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Belize

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Belizean Shores Resort
Belizean Shores Resort - dream vacation

P O Box 1 San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye

Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina
Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina - dream vacation

2 Marine Parade-- Po Box 321, Belize City

Pedro\'s Hotel
Pedro\'s Hotel - dream vacation

Seagrape Drive, San Pedro

Best Western Plus Belize Biltmore Plaza
Best Western Plus Belize Biltmore Plaza - dream vacation

P O Box 959 3 1/2 Miles Northern Highway, Belize City

Belize, formerly British Honduras, is the only country in Central America without a coastline on the Pacific Ocean (only the Caribbean Sea to its east) and the only one in the region with English as its official language. Belize is located between Guatemala to the west and south and Mexico to the north.

Regions

Cities

  • Belmopan - Inland capital
  • Belize City - Belize's largest city, on the Caribbean Sea
  • Corozal Town
  • Crooked Tree
  • Dangriga - Large Garifuna town in the south, formerly known as Stann Creek Town
  • Hopkins - Garifuna village
  • Orange Walk Town
  • Punta Gorda - Beautiful, quiet port town in the South; home to a complex and diverse Amerindian market on the weekends
  • San Ignacio - Known as Cayo to locals, Maya and Hispanic influence near the Guatemala border

Other destinations

  • Ambergris Caye - large barrier island in the north
  • Caye Caulker - smaller barrier island in the north
  • Placencia peninsula - long peninsula (almost an island) off Stann Creek
  • Tobacco Caye
  • Lighthouse Reef Atoll

Maya ruins

  • Altun Ha
  • Caracol
  • Lamanai
  • Lubaantun
  • Xunantunich

Understand

With its British colonial history and a long Caribbean coast, Belize is culturally similar to many of Britain's former West Indian island colonies, with a majority creole or Afro-Caribbean population. But it also includes a large native Mayan population, especially in the north and northwest of the country. As a result, although English is the official language, Spanish is also often spoken. In the south east along the Caribbean coast live the Garifuna (Black Caribs), an Afro-Amerindian culture.

After long journeys starting in what is now the Netherlands in 1790, via Germany, South Russia, Canada, the United States, and Mexico several thousand German speaking Mennonite Christians arrived in Belize in 1958 after long and detailed discussions with the government regarding specific exemptions and privileges, they are easily recognizable by their speech (somewhat distinctive from modern standard German) and "quaint" dress.

World class attractions include exploring the lush jungles with exotic plants and animals, deep sea fishing, swimming, snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean sea with its attractive reefs, and visiting the Mayan ruins. Income levels are still very low and the infrastructure is very basic. The Belizeans are very proud and friendly to visitors and the tourist industry grew greatly in the last decade.

History

Like the neighbouring parts of Guatemala and Mexico, this area was settled for thousands of years by the Maya people. They are still here, an important part of Belize's people and culture. While the Spanish Empire claimed the area in the 16th century, the Spanish made little progress in settling here. The British settled first on the coast and offshore islands for logging. In 1798 British Belizean forces defeated a Spanish attempt to drive them out in the Battle of St. George's Caye, an anniversary still celebrated as a holiday each 10 September.

The colony of British Honduras grew in the 19th century. At first Africans were brought in as slaves, but slavery was abolished here in 1838. Many refugees from the 19th century Caste War of Yucatán escaped the conflict to settle in Belize, especially the northern section.

The government of Guatemala has long claimed to have inherited the original 15th century Spanish claim to Belize. Although the British were willing to grant independence to British Honduras as early as the mid 1960s, this ongoing dispute played a major role in delaying full Belizean independence until 1981, long after London granted independence to other former colonies in the region. Guatemala refused to recognize an independent Belize at all until 1991, and to this day lays claim to virtually all Belizean territory south of Belize City. The topic remains a sensitive one, particularly in the southern half of Belize.

Belize escaped the bloody civil conflicts of the 1980s that engulfed much of Central America, and refugees from the conflict in Guatemala arrived, mostly settling in the west. While Belize has not been immune to the rampant drug crime and grinding poverty of its neighbours it is a comparatively safe destination in a conflict-prone part of the world. Belize shares particularly close diplomatic and economic ties with both the United Kingdom and the United States.

Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy as the old agricultural products — sugar, banana, and oranges — have lost ground. The country remains plagued by high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, and increased urban crime. In 2006 commercial quantities of oil were discovered in the Spanish Lookout area.

Climate

Tropical, very hot and humid. The dry season typically lasts from February to May and then the rainy season typically lasts through to November. Hurricanes that bring coastal flooding, especially in the south, are prevalent in June to November.

Terrain

The flat coastal plain is swampy with low mountains in the south. The highest point is Victoria Peak at 1,160 m.

Talk

As a former British colony, the official language of Belize is standard English with UK spelling rules, which makes Belize stand out from its Spanish-speaking neighbours.

Spanish, Garifuna (Carib) and the Maya languages/dialects of Kekchi, Mopan and Yucatec are spoken in various parts of the country. Spanish is widely used as the first language in northern and western parts of the country. So-called "kitchen Spanish," an amalgam of Spanish and English, is common on Ambergris Caye. Belizean Creole, which has a certain degree of mutual intelligibility with standard English, is widely spoken as well. Most Belizeans are proficient in English and at least one of these other languages.

Many Belizeans speak a mix of Creole and English among friends, and standard English to foreigners. The strong Caribbean accent may take some getting used to.

Get in

US, Mexican, Canadian, Singaporean, Jamaican, Australian, Malaysian and EU passport holders do not need a visa, but need valid passports. Cruise ship visitors do not even need a passport! The Belize Tourism Board maintains up-to-date information . When leaving country by land, prepare to pay border tax (around BZ$38) in cash.

By plane

The Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (IATA: BZE) is in Ladyville, to the northwest of Belize City (roughly 30 minute's drive) where it receives international direct flights from Atlanta, Charlotte, Newark, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Flores, San Salvador, Roatan and San Pedro Sula.

By car

From Mexico via Chetumal, or on a much rougher road from Guatemala via Melchor de Mencos.

By bus

Buses from Belize City and Belmopan operate to Flores in Guatemala, and to Chetumal in Mexico.

By boat

Several cruise lines call on Belize City. Unfortunately they usually stay only one day, which doesn't allow the opportunity to really see Belize. You can visit one of the Maya ruins, ride an airboat in the salt marshes just outside the city, shop, go to the museum, go to the zoo or take either a short cave rafting trip or go snorkelling, but that's about it. That means about 70% of the things most tourists would like aren't available, not mention the eco-tourism points of interest.

To Puerto Cortés, Honduras, the Gulf Cruza, a small, rickety speed boat (20 people) leaves Placencia each Friday at around 09:30 (4 hr US$50), going first to Big Creek. It returns to Placencia on Monday. Tickets are sold in the tourist office next to the gas station. Stop by immigration first.

Small speedboats operate on a daily basis between Puerto Barrios in Guatemala to Punta Gorda, cost is around US$20 one way. On Tuesday and Fridays, boats operate from Livingston in Guatemala to Punta Gorda. The ride takes no more than one hour. It's BZ$50.

There's also a BZ$30 departure tax plus BZ$7.50 marine park fee. Foreigners are required to pay departure taxes and a conservation upkeep fee when leaving Belize via land, air, or water. These fees are only applicable to locals when flying.

San Pedro Belize Express has over 25 daily departures, 14 first class boats.

Get around

Belize is a fairly small country, and transportation between most destinations is rarely long or tedious.

By plane

Tropic Air and Maya Island Air both have multiple flights daily to various towns around the country and to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. They fly out of both of Belize City's airports, but flights from Belize City Airport (IATA: TZA) are often significantly cheaper than those out of Phillip Goldson International (IATA: BZE). Domestic flights are generally pretty reasonable, and thus popular if your time is limited and budget is not. Flights are operated with planes ranging from 8 to 68 seats. Because of the limited capacity, booking in advance is advisable. For bookings from outside Belize, there is only one airviva internet agent, who can make bookings, take payment (credit/debit cards/PayPal) and then send e-tickets. Some hotels do also offer to make the flight reservation on your behalf.

By bus

Several competing bus lines operate on the main road in the north-south direction from Punta Gorda to Belmopan and Belize City. There are bus stations in the main towns, or simply stand on the side of the highway and wave at an approaching bus. Most buses have a conductor in addition to the driver, who stands by the door and will come to your seat to collect the fare at some point during the trip. Fares run anywhere from BZ$2–25 depending on distance travelled.

Express buses can save up to an hour and a half (depending on the distance of your trip); they do not stop for passengers waiting on the roadside, making only scheduled pick-ups and drop-offs in towns.

Most buses in Belize are retired US school buses (Bluebirds), that have been given a slight makeover, a luggage rack installed, and sometimes a new paint job. They generally aren't too crowded, but you may have to stand occasionally.

Children selling snacks and soft drinks often board the buses at stops, and this is an inexpensive way to have a snack if you've exhausted what you've brought along or just want to try some home-made travel foods.

By taxi

Taxis are common and relatively cheap in Belize. Most taxis do not use meters, so be sure to negotiate the price beforehand.

By water taxi

For those wanting a truly Belizean experience, take the water taxis from city to city. The San Pedro Belize Express has the most daily runs and departs from the Brown Sugar Terminal in Belize City at 09:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 15:00, 16:00 and 17:30 to San Pedro and Caye Caulker.

Departure from San Pedro Town pier on Black Coral Street next to Wahoo's Bar and Grill and leaves at 07:00, 08:30, 10:00, 11:30, 12:30, 14:30, 16:30 to Caye Caulker and Belize City as well as a last boat to Caye Caulker only at 18:00.

There are boats departing from Caye Caulker to Belize City and San Pedro Town and they leave from the pier in front of the Basket Ball Court. Caye Caulker to Belize City: 07:30, 09:00, 10:30, 12:00, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00 and Caye Caulker to San Pedro: 07:00 (connection to Chetumal), 09:45, 11:45, 12:45, 13:45, 15:45, 16:45 and last boat 18:15.

Chetumal Runs are available from Caye Caulker at 07:00 and from San Pedro at 07:30.

Travelling from Chetumal to Belize, the boat leaves the Municipal Pier at 15:30 en route to San Pedro (90 min) and Caye Caulker (120 min).

Rates: Belize City to San Pedro or return: BZ$30 Belize or US$15 (one way), BZ$55 or US$27.50 (round trip). Caye Caulker to San PedroBelize City to Caye Caulker: BZ$20 or US$10 (one way), BZ$35 or US$17.50 (round trip).

Car rental

Compared to most Central American countries, driving in Belize is relatively safe with little crime (except in the San Pedro area), there is not much traffic, and the four major highways are all in good condition. Unfortunately, almost every road off the four major highways is unpaved so a 4-wheel drive vehicle is advisable. It is best not to drive late at night because there is almost no lighting, road signs are poor, and the last stretch is almost certain to be on an unpaved road (you risk breaking an axle on an unseen, but immense, pothole!) You won't need a map because there are few roads and it is hard to get lost.

Rental rates often include insurance so you usually don't need to buy insurance separately. If you plan on using a rental car to visit Tikal in Guatemala, you should plan ahead and you must rent from Crystal Auto Rental because no other company will let you take your car out of Belize. Belize insurance is not valid in Guatemala so check with your credit card or car insurance company to see if they'll cover you for a trip into Guatemala.

Highways

  • The Northern Highway (aka Phillip Goldson Highway) goes from Corozal on the Belize-Mexico border to Belize City via Orange Walk. This is the highway you'll use for the international airport, Altun Ha, and the Lamanai.
  • Western Highway (aka George Price Highway) stretches from Belize City, via Belmopan and the Cayo District, to the border with the Guatemalan state of Peten at Benque. Along the way are the Belize Zoo (mile 29), the Hummingbird Highway (mile 47), Belmopan, and San Ignacio (mile 68). Major sights along this route include the adventure itineraries in the Cayo District, Mayan ruins at Xunantunich and access to the road to Caracol, and, from the Guatemalan border, the ruins at TIkal. To get to the Western Highway from the airport, go north on the Northern Highway, make a left at Burrell Boom, and follow the road for 19 km to the Western Highway at Hattieville.
  • Hummingbird Highway goes from Belmopan to Dangriga connecting the Western Highway to the Southern Highway. You'll use this highway to get from CayoBelize City or the North to the Southern part of Belize. An alternative, slightly shorter, Coastal Highway takes you from Belize City to the Southern Highway but is a mess that is best avoided!
  • Southern Highway runs from Dangriga (the Hummingbird Highway) to Punta Gorda, with a recently built section heading to the southern border with Guatemala. Along the way are the coastal towns of Hopkins and Placencia.

See

  • The world heritage listed Belize Barrier Reef stretching along the whole coast of Belize.

Do

Zip-lining

Soar over Belize's rain forest by taking a zip-line tour. These tours usually begin with a short hike up to the first base where a tutorial is given on how to safely use your equipment.

  • Prices range US$65-100 and tours are run by two companies, Jaguar Paw, and Back-A-Bush tours.

Sport fishing

Sport fishing in Belize is second to none. The bonefish is the premier fly fishing game fish in the world and it can be found in the grass shallows through Belize. It's pound for pound perhaps the strongest animal in salt water.

Scuba Diving and snorkelling

The snorkelling and scuba diving is world-class and there are many exceptional dive sites to be found in Belize. One of the best ways to explore Belize waters is by chartering a yacht to make the most of your available dive time.

For those with a smaller budget, snorkelling and driving excursions can be found along the beaches of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. The most common excursions will take you to both Hol Chan marine reserve and Shark Ray Alley. These trips usually cost about US$35 and include snorkel gear. Be mindful of an additional BZ$10 charged to foreigners as a park tax. This money goes toward the upkeep, and protection of the reef. Diving excursions are also offered to the Blue Hole, but expect to pay a lot more for the privilege.

Cave exploration

The Cayo district is characterised by limestone hills underlain by a network of underground rivers, caves and sink holes. The caves are magnificent, with huge caverns and tight passages, underground waterfalls and dazzling arrays of mineral-encrusted stalactites and stalagmites. This underground world was sacred to the ancient Maya and many artefacts from decorated pots to human remains are still intact in the caves. It is dangerous (and illegal) to enter the caves without a licensed guide. Most guides are trained in the geology and mythology of the caves and in modern first aid and cave rescue techniques.

  • Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Adventure Company and Jungle Lodge, Caves Branch (Hummingbird Highway south from Belmopan). Anderson organized the initial guiding training programs in the country, out of which grew the Belize Disaster And Rescue Response Team locally called BDARRT (now an independent NGO).

The Sleeping Giant and Caves Branch are operated by the same owner. There are up to 16 different tours they operate everyday. The Actun Tunichil Muknal or ATM caves have the highest number of tourists visiting a tourist destination in Central America. Also knows as the Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre this river cave has pristine remnants of some Mayan human sacrifices. It is a surreal experience complete with beautiful cave formations an underground river and Mayan collectibles. No wonder the Mayans called it the Xibalba or the dark underworld.

Buy

The currency of Belize is the dollar (ISO code BZD), divided into 100 cents.

The Belizean dollar – sometimes written as "BZ$" or just as a dollar sign: "$" – has been officially pegged to the US dollar (USD) at a 2:1 ratio since 1978 (i.e. BZ$2 = US$1). Since this is by statute, there is no floating currency exchange rate as there is between the US dollar and the Mexican peso. However, those exchanging other currencies for Belizean dollars such as British pounds or euros should be mindful of this.

Because of this simple and consistent exchange rate between these two dollar currencies, US dollars are widely accepted, but this means you should be careful to clarify which "dollars" you're talking about when negotiating prices. It's often better to assume Belize dollars because many merchants will jump on your uncertainty and attempt to double their price by saying, "No, in US dollars". Belize dollars come in denominations of BZ$2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100. B$1 and smaller amounts are coins. The 25-cent coin is often called a "shilling."

Eat

  • The primary meal found virtually everywhere is red beans, clean rice, and chicken.
  • Most chicken in the country is prepared and served on the bone.
  • Rice and beans is a mixed dish with some spices and usually coconut milk added to make a sweet and hot staple of the Belizean diet. Beans and rice is white cooked rice with a side of stewed pinto beans.
  • Citrus plantations are numerous, so fresh oranges and grapefruits are abundant. Pineapples, papayas, bananas and plantains are also grown and sold in roadside markets.
  • A famous hot sauce in Belize is Marie Sharp's made from the very potent local habanero pepper. It comes in a variety of flavours (mild, hot, extremely hot).
  • That odd looking salsa on your table is really ceviche. Ceviche -also spelled as cebiche or seviche- is a citrus-marinated seafood dish. The Belizeans use fresh raw conch and vegetables.
  • Papusas are maize pancakes with different toppings sold in stalls on the streets in San Pedro town. It is the cheapest option if you want to eat on a budget.

Eating in San Pedro can be expensive if you eat at the tourist restaurants; however if you find the local places, meals can be very inexpensive and very tasty.

Drink

Belikin is the national beer and comes in four varieties: Premium, Beer, Stout, and Lighthouse Lager. Guinness Stout is also available in Belize but it's also brewed by the Belikin Brewing Co. All are sold in returnable bottles, so make sure you are aware of the deposit if you are taking your beverages to go.

One Barrel Rum is the locally-distilled molasses-tasting rum and Traveller's Liquors' distillery is on the Northern Highway about 6 miles from Belize City with a gift shop and hospitality bar. You can purchase rum in a variety of colours and sizes, up to a 70 gallon cask.

Both are widely available around the country. But if you also like wine there is cashew wine (which is very popular in Belize), ginger wine, sorrel wine and blackberry wine.

Learn

There are great opportunities for scuba diving off of Belize atolls. Check out reefci for some very interesting 1 week adventures that are both informative conservation education as well as great scuba diving. If you want to learn about Belize's history the Museum of Belize, House of Culture, and of course, travelling and discovering are recommended.

Stay safe

Belize City is the most dangerous area in Belize, although it's very easy to be safe there. Remain in the tourist zone that runs just north of the marina to the southern extension to the east of the main canal. There are plenty of khaki tourist police monitoring the area and, should you have a problem, feel free to approach them. Just exercise common sense and do not go wandering around alone after dark. Stay near tourist areas or other commercial zones. The south side of Belize City is beautiful as well as dangerous. Otherwise, Belize City is a great place to go if you want to eat, learn, or shop.

Other areas of Belize are generally safe, but like any other place in the world, one should always have some skepticism when dealing with strangers. Most are genuinely helpful, but it never hurts to be cautious.

Under Section 5(1) of the Immigration Act, the government is entitled to deny LGBT travellers entrance to Belize. There are also no legal protections in place for victims of anti-gay discrimination in Belize.

Stay healthy

Belize is a relatively healthy country. Bottled water is a must in most areas. And, unless you eat only at ultra-touristic restaurants, dysentery will probably strike at some point; be prepared with over-the-counter medication and prescription antibiotics.

The US Centers for Disease Control list all of Belize except Belize City as a malaria risk area, and recommends the antimalarial drug chloroquine. Dengue fever is also a risk in Belize. Other drugs may also be recommended in certain circumstances - consult a qualified professional specialist.

Insect/mosquito bites should be prevented with appropriate clothing, repellents and insecticides, and bed nets if sleeping in non-air-con/unscreened rooms.

The sun, as anywhere else in the tropics, is very intense. A hat, high-SPF sunscreen, and sunglasses should do you fine.

Many places in Belize are very hot and humid, and dehydration is a risk. An expat suggests to drink as much water as you want, and then drink that much again.

The adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is 2.5% or one in every forty adults, this is notably higher than in most of Europe or Anglo-America and also quite a bit higher than in other parts of Central America like Nicaragua or Costa Rica.

Respect

Belizeans are some of the most socially relaxed people in the world, especially if you venture inland away from the tourist islands of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. The pace of life is generally slower in Belize, so it's good practice to begin any social interaction, even to ask a quick question, with eye contact and a genuinely pleasant greeting. Most rural Belizeans enjoy casual conversation and you could easily find yourself chatting it up for a few hours. Hey, it's part of the charm!

The Maya communities can be a little more reserved at times. As always, a little respect and politeness will carry you through.

Connect

Payphones are the most common public phones and accept pre-purchased phone cards.

Internet cafés can be found in larger tourist areas, but are infrequent in rural areas.

The government used to prohibit allow Skype and forced tourists to call out of the country using the government-owned phone company. In a recent change the main telephone company, Belize Telemedia Limited, has removed blocks from all voice over internet protocol services. Applications such as Skype and Vonage are now able to work within the country and may prove to be a cheaper medium of communication when calling back home.

Mexico podcast pinPin me on Pinterest!Mexico is one of those countries that has a million symbols to define it — tacos, sombreros, pyramids, moustaches, guacamole, Frida Kahlo… everyone pictures something when the word Mexico is mentioned. Some of these images are, of course, more representative than others. We wanted to find out which of these icons reflect what Mexico is really like.

To do this, we headed off on a road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula with our friends Ange and Janine. We soon left behind our starting point of Cancún in the state of Quintana Roo, and visited Valladolid, Chichen Itzá, Izamal, Mérida, Uxmal, Palenque, and San Cristobal de las Casas. On the whole, it was a great route that we can recommend if you’re planning a Mexico road trip.

To listen, hit play below or find episode 314 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

Where is this, exactly?

Imagine Mexico is shaped like a hook, with the point off to the right of the main part of the country. We started at the pointy bit and made our way south and west towards the curve of the hook, then turned around and came back to where we started. We passed through the Mexican states of Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco (quickly) and Chiapas.

Why do a Mexico road trip in Yucatan, Campeche and Chiapas?

Mexico might call you for a variety of reasons, but you’ll stay for the food. We loved trying all the different types of tortilla-based cuisine and hunting out options that had nothing to do with flatbread. Some highlights were seafood in Campeche and a delicious banana stuffed with beef in Palenque.

Of course, culture is a big drawcard too, especially if you are interested in history. We visited three Mayan ruin sites and a fantastic Mayan museum, and felt like we only touched the surface of this amazing society. I’d love to learn more!

Chichen Itza was pretty impressive.Chichen Itzá is one of many Mayan ruins in this area

Geology fans will love the cenotes, underground pools that were apparently used by the Mayas for human sacrifice. Actually, cenotes are great for everyone — many are open to the public, and for a fee you can have a swim and cool off on a hot day.

Get there

We flew into Cancún, but there are lots of international airports to choose from, depending on where you want to start your trip. Mérida is a good option, and Mexico City could be a good entrance point — you can take a bus or internal flight to your preferred starting point.

You can also enter by bus from the United States, Guatemala and Belize.

Plane flying in blue sky. We recommend arriving by plane.

Get around Mexico

Since there were four of us travelling together, we hired a car and split the costs. This was more expensive than we would have liked, though it still came in at less than US$20 per person per day including tolls and petrol, which seems reasonable for the amount of flexibility it gave us. Not having to find transport from bus stations to hotels was a definite luxury!

Be aware that tolls can be quite expensive and roads are often in a very bad state of repair. If you’re not confident about avoiding potholes, driving might not be your best option. You may also have to pay bribes to police officers or protestors, which can be quite stressful.

If you’re travelling alone or as a couple, or just not interested in driving, the bus network is excellent and fairly priced, though not cheap: around 100 pesos per hour of travel. We used ADO for a couple of trips and found it comfortable and convenient, though there are other bus companies to choose from, depending on where you’re going.

You could also consider ride-sharing. Mexico’s BlaBlaCar network is extensive, and we had a positive experience travelling from Monterrey to Querétaro. Just make sure to choose people with good references and let friends or family know what you’re doing.

Jungle tour in Palenque a href=Exploring the jungle-covered ruins at Palenque was a highlight of our Mexico road trip.

Valladolid

Valladolid is a lovely old city that’s a good starting point for a trip to Chichen Itzá. One night is enough to see what it has to offer, which includes an old convent, a Mayan Chocolate Museum, and a shop that offers tequila tastings.

Chichen Itzá

The most famous of the Mayan ruins in Mexico is certainly worth a visit, though its popularity is also its liability. Get there early to beat the crowds, many of which are coming all the way from Cancún on bus tours. Parking costs 30 pesos and the entrance fee is currently 224 pesos. Guides are available for 600 pesos for a one-hour highlights tour, though we used a free audio-guide app and showed ourselves around instead.

Izamal

The yellow town is certainly worth a stop, for its colourful buildings and many ruins. Wander around and enjoy the atmosphere and climb a pyramid or two for an excellent view of the town.

Izamal, Mexico's yellow city.The convent at Izamal.

Mérida

Mérida was one of the highlights of our trip, and it’s worth spending a few days here. Music events are put on every night in the main square, which is often packed with locals, tourists, and food stalls. Parking can be an issue, though, so choose a hotel with parking if you’re driving. Also be aware that most attractions are closed on Monday, and many on Tuesday too, so plan your visit for later in the week if possible.

We enjoyed the Mayan museum on the outskirts of town, it’s great for getting a good overview of Mayan culture — which will definitely be part of any trip to this part of Mexico.

Uxmal

Uxmal was another fantastic ruin, conveniently located not too far from Mérida. Prices were similar to Chichen Itzá but it wasn’t as crowded; we decided to show ourselves around rather than hire a guide.

Campeche

Campeche is so proud of its colourful houses that its car licence-plate symbol is a collection of brightly coloured buildings. You’ll love wandering around admiring the city, and can get a good view by walking along the city walls. The main square is a nice place for a drink in the evening, and there are various light shows to see after dark. The one we saw was a little underwhelming though!

Campeche's beautiful streets.Campeche is pretty!

We headed out to the beach on our last morning in town, and had what was possibly our best meal of the trip at a restaurant called Playa Gaviotas: coconut shrimp, fish, beef, beer, and a collection of tapas that came free with the drinks.

Palenque

It’s a long drive from Campeche to Palenque, but these ruins are worth the effort. The entrance fee is only 64 pesos, and the excavated section warrants several hours of exploring. However, a lot of the site hasn’t been excavated and is still covered by the jungle. You can hire a guide to take you into this part, which we did — it was awesome! Seeing a Mayan swimming pool and climbing through an ancient aqueduct made the 1000 peso price tag (for the group) seem quite reasonable.

Exploring the jungle in Palenque, a href=Exploring the jungle in Palenque.

Cascadas de Agua Azul

The “Blue water waterfalls” weren’t blue when we were there, but it was still a pleasant stop. There’s a small entrance fee into the complex, which includes a long series of small waterfalls with swimming spots in between, and a variety of handcraft stalls and small restaurants. It’s a good place to stop for lunch and a refreshing swim.

San Cristobal

Although the drive in is long and bumpy, and the highway was closed when we wanted to leave, the journey to San Cristobal is worth the effort. This colonial town will charm you with its pleasant atmosphere, colourful streets, and many, many churches and plazas. It is a tourist hotspot, which means you’ll have to deal with street vendors and touts, but it was one of our favourite stops on our journey.

The Na Balom museum is worth a visit to learn about local tribes and the anthropologist couple who worked with them last century.

What else?

After San Cristobal, we stopped for a night in Frontera and ran through Ciudad del Carmen, and also made an overnight stop in Xpujil before relaxing by the Bacalar lagoon for a night. Unfortunately, though, we couldn’t do everything on our road trip through Yucatan, Campeche, and Chiapas — there are many more ruins to see and tacos to eat, and we couldn’t do it all. So, it’s over to you… have a good trip and let us know how it goes!

To listen, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

I have to be honest with you: we weren’t enamoured with Quintana Roo. Packed with tourists, corrupt police officers, and touts trying to sell us overpriced tours — it just wasn’t for us. However, it does have a lot going for it in the way of sun and fun, and it might be for you. If nothing else, Cancun airport is a convenient place to start your travels around the rest of Mexico.

To listen, hit play below or find episode 315 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

Where is Quintana Roo, exactly?

Quintana Roo is Mexico’s easternmost state, a long skinny wedge of Caribbean coastline located in the Yucatán peninsula. The state of Yucatán is to the west, the country of Belize is to the south, and Cuba is not far away to the north-west across the Caribbean Sea.

Why visit Quintana Roo?

Quintana Roo, a href=Pin me on Pinterest!Most people visit Quintana Roo to enjoy long, lazy days in the sun. The beach is ever-present, there’s great food to try, and Mayan ruins dot the state and are easily accessible. Plus there’s the added attraction of the cenotes — pools that were originally part of underground rivers, revealed when the bedrock above collapsed. They’re cool and refreshing as well as being geologically interesting, a great place to cool off on a hot day.

Get there

Probably the easiest way to get to Quintana Roo is by plane. We flew into Cancun, and there’s another international airport further south, in Chetumal. You could also fly into another Mexican airport (such as Mexico City or Mérida) and transfer to a local flight or even make your way overland.

You can also enter by bus from the United States, Guatemala and Belize — it’ll be a long journey if coming from the States, though!

Get around

Distances between cities aren’t enormous in Quintana Roo, and the bus network is excellent and fairly priced (though not particularly cheap). You can buy tickets at bus stations or possibly online — our credit card wasn’t accepted when we tried, but you might be luckier! From Cancun airport, it’s easy to get to Cancun or Playa del Carmen by ADO bus, you can buy your tickets in the terminal after arrival or from a booth at the bus stop outside.

You could also hire a car, but be aware that tolls can be expensive and corrupt police officers target tourists, looking for bribes. A better option could be ride-sharing, especially if you’re travelling with a friend or as a couple. Mexico’s BlaBlaCar network is extensive, and we had a positive experience travelling from Monterrey to Querétaro. Just make sure to choose people with good references and let friends or family know what you’re doing.

A word on timezones

Although most of Mexico is in the Central Time Zone (GMT -6) Quintana Roo is an hour ahead (GMT -5, the Eastern Time Zone). The state changed its timezone in February 2015, so that tourists could enjoy an extra hour of daylight in the evening. Be aware that you’ll be changing timezone if you travel to other Mexican states — we didn’t know, and were a bit surprised when we the time suddenly changed on us!

Where to explore

Cancun

Cancun is a planned city, designed especially for tourism. Most of its buildings are hotels and resorts, which stretch along an extensive peninsula located on the Carribbean coast. If you want to soak up the sun and drink expensive cocktails while lounging beside a pool — this is the place for you! We didn’t, and it wasn’t our favourite place in the world.

There isn’t a lot to do in Cancun itself apart from visiting the nightclubs and enjoying the resort facilities. There’s a nice market to wander around in the centre of town and a small Mayan ruin on the peninsula, but most of the attractions involve visiting the large theme parks or going on full-day tours to visit other ruins such as Chichen Itza.

Experiencias Xcaret runs the many theme parks you’ll see advertised (which all start with the letter X). Denotes appealed to us: it was more of an adventure experience than a park. We visited four different underground pools (cenotes) of different types, and zip lined, rappelled, or kayaked into them — it was fun!

Linda and a cenote in MexicoZip lining into a cenote was awesome.

Isla Mujeres

A great day trip from Cancun is Isla Mujeres, an island located a short ferry trip from the city. To get there from the hotel zone, take bus R1 to Centro (10.50 pesos) and ask the driver where to get off for Puerto Juarez. When you get off, you’ll see yellow mini buses parked along the road, which you can catch to the UltraMar terminal (8 pesos). A return ticket to Isla Mujeres costs 146 pesos — it’s a lot cheaper than the ferry direct from the hotel zone, and it runs a lot more frequently.

On the island, you can enjoy the beach, eat at one of the many restaurants, or go snorkelling or scuba diving to see the underwater museum. You can also hire a golf cart to explore the island if you’re so inclined. We spent our day just relaxing on the sand — bliss.

Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, MexicoIsla Mujeres is a great place to relax on the beach.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen was much more our kind of place, especially once we got off the souvenir stall-lined main street. The beach attracts a lot of visitors, though as it was ridiculously windy when we were there, we weren’t among them. If we go back to Quintana Roo, it will be to Playa del Carmen.

Tulum

Tulum is most famous for its ruins, which are located on the coast. We enjoyed our visit there and were pleasantly surprised by the price, which was a fraction of the cost of visiting Chichen Itza or Uxmal. However, we were feeling a bit ruined out by the time we got to Tulum, and weren’t overly impressed by the complex. If this is the first Mayan ruin you visit, though, I’m sure you’ll have a much better time than we did.

Mayan ruins at Tulum, MexicoMayan ruins at Tulum

Cozumel

We didn’t get there on this trip, but this island is a scuba diving paradise. You can get there from Playa del Carmen.

What else?

It’s impossible to see and do everything, and we didn’t try. Tulum was as far south as we went in Quintana Roo, but if you continue on you’ll eventually hit Chetumal, which is right on the border with Belize. We also haven’t mentioned the many smaller towns dotted through the state that might take your fancy — exploring is always a good thing.

Personally, though, we’d recommend that unless you want a lazy beach holiday or to do some serious snorkelling, limit your time in Quintana Roo and head inland to see what the rest of Mexico has to offer you.

To listen, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

Photo: libargutxi

Photo: libargutxi

Most people do not know that hands-on wildlife experiences are doing animals a major disservice, and so aren’t malicious in their intent when paying to be near wild beasts; they just jump at these rare chances to connect with nature.

Here’s the thing: the most humane wildlife experiences you can have will always be the ones in which animals are free to perform their natural behaviors in the wild. That doesn’t mean connecting with wild creatures isn’t possible, it just means that it needs to be done in an educated manner, which is why we’ve listed 8 of the most notable and egregious violations of wildlife tourism, and their ethical alternatives.

Riding Elephants

Photo: Beyond Neon

Photo: Beyond Neon

The problem: Centuries of exploitation have twisted our impression of elephants into entertainment, despite the fact that they are deeply emotional, intelligent creatures. These giant animals are tortured into carrying humans, performing tricks, and even posing for photos. Tourists are attracted to the exotic creatures, who are brutalized into performing these seemingly delightful tricks, ultimately leading miserable lives.

The alternative: There’s no doubt that getting up close and personal with such a majestic animal is a treasure, but it’s possible to form that connection without torturing elephants. Matador Network researched 3 reputable elephant sanctuaries that can even enable tourists to bathe the big creatures. Elephant Nature Park in Thailand is the most highly vetted facility and can ensure that no elephants suffer for the sake of a photo.

Selfies with tigers, walking with lions.

The problem: Tigers are vicious predators. They’re the world’s largest cat species and there’s a good reason they dominate the top of the food chain. Yet tourist attractions from Southeast Asia to Cabo San Lucas offer opportunities to pose and walk with the fierce creatures, and the only way they can get these otherwise ferocious animals to pose with tourists is to heavily drug them. Not to mention many of these animals are stolen from the wild, where their numbers remain very low.

The alternative: Look for big cats in the wild. Safaris in Africa and wildlife tours in India enable tourists to witness big cats in their native habitats, roaming free without the influence of humans looking to make a buck off of unaware tourists. Travel4Wildlife has tips on the best safari etiquette. Point is, touching a sedated, imprisoned predator doesn’t make you look like a badass; it makes you look like you got conned into paying to abuse an animal.

Swimming with pigs

Photo: bookfinch

Photo: bookfinch

The problem: Those adorable feral pigs that tourists can swim with in the Bahamas are destroying local ecosystems and displacing local wildlife. Yes, the pictures are cute. Yet pigs look like they’re smiling. But the more tourists are willing to pay to get pictures with piggies, the more incentivized locals are to encourage the growth of the feral pig population, further damaging the livelihood of other animals. And when the pig population gets too large, they’re killed. It’s like posing with the steer that is about to become your hamburger.

The alternative: Head to an animal-friendly farm sanctuary where tourists are free to interact with happy animals that don’t affect the surrounding ecosystem and do not ultimately end up as lunch.

Performing orcas

The problem: Killer whales are huge, intelligent, and curious. Confining them to small pools to perform tricks for the masses is without a doubt, inhumane. In many cases some of the 55 currently captive orcas are mistreated, often dying years before they would naturally in the wild.

The alternative: Like many of the alternatives in this list, orcas are best experienced in their natural element. They live all over the world, from the sounds of British Colombia to the coral shores of Belize and beyond. There is a lot of information about where to spot them in the wild, and we encourage lovers of these great creatures to pursue travel opportunities that allow them to see orcas where they belong.

Releasing baby sea turtles

Photo: Geoff Stearns

Photo: Geoff Stearns

The problem: They really do make you think you’re doing a good thing by releasing baby sea turtles into the sea. But these poor babies are sick from being handled by germy human hands, hatchlings suffer from sun damage since they normally hatch at night, and the effort to accommodate tourists leads to overcrowding of turtle hatchlings. Another aspect of this is grabbing an adult turtle in the sea and holding onto it for a photo — this is extremely stressful for the animal.

The alternative: According to Cristina Brindley of Travel4Wildlife.com, “the most ethical sea turtle tourist attraction would be the one that either takes tourists to see natural laying and hatchlings, one where tourists can go and see recovering sea turtles like at the Sea Turtle Hospital in Florida, or the one where you can go on a sea turtle conservation vacation and your money is invested in the community.” Ultimately, as with all wild animals, a hands-off approach is the best approach.

Swimming with dolphins

The problem: Like orcas (which are actually the largest of the dolphins), bottlenose dolphins are held captive and made to perform activities with paying tourists. The dolphins kiss, laugh, and do tricks on command for delighted audiences, who continue on with their lives, leaving the imprisoned dolphins to suffer in tanks, only to be disturbed the following day by continual intrusions in their environment. Not worth the photo.

The alternative: Swim with belugas on their terms. In Churchill, famed for polar bear sightings, there exists a tourist attraction wherein guests can swim with belugas in the wild. The difference here is that people hang from the back of boats in the chilly Hudson Bay, and the belugas will come to them (or not). This gives the animals the ability to consent to human interaction, making the experience a fun one for all, instead of just for the humans.

Civet cat coffee

Photo: stefan magdalinski

Photo: stefan magdalinski

The problem: Civet Cats in Indonesia eat coffee cherries and then poop coffee beans, creating the very popular and very expensive kopi luwak coffee. The phenomenon has become a tourist attraction and an exceedingly cruel one at that. The civets are housed in battery cages, cramped and injured while forced to poop out expensive coffee. Not to mention the coffee itself is of questionable quality, healthwise.

The solution: First of all, stop buying kopi luwak. Second, don’t tour so-called civet cat coffee plantations. Civets are meant to roam in the wild, so the best way to enjoy them is to spot them there, happily eating food beyond the coffee cherries forced down their throats at coffee farms.

Crocodile farms

The problem: Overpopulated, cramped crocodile farms provide tours for people to look at the dinosaur-like creatures. What happens when tourists leave? The perfect predator is slaughtered for its meat and its skin, typically while fully alive and conscious.

The solution: There are many ways to see crocodilians humanely and in the wild that the idea of a crocodile farm even being profitable is unbelievable. Crocodile Encounter in Texas is a zoo-like facility that gets tourists close to the action, or anyone can venture into the Everglades in Florida to see alligators lounging about. Of course, there are plenty of tours there as well. Point is, if you want to see a big, toothy reptile, it’s extremely simple to find one that won’t later be slaughtered.  

The list goes on and on. From dancing monkeys to kissing cobras and charming snakes, to people baiting polar bears with their own dogs so tourists can get a good photo, we as responsible travelers need to do a better job of ensuring that when we interact with wildlife we aren’t contributing to animal abuse. The best way to do this is to take a step back when faced with a wildlife attraction and consider the circumstances in which those animals live. Asks questions. Do research. And finally, ask yourself if what attracts you most about being able to get close to that animal is the picture that comes with it. More liks this: How to see elephants responsibly on your trip to Thailand

THE ALLURE of fly-fishing takes many forms. It’s said anglers go through an arc of reasons why they fish — beginners enjoy simply being on the water. Intermediate anglers start counting numbers of fish in a day. Advanced intermediates count fish but also start “headhunting” — looking for that large trophy fish that will make his Instagram shot the talk of the day. Advanced anglers travel, looking for exotic species they’ve only seen in images of movies. And then the lifetime anglers — the ones who will never give it up — those diehard souls come full circle and just fish for the sheer joy of being on the water.

Personally, fly-fishing has been a vehicle to see the world. I’ve worked in many aspects of the industry, and now find a home in photographing adventure travel and fly-fishing around the world. Fishing is an excuse to travel; a reason to meet people I otherwise would never have chanced upon, to see waters and villages I’d never otherwise have a reason to travel towards, to experience the world in an entirely new way. And sure, somehow I always manage to pick up a rod when on location. But it’s rarely the “fishy” memories that resurface… it’s the random airport meetings in small-town Belize, the laughter in remote Russian tundra camps, and the giddiness that comes from chasing a storm on a flats skiff and, thoroughly drenched, wondering what the world is going to throw at me next. 1

Sometimes, simplicity trumps all. While on a photo shoot on Ambergris Caye, an island in northern Belize, angler Joseph Pinkard took the time to grab a rod and log a few casts off the dock of El Pescador Lodge. It was a stormy week; the water turbid and the clouds heavy, but for one brief moment we caught a hint of blue sky peeking through. It just goes to show, regardless of what the weather brings, Belize is always in it for the win.

2

This has to be one of my favorite “river portraits” of all time. Duck, a seasoned angler and true Southern gentleman, was enjoying a quality spring day on the Missouri River in central Montana. The Missouri, a tailwater storied in fly-fishing circles, is known for its high numbers of brown and rainbow trouts and the unique, intense fly-fishing culture in the little towns that dot this stretch of the river. Here, Duck was changing out his flies and adding a bit more tippet, making for a perfect “working man’s” portrait.

3

I will forever be enamored with what many would consider bad weather. While fishing for sea-run cutthroat trout in the Puget Sound outside of Seattle, we experienced some of the thickest, soupiest fog I’ve seen to date. Somewhere out in the grayness, we’d hear ships passing and seals frolicking, but our focus was on the task at hand: Fishing. The world becomes something special when you can’t separate the water line from the horizon, and everything slows down.

Intermission

33 places to swim in the world’s clearest water

10 drink recipes you can light on fire

Photo guide to Ireland’s most incredible castles

Sponsored 4

The waters surrounding the small South Pacific atoll of Anaa are so clear sometimes they seem to lack color. It’s only when the water edges past the white sand flats and gains some depth that the turquoise tones appear. The reflection of the water makes the bottoms of clouds crossing above turn green, and legend has it that the phenomenon functioned as a navigational aid for sailors in these seas. For angler Maddie Brenneman, Anaa marked her first saltwater fishing trip, and she made the most of it, chasing bluefin trevally and bonefish in the shallow waters of the lagoon.

5

Working a long season in a fly shop on Montana’s Missouri River, eventually, one gets bored of trout and seeks out different prey. Hot July days found shop rat and savvy angler Jake Gates dragging a stand-up paddle board / kayak hybrid up a steep hill and onto the waters of Holter Lake. He’d discovered carp lived in the shallow, muddy waters along one side of the lake, and the SUP hybrids were the perfect vehicle to chase the wary species. It’s as close to saltwater fishing as one can get in the Big Sky State.

6

After spending the entire night prior chasing striped bass with her fly rod, Jackie Jordan showed no signs of slowing down while fishing the waters off Martha’s Vineyard for bluefish. She’d spent several days exploring the island, wading beaches and bays chasing “stripers,” and without pausing for a break, the fly girl wasted no time hooking into a bluefish, laughing all the way.

7

In Montana, the trout grow big and healthy. It’s one reason why anglers from around the world perpetually have “the Big Sky Sate” on their destination bucket list. The Missouri River is famed for growing large, healthy fish — and plenty of them. This healthy rainbow fell prey to a Czech nymph on a bright spring day and posed for a picture before swimming back to his cold water home.

8

Russia's Ponoi River, located above the Arctic Circle in Murmansk Oblast, is one of the world’s most famous Atlantic salmon fisheries. The river is fished from remote camps dotted along the tundra and staffed with an international cast of guides with bold fishing and survival skills. It’s rare the guides get a day off during the 7-month season, but when they have a few hours for themselves, they take to the water. Guides Rory Patterson and Angus Walton explored a tributary to the Ponoi, the Purnache; taking a jet boat upriver and then hiking inland along the tundra.

9

Bonefish are one of the more sought-after saltwater gamefish in the world. Always light-colored, their tones flux in response to their natural environment. In Belize, they can take on more of a cloudy tan tone, in other parts of the world they go almost chrome. The bonefish we encountered while exploring Anaa Atoll in French Polynesia were large, healthy, and a stunning silvery color. Cast a crab pattern in their feeding path, give it a few twitches, strip the fly in… and then it’s game on.

10

We go everywhere! Exploring new locations that have not been fly-fished much is, hands-down, my favorite part of the job. Working with locals, like Raphael on Anaa Atoll, makes the whole experience rather eye-opening. These men and women know their waters far better than any foreigner could hope to and, while we might not speak the same language, we manage to get by.

In the Caribbean Sea, encircled by Mexico, Belize, Cuba, and Jamaica, are the Cayman Islands. Made up of three separate islands — Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman — it offers up land, water, and wildlife adventures unlike anywhere else in the world. But perhaps what it’s best at is nourishing your body, mind, and soul through amazing cuisine, relaxation therapies, and, of course, its stunning white sand beaches and turquoise waters. You can do nothing, or you can do it all. Your choice.

[Note: Meredith was a guest of Cayman Islands Tourism. All photos by Meredith Richardson and Cody Barnhill.]

Grand Cayman and Seven Mile Beach

Cayman Islands relax

Cayman Islands relax

Turquoise waters engulf the perimeter of Grand Cayman Island which quickly give way to deep blue ocean, exposing sheer drop-offs as deep as 5500m within the Cayman Trench. It all makes for dramatic views from land or sea. Washing up on the shores of this seven mile stretch of pristine beach are iconic symbols of the island: Seashells, like conch, serve as a home to local sea life while also making for delicious fare on local menus.

Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa

Cayman Islands relax

Cayman Islands relax

One of the newest resorts decorating Seven Mile Beach is the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa. The experience of both staying and dining at the resort should be classified as approachable luxury. Your experience here will leave you feeling like royalty without sacrificing the down to earth vibe you are greeted with upon arrival. The casual elegance of this place is exuded in its streamlined rooms whose doors open fully to reveal the ocean, with handwritten notes and prosecco left by their staff, or the 8500-square-foot spa that offers private saunas, steam baths, and a hot pool to all guests.

Check out the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa on travelstoke.

Eating locally and sustainably

Cayman Islands relax

Self-dubbed as the ‘culinary capital’ of the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands offer up nothing short of amazing cuisine. With a variety of cultures inhabiting the island, the influence this plays on the palette is obvious. This cultural melting pot not only dishes up a multitude of flavors but many restaurants source their food right from their own property or in the waters surrounding the island.

Cayman Islands relax

From left to right, Mizu Asian Bistro + Bar, The Brasserie, and Avecita are all must-dine places on Grand Cayman. Mizu prides itself on its sustainability practices and unconventional roll recipes; The Brasserie has its own half-acre organic garden where most of its fruits and veggies come from, as well as its own chicken coops; and at Avecita (in the Kimpton Seafire Resort) the chefs aim to use as many elements of the product foraged as possible, making the presentation of their dishes and drinks a true work of art.

Check them out on travelstoke: Mizu Asian Bistro + Bar, The Brasserie, Avecita

Exploring the Cayman Islands by water

Cayman Islands relax

After letting the abundance of local cuisine digest, indulge in the sapphire waters surrounding the island. With so many ways to enjoy the water you’ll be left trying to carve out time for your next dip.

Sailing

Cayman Islands relax

Probably one of the best vantage points you can get of the islands, catamaran sail trips are a popular means of getting offshore and onto the water. The islands’ surrounding waters are riddled with sail boats taking advantage of the reliable Caribbean trade winds that give sailors an advantage of getting places sans motor. Charter companies offer daily trips for those who can’t take the helm themselves and just want to relax and enjoy the ride. The magic hour on the water is right at sunset, where you can watch the sun dip below the horizon while sailing the warm waters surrounding the island.

Diving

Cayman Islands relax

Home to more than 300 dive sites in the string of islands, the Kittiwake Dive Site serves as an artificial reef to marine life offshore of Grand Cayman Island. Stripped of hazardous materials and sunk in 2011, the former navy vessel rests at a mere 20 meters in depth, making this an attraction for both novice and advanced divers. You can explore down to the depths of her five levels or all the way up to the bridge on the bow.

Check out Kittiwake Dive Site on travelstoke.

Snorkeling

Cayman Islands relax

There are many locations around the Cayman Islands where you’re sure to witness the amazing colors of the coral and other underwater life. Popular spots include Sting Ray City (below), Cemetery Beach, and Turtle Reef (shown above).

Sting Ray City

Cayman Islands relax

Cayman Islands relax

Protected within one of the island’s designated wildlife interaction zones, and nestled in a series of sandbars of Grand Cayman’s North Sound, is Sting Ray City. Visitors can book guided tours by boat, where they can not only swim the shallow waters these Southern Stingrays inhabit but even hold them with the assistance of a certified guide.

The North Side of Grand Cayman

Cayman Islands relax

Known as the ‘locals’ side of Grand Cayman Island and lending itself to an even more laid back mentality than the other sides of the island, the crew of Rum Point have perfected how to have a good time. Famous for their mudslides and lion fish sandos, the resort is a perfect place to find affordable but good eats, play volleyball in the sand or just pull up a lounge chair or hang in a hammock for the afternoon.

Check out Rum Point Beach on travelstoke.

Cayman Crystal Caves

Cayman Islands relax

Only six miles south of Rum Point and situated in the heart of the rainforest are the Cayman Crystal Caves. These limestone caves are some of the newest attractions open to the public on the island. Believed to be over a million years old and once submerged under the sea, stalactites and stalagmites line the ceilings and floors of these caverns where even at the shallowest of depths you can still find fresh water pools. Legend has it that pirates used the caves as hideouts or shelter during hurricanes and that they stored their treasures here, but nothing sparkly has surfaced besides the natural crystal formations to prove that this is true.

Cayman Islands relax

Massive tree roots decorate the entrance of the caves while varieties of woodpeckers make the overgrowth their home. You can find the Northern Flickers nesting in the hollows of the trunks, popping out occasionally to say hello.

Check out the Cayman Crystal Caves on travelstoke.

Cayman Brac

Cayman Islands relax

Only 90 some odd miles northeast of Grand Cayman Island is Cayman Brac. Smaller than Grand Cayman, and only 1.2 miles wide on average, if you are lucky enough to get a window seat on the flight there then you are likely to catch the entire island in one glance. Set at an even slower ‘island time’ pace than its big sister island, Cayman Brac is the spot to be if you are in need of some serious rest and relaxation. Wanting to disconnect, escape the crowds, or simply take in the view while listening to the waves lap the shore? Welcome to Nirvana.

Cayman Islands relax

Cayman Islands relax

The landscape scales in size surrounding the island as picturesque sandy white beaches eventually become breath taking cliffs jutting out into the ocean.

Le Soleil d’Or

Cayman Islands relax

Offering a variety of organic fare fresh from their orchards and gardens situated above the resort grounds, Le Soleil d’Or is one of the leading farm to table restaurants and resorts in all of the Cayman Islands.

Cayman Islands relax

House chefs not only offer up cooking classes to guests, but develop new menus daily based on what has been caught in local waters and what is being harvested that morning from the farm.

Cayman Islands relax

With everything from upscale lodge rooms to quaint villas to large guest houses that stretch the length of their private beaches, the resort’s beach spa is a perfect place for that oceanside massage you’ve always dreamed about.

Check out Le Soleil d’Or on travelstoke.

Cayman Islands relax

Serving as a place for both fun and extreme relaxation, the Cayman Islands fulfilled whatever desire we had to simply kick back, relax and allow ourselves to indulge in the great things that island life has to offer.

Between commissions, credit card surcharges, ATM fees and other expenses, you'll almost always have to pay a little extra for the privilege of exchanging one currency for another. How can you minimize these expenses and get the best exchange rate when traveling in a foreign country? Read on to learn how to evaluate exchange rates, avoid pesky fees and stretch your money further on your next trip abroad.

pile of euro notes and coins

Research the Exchange Rate

The only way to know if you are getting the best exchange rate is to know what the current rate is! Before you leave for your trip, check out our handy currency converter below for an idea of what exchange rate to expect. If you're taking an extended trip, check the rate periodically to stay abreast of any major changes. (Note: The rate shown in the converter below is the interbank rate. For more info, see below.)

Currency Converter by OANDA

Use Credit and ATM Cards

You will almost always get the best interbank exchange rate when buying foreign currency with either ATM cards or credit cards, which will usually be 2 to 7 percent better than the rates you'll get when exchanging cash or traveler's checks.

Try to use credit cards whenever possible for large purchases such as hotel bills, tickets and car rentals. However, keep in mind that many credit card companies add fees for transactions made in foreign currencies. (Capital One and select Citi and Chase cards are among the few credit cards that don't.) Local vendors such as restaurants and shops may also charge a fee for credit card transactions. Read more about avoiding fees and using credit cards wisely in The Best Way to Carry Money Overseas.

If ATMs are easily accessible in the country you're visiting, we recommend using your ATM card for day-to-day cash needs. But again, remember that your bank (and the owner of the ATM) may charge you an additional fee for each transaction -- making it generally a good idea to take out as much money at a time as you feel comfortable carrying, rather than making multiple withdrawals. For more information, see ATMs Abroad.

Exchanging Cash and Traveler's Checks

When exchanging cash or traveler's checks, most of the time it is better to exchange your money in the country you're going to, not in the U.S. An exception to this might be if you are convinced the dollar is going to head sharply lower while you are gone and you want to exchange at the current rate. For tips on buying currency in advance, see Buying Foreign Currency: Get More Bang for Your Buck.

You will usually get the best exchange rates at banks, post offices and American Express offices. Hotels are also worth a try. Avoid the change bureaus you see everywhere in airports, train stations and touristy areas. They usually have the worst rates, though occasionally you'll get lucky.

woman writing in notepad near currency exchange place

Wherever you go, take the time to shop around. Read the posted exchange rates carefully, and ask for the net rate after commissions. Some commissions are charged on a per-item basis on each transaction, others on a percentage basis. To lure customers, some money changers will post the sell rate for U.S. dollars rather than the buy rate (which is what you will want if you are exchanging U.S. dollars into foreign currency). Another popular tactic is to list a great rate that is only available for traveler's checks or very large quantities of money (thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars). You usually will not run into this problem at reputable banks or government-run post offices.

Finally, be very wary of black market exchanges, which can be a source of scams or counterfeit currency.

Money Safety Tips for Travelers

When Not to Exchange

U.S. dollars may be accepted as readily as the local currency in certain countries. For instance, the currencies in Belize, Barbados, the Bahamas and other Caribbean nations are pegged to the U.S. dollar at fixed rates, making it easy to pay for your purchases in either American money or the local currency. If you're traveling to a place where the exchange rate is fixed, you may be better off paying in your own currency so you don't lose money on commissions or credit card fees.

However, it's not always a good idea to pay in U.S. dollars, even if the option is open to you. In countries where the exchange rate is variable, the price that is listed in U.S. dollars may not be a great deal; often the merchant will charge you a little extra for the convenience of paying in your own currency. Packing a small calculator or using the one on your smartphone may be useful to help you figure out whether you're getting a fair price.

Create a trip budget and manage your travel expenses with our Travel Budget Calculator!

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Lonely Planet Belize (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

#1 best-selling guide to Belize *

Lonely Planet Belize is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Explore the ancient Maya site of Caracol, dive the world-renowned Blue Hole, or spot toucans in the wild; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Belize and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Belize:

Color maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - music, cuisine, Ancient Maya, history, wildlife, land & environment, weddings & honeymoons, diving & snorkeling, politics, travel with children Over 40 maps Covers Belize District, Northern Cayes, Northern Belize, Cayo  District, Southern Belize, Tikal, Flores, Guatemala and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Belize, our most comprehensive guide to Belize, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet Central America on a Shoestring.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travelers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

*Best-selling guide to Belize. Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA

The Rough Guide to Belize

Rough Guides

The Rough Guide to Belize is the ultimate travel guide to this unique country, with clear maps and detailed coverage of all the best attractions, from the sun-washed cayes to soaring Mayan pyramids.

Discover Belize's highlights with stunning photography and in-depth information on everything from the country's magnificent Barrier Reef, the longest in the Western Hemisphere, to its mist-shrouded jungles. Find detailed practical advice on what to see and do in Belize, relying on up-to-date descriptions of the best resorts, hotels, spas, restaurants and activities for all budgets. Explore every corner of Belize with clear, user-friendly maps.

Make the Most of Your Time on Earth with The Rough Guide to Belize.

About Rough Guides: For thirty years, adventurous travelers have turned to Rough Guides for up-to-date and intuitive information from expert authors. With opinionated and lively writing, honest reviews, and a strong cultural background, Rough Guides travel books bring more than two hundred destinations to life.

Fodor's Belize: with a Side Trip to Guatemala (Travel Guide)

Lan Sluder and Rose Lambert-Sluder

Written by locals, Fodor's travel guides have been offering expert advice for all tastes and budgets for more than 80 years. Belize might just have the greatest variety of flora and fauna of any country of its size in the world. Offshore the Belize Barrier Reef, a great wall of coral, stretches the entire 200-mile-length of the coast. And archaeologists have identified more than 600 significant Mayan sites in Belize. Fodor's guide gives you all the information you need to plan the perfect trip, whether you want a scuba adventure, a getaway to a secluded jungle lodge, or barefoot luxury in a peaceful beach town. This travel guide includes:· Dozens of maps· An 8-page color insert with a brief introduction and spectacular photos that capture the top experiences and attractions throughout Belize· Hundreds of hotel and restaurant recommendations, with Fodor's Choice designating our top picks· Multiple itineraries to explore the top attractions and what’s off the beaten path· Major sights such as Mayan Ruins, Hummingbird Highway, and Actun Tunichil Muknal · Side Trip from Belize including Guatemala· Coverage of Belize City, The Cayes and Atolls, Northern Belize, The Cayo, The Southern Coast, and The Deep South

Moon Belize (Moon Handbooks)

Lebawit Lily Girma

This full-color guide includes vibrant photos and easy-to-use maps to help with trip planning.Travel writer, photographer, and Belize expert Lebawit Lily Girma knows the best ways to experience Belize—from the gorgeous beaches of the Northern Cayes to the lush countryside of Belmopan and Cayo. Girma offers a range of interesting activities for every traveler—such as waterfall rappelling at Bocawina National Park or attending the annual Chocolate Festival—as well as unique trip ideas such as the "Rhythms of Belize." Packed with information on dining, transportation, and accommodations, Moon Belize gives travelers the tools they need to create a more personal and memorable experience.

BELIZE Country Studies: A brief comprehensive study of Belize

CIA

A brief yet detailed report on the country of Belize with updated information on the map, flag, history, people, economics, political conditions in government, foreign affairs, and U.S. relations.

Belize (National Geographic Adventure Map)

National Geographic Maps - Adventure

• Waterproof • Tear-Resistant • Travel Map

National Geographic's Belize Adventure Map, created in cooperation with Biodiversity & Environmental Resource Data System (BERDS) of Belize and Academex Digital Publishing, is a complete travel guide to this coastal Central American country. Hundreds of points of interest, a road network and topographic features and combined in one expertly researched map showing the country in its entirety along with neighboring areas in Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. Also provided is background information of the country's various districts, highlighting each area's unique features. While the reverse side of the map provides valuable information of such popular destinations as the Belize Barrier Reef, The Blue Hole and Tikal, illustrated with stunning photographs. Inset maps of Belize CitySan Pedro and Tikal provide extra detail of these hotspots.

A user-friendly index of protected areas, including national parks, bird and wildlife sanctuaries, natural monuments and archeological, forest, marine, public and private reserves, will help you find your adventure site. Then, plan your route with the mapped road network which includes major roads as well as dirt and gravel roads, for those wishing to travel off the beaten path. Additional transportation features mapped include airstrips, ferry routes and harbors. Along the way, find cultural, historical, ecological and adventure points of interest, such as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Maya sites, ruins, lighthouses, caves, beaches, museums and areas for wildlife viewing, sailing, snorkeling, diving and fishing.

Every Adventure Map is printed on durable synthetic paper, making them waterproof, tear-resistant and tough — capable of withstanding the rigors of international travel.

Map Scale = 1:400,000Sheet Size = 25.5" x 37.75"Folded Size = 4.25" x 9.25"

Easy Belize: How to Live, Retire, Work and Buy Property in Belize, the English Speaking Frost Free Paradise on the Caribbean Coast

Lan Sluder

Be sure you get the new fully updated, revised and expanded Second Edition for 2016-2017. EASY BELIZE How to Live, Retire, Work and Buy Property in Belize, the English Speaking, Frost Free Paradise on the Caribbean Coast by Lan Sluder is the complete guide for anyone considering relocating or retiring to Belize, and for anyone thinking of buying property or building a home in Belize. In 40 chapters, 460 pages and 170,000 words, with dozens of photographs and maps, the new edition covers everything you need to know: Where are the best areas of Belize to live? Can you still find affordable beachfront land in Belize? What do things cost in Belize? How to find the best values on real estate Facts on health care in Belize Truth about safety and security What pitfalls and problems should you avoid? Options for residency How much per month do you need to live in Belize? Tax savings in Belize Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) program How to stretch your dollars in Belize. While this books is primarily a guide for those thinking about retiring, relocating or buying property in Belize, it also includes comprehensive information on hotels and restaurants. It also covers what to do and see in Belize, including diving, snorkeling, boating, fishing, caving, visiting Maya sites and other adventures. This makes Easy Belize handy for your "check-it-out" scouting trip to Belize. Easy Belize provides detailed information on all the major areas of Belize, whether inland or on the coast and cayes: Corozal Town and Corozal District; the islands of Belize including Ambergris Caye (San Pedro) and Caye Caulker and the small offshore cayes; Belmopan City, San Ignacio/Santa Elena and Benque Viejo in Cayo District; DangrigaHopkins and Placencia in Stann Creek District; the Punta Gorda and Maya villages areas in Toledo District; and Belize City and rural Belize District. Lan Sluder has been reporting on Belize for 25 years. He is the author of more than a dozen books and ebooks on the country, including Fodor's Belize, Living Abroad in Belize and San Pedro Cool.

Lonely Planet Belize (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

#1 best-selling guide to Belize *

Lonely Planet Belize is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Dive into the depths of the Blue Hole, explore the Maya ruins of Altun Ha or relax on the tropical beaches of Ambergris Caye; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Belize and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Belize Travel Guide:

Color maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries show you the simplest way to tailor your trip to your own personal needs and interests Insider tips save you time and money, and help you get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices Honest reviews for all budgets - including eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, and hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer and more rewarding travel experience - including history, politics, Maya heritage, music, food, landscapes, wildlife, customs/etiquette Over 40 maps Useful features- including Month by Month (annual festival calendar), Diving & Snorkeling Guide, Outdoor Activity Guide, Wedding & Honeymoon Planner, Travel with Children Coverage of Ambergris CayeCaye Caulker, Glover's Reef Atoll, Shark Ray Alley, Lamanai, Xunantunich, Altun Ha, Belize City, Tikal and Flores in Guatemala and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Belize, our most comprehensive guide to Belize, is perfect for those planning to both explore the top sights and take the road less traveled.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Central America on a Shoestring guide for a comprehensive look at all Central America has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Mara Vorhees and Joshua Samuel Brown

About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travelers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in.

TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012 and 2013 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category

'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times

'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves; it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)

*Best-selling guide to Belize. Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA, April 2012 to March 2013.

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

Criminal activity, including robbery and mugging, is a significant problem in Belize City and has recently increased in and near Belmopan. It is also occasionally reported in resort areas. Crime increases seasonally around Christmas and New Year. Occasional violent crimes against tourists have occurred. Travel in groups and ensure that personal belongings and travel documents are secure at all times. Do not show signs of affluence. Use taxis after dark instead of walking.

Armed robberies occasionally occur near the western border with Guatemala, including near and around Caracol. You should only travel to these areas during daylight hours. Be cautious when visiting Mayan archaeological sites in that region. Only use official border crossings to enter Guatemala.

Cases of sexual assault against female travellers have been reported. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault.

Road travel

Roads are often poorly maintained and lit. Avoid driving after dark, especially on rural roads. Traffic accidents occur regularly. Belize has four paved highways: the Western Highway from Belize City to Benque Viejo del Carmen and on to the Guatemalan border; the Northern Highway from Belize City to Corozal and on to the Mexican border; the Hummingbird Highway from Belmopan to Dangriga; and the Southern Highway from Dangriga to the resort area of Placencia and on to the southernmost town of Punta Gorda.

Be careful crossing bridges on the Hummingbird and Southern Highways, since bridges are usually only one lane. Most other roads are unpaved; they can be very dusty in the dry season, whereas major puddles and mud can be a problem in the rainy season. Bicycles and livestock constitute a traffic hazard, especially in urban areas.

Service stations are available on the three main highways connecting Belize City with Mexico, Guatemala and southern Belize. Always keep your tank full when in remote areas, as service stations are scarce and they usually close for holidays. There are no emergency road services. A few public telephones can be found in larger villages only. You should not stop to offer assistance to others whose vehicles appear to have broken down.

Marine travel

Passenger boats may be unsafe.

Air travel

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Public transportation

Public buses and taxis are often unsafe due to poor vehicle maintenance. You should only use registered taxis with green licence plates.

Trekking

If you intend to trek:

a) never trek alone;
b) always hire an experienced guide and ensure that the trekking company is reputable;
c) buy travel health insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation;
d) ensure that you are in top physical condition;
e) advise a family member or friend of your itinerary;
f) know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal;
g) register with the Consulate of Canada in Belize; and
h) obtain detailed information on trekking routes before setting out.

General safety information

Ensure the recreational activities you choose are covered by your travel insurance, and that rental sporting and aquatic equipment is safe and in good condition, especially for diving and snorkelling.

Avoid insect bites when on the southern coast or in the jungles and avoid being stung by jellyfish when snorkelling.

Emergency services

Dial 911 for police.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Central America and Mexico, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Central America and Mexico. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Central America and Mexico, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in Central America and Mexico, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities are limited, and severe emergency cases require evacuation to another country at the expense of the patient.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Illegal drugs

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Laws

Individuals and organizations must obtain a permit to possess pre-Columbian artifacts. A Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora permit is needed to collect, possess and/or export certain plants, animals and/or plant and animal products.

You must be over 25 to rent a vehicle. Remember to purchase sufficient car insurance. An International Driving Permit is recommended.

Penalties for possession of unlicensed firearms or unlicensed ammunition are strict, including large fines and mandatory jail sentences for repeat offenders.

Some homosexual acts are illegal.

Money

The currency is the Belizean dollar (BZD). Cash advances can be obtained at local banks with major international credit cards.

Climate

The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.

The low-lying coastal islands of Belize are particularly vulnerable to direct hits by hurricanes and tropical storms. The islands have been cut off from communications and outside assistance during hurricanes. Extensive flooding as a result of storm activity is common both on the islands and in areas of the country not directly affected by hurricanes.