Traveling to Belize and need some advice? You’ve come to the right place! I’ve spent over a month in the country and visited some of the most popular places in Belize and hidden gems.
I often get asked about Belize and decided to put together my Belize travel tips to help have a better and safer experience in the country, save money and visit places that many other visitors miss.
Belize is a small country, but it’s jam-packed with scenic beauty, dozens of Mayan ruins, and incredible biodiversity. Most people know Belize as one of the best diving places in the world, but there’s so much more to this country.
✅ Check my guide to planning a perfect Belize itinerary
So let’s look at some of my Belize travel tips, so you could have a better time in the country. Here’s what you should know before visiting Belize:
1. Belize is an English-speaking country
Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. The former British colony, Belize was known as British Honduras until 1981, when it became independent.
A few other languages are spoken in different parts of Belize including Spanish, Mandarin, Creole, and various dialects of the Mayan language. Many Belizeans are multilingual, and you can often hear different languages in the same household.
2. Be careful in Belize City
Belize City is the least safe place in the country, and most tourists use it only for launching their trips to other parts of the country. Avoid the areas south of Belize City, because that’s where most gang activity and violence take place.
✅ Read: Honduras or Belize vacation?
Is Belize City safe?
While most of Belize is safe for travel, Belize City has garnered a bad reputation because of the high rate of homicides per relatively small population. Always exercise caution, limit your activities to daytime and use only licensed taxis with green plates. As a tourist, you are not likely to be the target of serious crime in Belize, but you should always stay alert.
Belize City has some landmarks like the Museum of Belize, Altun Ha Mayan Ruins, and Belize Zoo, which warrant a stay here.
✅ Check my guide to the best places to stay in Belize
Safety tips for Belize:
- Don’t flash your wealth – Belize is a tropical paradise, but a significant part of its population still lives below the poverty line. Dress down when you travel around the country, and avoid wearing expensive clothing and jewelry.
- Belize has a developing infrastructure – while the country has several highways that connect major towns, much of Belize’s infrastructure is still in poor shape.
- Drive during the day – If you plan to explore Belize, limit your driving to daytime, as some roads are in poor condition.
3. Belize has some of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean
Belize boasts about 386 km of coastline dotted by about 450 islets and islands (or cayes) pronounced keys, and three atolls. From the most famous islands like Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye to smaller and less visited Tobacco Caye and Glover’s Reef Atoll, Belize is a tropical paradise.
Book a tour of the most beautiful islands in Belize
4. ATM caves are a must!
Visiting Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM caves) is one of the best things to do in Belize. Profiled by National Geographic, these caves were used by the ancient Mayans to conduct rituals and ceremonies. Visiting ATM caves is possible only with a guided tour, and most guided tours of ATM cost from $100 per person and up.
You can book a tour of ATM caves from the most popular destinations in Belize like San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Belize City, and San Ignacio. You will get picked up by a van from your hotel and spend most of the day on the road, as the entrance to the ATM caves is deep in the jungle.
Best tours of ATM caves
ATM caves is a fun trip where you will swim in the cool water and walk through the caves to get a glimpse into the history of Belize.
Wear comfortable footwear and fast-drying clothes, as you will be swimming and wading through the water. The caves are dark and have no light besides the artificial lighting that your guide will bring.
You can’t bring any photo or video cameras ATM caves, so leave your GoPro and other fancy equipment in your hotel.
5. Belize is not a cheap country
Belize is not a budget destination, and it’s only slightly less expensive than Costa Rica, the most expensive country in Central America. If you want to travel to Belize on a budget, use public transportation, stay in hostels, and cook your meals.
Plan at least $100-120 on food, accommodations, and transportation per day when traveling in Belize. If you want to take tours and private shuttles in Belize, costs could quickly add up, so budget carefully.
Belize islands (or cayes) are the most expensive, as most goods need to be imported from elsewhere. Don’t be surprised when you see high prices in restaurants and grocery stores, as virtually everything has to be imported from elsewhere.
6. The best way to see Belize is by renting a car
Renting a car in Belize is the best way to see the country without relying on public transportation and tours. While some places in Belize can be visited only with tours like ATM caves or Hot Chan Marine Reserve in the Great Meso-American Barrier Reef, the majority of places in Belize can be visited by car.
Renting a car in Belize City
The best place to rent a car in Belize is Philip Goldson International Airport. They have several car rental companies, and you don’t have to get outside the airport to look for car rentals.
Where to rent a car in Belize City?
Check available options for car rentals in Belize through DiscoverCars.com, my favorite platform for finding car rentals in Belize. I frequently use DiscoverCars during my trips and have used it for renting a car in Belize.
It has available cars and prices online. Type in your travel dates and look for the vehicle you need. Once you select your vehicle, pay the price, and voila!
What to know about driving in Belize
If you rent a car in Belize, you should be aware of the poor infrastructure in many parts of the country.
While main highways in Belize are in good shape, secondary roads are less so. For example, while the highway from Belize City to San Ignacio is well-maintained, many roads around San Ignacio are in poor shape with bumps and potholes, so you should be cautious when driving around town.
7. Belize currency is easy to convert
The official currency of Belize is the Belize Dollar (BZD). The exchange rate is two Belize dollars to one U.S. dollar, and you can exchange US dollars in most places in Belize.
Belize dollars come in $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 paper bills and coins are 1, 5, 10, and 25,50 cents.
If you are traveling to Belize from Canada or Europe, exchange your local currency for US dollars before leaving for Belize, as it will save you money. You can exchange Euros, Canadian dollars, and British Pounds in Belize, but you most likely won’t get a very good rate.
8. US dollars are accepted everywhere in Belize
US dollars are accepted practically everywhere in Belize, especially in popular destinations like Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, or Placencia. Prices in Belize are in the local currency, so always double-check when paying for things.
9. Take public buses in Belize to save money
Belize has several bus routes that connect different parts of the country with Belize City. Also known as chicken buses, Belize buses are painted in bright colors and have no amenities, so be prepared for an allowed ride with no AC, and minimum space for your luggage.
On a good note, taking buses in Belize is a great way to save money, as you will pay an average of $10-15 USD for a one-way ticket.
I recommend taking a taxi, because the area around the bus terminal is a bit seedy, and while you won’t be in any danger if you decide to walk, you will definitely draw attention as a tourist.
10. Use private shuttles to get around Belize quickly
Private shuttles are the most popular way to get around Belize for many tourists. They are comfortable, and clean and get you around quickly and with no hassle.
An English-speaking driver will pick you up at the airport and transport you to your hotel. Belize private shuttles offer door-to-door services allowing you to relax and nap after a long day of traveling.
11. Belize is the best place to get your PADI certification
Belize is home to the second-largest barrier reef in the world and is one of the most popular destinations for scuba diving. Many people come to Belize because of scuba diving only to discover that Belize offers so much more than popular water sports.
Designated as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Meso-American Barrier Reef is home to hundreds of species of colorful fish, gorgeous corals, and three atolls. The Belize reef is in great condition and offers amazing scuba diving and snorkeling.
✅ Check out the best resorts in San Pedro, Belize
Why get your SCUBA diving certification in Belize?
If you are traveling to Belize and are not PADI certified yet, it’s time to get your scuba diving certification! You can sign up for a discovery dive with one of the diving schools in Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, or Placencia, the most popular beach towns in Belize that are within quick reach of some of the best diving spots in the country.
12. Belize is a perfect destination to try snorkeling
If diving isn’t your forte, you can also go snorkeling. Unlike diving, snorkeling doesn’t require specialized training or expensive equipment. All you need to do is put on your goggles, get a snorkeling tube in your mouth, and jump in the water to enjoy the view of the stunning aquatic world below you.
The most popular places for snorkeling in Belize are Hol Chan Marine Reserve located near San Pedro, as well as places near Placencia like
13. Belize is less crowded than other destinations in the region
Belize is a hidden gem of Central America, and many travelers still don’t know about it. While many countries in the region like Costa Rica, and Mexico, have well-established travel routes, Belize is still flying under the radar, although more travelers are starting to discover it.
✅ Belize or Costa Rica? Check my honest comparison between two destinations in Central America
14. Belize is a small country, but it has a lot to offer
Belize is the second smallest country in Central America by land mass and the smallest country in the region by population, as its home to just over 400,000 people. But despite its small size, Belize has plenty to offer: from snorkeling and diving to spelunking in the caves and Mayan ruins like Xunantunich, Caracol, and Lamanai, Belize is a true paradise for the adventurous.
Best tours of Lamanai ruins
I particularly recommend staying in the jungle during your time in Belize. The Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge in the central part of the country is one of the most beautiful hotels in Belize that offers spectacular views of the Mayan mountains.
15. Belize boasts amazing wildlife
Although Belize isn’t famous for its eco-tours like Costa Rica, its biodiversity is on par with its famous Central American counterpart. The tropical rainforest in Belize is home to jaguars, tapirs, ocelots, and several types of monkeys.
The country also boasts over 600 types of birds like toucans, macaws, herons, and more. There are several areas of Belize where you can go bird-watching, like Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, and Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
How much time do I need in Belize?
Plan at least 10 days in Belize so you could have enough time to visit different parts of the country and visit some of the most beautiful islands.
16. You can take a day trip to Guatemala from Belize
Speaking of Guatemala, one of the most popular day trips from San Pedro is an excursion to Tikal, one of the most famous Mayan ruins in Central America. You can join a guided tour of Tikal ruins from San Ignacio, the largest town in western Belize, near the Guatemala border.
Best tours of Tikal from San Ignacio, Belize
The tour of Tikal from San Ignacio departs early morning and brings you back to your hotel late in the evening.
17. You can also take a day trip to Mexico from Belize
Belize borders the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and you can easily hop across the border if you want to visit Belize’s big neighbor.
To cross the border between Mexico and Belize you will need a passport and might need other documents, depending on where you are from. If you are traveling from Belize to Mexico by land, you should check the Mexico travel requirements for your country before planning your trip.
Once in Mexico, you can visit some of the best destinations in the Yucatan like Bacalar, Campeche, and Tulum, and go further north to Playa Del Carmen, Cancun, and Merida. Mexico is a vast and diverse country, and you will have a lot to choose from when you come here.
Check my Mexico travel tips to plan your adventure in the country
18. Belize offers great tax benefits to ex-pats
In recent years, this small country has become popular with American and Canadian ex-pats who are moving to Belize attracted by its tropical climate, gorgeous scenery, and slow pace of life.
If you move to Belize, you will enjoy plenty of benefits: the country is a tax haven, as it doesn’t have a corporate tax, property tax, or capital gain tax. It also has a retirement program, and keeping money in a Belizean bank account is easy.
19. Belize is culturally diverse
Belize is a melting pot with many ethnicities and cultures calling this country home. Belize. The country was populated by the Mayans, but it was colonized by the British in the 1600s after the British pirates in the Caribbean started using it as a hiding place from the Spaniards.
Belize is home to many communities like Garifuna in Placencia and Hopkins or Maya in the northern part of Belize and the Cayo district near Guatemala. One of the newest cultures in Belize is Mennonites, who live off agriculture in the western part of the country and the growing population of Lebanese and Hindu immigrants.
The many cultures of Belize live in harmony, and people in the country are generally friendly and laid-back.
20. Belize doesn’t have chain restaurants
When you come to Belize, one of the first things you will notice is the lack of Western food chains. Most restaurants in Belize are small and locally run, and while you can find plenty of Western-style food like pizza, burgers, or pasta, they won’t come from familiar restaurants.
21. Belizean food is must-try
Belizean food is a must-try! The staple of Belize is rice and beans served with a variety of meat, veggies, or fried bananas.
When you travel around Belize, you will find different dishes that correspond with the various cultures of Belize. For example, in Hopkins and Dangriga, you can sample Garifuna dishes with heavy Caribbean influences like fried fish and chicken. If you go to Western Belize or Northern Belize, you can try tamales, salbutes, and cocchinita pibil – staples from the Mayan cuisine.
One of the most popular snacks in Belize is fried jacks, deep-fried pieces of dough often paired with beans, eggs, or meats.
More reasons to visit Belize
If you are still not convinced whether you should travel to Belize, book a ticket and spend a few days in this tropical paradise. The people are friendly, the activities are aplenty, and the weather is between 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit most of the year.
Belize travel restrictions
If you are planning Belize travel, you are probably wondering whether the country has any restrictions. Belize had a strict protocol during the pandemic, but the country has removed all the rules as of 2013.
Does Belize have any travel restrictions?
Belize is currently open for travel and removed all travel restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Maska is no longer required when visiting the country, and recommendations for vaccination have been removed.