Here are a few quick facts about Belize as a brief introduction to Belize and the Belizean people’s way of life.
Quick Facts About Belize
- Country AREA: 8,867 sq. miles, including 266 sq. miles of offshore islands
CLIMATE: The climate is subtropical with prevailing winds from the Caribbean Sea. The annual temperature averages 27° Celsius / 80° Fahrenheit
GOVERNMENT: Belize was a British colony until 1981 when she attained independence; it is governed by a democratically elected parliamentary and is a member of the British Commonwealth.
POPULATION: The population of Belize is approximately 311,480 comprised of over ten diverse ethnic groups including Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo, Spanish, Maya, English, Mennonite, Lebanese, Chinese and East Indian.
- Languages The official language of Belize is English however because of the diverse mix of cultures, other languages include Creole, Spanish, Mayan (Mopan, Ketchi & Yucatec), Garifuna, German (Mennonites) and Mandarin. Time Zone: Belize occupies time zone GMT-6 or US Central Standard Time however, Daylight Savings Time is not observed.
- Currency: The Belize Dollar has a fixed exchange rate to the US dollar (BZ $2 = US $1). Other currencies such as £ Pounds and € Euros can be exchanged at most banks. ATM machines are available in major towns and cities. American Express, Visa and Master Card are widely accepted, however, cash is preferred in most shops.
- Clothing: Light, cotton clothing is recommended during the day with a thin jacket or long sleeved shirt for cool evenings. For jungle trekking, pack long pants, long sleeved shirts and comfortable shoes. Binoculars, insect repellent, sunscreen, and hats are essential to tropical travel.
- Cuisine: Hotels and restaurant choices include an eclectic combination of local and international cuisine. Tasty local favourites include rice and beans, fish simmered in coconut milk, spicy chicken escabeche with fresh corn tortillas and refreshing tropical fruit.
- Water: Tap water in Belize is treated and drinkable, however bottle water is readily available.
- Passport and Visas: All visitors to Belize require a valid passport with proof of a return ticket. Visitors from the United States, United Kingdom and most Caribbean countries do not require visas for stays less than thirty days. Many other nationals do. Check with the Belize Embassy in Washington DC, Belize High Commission in London and the Belize Consulate in Canada or check www.travelbelize.org/visa.
- Departure Fees: Visitors departing via the Belize International Airport pay US $39.25 per person. Fees via the borders with Mexico and Guatemala are US $18.75.
- Taxes: Hotel Room Tax is 9%, the General Sales Tax (GST) is 12.5% on other goods and services. Tipping & Taxes: 10-15% is the standard gratuity for most restaurants and tour guides. Establishments may add a service charge.
- Safety: Belize has a good visitor safety record, however, basic safety tips should be followed wherever you go in the world. Ask your hotel manager or local guide for specific advice on local areas.
- Health Services: There are three hospitals in Belize City; one public and two private. Several private doctors are also available. The district towns and larger villages also have hospitals or clinics. It is recommended that all international travellers purchase medical insurance prior to travelling.
More than one third of the visitors to Belize come back again and again and encourage their family and friends to experience the thrill of their own Belize vacation! That is because between the diverse natural attractions and the delight of Belizeans in sharing these attractions, there is something for everyone. Whether visitors are seeking extreme adventure or a spiritual retreat; whether travelling as one half of a romantic couple or a member of a multi-generational family group, the level of adventure and the degree of comfort can be customized. Each region of Belize offers unique examples of globally acclaimed biological diversity and Belizeans are proud stewards of these gifts.
- Lush tropical forests and savannas lie within the 40% of Belize’s land mass that has protected areas status.
- Hundreds of caves within Central America’s largest cave system are waiting to be explored.
- Towering temples of the ancient Maya are a testament to a glorious past.
- Drums of the Garifuna tell the story of a UNESCO designation of the culture’s recognition as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
- Offshore, seven World Heritage sites pay tribute to the exquisite beauty of the Belize Barrier Reef.
Each destination and indeed the individual hotels have their own unique charm and atmosphere. You choose your adventure!
The azure waters offer a truly remarkable experience for the first-time snorkeler to the avid scuba diver. The Belize Barrier Reef stretches for 185 miles along the length of the country of Belize. The beauty and value of this natural wonder is recognized locally and internationally with seven marine reserves in World Heritage status. Palm studded islands are home to exotic birds and other wildlife, while beneath the waves, varied coral formations are teeming with colourful fish and stunning marine life.
- Snorkelling will provide a comfortable view from atop the gentle waves.
- A discover scuba course will give you a glimpse into the vibrant world underwater.
- Getting final Open water certification in the tropics is infinitely more satisfying when done in crystal clear waters in the mid 80 (degree – use the symbol)’s F and with visibility averaging 60 to 200 ft.
- For the diving enthusiast, no dive is like the other. Dive within coral gardens, amongst the canyons of the spur and grove formations on the drop off, or check out the stalactites at 150 ft into the collapsed cave at the Great Blue Hole.
With so much to choose from, it is no wonder that snorkelers, scuba divers, sailors, sport fishermen and marine biologists have come to Belize and return regularly. We invite you to come discover your own personal favourites.
Belize City and Northern Belize
Northern Belize is the gateway to Belize from Mexico. The Corozal and Orange Walk districts offer understated but spectacular treasures to explore. Lamanai, arguably Belize’s finest archaeological reserve, picturesquely rises from the jungle along the New River lagoon. Fortress Cerros, perches above the azure Corozal Bay and guards the mouth of the New River. Endless sugar cane fields are harvested and prepared for export and also used to refine some of the best rum in the Caribbean.
Belize City is the commercial hub and main port for Belize with the most prominent examples of Belize’s colonial history and architecture. St. John’s Cathedral is the oldest Anglican cathedral in Central America while the Museum of Belize showcases stunning ancient artifacts and historic memorabilia and was once the site of Her Majesty’s prison.
Day tours from the city include visits to: the Temple of the Sun God at Altun Ha, native species at the Belize Zoo, bird and wildlife sanctuaries for howler monkeys as well as the exhilarating adventures of cave-tubing and zip lining. Fish from the Belize River to the barrier reef or discover outstanding snorkeling and scuba diving on the barrier reef, the atolls and the Blue Hole.
Highlights Of Belize City And Northern Belize
Gateway from Mexico, Maya Sites of Lamanai, Cerros, Santa Rita and La Milpa, Tropical Forest of the Rio Bravo, Management Area and Hillbank, Jabiru story of Crooked Tree Wild,Life Sancturay , Black Howler Monkeys of Community Baboon Sanctuary, The Belize Zoo, Museum Of Belize, House of Culture, Bliss Institute of Creatibe Arts, Goff’s Caye Marine Reserve, Swallow Caye Wildlige Sancturry, Sibun River for Snoomk and Tarpon Fishing.
Islands and Cayes
Over 200 white sand islands, locally known as “cayes” (pronounced “keys”) dot the turquoise waters off the length of Belize’s coast, each unique whether by its location – inside the reef, on the reef or, on an atoll outside the magnificent Belize Barrier Reef. The larger islands in the north support charming towns and villages while elsewhere on the 185 mile barrier reef, smaller private islands provide exclusive getaways.
Ambergris Caye, the most northerly and largest of islands off the coast of Belize is a base for world-class diving and snorkeling just offshore. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is home to large schools of colorful fish and its clear, shallow waters and prevailing winds are ideal for fishing, windsurfing, sailing and kite surfing. Hotels, condominiums and vacation rentals in San Pedro Town and along the water’s edge of the whole island offer an eclectic choice of accommodations that are complemented by sophisticated international cuisine in beachside restaurants and local cafes serving traditional Belizean food. The streets of San Pedro bustle with local artists and craftsmen and contribute to the captivating atmosphere.
The epitome of the “laid back island” lifestyle, Caye Caulker is located 21 miles northeast of Belize City and the second largest inhabited island in Belize. “Front Street” is lined with brightly-colored wooden houses interspersed with shops, restaurants and small hotels and everywhere, friendly islanders will make you feel at home.
Highlights Of Islands And Cayes
Nurse Sharks and Rays of Shark Ray Alley, abundant Marine Life at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Manatee of Swallow Caye Wildlife Sancturay, Red Footed Booby Birds of Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, the Exquisite Atolls of Lichthouse Reef, Turneffe and Glovers Reef, Snorkeling off the beach in South Water Marine Reserve, Whalesharks off Gladden Spet World Class fishing off Punta Ycacos Lagoon
Ecotourism adventures abound in Cayo, the largest district in Belize which is the gateway into Belize from Guatemala and also home to the capital city of Belmopan. An astonishing 880,000 acres of protected land in the form of nature reserves and national parks is an unsurpassed combination with Belize’s largest Maya sites and Central America’s largest cave system. The lively towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena and the quiet border town of Benque Viejo del Carmen provide a glimpse into the lives of the friendly residents. A range of luxurious jungle lodges to local bed and breakfasts provide extensive options from which to base explorations. Adventures include horse back riding, canoeing, underground rivers, hiking, cave tubing, zip-lining, mountain biking and birding. In March, the Ruta Maya River Challenge, a 4 day canoe race on the scenic Belize River, starts on the western border of Belize and ends at the Caribbean Sea.
Highlights Of Western Belize
The Capital City Of Belmopan, Thousand Foot Falls and Rio on Pools of the Mountain Pine Ridge, Mysterious Maya Temples at Caracol, Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, Breathtaking Caves of Actun Tunichil Muknal, Barton Creek, Che Chem Ha, St Herman’s and Caves Branch, the Cenote at Blue Hole National Park, The Lively Twin Towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena.
The picturesque Hummingbird Highway snakes through the Maya Mountains leading visitors from the north to the jewels of southern Belize. In the Stann Creek district the larger towns and villages are on the coast, providing equal opportunity for inland and marine activities. The vibrant local cultures of the Maya and the Garifuna are alive with rich traditions in this part of Belize, which is also home to the world’s first Jaguar reserve, the intricate architecture of the Maya site at Lubantuun and over five marine protected areas offshore.
Home to the Garifuna, whose culture has been recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, Dangriga is the municipal center of the Stann Creek district and a great choice for experiencing the hypnotic music, vivid art and way of Garifuna life before exploring the islands offshore. The quiet fishing village of Hopkins further down the coast offers gold sand beaches and a range of visitor services.
This 16 mile long peninsula of white sand beaches is home to the communities of Maya Beach, Seine Bight and Placencia Village. Once a scarcely populated fishing village, Placencia has become a thriving tourism center as a quaint seaside resort with a local flair, while the peninsula offers modern resorts, vacation rentals and condominiums.
Punta Gorda, locally known as “PG” is the largest town in the Toledo District, and the gateway to lush rainforest, Maya sites, waterfalls, rivers, extensive cave systems, and numerous national parks and protected areas teeming with wildlife. The sparkling waters and offshore cayes offer snorkeling and diving, and the world-class fishing grounds see fly-fishermen return year after year. Toledo is home to a wide range of cultures, from the inland Maya villages to the thriving Garifuna culture in PG and Barranco village.
Highlights Of Southern Belize
Garifuna Culture Capital of Dangriga, the Sleepy Fishing Village Of Hopkins, Serpon Archaeological Site, The Scarlet Macaws of Red Bank, the Cascading Waterfalls of Bocawina National Park, South Water Caye Marine Reserve – Belize’s largest marine reserve, White Sand Beaches and “WORLD’S NARROWEST STREET” in Placencia, laughing Bird Caye National Park River Tours up the Monkey River, Maya sites of Lubantuun and Nim Li Punitthe Refreshing Waterfalls Of Rio Blanco, Remnants of Ancient Maya ceremonies in Hokeb Ha and Tiger caves, Payne’s Creek National Park, Port Honduras marine Reserve