 – $5.00 (US) per hour. For those staying on Lighthouse or Glover’s Atolls, no transportation is required (these islands are very small). You can walk everywhere or use a resort kayak to explore the lagoons.
If you are staying one night in Belize City at the Radisson or Best Western, there is a courtesy phone in the baggage claim area. They will send a shuttle for pickup.
Balmy breezes all year, with rare cold snaps (60s – brr!) in the dead of winter. Highs April-November: 90s, December-March: 80s. Lows usually in the 70s. Light jackets are a good idea in the winter.
Important – airlines may charge you for checking bags! AIrline policies differ and change frequently – if you are unsure about your airline’s baggage charges check the airline’s website, or we’ll be happy to assist. Most airlines enforce a 3 bag limit (two checked, one carry-on). Checked bags are usually limited to 50 pounds each. Remember to pack depth gauges in your carry-on bags. Pack lightly – Belize is very informal and tropical, and you’ll be living in swimsuits and sunglasses most of the time. Some items to remember: several swimming suits, mostly t-shirts, shorts and casual wear, comfortable shoes, flip flops, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, insect repellent, and windbreaker or light jacket. Don’t bother bringing nice shoes as most all the roads are unpaved (and can get muddy when it rains). Definitely remember insect repellent!
There are ATMs on Ambergris Caye and in Belize City, but not on the outer islands or southern mainland. Many restaurants and shops will not accept credit cards. US dollars are accepted everywhere ($1 US = $2 Belize) and you will find small bills very useful. . Most of the time change is given in Belize dollars. Prices at the hotel restaurants are similar to US rates. For instance, dinner entree are in the $15 to $20 range (restaurants and shops in town are less expensive). There is a CASH departure tax when leaving the country – as of winter 2017, US$39 (remember to save cash!)
We always recommend spending a little more and buying travel insurance to protect you against financial loss in case of emergency or unplanned circumstances. Things happen: you or a family member gets sick and you’re unable to travel at the last minute (and hotel/dive packages are almost never refundable once paid for). Weather prevents you getting to the airport and you miss your flight, and you have to buy another ticket. You miss a connection and arrive two days later than planned. An airline cancels your flight, and you incur unplanned hotel expenses. An emergency back home forces you to cut your trip short. Your luggage is lost and you have to buy new clothes to wear. You get sick and have to go the hospital, and your home insurance doesn’t cover all your expenses. All these and more happen every single day, and travel insurance would cover these circumstances. Check what the policy covers before buying, of course – travel insurance isn’t perfect, but the more expensive and the more complex the trip, the more important it becomes. Travel packages can cost thousands of dollars, and route deviations can get very expensive. Please protect yourself in case of emergency!
Of course, tipping depends entirely on the quality of service you receive. Waiters and bartenders get 15-20% of the bill. Dive boat personnel, about US$3 for a one-tank /trip. Your hotel maid will appreciate US$1 or so per day, left in the room upon departure. Wages are low in Belize, and many people depend almost entirely on your tips to earn a living… if you‰re pleased with the service, consider tipping a bit extra.
Take sensible precautions… as you would anywhere. Don’t leave valuable lying around, and don’t flash large amounts of cash in public. Your hotel has a safe-deposit service for your valuables – take advantage of this, for your own peace of mind. There may be a nominal charge for the use of in-room safes. At the smaller resorts on the outer islands, many people don’t even bother locking their rooms. Use extra caution if you’re downtown in Belize City!
110 volt, 60 cycle, same as in the U.S. Occasionally, blackouts do occur. They’re usually brief, and can be kind of fun, if you let them. Voltage spikes wreak havoc with sensitive equipment; use surge protectors!
EATING AND DRINKING
Though tap water is generally very good in Belize, we recommend you drink bottled water: why take a chance on getting sick on your vacation. The food is very safe. However, stomach problems can occur anytime you travel internationally. If you do experience intestinal distress, Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol may help (available locally, but you might consider bringing some with you), or try Lomotil or Immodium. DRINK LOTS OF WATER if you get diarrhea!
Also available: soft drinks (U.S.-type and more exotic flavors), juices, beer and stronger liquids. Locally produced liquor is reasonably priced, but imported brands can be very expensive. The local beer, Beliken, is very good. Ambergris Caye has several grocery stores. For those staying on the southern edge of town, the most convenient grocery store is a 5 minute walk south of the air strip.
In Ambergris Caye night life is mostly centered around your hotel. After a full day of diving and sun, most divers hang out at their hotel’s beach bar. However, we encourage you to try the beach bars in town. “Sharks” is a favorite – it’s built over the water on a dock. You can watch some nurse sharks swimming around as you sip your drink. Mango’s also has lots of great atmosphere. It is right on the beach one block north of the SunBreeze Hotel. Also very popular is “The Palace”, a small and friendly casino with a few slot machines and a couple of blackjack tables. It is located on the north side of town on the corner of Middle and Caribbean Streets (opens 7pm).
There are a handful of stores in Ambergris Caye that sell souvenirs. Carved wood items and beaded jewelry made in Belize and Guatemala are very popular. The local coffee is a great gift to bring home (less expensive in the grocery store). Many stores will observe siesta from about 2:00 – 5:30 p.m. Customs allows you to bring back $600 in merchandise duty-free, with 1 liter of liquor.
Staff at the hotels and dive shop will be able to help you resolve almost any problem that comes up. If you‰re unhappy with your hotel room for any reason, tell the front desk or manager, and ask them to resolve the situation. For serious situations, emergencies, or assistance with problems you can’t resolve locally, call us at Bay Adventures (Miami) at 305-892-4280 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. IMPORTANT: if you believe you are being charged unfairly for something, get a receipt and the name of the person who insists on payment – otherwise there is no recourse for getting your money back!
You can direct dial from your hotel room to the US. Most hotels charge about US$2.00 to $3.00 per minute plus a connection fee. In Ambergris Caye, it is less expensive to call from the Internet Cafe (located on Front Street between Ambergris and Pelican). There you will pay about US$1 per minute with no connection fee. Internet service to check your email runs about $9.00 per hour (minimum of 15 minutes for $3.00). They are generally open from 8:30 am – 9:00 pm. You U.S. cell phone will probably not work in Belize. If you are using a calling card, call your phone company to find out what number to dial from Belize to connect you to their service.
Here are some useful phone numbers. From the U.S., dial 011 plus the numbers below:
If you are staying on Ambergris Caye, there are many day trips available on the mainland. All hotels can arrange one for you, plus there are quite a few local travel agents who specialize in these adventure trips. Following are some of the most popular, ask around for more!.
LAMANI MAYAN RUINS
Cruise up the New River Lagoon to one of Belize’s largest and most important ceremonial centers of the ancient Mayan world, and was continuously occupied from 1500 B.C. to 1675 A. D. This site displays all major phases of Mayan architecture from the Preclassic to the Postclassic periods. Nearby are remains of two Spanish churches and a sugar mill. Howler monkeys and many species of tropical birds live within this large 1.5 square mile reserve. Excellent site museum displays pottery, flint, and other artifacts.
ALTUN HA MAYAN RUINS
Enter the mainland Savannah through a canal that was hand made by the Maya. You’ll see lots of wildlife along the way – birds, crocodiles, orchids and maybe even bats. After lunch at a jungle lodge, you’ll drive along the Pan-American highway to Altun Ha. This important trading center features two main plazas with 13 temples in a park-like setting. Many tombs were discovered here during excavation as well as the largest carved jades in the Mayan world.
XUNANTUNICH MAYAN RUINS
This important Mayan site sits just inside the Western border of Belize near Guatemala. Before reaching the entrance of this ancient city, you are transported across the Mopan River by a 19th century hand-pulled ferry. The Maya Ruins of Xunantunich are actually located on one of the highest plateaus in the area. It is possible to climb to the top of “EL Castillo”, the largest of the temple at this site. From this vantage point, one gains a panoramic view of the Cayo District and nearby Guatemala.
Enter the Mayan world of Xibalba – Cave Tubing! You’ll trek through a beautiful rainforest while your guide talks about the local flora and fauna. Then you will get in your tube complete with caving light on your forehead and enjoy the one hour ride through the caves of the Mayan underworld. Maya artifacts and wall carvings have been found in many caves.
This world famous zoo is located thirty miles from Belize City. More than 100 species of native Belizean animals including many endangered species – jaguar, tapirs, black howler monkeys are featured.
For a full selection of tours and prices, please check with your hotel while in Belize.
AND A FEW MORE SUGGESTIONS
SCUBA DIVING TIPS
Dive Gear – tanks and weights are provided. You bring (or rent) the rest. Remember mask, snorkel, fins, regulator, BC, booties, slate, dive light, depth gauge, bottom timer or watch, computer/dive tables, camera, logbook and weight belt (without weights). A mesh bag packed inside your gear bag for traveling, can be handy for carrying and rinsing your gear. Bring extra: mask and fin straps, snorkel keeper, batteries. Ocean water temperature varies from about 74 in the winter to the mid 80s in the summer. A light tropical shorty or dive skin is great for summer and fall; you may want more thermal protection in the winter.
HAVE A GREAT TRIP!
CITIZENS OF THESE COUNTRIES MAY NEED A VISA TO ENTER BELIZE
Entry requirements are subject to change and this list may not be comprehensive; contact the Belizean consulate if you have ANY DOUBT about your entry requirements!
|Bhutan||Bolivia||Bosnia & Herzegovina||Brazil|
|Cambodia||Cameroon||Cape Verde||Central African Rep.|
|Czech Republic||Djibouti||Dominican Republic||Ecuador|
|Egypt||El Salvador||Equatorial Guinea||Estonia|
|Ethiopia||Gabon||Georgia, The Rep.||Guinea|
|Korea (North & South)||Kuwait||Kyrgyzstan||Latvia|
|Rwanda||San Marino||Sao Tome & Principe||Saudi Arabia|
|Turkmenistan||Ukraine||United Arab Emirates||Uzbedistan|
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