what you need to know about belize
Spending time in Belize is decidedly uncomplicated. This is a simple place, operating at a leisurely pace.
Belize is the northernmost Central American country. It is the only Central American country that does not border the Pacific Ocean. It only borders the Caribbean Sea. Belize’s neighbor to the north is Mexico, Guatemala is its neighbor to the south and west, and to the east is the beautiful Caribbean Sea. It enjoys 174 miles alongside the Meso-American Reef, the longest such neighbor to the reef, a scuba diving and snorkeling paradise. The mainland has lush tropical rainforests and the Ancient Mayan ruins. Between the sea, the mountains, and the Mayan ruins and culture, the adventures are endless. It is a country about the size of New Hampshire, about 1/10th the size of the United Kingdom. Ambergris Caye is approximately 25 miles long by 1 mile wide.
Belizeans are warm and friendly people, virtually all of whom are multi-lingual. It is often described as an “English is the first language” country. That’s not quite true. Nearly all Belizeans speak Spanish at home with their families and (fluent) English with tourists. Many Belizeans also speak Kriol and Garifuna, but that’s for another day.
The US dollar is permanently pegged to the Belize dollar at 2:1. That means that two $BZ can be exchanged for one $US, making it easy to understand pricing. Almost everything everywhere is priced in $BZ. So, for example, a t-shirt marked for sale at $20 can be purchased with a BZ$20 or a US$10 bill. Note: there may be a few resort hotels that may price their menus in $US.
paying for stuff
Credit cards are widely accepted throughout the country (in almost all places that have doors). A few places may add a charge for accepting credit cards, say 2.5%. As you might expect, MasterCard and Visa are accepted in more places than American Express and Discover. American dollars are universally accepted.
Don’t worry about running short. There’s plenty of places that have ATM’s. We’d suggest finding one early that accepts your card, get a little cash, and return as needed. There’s little sense in having too much cash on your person or in your room.
Power and Internet
Belize uses the same voltage and plugs as the US and Canada. You will not need a power adaptor unless you’re coming from Europe or Asia. The internet is generally fast in most tourist areas. Almost every restaurant, bar, hotel, and coffee shop offer free wi-fi. You’ll never be out of touch, unless you choose to be, which we strongly recommend.
On island Belize, the most popular methods of getting around are walking, biking, scooters, and golf carts. Water taxis and ground taxis are widely available. Whether you need to rent a bike or a golf cart will be “driven” by how far you are located from the major activities that you plan on doing. Golf cart rentals and bicycle rentals are available by the hour, day, week, or month.
On mainland Belize, you’ll likely be in a car, or a bus, if you are traveling to another destination.
We have never felt unsafe in Belize. To be sure, there is crime in this country, some of it violent. This is true of almost every country in the world today. Here, tourists are largely the victims of crimes of opportunity. Want to avoid those?
Consider the following:
Nothing good happens after midnight (after a long day in the sun, this is hard to do).
Don’t leave any of your possessions unattended. Leaving sunglasses or hats on your golf cart is an invitation to be relieved of them.
Avoid bringing unnecessary attention to yourself and your companions (ex., leave jewelry at home).
Just like at home, know your surroundings. Ask other travelers, hotel staff, and expats. Everyone is happy to help keep you safe.