TOPOGRAPHY: Belize is located on the east coast of Central America. The country measures 8,867 square miles. It is bordered by Mexico on the North, Guatemala on the West and South and the Caribbean Sea on the East. Belize’s highest points, Doyle’s Delight and Victoria Peak, reach heights of 3,687 feet and 3,675 feet respectively. Offshore, the Belize Barrier Reef, the second longest in the world, is 185 miles long.
GOVERNMENT: Belize is an independent nation with a democratically elected parliament. A member of the British Commonwealth, Belize’s head of state is Queen Elizabeth II. She is represented by the Governor General of Belize. The Prime Minister is the head of Government.
POPULATION: Belize boasts one of the lowest population densities in Central America. In 2010, the population was estimated to be just over 300,000 people.
CLIMATE: The climate of Belize is tropical to subtropical with both wet and dry seasons. The hurricane season runs between June to November. The average temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit although the humidity sometimes makes it feel hotter, especially in inland areas. Cold fronts or “northers” generally occur in December and January and usually bring rain and cooler temperatures.
MONEY: The official currency is the Belize dollar. Two Belize dollars are equivalent to one US dollar.
TAXES: A general sales tax of 12.5% is charged on all goods and services. Hotel tax is 9%.
TIPPING: While tipping is mostly voluntary, some establishments do include gratuity in the check. The suggested average tip is 10% with 15% reserved for exemplary service.
AIRPORT DEPARTURE TAX: Non-Belizeans pay a US$39.25 departure tax.
TIME ZONE: GMT-6, same as US Central Standard Time. Belize does not observe daylight savings time.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Belize’s area code is 501. Cell phones can be rented or bought from local providers to make national and international calls. Wi-Fi is available at most hotels. Internet cafes are located across the country.
WATER: Purified bottled water is widely available but tap water is potable.
ELECTRICAL SYSTEM: 110 volts AC; same as North America.
RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS: A variety of religions are practiced in Belize. Christian denominations include Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
POSTAL RATES: Post cards to the USA are BZ$0.30 and letters cost BZ$0.60. To Europe, postcards are BZ$0.40, while letters start at BZ$0.75.
GETTING HERE BY AIR
American Airlines: Dallas, TX and Miami, FL
Continental Airlines: Houston, TX and Newark, NJ
Delta Airlines: Atlanta, GA
TACA: San Salvador, El Salvador
US Airways: Charlotte, NC
Tropic Air: Flores, Guatemala
Private Jets: American or Canadian aircraft can submit flight plans via a handling agent to the Department of Civil Aviation. All others must submit information about the plane, its pilot and passengers 24 hours in advance. For details contact firstname.lastname@example.org
GETTING HERE BY LAND
Mexico: Travelers can rent a car or drive their own to Belize. Regional bus lines and shuttle services depart regularly from Cancun’s international airport and Chetumal, MX bound for Belize.
Guatemala: Vehicles enter Belize via the western border point of Benque Viejo Del Carmen. Buses make frequent scheduled runs from Guatemala City and Flores, Peten to Belize. Some Guatemalan tour companies offer drop off service at the water taxi terminal in Belize City. A new highway in Toledo, which will add another official border between Belize and Guatemala, remains under construction.
GETTING HERE BY SEA
Major cruise line Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, Aida, V ship Leisure, Oceania, Princess and Norwegian make calls to Belize. Cruise ships depart from US cities such as Miami, Tampa and Orlando in Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Mobile, Alabama.
International ferries depart coastal cities and towns in Guatemala and Honduras and dock in Punta Gorda, Placencia VIllage and Dangriga Town. Belizean boats also transfer passengers and cargo between San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Corozal town and Chetumal, Mexico. Private vessels must be cleared by Customs officials in major Belizean ports.
All visitors to Belize must have a passport valid through their departure date. Entry visas are not required for citizens of the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Caribbean countries. Resident ambassadors and honorary consuls of various countries are stationed in Belize. Travelers are allowed to bring personal cameras, computers, fishing and diving gear, etc into Belize duty free. Visitors can take home cigarettes, alcohol and duty free items; however, restriction amounts vary by country. No one is permitted to export Pre-Columbian art (Maya artifacts), shells or unprocessed coral and turtle shells. Marine products such as lobster require permits issued by the Fisheries Department.