Belize
sovereign state in Central America
North America > Central America > Belize
Belize, formerly British Honduras, is the only country in mainland Central America with English as its official language. World class attractions include exploring the lush jungles with exotic plants and animals, deep sea fishing, swimming, snorkelling and diving in the Caribbean Sea with its attractive reefs, and visiting the Mayan ruins. Income levels are still very low and the infrastructure is very basic. The Belizeans are very proud and friendly to visitors and the tourist industry grew greatly in the last decade.
Regions
Belize regions - Color-coded map
 Northern Belize
Districts of Corozal (coastal) and Orange Walk (inland).
 Belize District
Home of the largest city, the airport and a whole host of popular offshore islands.
 Cayo
Teeming with adventure, this central district is filled with jungles, caves, rivers and Mayan ruins.
 Stann Creek
Coastal region south of Belize District, access to quiet reef islands and boats to and from Honduras.
 Toledo
Southern coastal/inland region with more Mayan ruins and boats to Guatemala.
Cities
Other destinations
Altun Ha
Maya ruins
Understand
CapitalBelmopan
CurrencyBelize dollar (BZD)
Population374.6 thousand (2017)
Electricity550 volt / 60 hertz and 220 volt / 60 hertz (NEMA 1-15, NEMA 5-15, BS 1363)
Country code+501
Time zoneUTC−06:00
Emergencies911, +501-90 (emergency medical services, fire department, police)
Driving sideright
edit on Wikidata
Belize is the only country in Central America without a coastline on the Pacific Ocean (only the Caribbean Sea to its east). With its British colonial history and a long Caribbean coast, it's culturally similar to many of Britain's former West Indian island colonies, with a majority creole or Afro-Caribbean population. But it also includes a large native Mayan population, especially in the north and northwest of the country. As a result, although English is the official language, Spanish is also often spoken. In the south east along the Caribbean coast live the Garifuna (Black Caribs), an Afro-Amerindian culture.
After long journeys starting in what is now the Netherlands in 1790, via Germany, Southern Russia, Canada, the United States, and Mexico, several thousand German-speaking Mennonite Christians arrived in Belize in 1958 after long and detailed discussions with the government regarding specific exemptions and privileges. They are easily recognizable by their speech (somewhat distinctive from modern standard German) and "quaint" dress.
History
Pier in Caye Caulker
Like the neighbouring parts of Guatemala and Mexico, this area was settled for thousands of years by the Maya people. They are still here, an important part of Belize's people and culture. While the Spanish Empire claimed the area in the 16th century, the Spanish made little progress in settling here. The British settled first on the coast and offshore islands for logging. In 1798 British Belizean forces defeated a Spanish attempt to drive them out in the Battle of St. George's Caye, an anniversary still celebrated as a holiday each 10 September.
The colony of British Honduras grew in the 19th century. At first Africans were brought in as slaves, but slavery was abolished here in 1838. Following the abolition of slavery, the British would bring indentured Indian labourers to the colony to supplement the labour pool, and their descendants remain a significant minority to this day. Many refugees from the 19th-century Caste War of Yucatán Peninsula escaped the conflict to settle in Belize, especially the northern section.
The government of Guatemala has long claimed to have inherited the 15th-century Spanish claim to Belize. Although the British were willing to grant independence to British Honduras as early as the mid-1960s, this ongoing dispute played a major role in delaying full Belizean independence until 1981, long after London granted independence to other former colonies in the region. Guatemala refused to recognize an independent Belize at all until 1991, and to this day lays claim to virtually all Belizean territory south of Belize City. The topic remains a sensitive one, particularly in the southern half of Belize.
Belize escaped the bloody civil conflicts of the 1980s that engulfed much of Central America, and refugees from the conflict in Guatemala arrived, mostly settling in the west. While Belize has not been immune to the rampant drug crime and grinding poverty of its neighbours it is a comparatively safe destination in a conflict-prone part of the world. Belize shares particularly close diplomatic and economic ties with both the United Kingdom and the United States.
Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy as the old agricultural products — sugar, banana, and oranges — have lost ground. The country remains plagued by high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, and increased urban crime. In 2006 commercial quantities of oil were discovered in the Spanish Lookout area.
Climate
Tropical, very hot and humid. The dry season typically lasts from February to May and then the rainy season typically lasts through to November. Hurricanes that bring coastal flooding, especially in the south, are prevalent from June to November.
Terrain
The flat coastal plain is swampy with low mountains in the south. The highest point is Victoria Peak at 1,160 m.
Talk
As a former British colony, the official language of Belize is standard English with UK spelling rules, which makes Belize stand out from its Spanish-speaking neighbours.
Spanish, Garifuna (Carib) and the Maya languages/dialects of Kekchi, Mopan and Yucatec are spoken in various parts of the country. Spanish is widely used as the first language in northern and western parts of the country. So-called "kitchen Spanish," an amalgam of Spanish and English, is common on Ambergris Caye. Belizean Creole, which has a certain degree of mutual intelligibility with standard English, is widely spoken as well. Most Belizeans are proficient in English and at least one of these other languages.
Many Belizeans speak a mix of Creole and English among friends, and standard English to foreigners. The strong Caribbean accent may take some getting used to.
Get in
Visa free entry = countries marked in blue
Entry requirements
All visitors are required to have sufficient funds, US$75 per day, and documents required for their next destination.
If entering by land from Mexico, you will be charged a fee of M$533 (Mexican pesos) (as of May 2018) by Mexican immigration unless you can show proof that you paid the immigration fee when you entered Mexico. Your FMM tourist card is not enough. If you crossed at a land border, you'll need the actual receipt from when you paid the fee. If you reached Mexico via a commercial flight, you've may have already paid the fee with your airfare, but the border guards here do not care. You might be able to convince them if you have a print-out of an itemized receipt from the airline showing that this specific fee was included.
Visa-free
Nationals who hold passports or refugee documents from all European Union member states, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Eswatini, Fiji, the Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Namibia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Suriname, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, Uganda, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe, in addition to passports issued to British Overseas Territories citizens, do not require a visa to visit Belize.
All foreign nationals with a valid US green card or visa for the US or Schengen Area are visa exempt for a maximum stay of 90 days.
Permanent residents and holders of multiple entry visas of the United States may obtain a visa on arrival for a fee of US$50.
Visas
All other travellers not falling into the above categories require a visa prior to travel, which can be obtained in a Belizean or British embassy.
Nationals of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Haiti, India, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, North Korea, Lebanon, Libya, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Thailand require clearance in addition to a visa.
Nationals of China (PRC) must pay a repatriation fee of BZ$3,000 on arrival.
Nationals of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka must pay a repatriation fee of BZ$1,200 on arrival.
Cruise ship visitors do not even need a passport.
The Belize Tourism Board up-to-date information maintains up-to-date information.
When leaving country by land, prepare to pay taxes (mandatory BZ$30 or US$15 border fee per person plus a BZ$7.50 or US$3.75 PACT fee per person if stay exceeded 24 hours (as of April 2016)) in cash, if paying in US dollars then you may or may not receive change in BZ dollars.
View over Belize City
By plane
1
Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (BZE IATA) (in Ladyville, 15 km northwest of Belize City (roughly 30 minutes' drive)). Year round flights are available from the USA (American, Delta, Southwest and United); Central America (Transportes Aéreos Guatemaltecos (TAG) Guatemala city and Copa Airlines Panama); from within Belize and from the adjacent Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (Maya Island Air and Tropic Air). Additional seasonal flights (Oct-Mar) are offered from Canada with Air Canada Rouge and Westjet.
 

For a lower international air fare you may also want to consider flying to Cancun or Merida. From Cancun and Merida there are ADO buses to Belize city.
By car
From Mexico via Chetumal, or on a much rougher road from Guatemala via Melchor de Mencos. The Western Highway connects Melchor Mencos to Belize City via Belmopan, San Ignacio while the Philip Goldson Highway (Northern Highway) connects Belize City to Chetumal in Mexico via Corozal Town and Orange Walk
By bus
The following companies operate buses from Flores, Guatemala, and from Chetumal, Mexico to Belize City:
The inbound buses can only make drop-off stops between the border crossing and Belize City while the outbound buses can only pick-up passengers going traveling to Mexico or Guatemala. There are additional Belizean bus companies and drivers' unions going north from Belize City to Chetumal that can pick-up and drop off passengers along side the road with services to Orange Walk and Corozal Town. See "By bus" under get around in the below.
By boat
Several cruise lines call on Belize City. Unfortunately they usually stay only one day, which doesn't allow the opportunity to really see Belize. You can visit one of the Maya ruins, ride an airboat in the salt marshes just outside the city, shop, go to the museum, go to the zoo or take either a short cave rafting trip or go snorkelling, but that's about it. That means about 70% of the things most tourists would like aren't available, not mention the eco-tourism points of interest.
To Puerto Cortés, Honduras, the Gulf Cruza, a small, rickety speed boat (20 people) leaves Placencia each Friday at around 9:30AM (4 hr US$50), going first to Big Creek. It returns to Placencia on Monday. Tickets are sold in the tourist office next to the gas station. Stop by immigration first.
Small speedboats operate on a daily basis between Puerto Barrios in Guatemala to Punta Gorda, cost is around US$20 one way. On Tuesday and Fridays, boats operate from Livingston in Guatemala to Punta Gorda. The ride takes no more than one hour. It's BZ$50.
There's also a BZ$30 departure tax plus BZ$7.50 marine park fee. Foreigners are required to pay departure taxes and a conservation upkeep fee when leaving Belize via land, air, or water. These fees are only applicable to locals when flying.
San Pedro Belize Express has temporarily shut down operations due to COVID-19.
Get around
The Hummingbird Highway
Belize is a fairly small country, and transportation between most destinations is rarely long or tedious.
By plane
Tropic Air and Maya Island Air both have multiple flights daily to various towns around the country and to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. They fly out of both of Belize City's airports, but flights from Belize City Airport (TZA IATA) are often significantly cheaper than those out of Phillip Goldson International (BZE IATA). Domestic flights are generally pretty reasonable priced, and thus popular if your time is limited and budget is not. Flights are operated with planes ranging from 8 to 68 seats. Because of the limited capacity, booking in advance is advisable. For bookings from outside Belize, there is only one airviva internet agent, who can make bookings, take payment (credit/debit cards/PayPal) and then send e-tickets. Some hotels do also offer to make the flight reservation on your behalf.
By bus
Several competing bus lines operate on the main road in the north-south direction from Punta Gorda to Belmopan and Belize City. There are bus stations in the main towns, or simply stand on the side of the highway and wave at an approaching bus. Most buses have a conductor in addition to the driver, who stands by the door and will come to your seat to collect the fare at some point during the trip. Fares run anywhere from BZ$2–25 depending on distance travelled.
Express buses can save up to an hour and a half (depending on the distance of your trip); they do not stop for passengers waiting on the roadside, making only scheduled pick-ups and drop-offs in towns.
Most buses in Belize are retired US school buses (Bluebirds), that have been given a slight makeover, a luggage rack installed, and sometimes a new paint job. They generally aren't too crowded, but you may have to stand occasionally. Some are the older MCI (Motorcoach Industries) buses that once served as a Greyhound bus (or for some other commuter or intercity bus company) in the U.S. The MCI buses are typically used for some Express services or for international trips to Chetumal or chartered buses to Flores.
Children selling snacks and soft drinks often board the buses at stops, and this is an inexpensive way to have a snack if you've exhausted what you've brought along or just want to try some home-made travel foods.
See Belize Bus blog for updates, schedules and/or links to other sites regarding bus travel in Belize. The Belize Bus blog site is constantly updated. Since the break up of the Novelo's monopoly in 2006 the government of Belize has divided the country up with which company to go where from Belize City:
By taxi
Taxis are common and relatively cheap in Belize. Most taxis do not use meters, so be sure to negotiate the price beforehand.
By water taxi
Boats in Belize
For those wanting a truly Belizean experience, take the water taxis from city to city. The San Pedro Belize Express has the most daily runs and departs from the Brown Sugar Terminal in Belize City at 09:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 15:00, 16:00 and 17:30 to San Pedro and Caye Caulker.
Departure from San Pedro Town pier on Black Coral Street next to Wahoo's Bar and Grill and leaves at 07:00, 08:30, 10:00, 11:30, 12:30, 14:30, 16:30 to Caye Caulker and Belize City as well as a last boat to Caye Caulker only at 18:00.
There are boats departing from Caye Caulker to Belize City and San Pedro Town and they leave from the pier in front of the Basket Ball Court. Caye Caulker to Belize City: 07:30, 09:00, 10:30, 12:00, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00 and Caye Caulker to San Pedro: 07:00 (connection to Chetumal), 09:45, 11:45, 12:45, 13:45, 15:45, 16:45 and last boat 18:15.
Chetumal Runs are available from Caye Caulker at 07:00 and from San Pedro at 07:30.
Travelling from Chetumal to Belize, the boat leaves the Municipal Pier at 15:30 en route to San Pedro (90 min) and Caye Caulker (120 min).
Rates: Belize City to San Pedro or return: BZ$30 or US$15 (one way), BZ$55 or US$27.50 (round trip). Caye Caulker to San Pedro, Belize City to Caye Caulker: BZ$20 or US$10 (one way), BZ$35 or US$17.50 (round trip).
By car
Compared to most Central American countries, driving in Belize is relatively safe. There is not much traffic, and the four major highways are all in good condition. Unfortunately, almost every road off the four major highways is unpaved so a 4-wheel drive vehicle is advisable. It is best not to drive late at night because there is almost no lighting, road signs are poor, and the last stretch is almost certain to be on an unpaved road (you risk breaking an axle on an unseen, but immense, pothole!) You won't need a map because there are few roads and it is hard to get lost.
Rental rates often include insurance so you usually don't need to buy insurance separately. If you plan on using a rental car to visit Tikal in Guatemala, you should plan ahead and you must rent from Crystal Auto Rental because no other company will let you take your car out of Belize. Belize insurance is not valid in Guatemala so check with your credit card or car insurance company to see if they'll cover you for a trip into Guatemala.
Highways
See
St.John's cathedral in Belize City
The world heritage listed Belize Barrier Reef stretching along the whole coast of Belize.
Do
Zip-lining
Soar over Belize's rain forest by taking a zip-line tour. These tours usually begin with a short hike up to the first base where a tutorial is given on how to safely use your equipment.
Prices range US$65-100 and tours are run by two companies, Jaguar Paw, and Back-A-Bush tours.
Sport fishing
Sport fishing in Belize is second to none. The bonefish is the premier fly fishing game fish in the world and it can be found in the grass shallows through Belize. It's pound for pound perhaps the strongest animal in salt water.
Scuba diving and snorkelling
Belize Barrier Reef
The snorkelling and scuba diving is world-class and there are many exceptional dive sites to be found in Belize. One of the best ways to explore Belize waters is by chartering a yacht to make the most of your available dive time.
For those with a smaller budget, snorkelling and driving excursions can be found along the beaches of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. The most common excursions will take you to Hol Chan marine reserve and to Shark Ray Alley. These trips usually cost about US$35 and include snorkel gear. Be mindful of an additional BZ$10 charged to foreigners as a park tax. This money goes toward the upkeep, and protection of the reef. Diving excursions are also offered to the Blue Hole, but expect to pay a lot more for the privilege.
Cave exploration
The Cayo district is characterised by limestone hills underlain by a network of underground rivers, caves and sink holes. The caves are magnificent, with huge caverns and tight passages, underground waterfalls and dazzling arrays of mineral-encrusted stalactites and stalagmites. This underground world was sacred to the ancient Maya and many artefacts from decorated pots to human remains are still intact in the caves. It is dangerous (and illegal) to enter the caves without a licensed guide. Most guides are trained in the geology and mythology of the caves and in modern first aid and cave rescue techniques.
Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Adventure Company and Jungle Lodge, Caves Branch (Hummingbird Highway south from Belmopan). Anderson organized the initial guiding training programs in the country, out of which grew the Belize Disaster And Rescue Response Team locally called BDARRT (now an independent NGO). 
The Sleeping Giant and Caves Branch are operated by the same owner. There are up to 16 different tours they operate everyday. The Actun Tunichil Muknal or ATM caves have the highest number of tourists visiting a tourist destination in Central America. Also knows as the Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre this river cave has pristine remnants of some Mayan human sacrifices. It is a surreal experience complete with beautiful cave formations an underground river and Mayan collectibles. No wonder the Mayans called it the Xibalba or the dark underworld.
Buy
Exchange rates for Belizean dollars
As of January 2019:
  • US$1 ≈ BZ$2 (fixed rate)
  • €1 ≈ BZ$2.2
  • UK£1 ≈ BZ$2.6
  • CA$1 ≈ BZ$1.5
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The currency of Belize is the dollar (ISO code BZD), divided into 100 cents.
The Belizean dollar — sometimes written as "BZ$" or just as a dollar sign: "$" — has been fixed to the US dollar (USD) at a 2:1 ratio since 1978 (i.e. BZ$2 = US$1).
Because of this consistent exchange rate, US dollars are widely accepted, but you should be careful to clarify which "dollars" you're talking about when negotiating prices. It's often better to assume Belize dollars because many merchants will jump on your uncertainty and attempt to double their price by saying, "No, in US dollars". Change can also be given in US dollars or a combination of US and Belizean dollar bills and coins. Belize dollars come in denominations of BZ$2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100. B$1 and smaller amounts are coins. The 25-cent coin is often called a "shilling."
Three banks' ATMs in Belize take Mastercard: the Belize Bank, Scotiabank, and Atlantic Bank.
Eat
Traditional Belizean breakfast
Eating in San Pedro can be expensive if you eat at the tourist restaurants; however if you find the local places, meals can be very inexpensive and very tasty.
Drink
Belikin is the national beer and comes in four varieties: Premium, Beer, Stout, and Lighthouse Lager. Guinness Stout is also available in Belize but it's also brewed by the Belikin Brewing Co. All are sold in returnable bottles, so make sure you are aware of the deposit if you are taking your beverages to go.
One Barrel Rum is the locally-distilled molasses-tasting rum and Traveller's Liquors' distillery is on the Northern Highway about 6 miles from Belize City with a gift shop and hospitality bar. You can purchase rum in a variety of colours and sizes, up to a 70 gallon cask.
Both are widely available around the country. But if you also like wine there is cashew wine (which is very popular in Belize), ginger wine, sorrel wine and blackberry wine.
Learn
There are great opportunities for scuba diving off of Belize atolls. Check out reefci for some very interesting 1 week adventures that are both informative conservation education as well as great scuba diving. If you want to learn about Belize's history the Museum of Belize, House of Culture, and of course, travelling and discovering are recommended.
Stay safe
Belize City is the most dangerous area in Belize, although it's very easy to be safe there. Remain in the tourist zone that runs just north of the marina to the southern extension to the east of the main canal. There are plenty of khaki tourist police monitoring the area and, should you have a problem, feel free to approach them. Just exercise common sense and do not go wandering around alone after dark. Stay near tourist areas or other commercial zones. The south side of Belize City is beautiful as well as dangerous. Otherwise, Belize City is a great place to go if you want to eat, learn, or shop.
Other areas of Belize are generally safe, but like any other place in the world, one should always have some skepticism when dealing with strangers. Most are genuinely helpful, but it never hurts to be cautious.
Under Section 5(1) of the Immigration Act, the government is entitled to deny LGBT travellers entrance to Belize. There are also no legal protections in place for victims of anti-gay discrimination in Belize.
Stay healthy
Belize is a relatively healthy country. Bottled water is a must in most areas. And, unless you eat only at ultra-touristic restaurants, dysentery will probably strike at some point; be prepared with over-the-counter medication and prescription antibiotics.
The US Centers for Disease Control list all of Belize except Belize City as a malaria risk area, and recommends the antimalarial drug chloroquine. Dengue fever is also a risk in Belize. Other drugs may also be recommended in certain circumstances - consult a qualified professional specialist.
Insect/mosquito bites should be prevented with appropriate clothing, repellents and insecticides, and bed nets if sleeping in non-air-con/unscreened rooms.
The sun, as anywhere else in the tropics, is very intense. Wear a long-sleeve shirt, a hat, and sunglasses, and apply high-SPF sunscreen regularly. If you are spending significant time on boats or in water, such as fishing or snorkeling, take extra precautions: covered shoes (not sandals), swim shirt/rash guard, neck gaiter, and sun gloves.
Many places in Belize are very hot and humid, and dehydration is a risk. An expat suggests to drink as much water as you want, and then drink that much again.
The adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is 2.5% or one in every forty adults, this is notably higher than in most of Europe or Anglo-America and also quite a bit higher than in other parts of Central America like Nicaragua or Costa Rica.
Respect
Belizeans are some of the most socially relaxed people in the world, especially if you venture inland away from the tourist islands of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. The pace of life is generally slower in Belize, so it's good practice to begin any social interaction, even to ask a quick question, with eye contact and a genuinely pleasant greeting. Most rural Belizeans enjoy casual conversation and you could easily find yourself chatting it up for a few hours. Hey, it's part of the charm!
The Maya communities can be a little more reserved at times. As always, a little respect and politeness will carry you through.
Connect
Payphones are the most common public phones and accept pre-purchased phone cards.
Internet cafés can be found in larger tourist areas, but are infrequent in rural areas.
The government used to prohibit allow Skype and forced tourists to call out of the country using the government-owned phone company. The main telephone company, Belize Telemedia Limited, has removed blocks from all voice-over-internet-protocol services. Applications such as Skype and Vonage are now able to work within the country and may prove to be a cheaper medium of communication when calling back home.
This country travel guide to Belize is a usable article. It has information about the country and for getting in, as well as links to several destinations. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.

Last edited on 12 October 2021, at 15:46
Wikivoyage
Content is available under CC BY-SA 3.0 unless otherwise noted.
Privacy policy
Terms of Use
Desktop
 Home Random  Nearby  Log in  Settings  Donate  About Wikivoyage  Disclaimer
LanguageWatchEdit