|Geography||Exit Requirements||Customs Declaration|
|Weather||Respect Environmental Rules||Safety|
|Language||Religion||U.S. Citizens Encouraged to Register|
|What to Wear||Air Service||Holidays, Events, Celebrations|
|What to Bring||Taxi Service||Shopping & Gift Ideas in Belize|
|Electricity||Internet/Phone Service||Getting Married in Belize|
|Entry Requirements||Bus Service||Quick Facts About Northern Belize|
South of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, bordered by Guatemala to the west and south, Belize is approximately the size of Massachusetts, with a population of 350,000.
The coral reefs off the coast provide the longest continuous barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Low coastal areas are mangrove forest. Most of the mainland is covered in broadleaf jungle, turning to pine forest at higher elevations. Belize is crisscrossed with navigable rivers including the Mopan, New River, and Belize River. The Maya Mountains have numerous waterfalls.
Climate is sub-tropical, with an annual temperature that averages about 80 degrees F. Rains can bring the temperature down to the low 60s, while mid 90s can be common during the summer.Water temperature averages between 79 and 83 degrees F. Trade winds along the coast and on the cayes help keep temperatures pleasant even in the hottest months.
The "dry season" generally lasts from November through May; the "rainy season" is typically June to November, when brief showers are more prevalent, usually later in the day or in the evening.
Tropical storms can occasionally occur in the Caribbean region, with increased probability late summer/early fall, although the chance of visitors to Belize experiencing such extreme weather is remote.
Shorts, T-shirts and sundresses are the rule of the day. You'll want sandals for the "surf" and comfortable sneakers for the "turf" portion of the trip. Consider a sweater or sweatshirt for evenings during "winter," especially in the mountains. Long pants are recommended when touring the jungle.
Good sunscreen is a must. Insect repellent is useful during jungle hikes or when the air is calm along the coastline. Film, batteries, health and beauty aids can be expensive, with limited brands. Drinkable water is generally not a problem.
When leaving Belize, there is an exit fee, $39.25 US per person. Consult with a Magnum Belize representative on whether this fee is included in your tour package. If not, the exit fee is a good way to use up your extra Belize dollars.
In an effort to preserve Belize's natural resources for the enjoyment of all, the following are prohibited by law: Removing and exporting black coral, hunting without a license, picking orchids in forest reserves, removing archaeological artifacts, spearfishing while wearing scuba diving apparel, and overnight camping in any public place, including forest reserve. Please respect the beauty of Belize!
Rice, beans, and chicken are staples of the Belizean diet. A wide variety of Creole, Mexican, Central American, Chinese and American cuisine are also served. Fresh fruit and seafood is widely available.
About half of Belize's population is Roman Catholic; another 30% is Protestant.
Belize City, an easy two-hour flight from Miami, New Orleans, or Houston, is the hub for visiting the mainland or the cayes. There is domestic air service to all main cities in Belize and to Flores, Guatemala. Magnum Belize Tours can help you book both international and domestic flights at the same time you reserve your accommodations.
Internet cafes can be found in more populated areas like Belize City and San Pedro, and more resorts and hotels now offer Internet service; some provide wireless connections as well, though not always in rooms. Long-distance telephone and prepaid cellular service options are available.
Duty-free importation is allowed for: The accompanied baggage of the passenger, wearing apparel, jewelry, binoculars and cameras, all of which are not intended for any other person or resale. Each person is allowed to import: One carton (200 only) cigarettes and one bottle (fifth) of alcoholic beverage, duty-free.
Most residents realize that tourism is a key to the Belizean economy, and crime against visitors is rare. The same principles of travel apply here as they do in any unfamiliar city or country: stay alert, don't venture into unfamiliar areas at night, safeguard your possessions and don't leave personal items unattended.
The currency exchange is a stable $2 BZ-$1 US. Stores and restaurants accept U.S. and Belizean currency interchangeableably. It's best to bring a combination of cash and/or travelers checks (smaller denominations recommended) along with major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) that are widely accepted. ATM service is limited; it's best not to rely on an ATM card to withdraw funds.
Some hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge, distributed amongst service staff. In general, however, follow the same guidelines you would use at home, tipping as a way of rewarding good service.
U.S. citizens traveling to Belize are encouraged to register with the U.S. Belize Embassy, to facilitate assistance in case of emergency. Travelers can do so online (at belize.usembassy.gov) or in person. The U.S. Embassy is located on Floral Park Road in the capital city of Belmopan.
The U.S. Embassy serves in a variety of ways in Belize. It will issue temporary travel documents in the event of a lost passport, and funds to get back to the United States if needed. The embassy handles arrangements in the event a U.S. citizen dies in Belize, and ensures that a U.S. citizen is treated fairly if incarcerated.
There are numerous city celebrations and theme events in Belize throughout the year, including Fiesta de Carnaval one week before Lent; the Cashew Festival in Crooked Tree Village; the Deer Dance Festival in the Toledo District; Placencia Lobster Fest, and Costa Maya in San Pedro. Consult with Magnum Belize's travel planners (page 20) about arranging travel around events and holidays in Belize.
Artwork: The independence and imagination of the Belizean people makes them wonderful artists. One idea is handmade Mayan calendar needlepoint stitchings.
Wood Carvings, Furniture: Mahogany and other native hardwoods are turned into graceful, flowing sculptures in the hands of Belizean artists.
Music and CDs: Punta rock music is a cornerstone of Belizean popular culture.
Jewelry: Black coral is available in necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Be sure to buy from a reputable dealer who has obtained the coral legally. Hand-made Mayan jewelry is also popular.
Food: One of the most famous is Marie Sharp's hot sauces processed near Dangriga, which come in a range of delicious flavors.
Healing herbs: Bottled versions of traditional Mayan and Creole medicines offer help for a variety of healthful benefits.
Liquor: The duty-free shop at the airport offers a range of Caribbean rums (Rompope is a popular Belizean-made rum cream). Also, look for inexpensive local liquors, including coconut rum, cashew wine and cherry liqueur. The Green Bottle Winery in Dangriga sells locally made wine.
Slate Carvings: A traditional Mayan art form, with designs that include Mayan deities and symbols for the months, seasons, stars and planets.
Baskets: Can be found in a wide range of handmade styles and sizes.
Many couples select Belize to tie the knot or renew their wedding vows. No wonder, given the romantic tropical settings here, from a lush rainforest or jungle waterfall locale to a white sand beach with palm trees and the aqua Caribbean waters in the background.
Many of our hotels and resorts can easily help couples plan both exotic and traditional weddings, including marriage license arrangements and other details from music to flowers, so couples can relax and enjoy this unique lifetime experience. Ask a Magnum Belize travel planner for more details on getting married or renewing your wedding vows in Belize.
The jungle in the west provides habitat for some of the highest concentration of jaguar in the country, and probably the best chance to see one of Belize's five wildcats (Jaguar, Puma, Margay, Jaguarundi and Ocelot).
The coastal lagoons to the east are vast feeding grounds for colonies of storks, herons and egrets as well as the endangered manatee. In between flows beautiful river country, full of crocodile, turtle and tarpons.
Mennonites have a strong presence here, and their horse-drawn carriages along the roads of northern Belize remind travelers of the astounding diversity within Belize.
The site of Cuello outside of Orange Walk is one of the earliest known Maya sites in Central America, dating from 2500 BC.
Lamanai was a major Maya trading center that thrived for over 3,000 years. With a population exceeding 35,000 at the height of the city's power, Lamanai's trading influence extended over the borders of present-day Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Belize.
Of the 700 buildings within the Lamanai Maya ruins area, it's estimated that less than 5% have been excavated and explored. Lamanai is Maya for "submerged crocodile."
Quick Facts About Orange Walk, Cayo District, Maya Mountains
"Cayo" is the Spanish word for island, and is believed to have been named by the early settlers when the area was bounded by two rivers. The only access to Cayo back then was by boat or horseback.
Guanacaste National Park is a fifty-acre tropical forest on the northside of the Western Highway. The park derives its name from the guanacaste tree, one of the largest trees in Central America that can grow over 130 feet tall.
Blue Hole National Park which is 12 miles southeast of Belmopan, features a collapsed sinkhole about 100 feet deep and roughly 300 feet in diameter. Nearby is a beautiful sapphire blue pool, for which the area is named.
Xunantunich, means "stone woman" in Mayan. The largest pyramid here, El Castillo, rises a towering 130 feet above the main plaza.