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Destination Guides


Belize


General   Money   Entry Requirements   Health & safety   Weather   Embassies   Etiquette   Public Holidays   Attractions   Map  

Introduction

Blue Hole ©USGS

A small country of roughly 8,000 square miles (20,000km sq), Belize rests on the Caribbean coast between Mexico and Guatemala: an exotic, English-speaking, adventurer's paradise, just a couple of hours away from three major United States cities. Almost half the country has been preserved as nature parks and reserves, including tropical forests teeming with wildlife and hiding mysterious Mayan ruins, and 174 miles (280km) of coastline featuring the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.


The reef and the country's numerous offshore cayes, or atolls, have made this one of the world's most desirable destinations for scuba divers and marine researchers. They come to explore unique features like the famous 'Blue Hole', a collapsed submerged cave 1,000 feet (305m) in diameter and 412 feet (126m) deep.


Archaeologically Belize is fascinating too, having been the site of mighty Mayan cities from around 1,000 BC until the inexplicable disintegration of that great civilisation around 900 AD. There are believed to be thousands of Mayan ruins in Belize, of which about 600 have been discovered and excavated, many now open to tourists.


Like most Caribbean countries Belize was occupied by British and Spanish colonialists over the centuries before gaining independence (only lately recognised by neighbouring Guatemala which laid claim to the territory) in 1981. Today it is a happy-go-lucky multi-ethnic nation of warm, friendly people, very welcoming of the tourists on whom the country's economy relies heavily.


The main urban city (although not the capital) is Belize City, which offers some attractions like a zoo, museum, historic buildings and the Maya site of Altun Ha. Basically, though, Belize is a destination for the outdoor enthusiast and active traveller and visitors should not expect urban adventure. There are not many nightclubs, expensive shopping venues or fancy restaurants, but there is plenty of scope for diving, snorkelling, fishing, hiking, birdwatching, kayaking and exploring.


Communications

The international dialling code for Belize is +501. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). The area code for Belize City is (0)2. International Direct Dialling is available. Mobile telephone coverage is available throughout most of the country with the Belize Telemedia Ltd GSM 1900 network, and cellphone rental is available. There are two Internet service providers in Belize, with Internet cafes in urban centres and tourist areas. Postal services are reliable.


Emergencies

Emergencies: 911.


Languages Spoken

English is the official language and the one most commonly spoken, but you will hear Creole, Spanish, Garifuna and Mayan as well.


Duty Free

Travellers over 18 years do not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; wines or spirits not exceeding one litre and personal goods or souvenirs to the value of BZ$200. Restricted items include plants, meat and meat products, live animals and processed food items.


Electricity

Electrical current is 110/220 volts, 60Hz. Flat blades with round grounding pin or rectangular blade plugs are used. Most of the electricity is provided by Diesel/Generator Sets.


Climate Info

Belize weather features a temperate climate marked by two distinct seasons, the rainy and the dry. There is a notable transition from the one to the next. Rainfall during the rainy season occurs between June and November with rainfall averages ranging between 60 inches (1,524mm) in the north to 160 inches (4,064mm) in the south. Except for the southern regions, the rainfall is variable from year to year. Average temperatures range from 81°F (27°C) along the coast to 69°F (21°C) in the hills. The coldest month is January and the warmest temperatures are experienced in May.


Passport

All visitors to Belize (except cruise ship passengers) must produce a passport valid for at least the period of their intended stay. We recommend, however, that passports be valid for six months after departure from holiday destinations. All visitors should also have return tickets and documents for onward travel, and funds amounting to US$50 per person per day. Visas are usually granted on arrival for 30 days but extensions are usually possible for a fee.


Entry Requirements

Canadians do not require a visa - immigration officials will grant a period of stay on arrival and extensions of this original allowance will be possible for a fee. A valid passport is required.

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Health

No vaccinations are required for entry to Belize. Travellers arriving from a yellow-fever infected area require a vaccination certificate. Cases of dengue fever have occurred, and seem to be on the increase, so insect repellent is strongly advised. Malaria prevention is recommended for those travelling outside Belize City. Potable water is available in most areas of Belize but it is advisable, if in doubt, to drink bottled or boiled water. Medical facilities are poor in the city, and almost non-existent elsewhere. Cases of severe illness or injury usually require expensive medical evacuation. Adequate medical insurance is therefore vital. For divers there is a hyperbaric chamber at Ambergris Caye.


Safety

Although most visits to Belize are trouble-free, there have been incidents of tourists falling victim to violent crime. Muggings have been reported in San Pedro, Caye Caulker and Placencia and in parts of Belize City. Visitors should take sensible precautions to minimise the risks. These would include not wearing expensive jewellery, keeping valuables out of sight, staying in groups, avoiding dark alleys and not walking alone on the beach at night. It is also advisable to use qualified guides for exploratory trips off the beaten track. The country is prone to hurricanes between June and November; on 21 August 2007 Hurricane Dean caused severe damage to the northern Belize coast, particularly the regions of Corozal and OrangeWalk.


Emergency Phone Number

Emergencies: 911.



* For current safety alerts, please visit Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK or Travel.State.Gov

Money

The unit of currency is the Belize Dollar (BZD), which is fixed against the US$ as BZ$2 = US$1. Most tourist resorts, hotels, restaurants and tour operators accept US currency. Credit cards are also accepted, and most banks in Belize City and Belmopan will advance cash against Visa or MasterCard. When using credit cards most establishments will add a five percent service charge to the bill. First Caribbean International Bank has several ATMs in Belize City. Always make sure you understand which dollar rate is being quoted, either Belize Dollars or US Dollars.


Exchange Rate

Not available.

Embassies of Belize

Belize Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 332 9636.


Belize High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7723 3603.


Belize High Commission, Ontario, Canada: +1 613 232 2826.




Foreign Embassies in Belize

United States Embassy, Belmopan: +501 822 4011.


British High Commission, Belmopan: +501 822 2981


Canadian Honorary Consulate, Belize City: +501 223 1060.


Australian Embassy, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (also responsible for Belize): +1 (868) 822 5450


South African High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica (also responsible for Belize): +1 876 620 4840.


Mission of Ireland to the UN, New York City, United States (also responsible for Belize): +1 212 421 6934.


Customers

Homosexuality is illegal and considered to be socially unacceptable.


Business

Belize has a fairly informal business style, although punctuality and politeness are appreciated. Handshaking, the exchanging of business cards and some small talk is expected before getting down to business. Dress is usually casual, but neat, with men in short-sleeved, collared shirts without a tie; however government-related business is more formal. Business hours are usually 8am to 12pm and 1pm to 5pm Monday to Friday.


Tipping

Tipping in Belize is voluntary but as in any country, good services should be rewarded with a 10 percent tip. Upscale hotels and resorts may add a 10 percent service charge to guests' bills and this usually goes to the porter and maid who assisted you. Tour guides should be tipped a few extra dollars for their effort and taxi drivers should be tipped only if they help carry your bags or take you on a guided tour.


Public Holidays in Belize

Overview

Belize is an under-the-radar travel destination that's growing in popularity, with more and more tourists drawn to the exotic locale by its many attractions. Sandwiched between the steaming jungles of the Amazon and the sparkling coastline of the Pacific, there are plenty of attractions in Belize to tempt travellers.


Belize is home to a number of ancient ruins from the Mayan civilisation, and touring these sites is a popular activity. Ranging from mysterious pyramids to ancient ball courts and ornate temples, there are a few sites that are within easy distance of the major cities and are worth visiting. These areas are also great for activities like hiking and horseback riding.


The coast of Belize is another kind of paradise, with sparkling beaches and the world's second-longest barrier reef. Scuba diving is a popular activity in Belize, and gives visitors the chance to come face to face with marine life like stingrays, whale sharks, sea turtles, and colourful reef fish.


Map of Belize



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