Belize Vacation Travel Guide
Belize is an english speaking democratic country on the east coast of the central american isthmus, bordering Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and Honduras to the south. Belize is a Caribbean country with an intense mix of cultures including Garifuna, Maya, Creole, Mestizo, East Indian, and German Mennonites. Belize is also home to thousands of ancient Maya temples, the longest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere and countless hectares of protected rain forests.
Belize has many rivers and waterfalls as well as an interesting ocean coastline. The country is famous for barrier reef scuba diving adventures as well as searching for ancient Mayan pottery strewn about the jungle and undiscovered caves. Belize is a country alive with hundreds of bird species, colorful fish, exotic tropical plants and animals combined with friendly Belizeans makes Belize an adventurer's paradise.
Belize is often referred to as one of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World. The world's second largest barrier reef runs parallel to its coast, at distances ranging from a few hundred feet at the northern tip of Ambergris Caye, to nearly forty miles at the southern-most tip of the country. However, the barrier reef is not the only factor that makes Belize one of the world's most popular destinations for scuba divers and snorkelers. Many of the small islands, known as "cayes," that lie off the coast of the Belizean mainland have their own coral reefs, with spectacular underwater gardens teeming with sea life of all types.
The clear turquoise waters and the proximity of the barrier reef make Ambergris Caye a favorite destinations for divers and snorkelers. The most popular destination is Hol Chan Marine Reserve, located 4 miles southeast of San Pedro. The ocean floor ranges from 5 to 35 feet, so both divers and snorkelers have the opportunity to swim in what seems like an underwater acquarium, teeming with colorful tropical fish of all sizes and types and beautiful coral formations.
Belize is considered to be a developing country (once called third world) so tourist facilities vary greatly in quality and quantity. It's possible to find what you are looking for be it five start hotels in the heart of Belize City or back packers lodging on the beaches of the country side.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS — All U.S. citizens must have a U.S. passport valid for the duration of their visit to Belize. U.S. citizens do not need visas for tourist visits of up to thirty days, but they must have onward or return air tickets and proof of sufficient funds to maintain themselves while in Belize.
SAFETY AND SECURITY — Visitors should exercise caution and good judgment when visiting Belize. Crime can be a serious problem, particularly in Belize City and remote areas. Road accidents are common. Public buses and taxis are frequently in poor condition and lack safety equipment. Medical care is limited.
Boats serving the public, especially water taxis, often do not carry sufficient safety equipment, may carry an excess number of passengers and may sail in inclement weather. Rental diving equipment may not always be properly maintained or inspected, and some local dive masters fail to consider the skill levels of individual tourists when organizing dives to some of Belize’s more challenging sites. Deaths and serious mishaps have occurred as a result of negligent diving tour operators and the lack of strict enforcement of tour regulations. The Embassy strongly recommends that anyone interested in scuba diving and snorkeling while in Belize check the references, licenses and equipment of tour operators before agreeing to or paying for a tour. Safety precautions and emergency response capabilities may not be up to U.S. standards.
The border between Belize and Guatemala is in dispute, but the dispute thus far has not affected travel between the two countries. There have not been any terrorist activities in Belize.
If traveling by taxi, use only vehicles with green license plates, do not get in a taxi that is occupied by more than the driver, and do not let the driver pick up additional fares.
Drug use is common in some tourist areas. American citizens should avoid buying, selling, holding, or taking illegal drugs under any circumstances. Penalties for possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia are generally more severe than in the U.S.
Roads in Belize vary from two-lane paved roads to dirt tracks. The few paved roads are high-crowned roads, which can contribute to cars overturning, and have few markings or reflectors. Even in urban areas, few streets have lane markings, leading many motorists to create as many lanes as possible in any given stretch of street or road. Bridges on the major highways are often only single lanes. The Manatee Road, leading from the Western Highway to Dangriga, is unpaved, easily flooded after storms and without services. The Southern Highway from Dangriga to Punta Gorda is mostly completed and in good condition, except for a short portion that is under construction. Service stations are plentiful along the major roads, although there are some significant gaps in the rural areas.
Poor road and/or vehicle maintenance causes many fatal accidents on Belizean roads. Speed limits are 55 miles per hour on most highways and 25 miles per hour on most other roads, but they are seldom obeyed or even posted. Many vehicles on the road do not have functioning safety equipment such as turn signals, flashers, or brake lights. Seatbelts for drivers and front-seat passengers are mandatory, but child car seats are not required. Driving while intoxicated is punishable by a fine; if an alcohol-related accident results in a fatality, the driver may face manslaughter charges. Moreover, Americans can and have been imprisoned in Belize for accidents, even where alcohol is not involved.
Unusual local traffic customs include: pulling to the right before making a left turn; passing on the right of someone who is signaling a right-hand turn; stopping in the middle of the road to talk to someone while blocking traffic; carrying passengers, including small children, in the open beds of trucks; and tailgating at high speeds.
Bicycles are numerous and constitute a traffic hazard at all times; bicyclists often ride contrary to traffic and do not obey even basic traffic laws such as red lights or stop signs. Few bicycles have lights at night. It is common to see bicyclists carrying heavy loads or passengers, including balancing small children on their laps or across the handlebars. The driver of a vehicle that strikes a bicyclist or pedestrian is almost always considered to be at fault, regardless of circumstances. Americans who have struck cyclists in Belize have faced significant financial penalty or even prison time.
Driving at night is not recommended, due to poor signage and road markings, a tendency not to dim the lights when approaching other vehicles, and drunk driving. Pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists without lights, reflectors, or reflective clothing also constitute a very serious after-dark hazard. Local wildlife and cattle also are road hazards in rural areas. For safety reasons, travelers should not stop to offer assistance to others whose vehicles apparently have broken down.
Belize is an adventure travel vacation dream. Come on down! Belize is becoming very popular these days for many reasons. Perhaps because most natives speak Engish in Belize. Or perhaps because of the great tropical climate yet so close to USA and Canada. Whatever the reason, Belize is popular and sure to stay a great place to vacation and invest.