Planning a Holiday? 8 Tips to Prepare for a Vacation in Belize
What could be better than swinging in a hammock between two palm trees listening to the gentle lap of the Caribbean Sea? Few destinations can beat one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in Central America, Belize. Hundreds of islands, endless stretches of coastline and some of the world’s best diving spots attracted more than one million visitors last year. Accommodation ranges from luxurious overwater bungalows in Belize to budget-friendly guesthouses in cultural towns. If you plan to take a vacation in this tropical paradise, check out the following tips before stepping onto the plane.
Know Your Budget
Despite being in Central America and classified as a developing country, Belize isn’t cheap. As a vacationing spot, prices are high compared to its neighbors but relatively inexpensive against its Caribbean cousins. Expect costs to be on par with those in the United States for food, drink and alcohol. Accommodation ranges from reasonably cheap beds in hostel dorms to Cayo Espanto’s private island and ultra-luxurious beachside bungalows. Know your budget before you start planning the holiday.
Know Where You Want to Go
The diversity in Belize ranges from tropical jungles to cultural towns and, of course, white-sand beaches. Consider what you want to do on your vacation. If you’re planning to relax on the beach, head to either Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker. Stay near the Belize Barrier Reef or the Great Sink Hole to experience some of the best diving of your life. Or snorkel in Hol Chan Marine Reserve to the south of Ambergris Caye to see the reefs, mangroves and sea-grass beds. If you’re after a more secluded beach experience, head to Hopkins further down the coast.
Know What to Expect When You Arrive
Most nationalities including Americans, Canadians and those in the European Union, get a 30-day visa on arrival. Bring US dollars to Belize in small denominations and change some, but not all, into Belize dollars. The local currency pegs to the US dollar at a rate of 1:2. Most places accept both. You can use your credit card to pay in restaurants and bars but expect an extra 5% in various service fees. ATMs are common in some parts, but not others. More likely than not, you’ll arrive in Belize City before heading out somewhere else. Make sure you arrange transport.
Know What to Expect From the Locals
Belizeans tend to be friendly and will often start conversations with foreigners. Sometimes catcalling is quite common towards young women. Others can be pushy when it comes to selling their goods or tours. This is just the way the people are, and you need to prepare for it. When someone tries to sell something that you don’t want, a polite but firm no works well. And if you do find yourself getting unwanted attention, either ignore or politely acknowledge before walking away. This might be frustrating, but it’s usually harmless.
Here’s some good news for tourists, the official language in Belize is English. After being a British colony under British Honduras for more than a century, English rather than Spanish became the dominant language. This makes it easier to communicate with people, especially outside of the tourist resorts. Many people speak Spanish as a second language.
Because of the Caribbean influence in Belize, the country has a very laid-back atmosphere. Locals tend to lounge around or spend their time near the beach. While this is great for tourists who want to chill out to reggae in a bar, it also causes issues with punctuality. If someone wants to meet up, expect them to be late. Tours rarely start on time. Expect it and embrace the culture that lives by their time rather than being bound to the clock.
How Safe is Belize?
While it’s true Belize does have a poor reputation for violent and petty crime, the situation isn’t as bad as the media makes it out to be. If you look at statistics, it can be alarming to see Belize City, the country’s central hub, to rate in the World’s top 10 murder spots. But, violence is related to gangs and drugs. Besides, few tourists stick around in the former capital and head off to one of the cayes. If you do want to see Belize City, certain neighborhoods are no-go areas. Use common sense and keep valuables in the hotel safe. The crime rates are much lower outside of the city. However, the situation might change, and you should always check any official travel warnings first. Corruption is a major concern too.
Travelling to a developing country in a tropical climate can pose certain health risks. Hospitals and the healthcare system are substandard at best. If you do fall sick, you’re probably better to get treatment back at home. Tourists often complain about the number of mosquitoes, especially in the rainy season and around dusk. Protect yourself by using repellent and covering your arms and legs. You should also use plenty of sunscreen and stay hydrated to avoid sunburn and heat stroke. There are also wasps, scorpions and lots of snakes that call the landscape of Belize their home. Just beware of this.
Now Book Your Dream Holiday to Belize
Travelling to Belize is a rewarding experience. Most visitors have the time of their lives enjoying the beaches and marine life. And you will too. Just follow these suggestions and prepare yourself for what the country will be like. Over one million take a holiday here and that many tourists can’t be wrong!