Belize is a paradise for nature-lovers looking for a “real” experience outside of sprawling resorts and built-up cities. It is also a dream destination for gap year adventurers, volunteers, and anthropology students due to its natural beauty, social needs, and wealth of Mayan artifacts and ruins. Additionally, those who enjoy SCUBA will find Belize to be quite a treat, boasting the world’s second largest barrier reef. If you find yourself passing through Central America, why not stop by Belize, eat some freshly-caught lobster, and bask under the sun in the calm waters?
In Belize, it’s all about forgetting there’s such thing as time and deadlines, and all about enjoying the lush landscape the locals work so hard to protect. So, sit back, grab a Belikin, and relax on the hammock - it’s your only job in Belize.
#1. Take it Easy and Be Friendly
Typically, if someone hollers at me while I’m walking down the side of the road, I tend to ignore said person. In Belize, catcalls will commonly happen; however, residents don’t appreciate being ignored. The best response is to just laugh, shoot a friendly joke back, and continue on your way. Additionally, Belizeans do not like confrontation, so try to avoid it. If you find yourself displeased with a situation, simply excuse yourself and avoid any arguments.
The best part about Belize is the friendliness of the locals. They want to be acknowledged, they want to interact, and the more you’re willing to have conversations with them, the better off you’ll be as a tourist. Make some local friends and have a few beers together. Trust me, you’re in for some funny stories and friendly encounters as long as you remain open and interested in interacting with others - tourists, locals, and staff. They tend to all meld together, and that’s the beauty of Belize.
#2. Don't Get Duped
Buyer beware: Some of the crafts being sold are overpriced imports from Guatemala. Always haggle with street peddlers. The face value price is absolutely negotiable. Don’t be afraid to walk away, you can be pretty sure you’ll find the same handicraft at many other street vendors just a few yards away. If it seems expensive, then it is.
Additionally, Belize is a country of little wealth and prosperity. Don’t be flashy, and take care to keep your belongings in your sight. Belize is a fun place to be, but you still must be vigilant about your belongings.
When it comes to currency, both American and Belizean dollars will work. Typically the exchange rate is 1:2. Don’t expect Belize to be as cheap as the rest of Central America. Like Costa Rica, you can expect to pay a little more here for just about everything than you would in Guatemala, for example. Compared to Europe, however, Belize is cheap.
#3. Respect the Nature
Don’t go to Belize if you can’t be respectful of the natural habitats around you. Seriously! This stuff really matters to the locals. Belize is at the forefront of eco-tourism, and boasts more eco-lodges than any other Central American country. Support local establishments that work hard to maintain the natural beauty (you won’t find Hilton Resorts here my friends).
#4. Don't Expect to Adhere to a Schedule
Especially in the cayes. You’re on island time so don’t get bent out of shape if tours are running late or if the bus schedule isn’t exactly, well, exact.
Make sure when taking buses that you ask the driver where the bus is going before hopping on. Do it quickly, however, as you will have limited time to hop on and off. If you are trying to get across the country, you may be able to find a bus that only costs around USD $4, but you have to make sure you’re asking questions and getting on the right bus. As for water taxis that take you to the cayes, the schedule is ever-changing. You might not know of the exact schedule until you arrive at the taxi depot.
#5. Get Out of Belize City
Belize City can be dangerous and is downright dirty. Even locals try to avoid it given the dangers and pickpockets. Though you’ll probably have to fly into Belize City, I’d recommend getting out of there for the remainder of your trip, either to the cayes, down south, or inland.
#6. When to Go
Belize is warm year-round. You’ll find that prices are a little steeper during the “summer” months, which really just means the dry season. This is Belize’s peak tourist season and runs from October to February. The “winter” is really just the rainy season, which runs from April to August and is this blogger’s favorite time to visit Central America, as it tends to be more lush and greener as a whole (not to mention the cheaper accommodations sure are nice!). Be forewarned; Belize is always rainy. Luckily the rains don’t tend to last more than a couple of hours at a time, if that.
Belize was a colony of Britain up until relatively recently, so you’ll be just fine using English. Closer to the Mexican and Guatemalan borders, you’ll hear lots of Spanish as well. Most locals communicate using a local pigeon. You’ll notice establishments are named in keeping with this dialect (Ex: Faya Wata, “no sittin’ on da steps”).
In closing, Belize is all about taking it easy and respecting the scenery. It is marked by diversity and smiling locals. Dive in head first, and don’t stop Belizing! (I know, I know, I just had to).
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