Belize

Belize beach

Belize Tourist Guide & Info

Introduction

Belize is a real jewel of a destination that is rapidly gaining popularity with travelers. It has so much to offer and has something for every taste, and the people are known to be very friendly. Topping the list are the Mayan ruins: this country was an ancient Mayan powerhouse in the day. 

Other attractions include tropical jungles with exotic plants and animals, fishing, swimming, and diving in the sea with attractive reefs. The country has the second longest barrier reef in the world, as well as three major offshore atolls. Belize City, San Pedro and Placencia are the usual preferred places to stay.

 

Essential Info

  • Capital :
    Belmopan
  • Currency :
    Belizean dollar
  • Driver's License :
    An international driver's license is recommended. Otherwise you will have to obtain a temporary 90-day driver's license.
  • Electricity :
    110 V, 60 Hz
  • Entry Requirements :
    A passport, valid 6 months beyond intended stay, and an ongoing or return ticket are required. It is the traveller's responsibility to check with the country’s Embassy for up-to-date information.
  • GMT Time :
    -6 hr. Daylight savings time is not applied.
  • Government :
    Parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
  • Land size :
    22,966 km2
  • Language :
    English (official), Spanish, Mayan, Garifuna, Creole
  • National Airlines :
    Maya Island Air, Tropic Air
  • Population :
    307,899 approx
  • Religion :
    Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 27%, other 14%, none 9%
  • Required Vaccines :
    none
  • Tourist Season :
    February through May
  • Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada :
    Consult the "Country Travel Advice and Advisories" of Belize

 

Origin & Culture

Cuisine
The primary meal found virtually everywhere is red beans, dirty rice, salad or coleslaw, and chicken. Most chicken in the country is prepared and served on the bone. A typical lunch can include: tamales, panades (fried maize shells with beans or fish), meat pies, escabeche (onion soup), chi mole(soup), and garnaches (fried tortillas with beans, cheese and cabbage). Depending on the region corn or cassava are a strong staple as well. Coastal towns serve delicious seafood and fish. Fruits are quite common. Conversation during meals, unless the topic is important, is considered impolite. 

Belikin is the national beer and comes in four varieties: Belikin Premium, Belikin Beer, Belikin Stout, and Lighthouse Lager. One Barrel Rum is the locally-distilled molasses-tasting rum.

 

Culture

Belizeans are informal and friendly in greeting one another; it is considered rude not to hail even a slight acquaintance. A simple nod of the head or a wave is acceptable when passing someone on the street. 

Punta is by the far most popular genre of Garifuna music and has become the most popular genre in all of Belize. It is distinctly Afro-Caribbean. A slower, more melodic variant, known as Paranda, has been catching on recently. Brukdown is a very popular modern style of Belizean music. It evolved out of the music and dance of loggers, especially a form called buru. Reggae, Dancehall, and Soca imported from Jamaica and the rest of the West Indies, and Rap, Hip-Hop, heavy metal and rock music from the United States, are also popular among the youth of Belize.

 

Geography
The country is located between Guatemala to the west, Mexico to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Belize, formerly the colony of British Honduras, is the only country in Central America without a coastline on the Pacific Ocean and the only one in Latin America with English as its official language. 

Belize is located between the Hondo and Sarstoon Rivers, with the Belize River flowing down in the centre of the country. The north of Belize consists mostly of flat, swampy coastal plains, in places heavily forested. The highest point is Victoria Peak, at 1,160m above sea level.

 

History

Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy as the old agricultural products have lost ground. Current concerns include an unsustainable foreign debt, high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, growing urban crime, and increasing incidences of HIV/AIDS.

 

Nature

No less then 5 big cat species call Belize home: they are the jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay and the jaguarondi. Also indigenous are the armadillo, opossum, deer, monkeys, iguanas and snakes, tapirs, manatees, dolphin, peccary, turtles, and crocodiles

A real haven for bird watchers: over 530 bird species have been sighted here, including more than 200 migratory birds from North America who winter in the tropics. There are seven small mangrove cayes declared as bird sanctuaries. On these cayes are commonly nesting Wood Storks, Great and Cattle Egrets, Boat-billed and Tricoloured Herons, Reddish Egrets and White Ibis, as well as Magnificent Frigatebirds, Anhingas and other birds.

 

Sports

Those who love to swim will delight in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. And every water sportsimaginable can be practiced here as well, such as windsurfing. Game fishing (snapper, barracuda, marlin and bonito) is popular year round. The country’s several river systems and smaller streams are ideal forkayaking and canoeing

Nature and hiking trails abound in the National Parks and Reserves and archaeological sites. Horseback riding is also popular and a few places rent out bicycles as well. 

The most popular sports are soccer and basketball, and there is enthusiastic support for league teams formed since the early 1990s. Other sports enjoyed in Belize include volleyball, track and field, boxing, cycling, and softball.

 

Other Useful Info

Banks & Money
The Belizean dollar is officially worth exactly half of a US dollar. Most hotels, resorts, restaurants, and tour operators will also accept US currency, traveler's checks, or credit cards. ATMs are available in the larger cities. Credit card use usually tacks on an additional 5% service charge to your bill. 

Always clarify which dollar is being discussed when negotiating prices, offering Belizean first.

 

Climate

For monthly average temperatures please refer to your destination of choice.

 

Communication
The Belize country code is 501. Local phone numbers have seven digits. Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL) provides local and direct dialing between Belize and the United States and Canada. The BLT also supplies most hotels and internet cafés with internet access. 

Mobile phone with GSM compatibility may be used. Contact BTL office or Digicell for activation. Cellular phones can also be rented for a few dollars a day.

 

Health
Although potable water is available in most areas, it is advisable to drink boiled or bottled water. There are no serious diseases in Belize, but if you plan to visit the jungle, inoculation against malaria or dengue fever is highly recommended. Stomach upsets are the most common ailment. 

There are no required vaccines to enter the country, unless you are arriving from a yellow fever affected destination. The following vaccines are recommended for any tropical destination: hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus and yellow fever.

 

Official Holidays
March 9 – Baron Bliss Day
March/April – Good Friday/Easter
May 1 – Labour Day
May 24 – Commonwealth Day
September 10 – St. George's Caye Day
September 21 – Independence Day
October 12 – Columbus Day
November 19 – Garifuna Settlement Day
December 25 – Christmas Day
December 26 – Boxing Day

 

Safety
It's highly recommended that you remain in the tourist zone that runs just north of the marina to the southern extension to the east of the main canal. Belize City can be dangerous if you wonder outside the tourist areas. The rest of the country is considered generally safe but it never hurts to be cautious. 

Take advantage of the safety deposit boxes provided by the hotels, do not leave valuables unattended in public and carry your wallet and camera discreetly. Also make sure to lock your hotel room and rental car. Don't wander alone at night on the streets.

 

Shopping
Mayan baskets, jewelery and embroidered linens, oil paintings, and carvings made of mahogany or other local woods make nice authentic souvenirs. Also great are homemade jams and pepper sauces, Punta music recordings and Belizean rum. Another cool buy are rain forest products and natural remedies that can be purchased in small jars. 

Please note that most textiles and leather work are from Guatemala or Honduras.

 

Taxes & Tips

A government sales tax of 10% is added on most goods and services, hotels and restaurants. Hotels add a 10% service fee. If it has not been added, a 10% tip is recommended. This gratuity goes to the bellhop, maid, and porter who assisted you. Restaurants rarely include the service fee; therefore tipping servers 10 and 15% is appreciated.

 

Transportation
The Philip Goldson International Airport is to the northwest of Belize City. There are two domestic airlines that serve the bigger Belizean towns on a daily basis. Arrival to the country by car and bus service is possible from Mexico via Chetumal, or from Guatemala via Tikal. 

For interior travel, several competing bus lines operate on the main road in the north-south direction from Punta Gorda to Belmopan and Belize City. Car rental is also an option to travel around.

 

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