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Belize country information

Belize map
Belize
Area: 22,966 sq km
Population: 320,000
Population density: 12 per sq km
Capital: Belmopan
Passport & Visa
 
Visa required ?
 
British No
Australian No
Canadian No
USA No
Other EU No

Passports

Passport valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay required by all nationals referred to in chart above.

Passport Note

All travellers are required to show evidence of sufficient funds (minimum 50 per day) and proof of return or onward ticket at the point of entry.

Note tour.tk: We have not heard anybody talking about this when crossing the land border from either Guatemala or Mexico. Neither is this the case when crossing by boat from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala (June 2009)

Visas

Not required by all nationals referred to in the chart above and nationals of their overseas territories for stays of up to 30 days.

Note:
Nationals not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy/high commission to check visa requirements.

Types of Visa and Cost

Single-entry: 60; Multiple-entry: 110. Handling fee of 5 for all applications.

Working Days Required

Most visas are issued the next working day. Some applications may require authorisation from the Director of Immigration and the Nationality Service in Belize; this will take up to four weeks.
Getting there

Getting There by Air

American Airlines ( www.aa.com ) flies from Miami and Dallas to Belize City.
Continental Airlines ( www.continental.com ) flies from Houston. Delta Air ( www.delta.com ) flies from Atlanta only on Saturday and US Airways ( www.usairways.com ) flies from Charlottesville, North Carolina. There are no direct flights from London to Belize; passengers can fly non-stop to Atlanta, Miami or Houston and join a connecting flight.

Approximate Flight Times

From Miami to Belize City is 2 hours and from Houston is 2 hours 40 minutes.

Main Airports

The Philip S W Goldson International Airport (BZE) is 16km (10 miles) northwest of Belize City. To/from the airport: Taxis are available to the city (journey time - 20 minutes); prices should be agreed with the driver beforehand. Taxi drivers are not tipped. There is an airport bus to the city centre, but it runs infrequently and should not be relied upon (journey time - 30 minutes). Facilities: Duty-free shops, bank, shops, restaurant and bar.

Note:
Belmopan, the capital, is 84km (52 miles) from Belize City by road.
Departure Tax There is a US$36 departure tax when leaving by air. Check that this tax was included in the price of your airline ticket.

Getting There by Water

Main ports: Belize City, Corozal, Dangriga, Punta Gorda and San Pedro. Belize City is the primary port of call for most cruise ship lines. Regular scheduled boats carry passengers ashore to taste a bit of Belize at the Fort Street Tourism Village.

There are regular water taxi services between Punta Gorda and Puerto Barrios, Guatemala and a direct twice-weekly service from Livingston. There is also regular water taxi services between Punta Gorda and Puerto Cortes, Honduras. There is an US$3.75/BZ$7.50 departure tax for passengers leaving by sea, payable in US or BZ Dollars.

Getting There by Road

There are road links with Chetumal on the Mexican border and Melchor de Mencos in Guatemala.

Regular scheduled buses serve these routes, leaving every half hour or hour for Belize City. It is easy to enter Belize by bus from US border cities via Cancun, Mexico City and Chetumal.

Travellers entering Belize by car from Mexico or Guatemala must obtain a temporary importation permit at the border, valid for one month; drivers need to show all travel documents, insurance papers and proof of car ownership or rental documents.

Visitors leaving Belize by road must pay a US$18.75/BZ$37.50 land departure tax, payable in either currency.
Cycling & Maps

Cycling in Belize
Belize is an easy cycling destination, even though the roads are in pretty poor condition. The section where a cyclist is likely to ride is the worst: being bumpy, potholed and patch-worked with repairs. While you may meet up with a few unpleasant exceptions, motorists are usually friendly. The Hummingbird highway is a hard day's work with a couple of steep climbs. The rest of the country is reasonably flat, but roads are not always paved, which either means a dusty or muddy affair, depending on the mood of the weather. Roads signage is accurate though not regular.

Cycle Central America – touring guide: a wonderfully detailed book researched and written by Ian Benford entailing a framework of routes for exploring southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.

Cost of living
Belize: all prices in Belize Dollars (BZD)
drinks and snacks

food: local markets; restaurants; and stores

water (mineral)
water (mineral)
juice-fresh
juice-carton
soft drink (can)
soft drink (bottle)

3.78 litre(1gal)
1.5 litre
350ml
200ml
350ml
600ml
3.00-4.00
2.00
1.60
1.00
1.00-1.50
2.00

bread loaf-white
bread loaf-whole grain
tortillas (20cm round)

400g
480g
pack of 4
2.00
2.50
3.30
food stall - burrito
food stall- garnaches
Belizean breakfast
chinese restaurant
pizza-takeaway
one serving
one serving
one serving
one serving
med
2.50
0.50
4.00-8.00
6-12.00
32.00+
beer-local
wine
284ml
750ml
2.50-3.00
25.00+
tea
coffee (cafe / bar)
Nescafe instant
coffee-ground
25 bags
per cup
50g
500g
3.75
1.50+
3.25
13.00+
rice (white)
pasta
eggs
tinned tomatoes

kg
200g
per three
227g

3.00
1.10-1.25
1.00
1.25
milk
happycow cheese ptns
cheese
Magnum icecream
½ gallon
8x25g
kg
each

2.40
3.95
15.00+
3.00+

potatoes
onions
tomatoes
cabbage
kg
kg
kg
kg
2.75-3.30
3.85-4.40
2.20
1.65
corn chips
peanuts (shell)
salted cashews
sultanas
350g pack
kg
125g
250g
3.75
7.70
2.00
2.25
apples
oranges
bananas
guava
kg
8 piece
8 piece
3 piece
2.20-2.75
1.00
1.00
1.00
cornflakes
chocolate
banana bread
biscuits-plain
biscuits-chocolate
375g pack
100g block
500g
140g pack
200g pack
4.25
3.50
3.50
1.50
4.25
pineapple (can)
oil (corn)
500g can
500ml
4.50
3.50
peanut paste
jam
510g jar
270g jar
5.95
3.25
 
accommodation personal
budget guesthouse
budget hotel
tourist area hotel
21-24 per dorm bed
28-50 double with share bath
90+ double with private bath

deodorant - roll-on
soap
shampoo
toothbrush
toothpaste
disposable razor
toilet paper

50ml
150g bar
200ml
each
76g
10 pack
4 pack
1.95
1.25
5.00
1.50
1.95
2.00
1.75
camping

wild camping

prices start at 10+/ tent, though 10/ person is a more likely price.
Camping is widely accepted and possible to stay at ranches.

internet 4.00-8.00 per hour
free wifi available in some hotels

* tba = price to be announced
* May 2009: at time of writing 1.00 USD = 1.95 BZD
all prices have been taken from internet resources such as wikitravel, hostel world, leading supermarket chains, travel blogs, forums and of course our own travel experiences and purchases of everyday products in food markets, bazaars and local shopping facilities. They are only an indication and designed to give you a general impression of the cost of living in Belize. Items are geared towards the budget conscious traveller with an occasional craving for a bit of luxury.

A couple of extra tips:
*
Bargaining is accepted at markets or if buying in bulk, but elsewhere prices are fixed.
*
Tipping is entirely discretional, but if the service is good, then appreciated by the service staff. These days, larger establishments tend to add an automatic 10-15% service charge.

*

Taxi drivers are generally not tipped.
*
Sunday is considered a traditional day in Belize and except for large chain supermarkets and a handful of Chinese run stores everything else will pretty much be closed for the day.
Accommodation
When it comes to accommodation, Belize has as diverse selection as anywhere: from environmentally committed eco-tourism resorts to dank and dirty transportables turned into accommodation for the budget minded. Unfortunately the price you pay in Belize is abnormally high in contrast with local living standards, market prices and the facilities you get. In the high-end establishments prices are generally quoted without the compulsory 9% hotel tax. On the budget front in 2009, you are likely to pay anything from 28 to 50 BZD for a double with share bath in the not so popular spots. If the spot is even slightly touristy the price will jump to 90 BZD for the same accommodation. Dorm beds in hostels are not really any cheaper than getting a single room in a guesthouse or hotel.

Camping in Belize
Since camping is widely accepted in Belize, it is not difficult to find somewhere to pitch your tent. There are designated areas in National Parks and for an indication of what they can offer: take a look at the MyBelizeAdventure site. This is a limited resource, but if you individually Google each reserve or parkland, you'll find out more information on whether camping facilities are available. Also RV Parks are not unheard of, though they can tend to be expensive.

Many hotels and guesthouses also provide areas for pitching tents, though one consideration to take into account is the abundance of sand flies and mosquitos in some areas. Facilities available are generally basic but adequate for an overnight stay. Asking to stay in the grounds of a local church is also another option and it will often come with toilet and shower facilities as well. Camping wild is a little more difficult, though not impossible. Much of the land is fenced off or owned. Asking in local villages or at farmers homesteads for permission is a more courteous way of going about it.

Acommodation we used while in Belize (May 2009): (prices based on two people sharing)
Star system explained: from 0 to ***** where 0 is a total disaster and ***** is luxurious (and out of our price range)
         
City / town: Name accommodation: Our experience: Price: Stars:
         
Dangriga Hotel Chaleanor steep price for a box 36 BZD
Mango Creek Miss Clandettes mattress missing 27 BZD
Punte Gorda Nature's Way Guesthouse falling apart 36 BZD *
San Ignacio Hotel Tropicool rightfully named 28 BZD ***
         
Food & drink

Belizean cuisine is a melting pot of many ethnic kitchens and while beans and rice constitute a large proportion of the diet, tortillas, tamales, and panades (fried maize shells) as well as fry-jacks, plantains and cassava have also influenced the traditional dinner table.

Grocery stores and restaurants are monopolised by the Chinese, which is a good thing as far as the vegetarian is concerned. Here you can find numerous soya based products as well as few old favourites like vegetable chowmein, chop suey, or sweet and sour. In some of the more touristy places, an Indian restaurant could be a special treat for a hungry vegetarian in search of a filling meal. HappyCow has just a few listings in Belize. Prices are reasonable in local establishments and portion sizes ample. Look for the places filled with customers.

Fallen off the back of a truck
If you happen to be cycling along the Hummingbird Highway in the right season, you have to look no further than the road below you to find some of the juiciest and sweetest oranges on this planet. This route leading to the juice factories is lined with tonnes of tumbled fruit: all literally fallen off the back of a truck, so they are yours for free!
TIP: Although the oranges in neighbouring Guatemala are as sweet as nectar, you can't take them into Belize... and the officilas at the border won't let you eat them there either.

Most towns of any decent size have a local market place where you can purchase fruit and vegetables, though the produce is not always fresh nor of a high quality. Self catering is a little more difficult in Belize; especially if you are staying overnight in budget hotels. They are more akin to a hostel than a hotel and lack the privacy and/or room to pull out the stove and start prepping for an evening meal.

Outside of these towns, there is little else to purchase, besides nutrition-less snacks, drinks and the odd bit of fruit and vege from a local's road side stall. Good idea to stock the bags with some locally made banana bread.

 
Being a former British colony, English is widely spoken in Belize. There are a few smaller villages however, where Spanish is predominantly spoken and you may likely run into communication problems about your dietary needs.

VEGETARIAN TALK - Spanish
Soy vegetariano/a = I am vegetarian m/f

No como...ni... = I don't eat...nor...
Yo como...y... = I eat...and...
No quiero...o... = I don't want...or...

carne = meat
cerdo or puerco = pork
pollo [poh-yo] = chicken
pescado = fish
huevos = eggs
leche = milk
lácteos = milk products
queso = cheese

vedura = vegetables
fruta (fresca) = (fresh) fruit

Quiero... = I want...
Quisiera un plato que lleve... =
I want a dish containing ...

por favor = please
gracias = thank you
de nada = you're welcome

Belizean are proud of their local produce and you will encounter many signs and prompts throughout the country saying: "Buy Belizean". Marie Sharp's hot sauces have international acclaim, but what the rest of the world doesn't know, is she also makes some pretty scrumptious corn chips as well.

Belizean water is said to be drinkable, but if you are not used to it, you could be in for a few days of stomach troubles. Bottled water is readily available in the smallest of villages through to larger towns, though for the cyclist looking to stock up, gallon bottles are not always possible to find in out of the way spots and at a dollar a pop for a 500ml bottle of water the daily outlay will quickly add up. Having a water filter will definitely save you quite a number of dollars on your trip; in 2009, a gallon flask costs 3.00 to 4.00 Belize dollars, depending where you are. Close to monsoon season, it is easy enough to devour two of these per person per day. So, make sure you are fully stocked before taking off each morning as there are several challenging stretches in Belize where you'll have no access to water at all.

Juice is a Belizean specialty and you can purchase freshly squeezed bottles of really good orange and grapefruit juice in just about any shop and petrol station. Another favourite is the delectable variety of squashes (cordials) made from fresh fruit. They add just that little bit extra to your ordinary water supply and cost a fraction of the price of purchasing soft drinks. And at the end of the day, if you like to enjoy the taste of a refreshing cold beer, then Belize has some pretty special brews on offer. Not only does Belikin beer offer a delicious premium lager and stout but, being a former British colony, Guinness can be found in every store selling alcoholic beverages, and at a reasonable rate of only 4 BZD!

Why not try these for starters?
Fry Jacks
Known as beignets in New Orleans, sopapillas in Mexico or simply fried dough in the southwest of America, this staple Belizean cuisine is usually served with as a breakfast item. The savoury version of these fluffy fried crescents of dough comes with refried beans and eggs and for the sweet-tooth you can choose to smother yours with either locally produced honey or jam.
Garnaches
Fried corn tortillas smeared with beans, shredded cheese and spicy salsa sauce. Check first to see if the beans have not been cooked with pork or lard.

Desayuno Típicos Sin Frijoles Y Pollo
This substantial breakfast found nearly everywhere in Central America is indeed a hearty affair, though as a non-meat eater you'll need to ask to have it minus the shredded chicken or beef and more often than not the refried beans element. Basically you'll receive a plate full of fryjacks, flour tortillas or bread, eggs, fried plantanos plus the above mentioned non-vegetarian elements. Including a cup of coffee, you can pick this dish up for as little as 4.00 BZD at most markets. Restaurants may ask double this price, but you may also get a plate full of tropical fruit to enjoy as well.

Marie Sharp Habanero Pepper Sauce
No dinner table is complete without a bottle of the world famous Habanero chilli sauce. It comes in three different strengths, all of which are pretty potent. If in doubt, start with the mild one first and work your way up the scale.
Cashew Wine
A traditional Belizean drink found in every store and restaurant selling alcohol. This strongly intoxicating, syrupy wine brewed from cashews has quite a sour vinegary taste. Mix it down with your favourite refrescos (soda) to make a more pleasant and sweeter long drink.
Homemade Ginger Beer
Though not always available, if you get the chance to taste some of this refreshing homemade brew, there'll be no going back to the commercially made stuff. Flavoured with orange and lemon juice adds a tangy twist to this deliciously spicy beverage.
Potato Pone
Commonly known as potato pound, this popular Belizean dessert slice made from sweet potatoes is richly flavoured with nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla.
Banana Cake
Available at most local stores, this stodgy, sticky cake makes for a perfect morning or afternoon snack. Try it with a cup of strong Belizean coffee.
Bike shops
Climate
climate chart Belize
Road distances
Detailed distance chart from our trip through Belize - May 2009 (km/alti)
H= hotel / posada . C= camping / trailer park . B= beach camp
accomm.:
km
total km
Benque Viejo (border Guatemala) San Ignacio
H/C
16
16
San Ignacio turn-off to Dangriga
35
51
turn-off to Dangriga Dangriga
H
89
140
Dangriga turn-off south
10
150
turn-off south turn-off Hopkins
15
165
turn-off Hopkins Maya Center
H
9
174
Maya Center turn-off to Placencia
12
186
turn-off Placencia Placencia (31 km unpaved)
H/C
38
224
Placencia via water taxi to: Mango Creek
H
Mango Creek southern highway
7
231
southern highway Medina Bank
38
269
Medina Bank turn-off to Punta Gorda
34
303
turn-off to Punta Gorda Punta Gorda (boat to Guatemala)
H
26
329
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