In this blog post, we want to share tips that you won’t normally see in your guidebooks. Add these tips to mainstream advice and you’ll be covered during your Belize adventure. Let’s kick things off with a fast look at the map!
A Quick Geography Lesson
The country of Belize is comprised of six districts: Corozal (kuh-ruh-zaal) and Orange Walk in the north close to the Mexican border, Cayo (kah-yo) to the west, bordering Guatemala, the Belize district facing the Caribbean Sea in the east and in what we call the “South,” there are the Toledo (toh-lee-duh) and Stann Creek districts. As a bonus, islands skirt the Belizean coastline, which calls the second largest barrier reef in the world home. In Belize we call these islands Cayes (not pronounced kaayes, but like your car keys).
It’s nice to know your whereabouts in Belize because it’s so easy to visit the different regions and get the most out of the Belizean experience that offers so much cultural diversity and a variety of coastal and inland adventures. Whether it’s by means of your car rental, booking flights on one of the two domestic airlines or arranging trips with your tour operators who can easily accommodate your wanderlust, you’d be surprised just how much Belizean territory you can cover in just a matter of days!
Currency is Not That Complicated
At a two-to-one USD to BZD ratio, currency exchange is simple in Belize and if you are bringing U.S. dollars with you, there’s no pressure to rush to the bank to do a currency conversion. Restaurants, hotels, tour operators, gift shops and even most street vendors will happily take your U.S. dollars – especially since it saves them a few bucks when they make credit card payments at their local bank.
However, note that banks all over Central America reject faulty U.S. dollar bills, so if they are torn or marked, you’ll find locals to be a bit reluctant in taking your money. Bring us the pretty ones and please leave the coins at home (they can’t be used in Belize).
Let’s clear this up! “Good night” in Belize means “Good Night” as in “Farewell, see you tomorrow,” or “I’m getting ready for bed.” It also means, “Hello!” Yes. We say good night when we meet you and when we’re leaving you.
Handshakes may feel awkward. In a business meeting or formal setting in Belize, especially in the country’s business and political centers, a firm handshake is normal. But in more rural and laidback parts of the country, don’t be surprised if the hand shake is a bit loose or slippery. Don’t overthink it. It’s just what it is. On that note, eye contact can also seem elusive in our jungle and beach destinations. Don’t take offense if someone cannot keep up with your eye contact.
Buy Locally Made Repellent for the Sand Fleas
Your favourite store brand bug spray might not do the trick when it comes to these little guys, known in Belize as “san fly.” These tiny blood suckers favour a calm evening at dusk and are so tiny they are hard to see, but their bites will leave you with itchy red bumps on the legs.
The best repellents for the San Fly are made locally in Belize, and you’ll find them at most pharmacies, grocery stores and gift shops. They tend to smell wonderful, are typically all-natural, and come in containers small enough to pack in a hand bag for an evening cocktail or dinner.
As for the mosquitoes, more conventional repellents will be just fine. We do treat for mosquitoes. In Placencia Village, for example, a mosquito truck may well pass by your restaurant during dinner spraying along the Placencia Road. No need for alarm. This is a standard practice in Belize and helps to prevent outbreaks of dengue or malaria. Give it a few minutes and the unpleasant smell will quickly subside.
Visiting in the Rainy Season? Pack Boots!
You may have been told to pack a raincoat or an umbrella in your guide book, but if you plan on doing lots of adventures on foot, packing a pair of water-resistant boots is not a bad idea. You’ll be coasting through flooded pockets like a pro and may even feel emboldened enough to book a night-time jungle tour!
Play Smart in Paradise
Yes. Belize is beautiful, and so much of it is true paradise, but like everywhere else on planet Earth, Belize is full of humans! And sometimes our fellow man can be unpredictable.
For the most part, you’ll find Belizeans to be friendly, welcoming, and honest.
However… it’s always a good idea to lock your room when leaving, keep your valuables safe and secure your bicycle.
While so many people are friendly, it is okay to establish your personal boundaries and keep your guard up when socializing. Unsure of a certain character? Conduct a quick background check with the locals. In small communities, most people know each other, and if someone isn’t to be trusted, you’ll find out quickly.
Belizean Food goes Beyond Rice ‘n’ Beans!
A plate of white rice and red kidney or black beans along with stewed chicken and a side of potato salad or coleslaw is just the tip of an enormous iceberg when it comes to local cuisine.
The classic Kriol (Creole) fare has historically taken the spotlight because of the ethnic group’s political leverage in the post-colonial nation, but there is so much more to try coming from the Garifuna, Maya, Mestizo, Chinese, East Indian, Taiwanese and Lebanese cultures throughout the country.
Don’t know where to start as you navigate Belize’s rich and tasty gastronomic scene? Book a culinary tour to get started and don’t forget that international fusions recently introduced by North American and European immigrants add to the colourful explosion.
On that note…while it’s spelled C-O-N-C-H, our tasty shellfish available from October 1 throughout May or June is pronounced Konk not Conch.
Now that you’re in the know, let’s start planning your Belizean vacation!