Despite not being one of the most trendy destinations in the world, Belize is an excellent destination for those looking for adventure, warm seawater, and off-the-beaten-track destinations. This article will explore everything you need to know before traveling to Belize, including the best attractions, costs, safety, and food.
Despite being small, Belize is a memorable destination with many significant peculiarities to consider when planning your trip. This list of 50 Belize travel tips will help make your trip an unforgettable experience taking advantage of the best the country offers.
Belize and its people
#1 Located on the Caribbean coast of Central America, Belize borders Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south.
#2 Despite being on the mainland of Central America, Belize is often considered a Caribbean country due to its culture and history. It is the only country in Central America whose official language is English and the only one that is part of CARICOM (Community of Caribbean Countries).
The People of Belize
#3 With only around 400,000 people, Belize is the smallest and least densely populated country in Central America. On the other hand, it is one of the countries with the highest population growth rate in America.
#4 Despite being small, Belize’s population is very diverse. Most are mestizo (52%), but there are substantial communities of Kriols (26%), Mayas (11%), and Garifunas (6%). There are also relatively small Indian and Chinese communities, but they are evident as they own many small businesses, such as electronics stores, grocery stores, and convenience stores.
#5 Despite this diversity, the most surprising community in Belize is the Mennonites, who represent almost 4% of the population. Mennonites are Christians, Protestant Baptists who believe in the words of Menno Simons, a Dutch priest who believed in the necessity for radical reform of the Catholic Church.
Belize Mennonites came mainly from Russia (and some from Pennsylvania) and spoke Plautdietsch. Their distinctive clothing and Eastern European appearance make them extremely easy to spot. If you visit San Ignacio, you may see some in the city or nearby.
History of Belize
#6 With independence only in 1981, Belize is one of the newest countries in the Americas. It was also the only country in Central America colonized by the United Kingdom, hence the official language being English. While part of the United Kingdom, Belize was known as British Honduras.
#7 Guatemala does not recognize the independence of Belize since it believes that part (or all) of its territory should be part of Guatemala.
Although this issue has not yet been resolved, there is no armed conflict between the countries, and the borders are open. We crossed the border, and it was quick and straightforward.
Language and contact
#8 Given that Belize was a British colony, it’s not surprising that the official language is English. However, almost everyone also speaks Spanish, so contact with the locals is easy for most people.
Interestingly, some immigrants from Latin America, namely some street vendors, do not speak English. But given that his native language is Spanish, the dialogue is not difficult either.
# 9 Despite being facilitated by the languages, contact with the locals is a bit odd. We found Belize to be a country of almost extremes. We caught the friendliest and most attentive people, but it was also one of the countries where we felt least comfortable with some interactions.
On the street, people would interact with us boisterously, ask questions that were not very common, and it was difficult to understand why or what they wanted. We didn’t feel threatened; it was just weird and uncomfortable.
Is it safe to travel in Belize?
#10 Like other countries in the region, Belize has a relatively bad reputation due to some crime, especially in Belize City. In other places, during the day, it seemed calm, while at night, it is inadvisable to walk through the streets.
In practice, we felt quite comfortable during the day everywhere, but during the night, the vibe changed with a much heavier atmosphere. Everything was much more relaxed on the islands, especially on Caye Caulker.
In Belize, you also see a lot of poverty, with many people drunk or high on the streets. In addition to being heartbreaking, it gives a greater sense of danger. Despite this, we didn’t have any problems.
We advise you to be aware of pickpocketers and not to carry a lot of money or visible valuables, especially in places with many people. Basically, don’t show off your money.
#11 The climate in Belize is humid tropical, i.e., it is generally hot, and humidity is high, especially in the summer. Coastal areas tend to be warmer than mountains inland.
The average temperature in Belize is 27ºC (80ºF), with minor variations throughout the year. The rainy season runs from May to November, with the hurricane season occurring from June to November, with a peak in September and October.
When to travel to Belize
12 In general, the weather in Belize is warm and sunny, with only a little rain in the summer. Thus, the biggest issue will be avoiding the hurricane season. In addition to regularly destroying the country (or part of it), they eliminate any travel plans.
Therefore, we advise against visiting Belize in September and October, as your trip may be spoiled, canceled, or worse. In the other months of the rainy season, the risk continues to exist, but it is smaller.
#13 For this reason, the high season in Belize runs from December to March, as this is when the weather is best. What’s more, it’s when it’s coldest in Europe, the US, and Canada, which makes Belize the ideal place to escape the cold and snow.
The high season is also when prices are higher, so if you want to try the shoulder season, it’s probably best to travel in April, May, and November. Note that the risk is higher in November as hurricanes and heavy rains are still possible.
What to wear in Belize?
#14 As the weather is hot all year round, take comfortable, cool, light clothing. Belize is a very relaxed country, and you won’t have any problems with the dress code.
Despite being a very Catholic country, we didn’t think people were too conservative, so you shouldn’t have any concerns in that regard either.
If you are thinking of going to the mountains, wear warm clothing as it is noticeably cooler. Also take comfortable shoes, because if you’re like us, you’ll walk many kilometers during your trips.
Tourism in Belize
Tourism and Travelers
#15 Tourism is the primary sector of Belize’s economy. Before COVID, Belize received around 1.5-2M visitors per year, corresponding to over USD 500M in revenues, reaching approximately 25% of its Gross National Product.
After Covid, these numbers are naturally much lower, but it is expected that they will return to normal after 2022, thus helping the recovery of its economy. Belize is an impoverished country, and tourism is essential, as seen from the numbers above.
In addition to tourism, sugar and bananas are Belize’s two most produced and exported goods.
#16 Due to the language, most visitors to Belize are from the US, accounting for about 2/3 of all visitors. However, most of these travelers stay in resorts, so it is natural that if you travel as a backpacker, you will also see a lot of Europeans. Or at least that was our experience – we met many more Europeans than North Americans.
Anyway, tourism in Belize is oriented toward North Americans in terms of tours, resorts, food, and even the currency used, as we will see below.
#17 Belize’s famous Barrier Reef is the country’s only UNESCO heritage site. With about 300km from north to south, it is known for its transparent water and aquatic life, making it extremely popular for diving and snorkeling.
The Belize Barrier Reef is part of the Mesoamerican Reef system that runs from Cancun to Honduras. With 900km, it is considered the second largest in the world after the Australian.
What to visit in Belize?
#18 The most popular destinations in Belize are Caye Caulker (37%) and Caye Ambergris (31%), and San Ignacio (19%). Altogether 87% of people who visit Belize visit at least one of these three places, as they are undoubtedly the most famous destinations in the country.
Belize City, the country’s largest city and transport hub, only comes in fourth with 18% as it is not attractive to tourists.
#19 Belize’s Great Barrier Reef is arguably its main attraction and the most significant reason people travel to Belize. This is easily accessible from both Caye Caulker and Caye Ambergris.
#20 The most popular spot on the barrier reef is the famous Blue Hole. With a deep blue color, an almost perfectly circular shape, around 305 meters in diameter, and over 100 meters deep, the Blue Hole is unique, and it’s so perfect that it almost looks artificial.
If we add to this water with excellent visibility and an incredible diversity of marine life, it is easy to understand why it is so well-known and popular among divers.
#21 However, many other activities and tours can be done on both islands, as the barrier reef is genuinely incredible.
It is possible to dive into the natural marine reserves where you can see an immensity of fish, rays, and sharks. Or, if you don’t know how to dive, you can go on snorkel tours to see sharks, turtles, manatees, and rays.
Fishing tours are equally popular as the waters are very rich in fish. Or, if you want more physical activities, it is possible to rent kayaks and SUP boards and cruise along the coast and the barrier reef.
#22 Many travelers are faced with the question of whether to go to Caye Caulker or Caye Ambergris. In reality, it is perfectly possible to visit both, as they are relatively close and there are several daily ferries between the islands.
In summary, Caye Caulker is smaller and has fewer resorts and more hostels and guest houses. It is more visited by backpackers and therefore has a more relaxed and youthful atmosphere.
Caye Ambergris is much larger, has many more people (both locals and tourists), and has a greater variety of accommodations; it is mainly known for its many resorts – especially the most luxurious ones.
#23 In Caye Ambergris, you will need to rent a golf cart as the distances are long, but otherwise, it is an enjoyable activity. In Caye Caulker, you can walk everywhere, but you can rent bicycles or a golf cart if you want.
In this article, we compare the two islands, reviewing what is best in each and what type of traveler each island is best suited for. We prefer Caye Caulker, but it depends greatly on the kind of tourist you are and your tastes.
#24 Since neither Caye Caulker nor Caye Ambergris have breathtaking beaches. The water is fabulous, but there is practically no sand. The best beaches in Belize are probably in Placencia. Anyway, even in Placencia, don’t expect them to be at the level of Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or Cancun in Mexico.
Also close to Placencia is the Cockscomb Basin Nature Reserve, where you can see (if you’re lucky) Jaguars. They say it’s a fabulous place, but we didn’t have the opportunity to visit.
#25 San Ignacio is Belize’s premier inland destination and the starting point for tons of activities in Belize’s jungles, rivers, and caves.
The city is small and not particularly beautiful, but it has everything you need for a few days. The big attractions are away, sometimes a few hours away.
#26 The main activity in San Ignacio is the ATM cave. This cave was an ancient site of Mayan ceremonies. Even today, it is possible to find Mayan remains and artifacts, namely bowls and pans used in rituals and sacrifices.
But the highlight of the cave is undoubtedly the original human remains that are still there. Inside the cave, we can see bones, skulls, and even almost complete human skeletons precisely as they were initially there. They were not moved even to be analyzed and studied.
It is an amazing and unique place. It’s also an expensive tour, but it’s well worth the effort and price. See all the information in this article.
#27 San Ignacio also serves as a base to visit the Mayan ruins in Belize (or even Tikal in Guatemala). The best-known are El Caracol and Xunantunich.
The ruins of Xunantunich are very easy to visit, and it is possible to go there by public transport (and then a short hike). They are beautiful ruins and are in excellent condition. In low/medium season, it is possible to be there almost alone, which makes the visit very pleasant.
#28 El Caracol is the largest Mayan city in Belize. In fact, it is the largest city that has ever existed in Belize, as even today, no city approaches its maximum size.
El Caracol is deep in the jungle, right on the border with Guatemala. It’s a strenuous visit and very complicated to do without a tour. That, and that’s didn’t have the opportunity to visit it. Still, if you have the time and availability, it will undoubtedly be a highlight of any trip, as both the location and the surroundings are extraordinary.
Eating and Drinking in Belize
#29 Like everything else in the country, Belizean cuisine is a melting pot of influences. In the case of food, the most apparent influences are Mexican, British, and Caribbean.
You will find very different dishes in different regions or restaurants, but also dishes or variations of dishes that are very popular in Mexico, the Caribbean, and the rest of Central America.
#30 Food in Belize is quite expensive compared to neighboring countries, so if you want to save money, we advise you to use and abuse street food.
In Belize, street food is very Mexican-influenced, which is why it’s delicious. You will find many dishes (Tortillas, Tamales, Papusas) from Mexico and Central America in Belize at very reasonable prices.
#31 The typical breakfast in Belize has substance, but it is delicious. It usually consists of eggs (fried or scrambled) served with beans, cheese, and sometimes bacon or sausage. It also comes with some bread, corn or wheat tortillas, johnny cakes, or fried jacks.
#32 Fry jacks and johnny cakes are delicious kinds of bread typical from Belize. They can accompany main meals, be served with fillings, or with breakfast.
Despite the name, Johnny Cakes are not cakes or pancakes. It is a kind of small bread made with yeast dough lightly cooked until golden. The dough takes corn flour, coconut milk, sugar, salt, and butter. They are delicious, with eggs, cheese, and beans for breakfast or a light lunch.
Fry jacks are a type of fried, very light bread. For breakfast, they are often filled with the same ingredients as Johnny cakes, but the tastes are entirely different. The fact that they are fried makes them a little greasy, but they are delicious and something to try in Belize.
#33 One of the things not to be missed when visiting either island is fresh fish and seafood.
In Caye Caulker, it is even possible to eat grilled lobster on the beach/street for only 15 USD. It is a delicious, fresh, and unforgettable meal, both for the location and the food.
Is it necessary to tip in Belize?
#34 As we mentioned earlier, Belize is heavily visited and influenced by the US, so it is not surprising that there is a tipping culture.
In restaurants, it is customary to tip at least 10% of the total if the service is good. Sometimes it is already included in the bill (as a service), but often not.
Sometimes there’s an envelope in the hotel room or a sign saying that tips are welcome, and in more luxurious hotels, it is also expected to tip the staff. Finally, as in practically everyone in the world, the tour guides expect a tip at the end of the tour.
Money and Cost of Traveling in Belize
#35 The official currency of Belize is the Belizean Dollar (BZD), and the exchange rate is 1 USD to one BZD. It’s a fixed exchange rate, so it doesn’t change but confirm before going because there may be some unusual event, and they change the exchange rate.
#36 Since the exchange rate is fixed, and given the massive influx of Americans into Belize, the USD is used regularly. It is even natural to receive USD as a change if the seller doesn’t have BZD.
Unlike other countries where using the foreign currency is costly for travelers, here, it doesn’t make any difference, as nothing is lost in the exchange. So if you have USD, take them, and you can use them anywhere.
In fact, sometimes, some prices are even in USD, especially for tourism-related services, such as tours. This is a little confusing, so we always confirmed whether they were selling in BZD or USD.
#37 We suggest that you always carry cash (BZD or USD), as many stores do not accept cards or charge an extra fee for using the card.
Fortunately, it is not difficult to find ATMs in most tourist places. Also, if you withdraw at Atlantic Bank (2022), you don’t pay any ATM fees.
Note that you may still have to pay other fees to your banks, like conversion fees, use of foreign currency, and all the additional creative fees that banks come up with.
How much does it cost to travel in Belize?
#38 This is one of the most complex answers, as it depends on the type of tourist you are, the activities you are looking for, how you travel, and the destination country.
That said, let’s share with you our overheads, knowing that we are backpackers and that we had a relatively quick trip and some activities, including the visit to the ATM caves and a tour of the Belize Barrier Reef.
#39 So, traveling as a backpacker couple, we spend 1042 Euros in 8 days, an average of 130 Euros, and 65 Euros per person per day. We include all the expenses we had, except for travel insurance (as it is annual) for trips in and out of the country.
In general, we consider it a relatively expensive country to travel to, especially compared to its neighbors, Guatemala and Mexico.
#40 Although globally expensive, saving on some items, particularly food, is possible if you cook a few times and make one street food meal a day. Street food is affordable in Belize, and on the other hand, restaurants are costly.
Accommodation is much more expensive than in Guatemala and Mexico, but it is possible to find affordable accommodation, even on the islands, especially if we’re not too fussy and stay in hostels (always private rooms) or cheap guest houses.
#41 What really destroys budgets in Belize are the pure tourist activities such as trips to the island and between islands, shuttles, and tours and entrance tickets.
A trip to the ATM cave can cost more than 100 Euros per person. A full-day snorkeling tour is similarly priced, while a scuba tour will naturally cost a lot more.
How to travel in Belize?
#42 On this trip to Belize, we used a mix of shuttles, ferries, and local buses. Although we usually prefer using buses, the reality is that some trips are too difficult to do that way. Especially if you go to Mexico and Guatemala. It is possible, but it is much more time-consuming and complicated.
We advise you to ask for prices in various places before buying because, in our experience, they vary a little. In general, we do not find border shuttles particularly expensive as they involve some logistics and facilitate border crossing.
Thus, for a tourist, it turns out to be very convenient, not least because they are not too expensive, especially compared to Mexico.
#43 Local buses, sometimes called chicken buses, are an excellent alternative to save some money on short distances or between popular cities. For example, going from San Ignacio to Belize City on a chicken bus is very easy.
These buses are usually old US school buses, painted in bright colors and sometimes with loud music. We used these buses a few times, without any problem. We also asked several people and were always told that it was OK.
But, of course, it is very different from taking a shuttle or private transport.
#44 We didn’t drive in Belize, so we can’t directly advise on that or on renting a car.
However, we can mention that, as in all of Latin America, the locals are not particularly good drivers and are a little impatient. It’s not particularly worrying. If you have experience driving in Africa, Asia, or Latin America, you shouldn’t have any significant problems.
#45 On the other hand, the main roads are in much better condition than we expected. It’s not that they’re outstanding, but they don’t have a lot of holes, and they’re easy to drive.
The problem is that there are practically no expressways, there’s some traffic in Belize City, and they have many speed bumps to force you to reduce speed. In addition, some roads are still under construction, which makes the journey longer than expected.
Other things I need to know before traveling to Belize
Do I need an adapter for Belize?
#46 Electricity inputs in Belize are type A, B, or G with voltage 110/120V and frequency 60Hz. Type A and B are US, Japanese, and Chinese power sockets, while Type G are UK sockets. Therefore, if you come from Continental Europe or any other place outside those, you will need an adapter.
If you need an adapter, we recommend this universal adapter.
How is the internet in Belize?
#47 We advise you to buy a prepaid data SIM card as soon as you arrive in Belize. They are quite cheap, easy to pick up at almost any store, and have good cover. Only in remote areas should you have more problems with the connection.
We bought it from DIGI, and it worked perfectly.
Accommodations usually have WIFI in rooms and public areas, but we always advise you to confirm before booking. Finally, we advise against relying exclusively on public WIFI as they often do not work.
Do I need a visa to enter Belize?
#48 The Portuguese do not need an entry visa for trips of less than 30 days; however, a passport valid for more than six months after the end of the trip is required.
As mentioned above, we entered and left Belize by land, and in both cases, the border crossings were easy and even quick.
#49 Although there is no visa or payment to enter Belize, there is an exit fee of 20 USD for road departures and 55.5 USD for departures by plane. You can see more information here.
Belize travel guide
#50 The Belize travel guide we recommend is Lonely Planet Belize 8.
Alternatively, if you’re considering traveling around Belize, Guatemala and Yucatan, we highly recommend this guide covering all three regions.