Formerly a British colony known as British Honduras, Belize is the only Central American country with English as its official language. But there is otherwise not much visible British influence in this sleepy little nation. Rather, its sparse population of less than 300,000 is a mosaic of ethnic diversity that includes Mestizos (Spanish-Indians), Creoles (African-Europeans), Garifunas (African-Indians) and Mayans, as well as a few Anglo-Europeans and Asians. All seem to cohabitate cheerfully, giving the country the laid-back feel of a mainland Caribbean enclave.
During my recent visit, although foreign visitors were still few outside of the coastal areas and the tourism infrastructure was somewhat limited,a number of small eco-resorts and lodges were beginning to appear in the interior. With its linguistic advantage, its unspoiled natural and archeological resources and its proximity to North America, Belize seemed well on its way to turning its western highlands into another thriving eco-tourism destination.
Cost Of Visiting moderate
Currency The local currency is the Belizean dollar (BZ$). It has been pegged to the U.S. dollar since 1978 at the rate of 2 BZ$ to $1.
Electrical Current 120 volt with U.S. plugs
How To Get There There were daily non-stop flights between the Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize City and the southern U.S. gateways of Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Miami, via American, Continental and Delta Airlines. There were also direct flights from major Central American cities via local airlines such as Groupo Taca. At the time of my visit, U.S., Canadian and E.U. citizens were not required to have a visa to enter Belize. The departure tax was $35.
Location Belize is located on the eastern coastline of Central America. It is bordered on the east by the Caribbean Sea, on the north by Mexico and on the west and south by Guatemala.
Measures English measurement system prevailed
Money Issues Currency could be exchanged at the airport in Belize City and in banks in most cities and tourist locations. Automated Teller Machines were found in these same areas; U.S. dollars were readily accepted. Credit cards were only reliably accepted in establishments catering to tourists.
Technology Electricity and running water were available in all areas visited by tourists, as was high speed internet connectivity. Cell phone service was widely available.
Time G.M.T minus six hours (e.g. U.S. Central Time during Standard Time). Belize did not observe Daylight Saving Time
Transportation From Belize City, air connections could be made to various coastal destinations within Belize, including Ambergris Bay Caye, Caulker Caye, Chapel, Pacencia and Punta Gorda. The road network was in poor condition. Although there were about 1,800 miles (2900 kilometers) of roads in the country, less than a quarter of them were paved. There were virtually no traffic lights; speed bumps were used liberally instead, even on main roads. Buses provided regular service to and from all the main towns.
Shopping And Souvenirs I found little shopping of note in Belize; only the usual souvenir shops with the ubiquitous local pottery and wood carving, obsidian plaques, jewelry and textiles. Basic necessities were readily available from local supermarkets.
Reviewers Article and photographs by Josette King
Would You Visit Again? Yes