How to prepare for a trip to Belize
Planning a trip to any foreign country can be a hassle, but that’s not a concern if you just know the basics about the country you’re planning on visiting. Here’s everything you need to know if you’re thinking about going on vacation in Belize.
Get Out of Belize City
The first place you’ll see upon landing in the country is the old capital of Belize City. It may be the most important industrial and commercial center in Belize, but it has almost nothing to offer visitors. We can’t recommend staying more than a day or two for most people, after which you should either take a ferry to one of the bigger cayes or make your way down the mainland.
Plan For the Beach and the Jungle
Belize’s beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world, but you’d be missing a major part of the experience if you didn’t take the time to cut through the jungle and caves of Belize’s mainland. It’s here that you’ll find some of the most extant Maya ruins in existence. That means pack a swimsuit — but also bring some sturdy boots, long-sleeved shirts, and perhaps a flashlight for spelunking or cave tubing.
Prepare Your Documents and Expectations
Eco-tourism is an integral part of Belize’s economy, and they’ve done an exceptional job of making it easy for travelers to come and go — at least for those privileged to be from certain parts of the world. Visitors from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, the European Union, or countries from the Caribbean or Central America only need to provide a passport that’s not due to expire until three months beyond the trip is planned to end. Visitors from other countries should plan to arrange for a travel visa.
English-speaking travelers will have a much easier time in Belize than they will in many other Central American or Caribbean countries. English is the official language here — and while Belize has its own currency, most retailers also tend to accept American dollars. That said, many of the people here are bilingual — especially among indigenous groups — and Spanish and indigenous languages are common to hear throughout Belize’s villages.
Don’t Miss the Barrier Reef
Too many people miss out on Belize’s inland adventures because they get too enraptured by the perfect sandy white beaches, but it can also be easy to get so distracted by sunbathing that you don’t ever make it out to the Barrier Reef. It’s the second largest ecosystem of its kind in the world, and you can find a way to enjoy it whether you prefer kicking back on the deck of a boat, snorkeling on the surface of the water, or diving deep with scuba gear. Islands like Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker offer the best access to the reef.
Consider a Resort
Resorts are all over the most popular destinations in Belize — and while some argue that they offer little in the way of authenticity, they’re one of the better ways to make sure that you actually experience everything you want on your vacation. Many are positioned in ways that allow you with easy access to both the beach or the jungle, and the bars and beaches of many resorts are often the most happening nightspots in a town like San Pedro. It may cost a little more, but take the time to weigh the advantages that a resort offers.
But Also Reconsider What “Resorts” Mean
There may be a lot of different resorts on Belize, but the definition of just what “resort” means can be applied pretty loosely out here. Some resorts are basically all-inclusive and compartmentalized miniature villages, while others are essentially condos or townhouses that offer some shared amenities. Don’t write off resorts right away, but instead think in terms of what sort of amenities and privacy you want. It will be easier to find the right place for you once those fundamentals are established.
Consider Planning Around a Holiday
It can sometimes feel like it’s harder to avoid a holiday in Belize than it is to find one. That’s great news for the tourism industry, and it could be a driving decision if you really want to make the most of your time in Belize. Holidays that are popular elsewhere — like Día de Los Muertos and Carnival — each have their own iterations throughout Belize, but there are plenty of local festivals as well. Lobsterfest in Placencia is one of the most popular, but it’s just one in a stacked choice of options. Whether you’re looking to get in the heart of the party or avoid crowds entirely, you’ll definitely need to make these major seasonal events a factor in how you plan your trip to Belize.