10 Tips for Making the Most of Your First Visit to Belize
Article By: Meghan Wagner
How do you make the most of your vacation in Belize? Don’t stress out, just do a little research. Identify what the priorities are for your trip and stick to them. Then meld your priorities with these 10 tips, in no particular order, and you will be sure to take advantage of every opportunity to experience Belize to the fullest.
1. Discover where the locals eat.
When you first ask around about where you can find the best places to eat, you are bound to be directed to the tourist spots. Don’t get me wrong. These are generally great places to find tasty food, but they are also bound to be more expensive and will likely deprive you of the authenticity that adds immeasurable satisfaction to the eats. Be sure to specify you are interested in learning where the locals eat. This may mean venturing into establishments that make you cringe at first sight, but hang in there. I guarantee your mouth and your belly will be more than thrilled. And for $12 BZN*, your wallet will be happy too!
*Money and payment is very easy in Belize. $1 USD (US dollar) = $2 BZN (Belizean dollar). Everyone takes USD or BZN and many places also take credit/debit. You can withdrawal money from ATMs which will be dispensed in BZN. Be sure to punch in twice the amount of USD you want to withdrawal (i.e. Request $200 if you want to take $100 USD from your bank account). There is a small fee charged by the ATM as well as by most banks. Before you have a heart attack from the sticker shock of your first dinner and drinks, remember to cut the total in half to convert it to USD.
2. Stick to the specials menu.
Ordering from the specials menu, especially when it comes to seafood, means you are getting a meal that was swimming in the ocean just a few hours ago. Nothing beats the flavor of freshness. From whole fried snapper to barracuda in a tomato Creole sauce, you cannot go wrong choosing something off the hand written chalkboard menu. Rice and beans with a fried plantain complements and completes the meal to perfection. If you’re looking for rabbit food (ie. veggies) coleslaw is also a frequent side but veggies in general tend to be less available and come in small portions.
3. Drink Belikin.
For an affordable adult beverage, Belikin has you covered. The Belikin factory can be seen from your airplane as you prepare for landing at Belize International Airport and is carried at pretty much every restaurant/bar/store that sells alcohol. For $3 BZN per bottle, you will get a light and refreshing chilled beer. There are varying types of Belikin from a basic lager to a chocolate stout. All are worth a try and at 10oz per bottle, you’ll have a little extra room in your belly to try each one.
If your hotel is on the coast, plan a trip inland. If your hotel is inland, plan a trip to the coast. Belize is a relatively small country which allows you to make it from the coast to the border with Guatemala in 2-3 hours. How you get there is defiantly the interesting part. You can rent a car and drive yourself but beware; only the main highways are paved. Be sure to plan enough time to maneuver bumpy and undeveloped roads and purchasing rental insurance is a must. Locals drive fast and aggressively so be sure to put your defensive driving gloves on. There is no such thing as a fender bender in Belize—serious accidents are common. You can take advantage of excursions to get your exploration itch scratched without getting behind the wheel yourself. These typically include transportation to and from as well as a tasty lunch. Bring your street smarts if you head to Belize City as crime is high in this locale. Taxis are expensive so busses are a cheap option, albeit crowded alternative to getting around. One more option comes with two wheels—most hotels offer complimentary use of bicycles. This is a typical transportation method for the locals and is the best way to explore your surroundings in an up close and personal way.
The jungle/mountains may be hotter without the cooling sea breeze but they offer a wealth of expansive views and activities. Mayan ruins, jaguar reserve, and monkey river boat rides are just a few of your many options inland. The coast boasts the white sand beaches and blue waters that typify the paradise setting you’ve been dreaming about. Snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and deep-sea fishing are musts! If you have the time, exploring a Caye will give you that private island feel. Be on the lookout for string-rays in choppy shallow water. They tend to come into the shallows to escape the turbulence of poor weather and won’t hesitate to use their barb to let you know they are there.