Belize is a diverse country with many things to do and see, from lush jungles filled with tropical wildlife and ancient temples to the azure sea and Caribbean isles that dot the coast line. Within our week visit, we only had the time and budget to visit the beach, and while we wish we could have ventured inland to explore, the ocean there offers plenty for any vacationer. Following are some things to know before venturing to the coasts to travel in Belize.
Getting to Belize
For citizens of the United States, European Union, most South American countries, and some others, it is free to enter and travel in Belize on a tourist visa. The only required paperwork is your valid passport and proof of onward travel. Before entering the country, you will fill out a customs sheet, and upon going through customs you will be granted a 30-day tourist visa. Check the Belizean government webpage to determine if you reside in a country that requires visa payments and paperwork beforehand.
Make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date. It is recommended to get a Typhoid and Hepatitis A booster because this is a high-risk area. There is not a high risk of Yellow Fever in Belize, so it is only required to have a yellow card or other proof of this vaccination if you are arriving from a country where there is a risk.
When to Go
On the coasts, high season generally spans from December to May due to the drier and sunny weather. June through October is the low season, and the weather may be more rainy and humid. However, we went in August and it didn’t rain once. The prices were also almost cut in half, making this a better option for our budget.
Getting to the Coast
Taxi: When we first arrived in Belize, we took a taxi directly from the airport in Belize City to the port area on the coast for $25 USD.
Rental Car: The first time I went to Belize with my family, we rented a car and took it farther south to Placencia. We aren’t sure how the roads are now, but back then, it was slow driving on a bumpy dirt road.
The northern coast has a pretty good shuttle system to get you between Belize City, Caye Caulker, and Ambergris Caye. We took the San Pedro Belize Express to Caye Caulker for $15 USD each, getting to Caye Caulker in 45 minutes. If you are heading to Ambergris Caye, it will take an extra 30 minutes after stopping at Caye Caulker on the way.
Once you get to where you are staying, travel in Belize is pretty simple. A lot of things are in walking distance, especially on Caye Caulker. If there are further things you want to reach, there are golf cart drivers who will take you for cheap. Also, renting a cart on Ambergris Caye can be a fun way to see the area.
Where to Stay
The coasts of Belize have accommodation options that range from private cabanas and large resorts to Airbnbs and hostels. Resorts and larger hotels are abundant on Ambergris Caye, whereas Caye Caulker has a tranquil feel that mostly consists of smaller hotels, hostels, and private homes. We stayed in an Airbnb, which was great because we got inside tips on what to do and our host helped us buy tickets for the water shuttle and organized a taxi from the airport for us. Don’t miss out on Six Awesome Things to Do in Caye Caulker.
Down south near Placencia and along the coast, there are many private cabanas that make for a very relaxing vacation. Certain tour packages may also include stays on the private isles just off the coast, though we can’t attest to this much since we have not experienced that luxury.
Currency: In Belize, the Belize Dollar is used, and one US Dollar equates to two Belize Dollars. However, this can easily change with inflation and other factors, so just double check or ask there if you’re unsure.
Cash: Many places accept credit cards, but some tours, smaller restaurants, and street shops will only accept cash. It is also a good idea to have cash for situations, such as power outages, that will not let you pay with a card. There are ATMs on the coast, but be aware of the high fees.
Tipping: For tours and restaurant service, it is customary to tip between 10% and 15%, and at hotels, tip between 5% and 10%. It is good practice to check your bills to see if gratuity or the service charge is added on to account for the tip. For doormen, drivers, and other staff providing various extra services, such as carrying your bags, small tips are always appreciated.
All of the following prices are reflected in Belize Dollars and are general average prices we found from our experiences.
Food & Drink:
Groceries are expensive on the islands because they are imported there. It was cheaper for us to eat a large lobster dinner at a restaurant than buy a few food items at the store for breakfast.
- Water/Soda: 2-4 BZD per liter.
- Breakfast/Lunch: 2-10 BZD per person at a street stall, 10-30 BZD at a restaurant.
- Dinner: 16-40 BZD per person. Seafood is generally cheap overall, but is a more expensive option than chicken or veggies.
- Drinks: 4-14 BZD for a cocktail, 6-10 BZD for a cheap fifth of rum.
- Budget: 18-30 BZD per night
- Mid-Range: 80-250 BZD per night
- High-End: 300+ BZD per night
Snorkeling and dive tours can cost between 50 and 240 BZD per person for a full-day tour. Ask around to find the best deal and ensure that the tour you select includes all the things you desire.
General Things to Know
English is the official language of Belize, so most people you encounter will speak fluent English. There are other languages spoken, including Spanish and old Mayan varieties.
Belize uses 110 volts, which is the same as in the U.S. However, many outlets here may only have two prongs, so if you have a three-pronged product, bring an adaptor. If you have products compatible with different voltages, a converter may be needed.
Water is not safe to drink out of the tap, so you must buy bottles. Be cautious of questionable street stalls and restaurants that may use unsanitary water to wash veggies or use tap water for ice cubes.
Extra Things to Bring
Other than the general beach gear and clothing items you would normally bring to the beach, there are a couple essentials that you should pack into your bag (if you have them) when heading to the coasts to travel in Belize.
- Bug Spray: Some parts of the year are worse than others when it comes to mosquitos. It’s always good to take extra precautions and protect yourself from these little pests.
- Imodium: On the off chance that you get food poisoning or a stomach bug, it will help to have Imodium. A lot of the stores in Belize sell this by the pill if needed.
- Snorkeling/Dive Gear: If you have it, it is nice to have your own gear for your underwater excursions. Many tours include the essentials or offer them for rent, so no worries if you don’t own any of this stuff or don’t want to bring it along.
- Waterproof Bag: If you want to take any of your valuables to the beach or on a boat, having a waterproof bag for protection never hurts.
Let us know of any important tips that you have for coastal travel in Belize!