Belize Tips

 

Dear Belize visitor,

On behalf of the staff of EcoAmerica Tours, we wish you a most pleasant experience exploring this exciting tropical destination. In Belize the visitor can enjoy lovely tropical beaches, the grandest adventures, the wonders of nature, scintillating culture, all the necessary components of an ideal vacation. That is why thousands of tourists have made Belize their top travel choice and while traveling with us, it is our goal to have you enjoy a trouble-free adventure.

So please, before starting your trip, take a few minutes to review the following tips and information; it might be useful!

Belize is a rewarding, authentic destination for travelers in search of unique, intimate experiences in a Caribbean/Central American getaway. A Belize vacation will stir your soul, expand your mind and change your life.

Serenely situated in one of the last unspoiled places on earth, you can easily tour Belize’s rain forests, dive the Western Hemisphere’s largest barrier reef or explore mystical Maya temples all during the same adventure.

The multitude of experiences offered by this compact paradise refreshes travelers of all kinds. A single day can take you cross-country through temple tours to marina-side martinis overlooking turquoise water.

Belize is renowned for both its preserved ancient treasures as well as its welcoming residents – often referred to as the country’s greatest natural resource. An enduring commitment to preservation of Belizean lands and waters inspires a genuine and intimate connection with Belize.

Wherever you come from, you are welcome to take part in extraordinary escapades without ever feeling like a stranger. Every journey promises opportunities to capture every moment and let the senses come alive.

For generations, the English-speaking people of Belize have demonstrated a cultural commitment to preserve the country’s one-of-a-kind charms. Through a convergence of natural wonder, delightful people, savory food and rare adventures, you can truly be one with Belize.


People and Culture

From the moment you arrive in Belize whether you are an adventure traveler, part of a family trip or in the country for a relaxing beach vacation Belize people and culture make you feel as welcome and comfortable as you do in your own hometown.

In Belize, the people have a myriad of traditions and customs that represent more than eight diverse cultures. For generations, the people of Belize have demonstrated a cultural commitment to preserve the country’s unique charms. This enduring promise to the land, the waters and you, our visitor, inspires all to achieve a genuine and intimate connection to a variety of extraordinary experiences.

Belize is truly a melting pot of colorful personalities, making our 321,115 residents the country’s greatest resource for tourism. The Belizean people are composed of a harmonious combination of Maya, Mestizo, Creole, Garifuna, East Indian, Mennonite, Arab and Chinese.

There also are a number of expatriates in Belize from Canada, Europe and the United States and many of them retire here. A blending of cultures has resulted in one of the happiest and most peaceful countries in the region and a widespread reputation as one of the world’s friendliest tourist destination.

In Belize (formerly British Honduras), English remains the official language, but the most diverse language in Belize is Kriol (Belizean Creole). Other languages spoken include Garifuna, Mandarin, Spanish and Maya.

It’s easy to fit in and become one with the people of Belize.


Gastronomy

Belize is an international treasure trove of tastes, specialties, styles and traditions from cultures across the world. Belize offers Caribbean food as a gateway to Central America with flavors composed of diverse and delicious blended influences. Kitchens yield uniquely delectable dishes to reward your palate. Explore our flavors and plan your flavor excursions as you Savor Belize.

After a relaxing day on the beach or an adventure amidst mystical Maya temples, the must-try for you, whether you have previously visited Belize or are a newcomer: the traditional food staple of “rice and beans” served with stewed or fried chicken, beef or fish. Accompanied by potato salad and fresh fried ripe plantains, this dish is served at most restaurants throughout Belize.

While local cultures tout their favorite traditional dishes, there is no denying the country’s love for seafood. While fish like grouper, red snapper, conch and shrimp are plentiful and common, lobster is surely the most celebrated. With lobster festivals on several islands at the beginning of lobster season, traveling at the right time can yield fresh lobster from the sea in every dish imaginable.

Many hotels and restaurants have successfully turned traditional Belizean staples into gourmet masterpieces. The annual Taste of Belize competition is growing in popularity with award-winning Belizean chefs eager to take you on a culinary adventure.


Music and Folklore

Reflecting the rich mix of people who make up the country, Belize music features a cultural blend of Kriol, Mestizo, Garifuna and Maya influences. Each culture brings unique instruments indicative of the musical origin. The authentic sounds of Belize music heard in intimate locations will evoke passion and relax you, whether you are an adventure traveler or on a beach vacation. Experiencing music is one of the best things to do while visiting Belize.

Mestizo, predominantly heard in Northern and Western Belize, made its way from Mexico and Guatemala, incorporating the melodies of marimba, tap drums and double bass.

Kriol, by contrast, can be found in more rural settings and makes use of drums, banjo, and even a donkey’s jawbone. Sounding similar to traditional calypso music, Kriol music has developed into a form called brokdong (named for broken-down calypso).

Unique to its own culture is Garifuna. Traditionally a folk style combining music and dance, Garifuna is now widely recognized for Punta and Punta rock, its popular dance forms.

Belize music an easy way to experience culture during a family trip has expanded to include styles popular in the Caribbean and Americas, so expect to hear local reggae, hip-hop and jazz around the country. It’s a reward for your soul as well as your ears.


San Pedro | Ambergris Caye

Of all the habitats in Belize, the littoral forest on the cayes is the most endangered due to coastal development. Caye littoral forests benefit the Black Catbird and White-crowned Pigeon; both are listed as Near-Threatened species. Mangrove habitats attract birds such as the Rufous-necked Wood-rail. During migration the cayes are an excellent place to see migrants such as warblers, thrushes, tanagers, and orioles.

After indulging in the multitude of mainland adventures, you can wander to postcard-perfect beaches and indulge in warm waters and a laidback Caribbean-style. You find this unspoiled paradise among the cayes and atolls of Belize. When you think of things to do in Belize or dream of a beach vacation, these exquisite and picturesque islands surpass any relaxing, romantic vision. Prepare for a soul-stirring experience.

More than 200 islands dot the turquoise Caribbean waters off Belize. Spelled “caye” (pronounced “key,” and meaning “island”), the cayes range in size from mangrove-covered masses to small outcroppings of sand and coral.

Most of the Belize islands lie within the shelter of the hemisphere’s largest barrier reef. Stretching from the most northern caye to Belize’s most southern point, the barrier reef protects the cayes and the mainland from the rolling breakers of the Caribbean Sea. You will become one with amazing scenery and calm coastal waters. That means you will experience the calm intimacy you want on a well-earned beach vacation.

Belizean waters host eight protected marine areas and showcase the region’s remarkably beautiful biodiversity as well as the country’s commitment to the protection and conservation of its unique marine ecosystems.

Of all the habitats in Belize, the littoral forest on the cayes is the most endangered due to coastal development. Caye littoral forests benefit the Black Catbird and White-crowned Pigeon; both are listed as Near-Threatened species. Mangrove habitats attract birds such as the Rufous-necked Wood-rail. During migration, the cayes are an excellent place to see migrants such as warblers, thrushes, tanagers, and orioles.

Indulge in white sand beaches, be one with turquoise water and the barrier reef teeming with exotic marine life. For the adventurer, the coast of Belize offers a chance to bask in the island life. You can dive the amazing Blue Hole, and enjoy the established vibrant island community in Ambergris Caye excite your senses and inspire your passions.


Snorkeling

Snorkeling in Belize is a real treat and something not to be missed. Hol Chan and Shark Ray alley is the favorite among guests to the island and gives you the opportunity to take in the wondrous marine life and also swim the gentle nurse sharks and sting rays. It sounds scary, but safe and exciting. Another popular site for snorkeling is Mexico Rocks.

Floating atop the warm, clear turquoise waters with a mask and snorkel provides an exciting glimpse into Belize’s underwater glories and is a “must see” even for the first-time snorkeler. Knowledgeable local guides will help you explore the kaleidoscope of color found in hard and soft corals, vibrant sponges and over 500 species of fish.

There are thousands of snorkeling sites of varying depths along the Belize Barrier Reef. Every snorkel spot is a little different from the other and if you go back to the same spot, each time you will see something different.

At night, many marine species come out to feed, and the underwater world comes awake.

If you’ve never snorkeled before it is a good idea to try your equipment in water you can stand in first. If you’re uncomfortable, try using a life jacket for added assurance. Just remember to breathe steadily through your mouth once you get a glimpse of what lies beneath the waves it will come naturally.

Waterproof identification cards are helpful to use in the water or to share your experience when back on shore.


San Ignacio | Cayo District

While new experiences abound, the people of the Cayo District make you feel right at home. As host to the capital city of Belmopan, you’ll find an astonishing variety of the ecotourism adventures at every turn. With a majestic 880,000 acres of protected land in the form of nature reserves and national parks, this district is truly a nature-lovers dream. 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. They also serve as a base from which to explore pine forests, clear rivers, rocky plateaus, ceremonial caves, towering mountains, ancient Maya Temples and Cascading waterfalls, including spectacular Thousands Foot Falls.

Cayo is full of winding rivers, majestic waterfalls, mysterious caves and breath-taking mountains that engulf a tiny national capital and grand Maya cities. With surroundings so intimate, you can be one with all these genuine experiences.

Explore the largest district in Belize (home of the capital city of Belmopan), and you are rewarded with a treasure of eco-tourism adventures. With an astonishing 880,000 acres of protected land in the form of nature reserves and national parks, this district is truly a dream for an adventure traveler or couple looking for a unique, memorable excursion to add to a honeymoon package. On a trip to Cayo, you can explore temples by day and journey to nearby beaches of adjoining districts in time for sunset.

The lively twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena and the quiet border town of Benque Viejo del Carmen provide glimpses into the lives of the friendly residents. They also serve as an excellent base from which to explore pine forests, clear rivers, rocky plateaus, ceremonial caves, towering mountains, cascading waterfalls and ancient Maya temples. Once you are in Cayo, open your soul to amazing experiences.


Archaeology

Archaeologists working in Belize joke that just about anywhere you scoop up a trowel of dirt you are likely to discover evidence of ancient civilization! Wherever your vacation plans take you within Belize you are sure to encounter archaeology sites of significance as well as the remains of smaller, lesser known fishing, pottery, and salt production centers of Maya origin.

The ancient Maya network in Belize is an exciting adventure whether for a day or for a week-long tour. Near to most major towns you will find towering Maya temples with vacant ball courts still whispering excitedly of century-old competitions. Managed by the Institute of Archaeology settlements and ceremonial sites have been reclaimed from the forest, unique architecture and stelae exposed and restored and, interpretive centers with trained guides installed.

The Maya settled in Belize as early as 1500 BC with the estimated population exceeding one million during the Classic Period (250 AD to 900 AD). Although the civilization went into a political decline around 900 AD and many large Maya centers abandoned, several cultural centers, such as Lamanai on the New River, were still thriving at the time of contact with the Spanish in the late 1500’s. Located in the northern district of Orange Walk, Lamanai is an impressive site to visit. Not only is the ruin and history exciting, but the journey to the site is also memorable. Speed several miles through narrow rivers while stopping only to be shown crocodiles, howler monkeys and iguanas is an exhilarating experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Xunantunich was a major ceremonial site built on a natural limestone ridge during the Classic Period. The site is composed of six major plazas with more than 25 Maya temples and palaces. On a clear day, visitors can also see across into nearby Guatemala and near Caracol in the Pine Ridge Mountain Reserve.

In Guatemala, you will visit the Tikal National Park. Tikal is nowadays, the largest Mayan City known and studied. The park has an extension of 576kms squared. It was declared Human Heritage patrimony, by UNESCO in 1979.


Travel Documents

Before living your city of origin, please take a few moments to review all your documents for accuracy.

US and Canada Citizens must present proof of citizenship in the form of a valid passport. As of May 1998, visas are not required. Citizens of other countries, please contact the nearest consulate for information on travel documents (i.e. visa, tourist card, etc.) before departure. The normal processing time for a passport is four to six weeks (a longer period exists during certain times of the year), and a passport can be obtained quickly from your regional passport office. Please contact your regional passport office for details.

We will provide you a master voucher, which will be exchanged at your first point of contact, when applicable, for a series of individual service orders for each and every one of the different travel services contracted, booked, confirmed, and prepaid by our office and to be provided by different suppliers throughout your adventure.

After deplaning, you will need to go through Immigration and Customs before exiting the airport. Our associates are not allowed into the Immigration/Custom areas. If you are to receive an arrival transfer, please look for our representative with a sign with your name and our company name on it. At this point, you will exchange your master voucher for an individual voucher packet. The suppliers involved in the handling of your travel arrangements also aim to provide you with the finest possible service, and to make sure that your travel needs are to your satisfaction.


What to Pack General Recommendations

Belize is a very informal country, with a very casual lifestyle. Unless you are invited to a Government function, please leave your “after five” attire at home.

Leave your jewelry and expensive watches at home because you will not need them. If you must have a watch, bring an inexpensive watch that is suitable for diving and hiking.

If you are visiting the Cayes and/or the Barrier Reef, bring your shorts, T-shirts, and bathing suits, as well as some comfortable tennis shoes or deck shoes. Sandals or watershoes may be appropriate for some situations. As the sun is probably more intense than what you are used to at home, bring a cap to protect your head from the tropical sun when you are boating and/or fishing. In addition to protecting your eyes from both the sun and the reflective glare off of the water, a pair of polarized sun glasses will enhance the variable colors of the coastal waters of Belize.

Loose fitting, light colored cotton pants and camping shirts, along with a comfortable pair of hiking shoes or boots are appropriate for exploring the Mainland or trekking through the rain forest. When visiting the Maya Ruins or traipsing through the jungle, a hat with a wide brim will provide shade from the tropical sun, as well as provide protection from a tropical shower.

Be aware that water, beverages, and snacks are not always readily available while sightseeing; so a day pack, to carry a water bottle, energy bars, camera, film, binoculars, poncho, hand towel, etc. is a welcomed accessory. Although you do not wear it, a hiking staff can prove to be a valuable aid to climbing ruins, crossing streams, or walking up or down steep trails.

Pack wise, pack light! Pack only what you know you will use and avoid unnecessary items, such as hair-dryer, basic toiletries (soap or body wash, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion), unless of course, you prefer a specific brand; the hotels we choose for your program will provide you those items and much more!


Currency

The currency in Belize is the Belizean Dollar. It is best to exchange money at your hotel or at any bank. We strongly recommend against exchanging your money with a street vendor. Most major credit cards are widely accepted. It is not necessary to exchange money in the US, and dollars are accepted in quite a few places; however, the change coming back will be in local currency. Many people will not accept torn paper currency, so make sure that all your US currency is in good shape and tear free.

For your convenience, below you will find a currency converter. Please keep in mind that this is an external third-party tool and it is provided for illustrative purposes only.


What to Bring Recommendations – Summary

The following is a general list of those items that we, at EcoAmerica Tours, have found to come in handy while traveling.


Clothing

  • Aqua socks or river sandals
  • Bandana
  • Casual resort wear for the beach resorts, including men’s long pants for dinner time.
  • Cotton or synthetic blend socks
  • Cotton shirts, some long and some short sleeved
  • Light sweater or sweatshirt
  • Lightweight water resistant hiking boots
  • Lightweight water resistant jacket or poncho
  • Long pants (cotton or synthetic blend; avoid jeans since they do not dry fast)
  • Shorts (cotton or synthetic blend)
  • Sun hat or baseball cap
  • Swimsuit
  • Tennis or walking shoes
  • Warm jacket (for higher elevations only)
  • Windbreaker

Health Kit

  • Antibacterial ointment (Neosporin)
  • Band-aids
  • Cortisone cream
  • Imodium A.D.
  • Insect repellent
  • Moist wipes
  • Presciption medication
  • Solarcaine lotion or gel

Gear

  • Backup prescription eyewear and medication (if needed)
  • Binoculars
  • Camera with fresh batteries and large capacity memory card (or lots of film)
  • Day pack or fanny pack for nature walks and a plastic water bottle
  • For natural history enthusiasts, we suggest you bring a field guide, such as birds of Costa Rica
  • Insect repellent (waterproof)
  • Lip balm (waterproof)
  • Resealable plastic bags in assorted sizes to keep your cosmetics and/or toiletries from spilling
  • Small flashlight or headlamp
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen or sunblock (waterproof)
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Valid Passport (original and photocopy) of everyone in your party
  • Waterproof disposable camera

Traveling with small children? here are some additional recommendations

  • An interesting book or a coloring book with crayons and color pencils
  • Some table or electronic games to play
  • Rubber boots and a lightweight poncho

Important Notice:

Since the information provided above has been collected from several sources and even though we attempt to keep it updated, it tends to change, and we cannot guarantee its accuracy.