Situated between the Caribbean Sea and the rainforest on the eastern coast of Central America, you can find Belize, an ideal destination for nature lovers, divers and adventure seekers.
Belize with a population of less than 400,000, attracts more than 1.5 million visitors and scuba divers from all over the world.
Honestly, we didn’t know much about the country, until we started planning a trip to Mexico and decided to visit Belize too. It turned out to be one of the best travel experiences we have ever had.
You Don’t Need a Visa to Visit Belize
If you are American, British, Canadian, Australian or an EU citizen, you don’t require a tourist visa to enter Belize, but if you plan to stay longer than 180 days, you have to apply for a visa.
Although a tourist visa is not required, you must hold a passport valid for at least six months on entry, with one blank visa page. You might also need to show your return ticket and proof of sufficient funds relative to your intended length of stay.
If you are still not sure if you require a visa, you can check the Belize Immigration website.
Is Belize Safe to Visit?
When it comes to travelling to Belize, most travellers are concerned about whether Belize is a safe country for tourists or not. Although Belize is a popular destination for holidaymakers, backpackers, divers and adventure seekers, it is not the safest country in the world.
A quick search on the internet shows that Belize has one of the world’s highest rates of homicides and there have been armed gangs’ operations in the densely forested areas, particularly around the Guatemala border. But usually, tourists are not the targets of gang violence and violent crime. Thus, we believe that Belize is safe as long as you travel smart and do your own research.
Usually, the muggings occur in Belize City, but they can happen anywhere in the country. So avoid walking alone in a dark alley, don’t accept lifts from strangers and keep your valuables out of sight.
Personal note: We never felt unsafe during our trip to Belize, particularly in the islands of San Pedro and Caye Caulker.
How to Get to Belize
There are direct flights from Canada and the US to Belize City, but this is not the case if you are in Europe or in the UK. Currently, the fastest way to get to Belize from the UK is to have a night stopover in one of the American gateway cities. This might not be a great option since you will be on the way for more than 24 hours.
The other option is to go to Mexico and then visit Belize. Travelling from Mexico, particularly Yucatan, to Belize is quite simple. Many European travellers and backpackers combine these two destinations in one trip. It is common to travel overland from Mexico to Belize City by bus or private car via Chetumal.
However, the most convenient and fastest way to get to Belize City from Cancun is to fly. This is what we did, we took a flight with Tropic Air and it took us only an hour and a half to land at Belize City International Airport.
When to Travel to Belize
The best time to travel to Belize is during the dry season, from late November to mid-April. Keep in mind that December and January is the peak season. If you want to avoid the crowds, you should visit Belize in February, when you can enjoy warm temperatures, and clear skies and have easy access to the main attractions. During February and March, you can spot migrant birds from North America overwintering in Belize.
The wet season runs from May to December, you probably want to pass on visiting during May and June when humidity levels and temperatures are high.
English is the Official Language of Belize
Since the country shares borders with the Spanish speaking countries of Mexico and Guatemala, it might come as a surprise to you that English is the official language of Belize. That is because Belize was a British colony for more than a century and it was known as British Honduras until 1973.
Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America, but many Belizians are multilingual. Spanish, Creole Patois and Q'eqchi' Maya are also the most commonly spoken languages in Belize.
Money in Belize
The Belize Dollar (BZD) is the official currency of Belize and it is pegged to the US dollars. This means you don’t need to worry about the conversion rates. Basically, 1 US dollar is equal to 2 BZD.
Almost all hotels, restaurants, shops, tour companies and taxis accept US dollars, some might even accept Visa and Mastercards, but it is better to have cash with you. You can find ATMs accepting international cards in big cities and islands.
Keep in mind that the Belize Dollar is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign BZ$ or $, which can be confusing sometimes since it looks exactly like the USD sign. Based on our observance, the prices of food in the restaurants are usually in Belize dollars but tour companies use US dollars. If you are not sure whether the price quoted is in Belize or U.S. dollars, just ask.
Where to Stay in Belize
Most likely, you will arrive in Belize City and will start your trip around the country from here. There is not much to do in Belize City, but it can be a great base if you have an early or late flight. Plus, from Belize City, you can take different tours to visit Lamanai Temples and Altun Ha Ruins or even take the Cave Tubing tour in the forest. You can check the hotel prices in Belize City here.
The most popular places to stay in Belize are the islands. Let’s not forget that Belize is home to the second-largest Barrier Reef in the world and it is an ideal place for scuba diving and snorkelling.
Caye Caulker is a small island just an hour boat ride from Belize City. This island is popular amongst backpackers. There are different types of accommodations for any budget. You can check the hotels here.
San Pedro is the main city in Ambergris Caye and it is the most popular tourist destination in Belize. There are many bars, restaurants, cafes and hotels. San Pedro can be a great base for divers. Check the hotel prices in San Pedro here.
If you are planning to stay on the mainland and explore the country’s Mayan ruins and Cave systems, it is good to make San Ignacio, also known as Cayo, your base. Check the accommodation on Booking.com.
Corozal on the mainland close to the Mexican border is a great place to stay to enjoy sandy beaches and visit Mayan ruins. Check the hotel prices here.
How to Get Around Belize
The best ways to get around Belize are by plane and water taxi. Domestic airlines like Tropic Air and Maya Island Air fly small planes to major towns in the six districts including the islands. These airlines also offer international flights to Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.
Water taxis and ferries are the most affordable way to travel to popular tourist destinations such as San Pedro, Caye Caulker and St George Caye.
Car rental is also a great way to get around the mainland. It gives you the freedom of moving around the country without worrying about any timetables and you can explore hidden gems. The downside is that car rental in Belize can be expensive and most of the roads in Belize are unpaved.
Travelling by bus is the most inexpensive way to go around Belize’s mainland. This way you can also experience the local culture. However, the buses are often slow and jam-packed.
I can describe Belizian food in one simple word: delicious. One of the staples of food in Belize is rice and beans which are often served with meat, potatoes or vegetables. Belize's seafood is amazing too, I highly recommend trying Belizian shrimps. We have eaten different types of food with shrimp there and they were all wonderful.
WiFi and Internet in Belize
Internet works fine in main towns and popular tourist destinations. All hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars offer free WiFi. Perhaps the best way to stay online is to purchase a local sim card. There are two main phone operators in Belize: DigiCell and Smart!. With the local sim card, you will have an internet connection almost everywhere in the country, except in some remote areas.
Activities and Tours in Belize
Belize is an ideal destination for adventure seekers, nature lovers and scuba divers. One of the best activities in Belize is scuba diving and snorkelling. The waters are clear and warm, offering opportunities to swim with sharks, stingrays, turtles, dolphins and sometimes manatees. You can take a 2 tank scuba diving tour and enjoy swimming in the second-largest barrier reef. If you are not a diver and still want to swim with sharks you can take a snorkelling tour which takes you to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley.
Apart from water sports, there are plenty of cultural and adventure activities and tours from ziplining to visiting Mayan ruins. Get Your Guide and Viator offer a variety of activities and day trips in Belize and you can book your tours in advance online.