Belize is a great destination to visit at any age as it offers a wealth of exotic wildlife and natural beauty, access to some of the Maya civilisation’s most impressive ancient archaeological sites as well as opportunities to mix with modern-day Maya communities, lovely white-sand beaches and amazing snorkeling & diving along the world’s second-longest Barrier Reef.
A holiday in Belize provides you with the opportunity to marvel at the wealth of its fascinating ruins and discover the traditions and customs of the ancient Maya, to see at first-hand its colourful wildlife, to explore the vast array of cave systems where the ancient Maya used to hold religious ceremonies, and to relax on a lovely Caribbean beach.
Adventure tours are emerging as one of Central America's best kept secrets. Bordered by Guatemala, Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, this small country combines amazing broad sand beaches and offshore island paradises with lush rainforest, home to a myriad of bird and animal species. San Ignacio, the capital of the inland Cayo district, is our base for excursions like tubing on the beautiful Macal River, caving and visits to ruins and waterfalls. The vibrant Belize City features handsome colonial homes and many colourful characters.
San Ignacio & the Cayo District:
Jungle rainforest, mountain pines, waterfalls, wildlife, birds, butterflies & tropical plants create the stunning natural beauty of the Cayo District.
The famous ATM Cave, majestic Maya ruins, the bustling market town of San Ignacio, & adventure activities like zip-lining make the Cayo one of Belize’s most popular destinations.
Lamanai & Orange Walk:
Located in the north of Belize, the Orange Walk’s remote eco-lodges are rich in wildlife and bird life – and offers one of the best chances of seeing Jaguar in the wild.
This scenic area is also host to the amazingly preserved ancient Lamanai Maya ruins, and a river-bank home of rural Mennonite communities.
Toledo & Punta Gorda:
Lesser-visited Toledo, in the south, is a very natural and unspoiled part of Belize.
Rainforest, wildlife, spice plantations, & adventure activities like Blue Creek Cave swimming combine with Maya community cultural visits & home stays to offer a genuinely off-the-beaten track experience. Punta Gorda is the main town and a ferry port to Guatemala.
The Cayes & Islands:
Home to the biggest Barrier Reef in the Northern & Western Hemispheres – the multiple cayes & islands off Belize’s Caribbean coast are great for diving, snorkeling, sailing and ocean fishing – luxury hotels offer fantastic tropical beach R&R.
Ambergris Caye is the biggest island, but options vary with the more laid-back Caye Caulker and many smaller private islands.
Located in the south east, Placencia is Belize’s premier mainland beach resort.
Set on a thin 16-mile long peninsula strip in the Caribbean, and home to tropical soft white sands this bustling seaside town offers great beach and poolside R&R, sea kayaking and access to reef snorkeling & diving. Inland attractions include the great Monkey River wildlife trip.
Hopkins is a laid-back bohemian coastal fishing village is a centre of Garifuna culture and food.
Less busy and built-up compared to Placencia, this unspoiled small beach and diving resort offers some great hotels. As well as the chance to chill, the area is convenient for the nearby Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve and the famous Scarlet Macaws at Red Bank.
ABC of Belize’s Adventure, Beach & Culture, and the 3Rs of its Reef, Rainforest & Ruins. Visit the natural beauty of jungle, mountains and waterfalls. See amazing wildlife including monkeys, wild cats, fantastic bird life & butterflies. Relax on white sand tropical beaches fringed by a barrier reef offering world-class diving and snorkeling Combine all this with the splendour of ancient Mayan ruins; an eclectic cultural mix of Maya, Mestizo, Mennonite, Garifuna & Creol peoples; and adrenalin-fuelled adventure such as zip-lining, caving and canyons
The Maya civilisation spread over Belize between 1500 BC and 300 AD and flourished until about 900AD. The first Europeans arrived in the area in the early 16th Century and settlement began with shipwrecked English seamen in 1638. This period also was marked by piracy, indiscriminate logging and sporadic conflict with native tribes and the neighbouring Spanish colonies. Belize grew into a more official colony of the UK during the late 18th and early 19th century under the name of British Honduras, and became a crown colony in 1862. Self-governing since 1964 and renamed Belize in 1973, George Price led the country to full independence in September 1981.
Geography and weather.
The highest point of Belize is 1160m. The majority of the country is tropical lowland. The country’s coastline is largely covered in mangrove swamp. Offshore the limestone extends eastward forming part of the second longest reef system in the world.
There is a basic rainy season May - November. Generally the hottest time will be the months of March - May, when it can get extremely hot and humid. Water visibility is best from March to September, but is still considered good most times of year (for divers).
The hurricane season on the Caribbean side of Central America runs from September to November. Usually this only means high winds and occasional storms (although sunny days do tend to prevail throughout the year). It is highly unlikely that the full force of a hurricane would hit any of the areas we pass through on our tours, however our tour leaders are fully prepared to take any necessary action and would make itinerary changes if required to ensure the safety of clients.
Most nationals do not need a visa to enter Belize, however it is important to check with your nearest embassy or consulate. As a tourist you are usually entitled to 30 days, however depending on the immigration official you can be allocated less days.
On entering you may be asked to fill out an immigration card. A copy of this card should stay in your passport until you exit the country. There is no official fee to enter Belize, but to exit you must pay an official fee. Your tour leader will remind you of this on tour.
The local currency is the Belize Dollar. Usually ‘BZ$’ is used to denote the currency. Belize has a fixed exchange rate of 2:1 with the US dollar, and you may use either currency throughout the country, however you will usually get change in Belize dollars.
Remember that once out of Belize you will generally not be able to use or exchange Belize dollars. Therefore you must make sure you spend/exchange/ donate any left-over money before leaving the country.
ATM's are located in Belize City and San Ignacio. Visa, Plus, MasterCard and Cirrus/Maestro are accepted in some Belizean ATM's, as long as you have a four-digit pin. Visa cards are the most widely accepted and ATM's will only give you local currency (not US dollars). There are no ATM's on Caye Caulker and other machines can often be out of order.
You should also be able to get a cash advance at the bank (usually only possible for Visa and sometimes Mastercard) although some banks will require a copy of your passport.
Credit cards are accepted in most shops/restaurants/agencies. The most accepted credit card is Visa and sometimes Mastercard (American Express is not widely accepted), although authorisation can sometimes be denied due to poor computer connections or other problems! Note there may sometimes be commission charged when paying by credit card (up to 8% although 5% is standard).
Although bank cards are often the easiest way to go, there are times where they will not work for you even if your bank at home tells you it will. Do not rely on your card as your only source of money. Always have a few back-ups with you.
Belize generally accepts torn or marked US dollars, so if your notes are damaged you may want to off-load them here! You will have serious difficulties changing/using damaged notes in Honduras, Guatemala or Mexico. Travelers cheque's are very quick and easy to use and exchange in Belize as long as they are in US dollars.
Bargaining is not common in Belize, as shops usually have set prices on goods.
Belize is not as well known for its handicrafts and textiles as its neighbouring counties are, but you can find some nice hand-made jewellery in Caye Caulker. In San Ignacio you can buy some interesting ‘rainforest remedies’ (health products), and throughout Belize you can buy world-renowned reggae and punta music CDs.
A 10% service charge is added on to the restaurant bill throughout most of Belize. If it is not added on, it is still expected (especially in the more expensive restaurants). There may also be ‘taxes’ added to your bill, on top of the service charge. Sometimes this is included in the menu price, other times it is added at the end. You are not expected to tip taxi drivers unless they go out of their way for you although you should tip anyone who helps with your luggage, approx 50-80cents.
Taxis are recommended for getting around the San Ignacio area (as local buses can be non-existent or unreliable!). You should expect to pay roughly BZ$5 for each taxi you take locally, and up to BZ$10 for a longer journey. The taxis in Belize do not run on meters and you should always confirm the price before getting in the car.
Crime in Latin America is not as bad as its reputation as long as you are sensible and alert. Thieves do operate in parts of Belize but if you are cautious and sensible (NOT paranoid) and you should be fine. Try to keep away from dark quiet areas if on your own, particularly late at night and try to always take a taxi. If you have had a few drinks and are returning to your hotel at night – it is best to always take a taxi directly to the hotel. We suggest that whenever possible you leave all of your important documents in the hotel safe. However you should always carry some form of ID or a photocopy of your passport.
It is advisable not to wear expensive looking watches or jewellery and don’t carry a wallet in your back pocket or carry loose hanging bags. Keep your camera concealed when not in use. Remember that most thieves don't use violence but rely mostly on diversionary tactics which can take place at anytime of the day or night. Do not be paranoid, but just be aware that it could happen at anytime. Always be vigilant and the chances are nothing will ever happen to you. The safety of our passengers is our tour leaders’ number one concern and they will provide all necessary local information during the pre-departure meeting.
Local food and drink.
There is some seafood available in Belize – particularly lobster and shrimp. Chicken and pork are also readily available as well as steak on the mainland. Most meals come with some kind of salad. Other common side dishes include coleslaw, potato salad, rice & beans and sweet fried bananas (plantains). You can get very good, cheap set meals for lunch, as this is the main meal of the day. Apart from the delicious local food, there are also many international restaurants to be found in Belize. Italian, Chinese, Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants are abundant.
Lobster or Shrimp - grilled, fried, marinated, served with various sauces and spices – not to be missed. Note: Lobsters are only in season from mid-June to mid-February. The conch (shell fish) season begins when the lobster season ends. Shrimp are usually available year-round.
Local burritos – Belizean burritos are some of the best in the world. You can get vegetarian, chicken, shrimp or lobster fillings. There is a fantastic chili sauce to be found on every Belizean restaurant table called ‘Marie Sharp’ – it comes in mild, hot, extra hot and BEWARE HOT!
If you are a strict vegetarian you may experience a distinct lack of variety in the food available, especially in small towns. Our tour leaders will do their best to provide interesting vegetarian alternatives for included meals, but your patience and understanding is requested.
Central American fruit is fresh and cheap. There are some fantastic selections of fruit smoothie and juices on offer. Papaya, melon, watermelon, mango, and pineapple are all very popular. Smoothies can be made with either water or milk. Always specify if you don’t want sugar. Latin Americans have a very sweet tooth and will usually automatically add the sugar.
Central America is known for its good beer. Belize beer is a little stronger in flavour than the other countries. Belikan Beer is the National beer. Ever since the pirates settled in Belize, rum has been the spirit of choice. White rum and coconut rum are most common. Belize is not known for its wine and it is best to order Chilean wine (although this may be expensive).
Bottled water is available on Caye Caulker, and water re-fills available at most stores.
The time difference in Belize is GMT/UTC -6.
110 volts, US-style two pronged plugs
Economy of Belize:
Belize is a small Central American nation with a population of just over 400,000 people. Despite its small size, Belize has a strong and growing economy. The country has a thriving tourism industry, which accounts for around 25% of the country’s GDP and is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings. Other sectors that contribute to the economy include the financial services and the agricultural and fishing industries.
Belize’s economy is heavily dependent upon the country’s natural resources and the services sector. Agriculture and fishing are the mainstay of the economy, with sugar cane, bananas, citrus fruits, and timber being some of the major exports. Fishing is also an important economic activity, with the country exporting shrimp, lobster, and other seafood.
The services sector has also grown in recent years, particularly in the areas of banking and financial services, telecommunications, and tourism. The country has attracted strong foreign investment, particularly in the areas of banking, offshore finance, and real estate.
Belize has also benefited from its proximity to the United States and its open-door policy towards foreign investment. The country has signed several free trade agreements with the United States, Canada, and Mexico, which have allowed for greater access to foreign markets. In addition, Belize has also signed a number of bilateral investment treaties with other countries, which has provided further incentives for foreign investors.
The government of Belize has also implemented a number of reforms in recent years to improve the country’s economic prospects. These reforms have included the introduction of a Value Added Tax to increase government revenues, the implementation of a free trade agreement with the United States, and the introduction of a new foreign exchange regime.
As a result of these reforms, Belize has seen its economy grow steadily in recent years, with the International Monetary Fund expecting the economy to grow by around 4.5% in 2020. This growth has been driven by increased foreign investment, increased tourism, and a strengthening of the services sector. Going forward, Belize is expected to continue to benefit from its open-door policy towards foreign investment, allowing the country to continue to grow and develop its economy in the coming years.