What You Need to Know Before Traveling to Belize
Before you jump on the plane for a fantastic vacation in Belize, there are a few things you need to know. This handy guide will help ensure that you don't forget anything so you can relax and enjoy a stress-free vacation in Belize.
If you're a citizen of the United States, Canada, Britain, an EU country, or several other countries, you don't need a visa to visit Belize. But you need to make sure that your passport will remain valid for at least 90 days after your arrival and that you have proof of a return ticket home.
Visitors can stay up to one month in Belize before needing to obtain an extension at the immigration department.
Belize was the only British colony in Central America, so today, it is the only country in the region where English is the official language. All signs and printed information will be in English, but Spanish is widely spoken as well, especially in areas near the border with Mexico or Guatemala. Other languages spoken in Belize by different communities include Plattdeutsch, Chinese, Maya, and Garifuna.
Most Belizeans speak what is called Creole (sometimes spelled Kriol) at home and with their friends, which is similar to but still quite distinct from standard English.
The currency in Belize is called the dollar, usually written as BZD. The currency is permanently pegged to the American dollar at 2:1, meaning you'll never have to worry about exchange rates. It's easy to change money at banks during the weekday as well as at major hotels, but American currency is accepted everywhere.
Major credit cards and debit cards are accepted in most hotels and bigger restaurants.
Essentials to Bring
Belize is famous for its balmy temperatures and abundant sunshine, so pack lots of loose, comfortable clothing. It can get a little chilly at night, so be sure to include a sweater or jacket. Be sure to include sun protection, including sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat. For trips in the interior, it's a good idea to bring hiking boots, long-sleeved clothing (both pants and shirts), a day pack, binoculars, water bottle(s), and insect repellant.
If you plan on exploring caves, a flashlight or headlamp is a great idea. Swimming, diving, and snorkeling are popular in Belize, so pack a towel and swimsuit. Other useful things to bring include the charger/batteries for your camera,
Local dive shops provide all the snorkeling or scuba gear you'll need. And it's easy to find sunscreen, bug repellant, shampoo, and other sundries in local stores.
If you take medication, be sure to bring it with you. All medication must be in its original labeled bottle or pack, and it is highly recommended to also bring your prescription from the doctor.
As with all countries with a similar sub-tropical climate, mosquitos are prevalent in all areas of Belize. You do not need any special vaccines or shots to travel to Belize.
The drinking water is safe in Belize, and bottled water is sold everywhere throughout the country. Due to the warm weather, it's essential to remain hydrated. Belize has an extensive network of affordable and reliable health clinics that can provide treatment for any minor illness or accident. Pharmacies (drug stores) are also plentiful and these stock a full assortment of standard over-the-counter medicines, lotions, creams, and sanitary supplies.
Outside of a few non-tourist areas of Belize City, crime rates are extremely low in Belize. Most violent crime occurs between rival groups, and rarely involves foreign visitors. That being said, it's important to take standard precautions when traveling in Belize. Keep your money in a secure place, and avoid unknown areas, especially at night.
Traveling at night, even for very short distances, is not recommended in Belize. Many roads have insufficient illumination, making it hard to see animals, pedestrians, and hazards when driving at night. Guatemala and Belize have a tightly regulated border, so be sure to cross at official checkpoints when traveling between the two countries.
All licensed taxis bear a green license plate. Be sure to negotiate the price for your destination before getting into the vehicle.