Belize - General Information
Global Travel Club specialises in tours to Belize

Lots of helpful hints and general information for travelers to Belize. Includes links to special events, districts of Belize, tours, hotels, scuba diving, mayan temples, wildlife, adventure, eco-tours, archaeology and watersports.

Geography / Time Zone / Government / Entry Requirements
How to get to Belize / Accommodations / Transportation / Climate
Language Population / Banking / Currency / Credit Cards / Shopping
Sales Tax / Electricity Telecommunications / Int'l Dialing
Weddings /

helpful hints about Belize



   Geography of Belize

Belize lies on the Eastern or Caribbean coast of Central America, bordered on the North by Mexico, on the West and South by Guatemala and on the East by the Caribbean Sea. It is separated by sea from it's neighbour to the South-West, Honduras.

The inner coastal waters are shallow and are sheltered by a line of coral reefs, dotted with over 200 'cayes' (islands, pronounced "keys"), extending the entire length of the country. The cayes range in size from a few hundred feet to 25 miles long and 4 miles wide.

The spectacular Belize Barrier Reef offers scuba diving which cannot be rivalled anywhere else in the World. It runs for 187 miles parallel with the coastline. There are only 4 Atolls in the entire Atlantic region and 3 of them are off the coast of Belize. These immense Atolls (Lighthouse, Turneffe and Glovers) account for another 140 miles of reef making a total of some 337 miles of coral reef to explore in Belize.

The area of the mainland and cayes is 8,867 square miles. The country's greatest length from north to south is 174 miles and its greatest width is 68 miles.

   Time Zone

Belize is in the Central Standard Time zone, and does not utilize daylight saving time.


   Government
Belize has been an Independent nation since 1981 and is a Member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State. Belize is a parliamentary democracy with two major political parties, the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People's United Party (PUP). In the last General Elections, the UDP won an overwhelming majority and currently holds power, led by Prime Minister Mr. Manuel Esquive. The Leader of the Opposition is Mr. Said Musa. Belize has a Constitution, which includes a Bill of Rights.

   Entry Requirements - Visas

Visas are not required for most nationalities, including citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth countries, as well as most members of the European Union. All people from these countries need are a valid passport and an onward or round-trip ticket. A Visitor Permit is required of nationals of China and India. Check with the local Belizean Consulate, Belize Embassy, British Counsel, or contact the Department of Immigration and Nationality, Belmopan, Belize, Central America. Telephone: (501-822-2423).

To apply for an extension contact the Immigration Office Mahogany Street, Belize, Central America Telephone : (501) 522-3412, Fax (501) 522-3461. A moderate fee is charged and applicants must demonstrate sufficient funds for the remainder of their stay, as well as an ongoing ticket.

If crossing into Belize from Mexico by land, visas to enter Belize can be obtained from the Belizean Consulate in Chetumal, Avenida Alvaro Obregon #226A, Chetumal Q.R., Tel: (52)983-22871.

Firearms:

It is illegal to take firearms and ammunition into or out of Belize.

Animals:

Animals must be accompanied by a certificate of freedom from infection/contagious disease by a veterinarian following examination not more than 48 hours prior to shipment; animals must also be certified as having been vaccinated against rabies not less than one month nor more than six months prior to departure; and must be free of open wounds. Dogs must have a valid certification of vaccination against distemper, parvovirus, infectious canine hepatitis and leptospirosis. Animals may be required to be re-vaccinated against rabies on arrival if certifications are deemed unsatisfactory.


   Getting to Belize
From the United States:
  • Miami, Florida.- American Airlines
  • Dallas/Fort Worth - American Airlines.
  • Houston, Texas - Continental Airlines or TACA
  • All flights are less than 2 hours and cost approximately $300-450 plus tax.

From Mexico:
  • Fly from Cancun to Belize. 1 hr flight, approximately $200.00 return
  • First class bus to Chetumal, Mexico (Mexico-Belize border). Connect with a Batty Bus from Chetumal to Belize City . Total traveling time: 8 hours. Bus tickets are approx. $50.00 return.

From Guatemala:

  • Maya Island Air and Tropic Air from Tikal/Flores, Guatemala to Belize City. Each airline has 2 flights daily. $90.00 one way.
  • Southern Guatemala-Ferry or boat from Puerto Barrios or Livingston, Guatemala to Punta Gorda, Belize. Daily shuttle boat run by Requena's Charter Services Telephone: (501) 722-2070 or e-mail watertaxi@btl.net departs Puerto Barrios daily at 2.00 pm. Cost $15.00 each way. (Return boats each morning at 09.00 am.) From Punta Gorda airstrip there are regular flights to most Belizean destinations.

From Honduras:

  • San Pedro Sula-TACA approx $180.00 return.
From Europe:
  • There are currently no direct or same-day connecting flights from Europe to Belize (and none that are planned at present). The most convenient route is via Miami or Houston with an overnight stay on the outbound leg only. Return flights from Belize connect with overnight flights from Miami and Houston to London and other European destinations.
  • Depending on the season, day of the week and airline chosen, round trip tickets from London to Belize range from 350 - 700 plus taxes which can be as high as 50. These are the UK and USA departure taxes but do not include the Belize Departure Tax which can only be paid in Belize (see below).

Private Aircraft:

Private aircraft must enter Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize City.

Ports of Entry By Sea:

Boats may clear customs and entry at Belize City, Dangriga, Big Creek, Punta Gorda and San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye. There is no customs officer in San Pedro; boats wishing to enter must pay the cost of transport for the customs officer to and from San Pedro from Belize City.

Departure Tax:

The departure tax at the International Airport has recently increased to $20 US per person. There is a new Tourist Departure Tax of $10 US per person (children under 12 are exempt) when departing Belize at either of the land border crossings i.e.the Western border between Belize and Guatemala for visits to Tikal and Flores and the Northern border between Belize and Mexico. These funds are being invested in improvements to the border facilities. There is also "visa" charge to enter Guatemala at the Western Border is $5.00 (irrespective of whether you need one or not!)


   Accommodations

There is a wide choice of lodgings in Belize from luxury hotels to simple island cabins and everything in between. Whether you are looking for a romantic beach hideaway for your honeymoon or a comfortable rainforest lodge for some exciting eco-adventures, there are many to choose from. Depending on your interests, and if you can spare the time, the ideal trip to Belize should combine both the rainforest and the reef.


Hotels List


   Domestic Transportation Getting Around Belize by Air

The easiest method of travelling around Belize is by air. International travelers fly into the newly renovated and expanded Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize City. From there, connections can be made to various destinations within Belize, including: Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Corozal, Dangriga, Big Creek, Placencia and Punta Gorda; as well as to Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. Travellers already in Belize City should utilize the smaller Municipal Airport for in-country flights, as costs are much lower. Charter flights can also be arranged to off-the-beaten track destinations as there are many private airstrips throughout the country. We can book all domestic flights for you.

Belizean Airlines Offering In-Country Service:

  • Maya Island Air: (501) 223-1403. Scheduled flights and private charters.
  • Tropic Air: (501) 226-2012. Scheduled flights and private charters.
  • Caribee Air Service: (501) 224-4253. Private charters only.
  • Javier's Flying Service Ltd: (501) 223-5360. Private charters only.
Getting Around Belize by Road

Driving around Belize is straightforward as there are only 4 main roads in Belize - going North, West, South and even further South! These are easily remembered as:

  1. The Northern Highway - Belize City to Corozal and the Mexican Border
  2. The Western Highway - Belize City to San Ignacio and the Guatemalan Border
  3. The Hummingbird Highway - Belmopan to Dangriga
  4. The Southern Highway - Dangriga to Punta Gorda
There - you know your way around the country already!

Car Hire:

Although the roads have been significantly improved during the last few years, some are still pot-holed and can make driving for any distance very uncomfortable (especially the Southern Highway from Placencia down to Punta Gorda (take a tip - fly!). Car hire is quite expensive and it is very important to check the small print in the insurance as most companies do not offer fully comprehensive cover. A four wheel drive vehicle booked through a reputable company is essential. No rental companies will not allow you to cross the border into Guatemala or Mexico.

Private Transfers and Taxis:

We can arrange private transfers and tours throughout Belize. Although this is a fairly expensive option (approximately $200 per day for up to 4 people depending on the distances involved) it has the advantage of going at your own pace, stopping when you want and travelling in comfort. A friendly and knowledgeable licensed tour guide/driver will add considerably to your enjoyment as he cheerfully and proudly tells you all about his wonderful country.

You can also make your own arrangements on arrival with the licensed taxis which vary in standard from superb sedans to a vehicle that would not look out of place on a banger race track - after the race! Agree on the price before you depart and check whether they are quoting US or Belize dollars.

Bus Services:

Public buses (mostly ex-USA school buses) are an inexpensive way of getting around. It helps if you have plenty of time as buses stop on demand so this can add considerably to the journey time. Buses depart out of Belize City for most of the major towns (Corozal, Orange Walk, San Ignacio, Belmopan, Dangriga, Punta Gorda) and border towns in Mexico and Guatemala.

  • Novelos: (501) 027-2025
  • Venus: (501) 207-3354
  • Z-Line: (501) 522-2224 (operates out of Dangriga)

   Climate
The climate is sub-tropical, with a brisk prevailing wind from the Caribbean Sea. The annual temperature averages about 80 degrees. Winter storms may bring the temperature down to the low 60's and it can reach the mid-90's on the mainland in the hottest part of summer. Trade winds blow along the coast and on the cayes most of the year, keeping temperatures pleasant even in the hottest months, except for a few weeks, generally around mid-August. The dry season generally lasts from November through May; the rainy season is typically June-November. Hurricanes occasionally occur; they are most likely to hit in August and September. Rainfall is heaviest in the south and the jungle areas, lightest in the north and on the Cayes. Water temperature averages between 79 and 83 degrees F.

   Language
English is the official language and the language of instruction in schools but almost everyone speaks an English dialect, or Creole patios, the vernacular of the country. Spanish is also widely spoken. It is taught in primary and secondary schools in order to further develop bi-lingualism. In certain areas of the country, such as Orange Walk and Corozal District in the north and the Cayo district in the west, Spanish is spoken as a mother tongue by the majority of the people. In the southern districts of Stann Creek and Toledo, there are people whose first language is Garifuna or Maya.

   Population
The population is approximately 250,000. The average annual growth rate is 2.6%. The main ethnic groups are Creole (African Descent), Mestizo (Spanish-Maya), and Garifuna (African Descent). There is also a number of people of Spanish and East Indian descent. The ethnic groups, however are heavily intermixed. There is also a small Mennonite community of European origin. The multi-racial make-up of the Belizean society includes Chinese, Arabs and other ethnic groups.

   Banking
There are four commercial banks that serve the country of Belize. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 1:00pm and on Friday until 4:30pm. Most banks have branches in the six districts but services are more limited.

The Belize Bank Limited
Market Square, Belize City
Telephone: 227-7132

Atlantic Bank Limited
Albert Street, Belize City
Telephone: 227-1225

Bank of Nova Scotia
Albert Street, Belize City
Telephone: 227-7027

Barclays Bank PLC
Albert Street, Belize City
Telephone: 227-7211


   Currency

Local currency is the Belize Dollar. One U.S. dollar is worth BZ$2. U.S. dollars should be exchanged directly in purchasing goods and services, as banks will charge a fee (currently is at .0125) to exchange U.S. to Belize dollars. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere in Belize.


   Credit Cards/Travellers' Checks
Nearly all hotels, restaurants and shops in the major towns and tourist areas take all major credit cards. Street vendors and smaller establishments in remote areas may accept only cash or travellers' checks. It's important to keep travellers' checks in a waterproof pouch, as they are considered void if they get wet. Representatives of VISA, MasterCard and American Express can be contacted at the four commercial banks in Belize City (see above). American Express also has a representative at Belize Global Travel Services, Inc. Telephone: 227-7158.

   Shopping

Everybody goes home with something from Belize. Shopping is as diverse as the country but don't expect glitz and glitter. Do expect an incredible array of hand-carved slate, woodcarvings, baskets, world-class hot sauces and jungle healing potions. Many depart wearing their new "You Better Belize It" T-shirts. When you leave Belize, there are duty-free shops in the airport departure lounge. The biggest assortment of gifts, souvenirs and luxury items is in Belize City.

Ambergris Caye has a wealth of gift buying opportunities. Strolling down the main street with sand between your toes you will be surprised at the range of small shops and boutiques.

A word of caution. One is not allowed to leave Belize with certain items. These include pre-Columbian articles, marine products (unless permitted by the Fisheries Department), unprocessed coral or turtle shells.


   Sales Taxes:

Belize has a Sales Tax (10%) which has replaced the old VAT (15%) which is applied to all goods and services except hotel accommodations. The hotel tax on the room rate is 9%. Some hotels also add a 10 -15% service charge to the bill so it always pays to check exactly what you will be paying for your hotel room rather than just asking about nightly rates. If purchasing a package it is very important to find out what is included as some tour operators do not include the above charges in order to make their rates appear attractive and very competitive.


   Electricity

The electrical system is the same as in the United States: 110 Volts A.C. Power is provided to the country by Belize Electricity Limited which supplies both households and businesses. Service is fair and it is necessary for hotels wanting to deliver luxury class service to install backup generators. Continuity of electricity is between 90% and 95%. The electricity rate is approximately US$0.19 per KWH.


   Telecommunications

The Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL) owns the automatic telephone services which covers the entire country. A recent expansion programme has doubled the capacity of the telephone system. A satellite earth station in Belmopan provides high quality telecommunications with the outside world and a cellular network has now been introduced.


   International Direct Dialing

The international dialing code for Belize is 501 and there are currently 17 area codes within Belize (i.e. Belize City is 02). When dialling from outside Belize the zero in the area codes is not required (i.e. to call somewhere in Belize City would be 501 2 followed by the number). Hotels have fixed rates for local and international calls. All telecommunications services (direct dial phones, fax, telex, cable) are available; but calls from Belize are much higher than an equivalent call to Belize. Remote jungle lodges usually have short wave radio communications linked to cellular service. If you are a business visitor planning to spend some time in Belize and want a temporary internet account, you can make arrangements by contacting Belize Telecommunications, Inc. ("BTL"), Belize's sole internet access provider (email them at: sales@btl.net).


   Weddings

For fuller information please take a look at Getting Married in Belize and Tropical Weddings for details of our Wedding Packages.

You must reside in Belize for three days before you can apply for a minister's license to marry. One day's prior notice is needed. You will need proof of citizenship (certified copy of birth certificate, signed by a public notary, which includes father's name) ; proof of divorce if applicable (certified copy or original certificate of divorce); copy of death certificate for widow or widower. You don't need a blood test or parents consent if over 18.

The ceremony is performed by the Registrar General in Belize City or by a Justice of the Peace in other areas. The General Registry can be contacted at Telephone 501-227-7377, Supreme Court Building, Belize City.

hotels in Belize, Central America, rain forest and beach vacations


Contact us by E-mail great choice of tours and trips to Belize  Fax Number: 01268 541732
hotel, lodge, accommodation in Belize  Telephone from the United Kingdom: 01268 541732.
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