This information is provided because many people want to visit Belize but know so little about it. I don't know much but have visited four parts of the country and enjoyed it all. This is by no means complete. Maybe it will help you get started.
No tips are provided on Placencia or San Ignacio. It’s either been too long or we didn’t spend enough time there. There are additional links in the Links Section of this site.
Belize used to be British Honduras. That may help some of the older readers relate. It is located in Central America, just below Mexico on the Caribbean. It’s bordered on the west and south by Guatemala.
Belize tend to be very nice and accommodating. They work hard so that we can enjoy their country. That is part of what makes Belize a nice place to visit. The country certainly isn't crime free but we've never had any troubles. It's also convenient that nearly everyone speaks English.
Getting there and Back
It is easy to fly there. Flights will go into Goldson International in Belize City. By most US standards it is a small international airport but it gets the job done. As a US citizen, you need a US passport for entry. No visa is required for short visits. Nearly all the citizens speak English. There really aren't many communication problems. When you leave the country, you need to pay approximately $37 US for the privilege. It may be included in the cost of your airline ticket. Do note that it must be paid in US. There was a Visa sign so that may be an option.
The Belizean currency is $2 for each US $1. Either currency may be used and may be mixed in a transaction. There aren't many ATM's in the country so don't count on having one immediately available. Atlantic Bank now has international ATM’s in a few areas around the country. There’s one at the departure check in area at the airport and one on Caye Caulker. There are others but I don’t remember where. Traveler's checks are widely accepted. Visa is pretty much accepted but don't be surprised it they add a fee for the privilege.
When you leave the country, you can exchange Belize dollars for US at the Atlantic Bank at the departure check-in area. There is a small charge. I think it was $.50 per $20 US. It’s better than taking a pocketful of Belize cash home with you. The Atlantic Bank on Caye Caulker wouldn’t / couldn’t provide the service.
There are basically three schools of thought in visiting Belize. One seems to be rent a car and make no reservations and go exploring. Another is make your plans and reservations in advance whether you have a car or not. The third would be take your backpack and head across the country without a car or reservations. None of the approaches are wrong, it just depends on what you like. Obviously there are other ways to travel but these seem to be the main ones. We've never rented a car there so I don't know about that. If we care about where we stay, we get reservations. If not, we explore.
I understand that Easter and Christmas get very busy on the Cayes. Local festivals probably get pretty busy too. You do need reservations at these times and they might be hard to get.
Odds and Ends
- You better like beans, rice and chicken. Served many places and seems to be a staple in the diet. Very good too.
- Caye is pronounced “key”.
- Belikin is the national beer. The lager is actually pretty good. It costs $2.50US most places but can be found for less.
- The Belize Forum is a mix of Belizeans, American Ex-Pats and assorted tourists. They're a good source of information for any visits to Belize.
- Lan Sluder wrote the Belize sections for Fodors. He has a lot of information on the country on his web site. He also posts on the Belize Forum. His Belize First website has a lot of information and reviews on hotels in the country.
- Trip Advisor also has a Belize forum. Its fairly active and a decent source of information as well.
Getting to Caye Caulker can be done via Water Taxi or airplane. Not sure one is better than the other. The water taxi terminal in Belize City is a $25 cab ride from the airport. The $25 is for the cab, not per person. Its also a way to get a look at part of Belize City. The water taxi ride is 45 minutes and costs around $10 each way. The boat ride itself is nice and the view coming into Caye Caulker is nice.
You can also fly to Caye Caulker. The two airlines in the country are Tropic Air and Maya Island Air. The cost to fly Tropic Air from the International Airport is $63. Maya Island Air did not show any flights to Caye Caulker. Flying is more expensive and the less expensive water taxi is a good way to get there. You also don't see countryside and Belize City on your way in the water taxi. Two people flying costs $126US and the water taxi is $45 for the cab and water taxi. You can also fly from the municipal airport and the cost is $35 each. You'll need a bus or cab ride to get there. The water taxi is simpler.
When you arrive in the Cayes, you need to figure out how to get to your accommodations if you have reservations. I'd work it out in advance with them. They may pick you up or tell you that there are plenty of cabs available. Bear in mind that on Caye Caulker, at least, cabs are large golf carts. There seemed to be several around the pier when we arrived. There will also be golf cart cabs at the airport. Generally the cost is around $5.
Meals on Caye Caulker can be pretty much what you want them to be. Without drinks, they seemed to run from $8 US to $23 US for dinner. Habaneras’ is the most expensive but is very good. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get good food. You should check out Wish Willy and Herbal Tribe for dinner as well.
Staying on Ambergris Caye
Ambergris Caye is much larger than Caye Caulker. Where you stay on the island will affect how you get around the island. I don't know that any one area is better than the other but they may affect you differently.
North of San Pedro, the island is cut in two by a split or river. There are many nice places to stay in the north but transportation may be a problem. Water taxis are primarily how you would get to town. That isn't a huge problem but is more difficult than a taxi. In San Pedro, you are closer to the bigger restaurants and bars. It looked to be much more exciting than where we were. It was also more congested. South of San Pedro, it is quieter but there also less restaurants and bars. We were about 1 1/4 mile south of San Pedro at Banana Beach. We usually walked to town but finding a cab isn't a problem.
When visiting Ambergris Caye, spend some time finding the local restaurants. In my opinion, they're aren't easy to dig out. The upscale expensive ones are quite good but if you want a basic burrito or similar, you'll have to hunt it. We spent more on food than I expected to. It was all good though.
Getting to Ambergris Caye
Getting to Ambergris Caye can be done via Water Taxi or airplane to the airport in San Pedro. The boat ride seemed a lot longer than the one to Caye Caulker making flying seem reasonable. The water taxi terminal in Belize City is a $25 cab ride from the airport. The $25 is for the cab, not per person. Its also a way to get a look at part of Belize City. The water taxi ride is 90 minutes and costs around $15 each way. The boat ride itself is OK and the view coming into San Pedro is nice.
You can also fly to San Pedro. The two airlines in the country are Tropic Air and Maya Island Air. The cost to fly both airlines from the International Airport is $63. Flying is more expensive and the less expensive water taxi is a good way to get there. You also don't see countryside and Belize City on your way in the water taxi. Two people flying costs $126US and the water taxi is $55 for the cab and water taxi. You can also fly from the municipal airport and the cost is $35 each. You'll need a bus or cab ride to get there. The water taxi is simpler.
When you arrive in the San Pedro, you need to figure out how to get to your accommodations if you have reservations. There was an adequate number of cabs at the airport if you are staying south of the cut. If you are in the north, talk to the folks managing your resort and they will tell you what to do. The cabs in San Pedro are usually mini vans and the cost was around $5.