25 TRAVEL TIPS FOR VISITING BELIZE

As you may know by now, Belize completely stole my heart upon arrival to the dense, lush jungles of San Ignacio. After making my way from one side of the country to the other, I spent time napping in hammocks on Caye Caulker with the sound of the waves lulling me to sleep each night. Ever since returning to the U.S., I have made it my mission to convince virtually every living being I know to visit Belize.

Here are 25 Travel Tips to help you plan your next trip to Belize!

1.  English is the most commonly spoken language.

With Spanish coming in second. Because…

2.  Belize is part of the Commonwealth.

Formerly British Honduras, Belize only gained it’s independence in 1981, though the British monarch remains it’s head of state. Belize is the only country in Central America to have a British colonial heritage.

3.  Public transportation arrives in the form of ‘chicken buses’.

Therefore, don’t be alarmed when you are waiting at your bus stop {which can sometimes be disguised as a group of locals gathering on the side of the road}, and a school bus pulls up. This is indeed the form of public transportation throughout Belize. Also, don’t be surprised if your neighbor happens to have two feet and a shit ton of feathers. Totes normal. There is technically a bus schedule which you can find here, but it’s more of a suggestion. Bus drivers are on their own timetable, so you may as well get used to going with the flow. A bus ride will cost you about $2.50 – $20 BZD.

4.  There are only two seasons in Belize.

The wet season and the dry season. Typically the wet season occurs between June and November, and the dry season occurs from December through to May. Summer is actually the low season in Belize which allows for great deals on accommodation and flights, however you may struggle to book certain activities and excursions.

I visited Belize at the beginning of September {still technically the wet season}, and found pros and cons. The pros included nearly deserted beaches, a roundtrip flight {significantly} less than a month’s rent in New York, and a free, spur-of-the-moment jungle walk with a friendly local who had a very slow afternoon at the Iguana Conservation.

The cons included rain {though I was extremely lucky and only experienced a day and a half of mild rainfall}, businesses closed for the off season, and the lack of excursions available to me {due to lack of willing participants}.

5.  ‘Iguana Crossing’ road signs are legitimate.

When I pulled up to my jungle lodge in San Ignacio, my driver had to halt the vehicle in order to avoid hitting an iguana the size of my dachshund. This iguana had no intention of moving, regardless of oncoming traffic. My driver had to step out of the vehicle {ma’am}, find the largest branch he could, and attempt to coax the large reptile out of the way by waving it in his face. Before we all start feeling sorry for the iguana for being taunted, my driver was actually terrified. And we are talking about a pretty bulky, badass dude. He explained once he got back into the van that these iguanas actually attack people regularly, when and if they feel threatened, so it is best to avoid them at all costs. Welcome to Belize!

6.  You will meet the nicest locals in the world.

I haven’t been everywhere in the world, but of the countries I have visited {and lived in}, I can confidently say Belize produces the kindest individuals. Sure, the Kiwi’s in New Zealand will give you the shirt off your back should you need it, but being around the locals in Belize made me feel oddly comfortable to be a foreigner.

One morning, I hopped on a chicken bus making it’s way east towards Xunantunich. Of course, once I actually stepped on the bus, I realized my only form of communication was crossing my arms into a big ‘X’ and repeating the name of the Mayan ruin. The bus driver simply smiled at me and nodded once. I found an empty seat towards the back of the bus, unaware of what I should be looking out for when approaching my desired bus stop. At one point, I glanced at the guy next to me and told him about the “X”. He chuckled, but immediately started explaining, in broken English, that there would be a river to the right of me and a ferry. Perfect, I though to myself. How could I miss an entire ferry?

As we approached my bus stop, unbeknownst to me though I had been on the lookout, the man next to me started pointing and showing me the ‘ferry’ {which was actually just a few pieces of plywood placed together to cross a very narrow river}. ‘This is it’ he said, smiling. I thanked him profusely and made my way up to the bus driver, who had already begun pulling over, remembering my awkward hand gestures from earlier on the journey. He waved goodbye, offered me luck and he drove away.

Later that afternoon, I happened to board the same bus, and the driver remembered me! I started to tell him where I was staying, but he quickly motioned for me to board saying, ‘Of course I remember where you are going. I saw you just this morning!’ These reminders of how beautiful humans are, are moments I will cherish forever. People are usually willing to help, you just have to be willing to let them.

7.  Bug spray and sunscreen should be #1 and #2 on your packing list.

I can locate a bug bite on my body in nearly every single photo I took in Belize. You should try yourself, we can have a ‘Where’s Waldo’ situation here on the blog. But really, mosquitos are no joke in the jungle. And the sun is just as unforgiving. I was sunburnt for a majority of my trip, even after lathering myself in layers of sunscreen.

8.  Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world.

Which lends itself to some of the most incredible snorkeling and diving. Or so I’ve been told… I have nothing to compare to my experience snorkeling in Belize, as it was the first time I had ever put on a mask and fins {talk about setting the bar high}. What I did see was jaw-dropping {had I been able to drop my jaw}. We witnessed beautiful coral of all shapes and colors, yellow eels, multiple sting rays, an abandoned underwater barge, and eventually swam with nurse sharks. Unfortunately, we did not stumble upon any sea turtles which may have prompted me to go in the first place. Regardless of this, I spent nearly five hours in the water and wanted to jump back in within moments of returning to shore. Belize is also home to the world famous ‘Blue Hole’ which offers ideal diving conditions.

9.  Belize is one of the pricier countries in Central America.

In comparison to places like Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico, Belize is pretty expensive. Budget travelers tend to avoid Belize because of this, but I am here to tell you that it shouldn’t be missed. I believe you can travel nearly anywhere in the world on a budget, but you must be willing to make certain sacrifices. For me, I stayed in hostels and didn’t partake in every excursion made available to me. Eating street food saves on costs and limiting your alcohol intake will save you big bucks in Belize. Opt for public transportation over taxi’s and private shuttles, and plan a trip during the low season.

10.  It is very safe to travel the country solo.

I felt extremely safe traveling around Belize as a young female on my own. As I mentioned previously, the locals took me under their wing for a majority of my time, helping me with directions, transportation, and even offering to show me a few ‘off the beaten path’ restaurants. There was the unavoidable cat-calling that occurred, mostly on the islands, but ignorance was my best friend in those situations. I never felt threatened, and even joined a local Belizean on a private jungle walk through the lush bush. There was never a moment of, ‘I am alone with a stranger and a machete in the middle of the jungle, maybe this wasn’t a good idea’, though one could argue there should have been. I constantly felt taken care of, looked after, and most importantly safe.

11.  Belize city, however, is not safe at night.

The one place I was told to avoid by locals and travel bloggers alike, was Belize City after dark. I did not end up spending any time in Belize City {other than flying in and out of their airport}. If you have an early flight or want to stay close to the airport, my only advice is to do all exploring, eating, and drinking before dusk. Gang violence is a big contributor to the violence in Belize City, leaving Belize with a very high crime rate in comparison to other places in Central America. You can read more about crime and safety in Belize here.

12.  Belize is made up of 65% rainforest and jungle.

Flying into Belize was a dream. I had never seen so much green in my entire life. It felt as though we would never find a patch of land to actually descend onto. Over the course of my whole trip, I felt like I was living in ‘The Jungle Book’. You could barely peel my eyes off of any car window I was passenger to. Thinking about it now has me itching to book another trip to Central America… but first, Asia.

13.  Beliken is the local beer and will set you back $2.50 USD.

…essentially the same cost as a bottle of water. It’s nothing to write home about, but will keep you hydrated {read: intoxicated} if that’s what you are looking for.

14.  Prepare yourself for intense humidity.

The humidity is no joke. Though not as bad as in Indonesia, my skin had a pretty severe reaction to the humidity in Belize. Just be prepared to sweat, sweat, sweat.

15.  Mayan ruins are everywhere.

At one point I was standing on an ancient ruin without the slightest clue of my whereabouts. Belize is a culture with rich history, and these Mayan ruins are helpful in educating us about it. The most famous of the ruins in Belize is Xunantunich {post coming soon!}, and it does not disappoint.

16.  You won’t find cars on a majority of the islands.

One of my favorite elements of the cayes, was the lack of vehicles on the road! People mostly hire bikes for $15 BZD daily or golf carts for {I don’t know how much because I didn’t do this}. Most of the islands are small enough to walk from one end to another, so it is rare to see any kind of car or truck on the road, but others like Ambergris Caye are larger and require some form of transportation other than your two feet.

17.  You do not need a visa to visit Belize.

For most countries, there is no visa requirement to visit Belize. You just need a valid passport. This being said, I do have a pretty great story upon entrance to Belize {coming soon}. And this time, the spotlight wasn’t on me in customs!

18.  Your diet will mostly consist of beans and rice.

Fortunately for me {being gluten free}, this was fantastic news! Unfortunately for me, after visiting Mexico, my standards became {unreasonably} high when it came to cuisine in Central America. Regardless, I had some incredible food during my stay in Belize. Breakfast burrito’s for the win. And $10 whole lobster dinner? Yas.

19.  There is constant tension between Guatemala and Belize.

Though it feels like a sibling rivalry more than anything. There are border disputes between the two countries, which are still ongoing today. Guatemala refused to recognize Belize’s independence until 1992, even though it has been established in 1981. You wouldn’t assume anything was actually wrong, other than the frequent jabs that each countries locals partake in. For example, I was in two different cars {one in Guatemala and one in Belize} within the same afternoon, and each of my drivers brought up famous tree’s that their countries were known for, while also undermining the other countries fauna. Locals in both Guatemala and Belize are extremely proud of their countries, and rightfully so.

20.  Be cautious with your drinks at certain bars in Ambergris Caye {and anywhere else}.

This isn’t just specific for Belize, and this didn’t happen to me personally, as I rarely drank at all during my time in there. However, a fellow traveler that I met experienced something quite disturbing at a beach front bar on Ambergris Caye. Her friends had ordered drinks from the bar and after finishing just one, felt as though they were going to fall down and pass out, at any given moment. They could barely walk back to their golf cart, but luckily my new friend and her mates had not yet consumed any alcohol, and were able to get them home safely. This is just an example of what can happen, quite frankly, anywhere in the world, if you are not aware of your surroundings. Even if you are being smart about it, you should always go out in a group to avoid leaving yourself vulnerable to situations like this one.

21.  If you are going to purchase souvenirs, do so on the mainland.

I made the mistake of waiting until arriving on the islands to do my souvenir shopping. It wasn’t until I got back to the mainland that I realized I had spent nearly a third more for my trinkets on Caye Caulker. And the products were virtually the same. Confession: I actually found the souvenirs in Guatemala more charming than those in Belize.

22.  Pack more bathing suits, and less of everything else.

It was too bloody hot and humid to wear half of the clothing I packed. I basically lived in my bathing suits on the islands, and while in the jungle, stuck to breathable tops and work out bottoms. Cute girl-wearing-unreasonable-and-likely-uncomfortable-dress-and-heels Instagram shots on Mayan ruins, forget about it. As long as there was no visible sweat on my ‘Instagram OOTD’s’, I was satisfied.

23.  Hostel life is rough.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big advocate for hostel life, especially as a solo traveler. And I’ve stayed in my fair share. Even with a partner I’ve slept in multiple hostels. But these were mainly in Europe and New Zealand, where air conditioners exist and the idea of waking up next to a tarantula was laughable. Not the case in Belize. I suggest splurging for the hotel if you don’t want to find yourself sleeping in your own sweat, or fighting off exotic insects all night.

24.  It matters which tour company you use.

I had an interesting experience with this point. I had originally read all about Alex in Wanderland’s experience snorkeling with EZ Boy Tours on her blog, and immediately knew I wanted to book an excursion with them. When it came time to do so, however, my options were very limited. As in, there was only one tour company on Caye Caulker leaving that day for a snorkeling excursion, maybe. I was the only interested customer on the island {it was low season}, and my guide required at least 2-3 other people in order to make the journey worth it for him. I understood, but was silently furious. To my delight, a lovely couple eventually showed up and said they were keen.

Unda De Wata was not my top choice in terms of tour companies that morning, but by the end the afternoon they became my absolute favorite {little did I know Unda De Wata tours was actually ranked higher on TripAdvisor than EZ Boy Tours}. We ran into other tour groups from the larger Ambergris Caye, and guys, our guide blew them out of the water {no pun intended}. He coaxed a yellow eel out of it’s cave, giving us {and the rest of the tour groups} quite a unique experience. He didn’t hesitate to bring both a nurse shark and a sting ray to the surface of the water in order for us to get up close and personal. No creatures were harmed in the process, I can promise you. He was simply fearless and familiar with the reef.

My advice is to do your research before arriving to the islands and find a tour company that fits your needs. For example, Raggamuffin Tours tend to attract young backpackers looking to party, and may not be ideal for a couple on their honeymoon.

25.  Currency: Belize Dollars

The currency used in Belize is the Belize Dollar. Most places do also accept major Visa and Credit Cards, however you’ll go further with some cash in your pocket. The current exchange rate is approximately $2 BZD to $1 USD. I simply cut each price tag in half when calculating how many USD I was spending during my trip.

Over to you, do you have any travel tips to add to the list?

4 Replies to “25 TRAVEL TIPS FOR VISITING BELIZE”

  1. Loved the blog and all the tips! <3 However, as a Belizean and living there majority of my life, i must say your first tip is actually wrong. English is the primary language, and Spanish comes second. 🙂

    1. Hi Kia! I’m glad you enjoy the tips. And thank you so much for letting me know that about the first tip! I will definitely make changes to that one. Appreciate the info! And absolutely love Belize.

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