Belize has a pretty diverse history. It was once a part of the Mayan empire then colonized by the Spanish and eventually the British. Because of the longstanding British rule, Belize is the only Central American country with English as its official language. Yet with so much diversity, students will find themselves also hearing Spanish, Creole, and Mayan.
A small country composed of many islands, Belize is breathtaking beautiful. While on a high school abroad trip in Belize, students can go snorkeling through the sparkling Belize Barrier Reef one day and trekking through lush jungle the next. Those traveling to Belize find themselves quickly becoming accustomed to the country-wide philosophy of slowing down and “chilling out.”
Belize is great for students who are interested in volunteering, spending time by the ocean or in the jungles, participating in nature and wildlife conservation.
Students interested in studying in Belize can choose from:
- Youth travel tours
- Summer study abroad / service-learning
Youth travel tours
Youth travel tours in Belize will take students around the country while teaching them about Belizean culture, history, or the environment. Tours typically focus on a single theme and will compliment the educational component with activities (e.g. scuba diving for students learning about the environment).
Summer study abroad / service-learning
There are a variety of summer study abroad programs in Belize for high schoolers, though many will have a service-learning focus. Students can participate in assisting rural communities by assisting with teaching English or professionals who provide medical care.
High schoolers who love spending time outdoors will find numerous programs geared toward animal and nature conservation, including protecting the local shark communities, the Belize Barrier Reef and national parks.
Citizens of Canada and the United States are able to stay for 30 days without a visa and apply for individual 30 day extensions for up to six months. Extension applications must be done at a local immigration office at least three to five days before your current visa expires. Australian and UK citizens are also able to stay in Belize for 30 days without obtaining a visa. High school students participating in a travel program will receive assistance with visa applications.
Homestays are common for volunteer programs. Most teen travel programs provide students with hostel rooms or shared hotel accommodation.
If you’re traveling from North America to Belize, flights can cost as little as $350 to $500 USD, while those coming from Europe could expect to pay between $800 to $1,000.
Belize is not the cheapest country to visit in Central America, but it is still inexpensive in comparison to North American and Western European countries. Students budgeting for food, nights out, transportation and additional expenses should expect to spend about $20 USD a day.
Program costs in Belize vary based on length of stay, included amenities and type of housing. A week long program can cost between $1,500 to $2,500. Program costs typically go down the longer you stay.
Packing for Belize is relatively simple, as the weather is pleasant year-round. The country’s average temperature is a balmy 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius) and humid, but not oppressively so. The dry season is from October to May and the rainy season June to November. Things to pack include:
- Breathable and UPF (sun resistant) clothing
- Sunscreen and insect repellent
- A hat
- Waterproof jacket
- Solid walking shoes for outdoor adventures
- A power and voltage converter
Traces of the Zika virus have been found in Belize. To learn more about Zika and how to avoid getting infected, read the Washington Post's article on Zika precautions.
Students are recommended to receive Hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid vaccinations before traveling to Belize. Mosquitos in Belize can transmit diseases like Malaria and Dengue Fever. High schoolers are encouraged to take proper precautions by researching high-risk areas before traveling, covering the skin and using bug repellant.
High school students traveling in Belize should be vigilant and remain in groups in order to have a safe and fun time abroad. In Belize, it's very important to be aware of your surroundings, as pickpockets, snatch-and-grab thieves and robbery is not uncommon. If you're in a crowded tourist destination keep your valuables close to you. Perhaps even leave the valuables home altogether, as items like jewelry and cameras can attract theft. Generally, travelers only lose their valuables during a robbery, but situations have turned violent when victims protest. Remember that personal safety is always more important than any object.
Violent crimes are more frequent in the south side of Belize City, Ambergis Caye and the Cayo District. These areas are to be avoided. When traveling anywhere in Belize, stay in larger groups.
Be discreet when carrying or using cash. Credit card theft is a problem in Belize. The country is not PCI compliant, which is when vendors hide the first eight digits of your credit card number on printed receipts. Receipts in Belize show all 12 numbers of your credit card, making it easy for individuals like servers, cashiers and clerks to copy down the information and use it to make purchases later.
Always follow local government laws and stay away from illegal drugs and underage consumption. Punishment in Belize for illegal drug use can include heavy fines and even imprisonment.