An Introduction to Belize

 

Presenting an adventurer's paradise, Belize: Mayan temples tower above rainforest canopies while an incredibly colorful array of marine wildlife find protection in Belize's Great Barrier Reef. Discover Belize!

No more than two hours from three gateways in the United States, and just a short hop from Mexico, getting to Belize is painless. With the right planning and preparation your visits, tours and excursions around the country can be just as simple.

For the outdoor enthusiast, Belize presents unlimited opportunities. You might say that Belize is the outdoors. You will find diving, snorkeling, fishing, hiking, and exploring nature at its best.

Every destination in Belize has its share of archaeological and national parks, marine and nature reserves, wildlife sanctuaries. Each of these protected areas is packed with opportunities for adventure.

While the country of Belize is divided into six districts, you'll find it easier to plan your visit by looking at the nine tourism destinations:

Northern Belize
Covering the two districts of Orange Walk and Corozal, the north is a Belizean bonanza of natural wealth and archaeological wonder. Spectacular ancient cities, highlighted by the temples at Lamanai, evidence the ancient Maya's affinity for the area. With jungles, rainforests, coastal lagoons, and rivers, the region is home to an amazing array of animal and plant life that includes the jaguar and the manatee. Culturally the north is primarily Mayan and Spanish with the Mennonite farmers adding their old world flavor to the mix.

 

Belize District
The district is dominated by Belize City and offers a host of attractions including several sanctuaries, the world class Belize Zoo, a new museum, historic government buildings, churches and the incredible Maya site at Altun Ha. The city is a great place to spend a day or two learning about Belize's history and its multi-cultural heritage while mingling with the amiable, laid back Belizeans who greet you with a smile. It's also the perfect place to plan and begin your discovery of Belize and offers all kinds of access to any destination in the country.

 

Ambergris Caye
The largest of all the cayes, Ambergris Caye is renowned for its beaches and proximity to the coral reef. From here, you can indulge any wet adventure you can dream up; Sport fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and manatee watching are among the most popular. San Pedro, the caye's hub, offers any variety of accommodations, restaurants, bars and nightlife. For a change of pace and scenery, the bay side of the caye is a great place to get acquainted with Belizean bird life.

 

Caye Caulker
Just south of Ambergris is the relaxed and slow-paced Caye Caulker where you can indulge your island fantasies on a quiet beach and get to know the Mestizo and Creole culture, customs and traditions. Offering budget accommodations and excursions with a full range of services, Caulker is also well known for its friendly, easygoing people who make it difficult for you to leave this sunny, sleepy little island.

 

Cayo
Located in the western interior of Belize, Cayo is a 1500 square mile district that encompasses a good portion of the Maya Mountains and has more than its fair share of ancient Maya sites to visit and explore. To the east is the capital city of Belmopan and to the far west, visitor friendly San Ignacio, the main city of the district. Between the two lie a world of forests teeming with wildlife and immaculately beautiful tropical watersheds catered to by a variety of jungle and river lodges to suit any style, budget and adventure.

 

Stann Creek
The journey in by road on the Hummingbird Highway, with breathtaking vistas of the rainforests and the Maya Mountains, takes you all the way into culture rich Dangriga, historic home of the Garifuna people. Opportunity for marine adventure abounds with the nearby coral reef, cayes and coastal villages, while the Cockscomb Basin bears witness to Belize's lush broadleaf tropical forests that are home to countless species of plants and animals. Stann Creek is ideal for its accessibility to a huge variety of Belizean discovery destinations both inland and out in the sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean.

 

Placencia
White sand beaches, brilliant blue waters and a hundred ways to enjoy the coastal treasures of Belize await you at Placencia. Spend your days in the water diving, fishing, snorkeling or just relaxing on the beach, and your nights at the many interesting restaurants and watering holes that feature local food, culture and live music.

 

Southern Belize
Nearly 1700 square miles of prime opportunity for the adventure minded and the adrenaline addicted is the Toledo district of Belize. A cultural lean towards the Mopan and Kekchi Maya is evident and homestays will give you an inside look at how the Maya have balanced tradition with the demands of a modern world. The ancient Maya cities, intricate cave systems and pristine rainforests headline a long list of attractions accessible from the coastal city of Punta Gorda, including lagoons, rivers, creeks and cayes. Wildlife, birds, trees and plants in astounding variety make Toledo a nature lover's paradise.

What to Expect in Belize

BANKS:
Banking hours are shorter in Belize, typically only until 1 or 2 p.m. most days, and in other cases banks close for lunch. Many bank offices have modern conveniences such as ATM machines, but they may be out of order as often as they are working, and nearly all (Barclays/First Caribbean is the current exception) accept only ATM cards issued in Belize. At present, some expats living in Northern Belize cross over into Mexico where they can use their American-issued ATM cards, though they get funds in pesos. This situation with ATMs may be changing soon – look for ATM machines in tourist areas that accept foreign ATM cards.

CURRENCY:
The Belize Dollar (BZ$) has a fixed rate of exchange of BZ $2 to US $1. Most hotels, resorts, restaurants, and tour operators will accept U.S. currency, traveler's checks, or credit cards. When using your credit cards in Belize, most establishments will add a 5% service charge to your bill. Always make sure that you understand which dollar rate is being quoted. Is it Belize Dollars or U.S. Dollars?

CLIMATE:
Belize weather is characterized by two seasons: a rainy and a dry season. Belize annual rainfall: most of the year's rainfall occurs during the period June to November, that is, the rainy season. It is noted that the transition from dry to the rainy is very sharp. Belize annual rainfall ranges from 60 inches (1524mm) in the north to 160 inches (4064mm) in the south. Except for the southern regions, the rainfall is variable from year to year. The mean temperature varies from 81°F/ 27°C along the coast to 69°F/21°C in the hills. The coldest month is January while the highest temperatures are experienced during the month of May.

DEPARTURE TAX:
Departure tax ranges from $20 to $55 U.S. Dollars depending on where you're departing from and is payable when you check in for your return flight home. The only acceptable forms of payment are cash (Dollars U.S. or Belize) or Travelers Cheques.

DRINKING WATER:
Potable water is available in most areas of Belize, but it is advisable to ask, and if in doubt, drink boiled or bottled water.

DRIVING LICENSE:
Valid U.S. driver's licenses and international driving permits are accepted in Belize for a period of three months after entry. Driving is on the right-hand side of the road.

ELECTRICITY:
Although Diesel/Generator Sets provide most of the electricity, the power is stable at 110 Volts A.C., which is the same voltage as in the United States. It is best to bring an adaptor as not all accommodations have compatible outlets.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:
All visitors to Belize must present a valid passport before entering the country. Please note that driver's licenses and birth certificates are not approved travel documents and cannot be used to enter the country. Passports must be valid for at least 3 months from your arrival date. In cases where a visitor remains in the country for over 30 days, an extension of entry must be requested.

MARINE PARKS FEES:
The Blue Hole has a $40 U.S. fee per diver. Other parks such as Hol Chan and Half Moon Caye charge between $5 - $10 U.S. per site.

TOURISM SEASONS:
The busier time of the year for travelers to Belize is November to May, which is the winter month of the Northern Hemisphere. Still, many visitors prefer the more quiet days of the summer months from June to October for their vacation in Belize. Both times of the year have their own unique attractions and the choice of when to visit is totally up to you, your budget and the adventure you crave.

VACCINATIONS:
There are no serious epidemic diseases in Belize. No inoculations are required for entry, but anti-malaria tablets are recommended for extended stays in the jungle. We always suggest you speak to your family physician for a personal recommendation.
WATER TEMPERATURES AND WETSUITS:
Water temperatures generally range between 78 – 80°F. Most people find wearing a 1mm – 3mm wetsuit keeps them comfortable.

 

 

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