Sunday, April 13, 2008 11:08 AM
Belize - Our Tips for Travelers
First, a big thanks you to all of the wonderful people we met in our travels through the beautiful country of Belize and to all the folks that rode along with us virtually, reading the blog, offering suggestions and sending messages of well wishes. I think in my next life, I want to come back as a travel writer.
As me made our way through the country, we obviously took copious notes, jotted down names and compiled lists of information to include in the weblog and for our own future use. We also began to put together our list of “should haves”, “could haves” and “would haves”, tips and recommendations for fellow adventurers traveling in Belize. I hope this will be helpful for those of you planning a similar journey and entertaining for the rest of our readers. While this one wonderful journey surely does not make us experts on Belize, we did learn and see a lot and would be happy to try to answer any questions you might have. Enjoy!
Buy a proper and up to date road map before you arrive in Belize. We assumed that we would be able to purchase one at a gas station or at the border crossing. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to locate a road map until we visited the gift shop at the Belize Zoo where we gladly purchased the only one in stock. Until then we navigated using the map below. Not exactly GPS now is it.
Be certain to alert your banking institutions that you will be traveling in Belize so that they will not be alarmed by the unusual activity on your account. Be very, very sure your ATM card will work in Belize. In our experience, Mexican cards will not be accepted, cards from US banks work just fine. Have a back-up plan just in case lest you be stranded on the Guatemala border for three days in the rain. You may also want to consider purchasing a cheapy Belize cell phone to use while you are in the country. The bill for our calls on our Mexican cell was an unpleasant surprise.
Absolutely purchase the required auto insurance when driving any vehicle in Belize. We went through no fewer than 4 police road blocks and were required to show proof of insurance each time. Proof of insurance, vehicle registration and your valid driver’s license should be handy at all times.
If you are renting a vehicle, 4-wheel or all wheel drive will suit you well especially in the mountainous regions. If you are visiting during the rainy season, I would consider 4-wheel drive capability a must. Besides, you never know where the road might take you.
Make sure the vehicle you are driving has a proper and functioning spare tire and ALL of the tools required to make the change. With any luck some of the roads you will be exploring will be a bit dodgy. If you blow tire, don’t count on help showing up anytime soon….if at all.
Oh, and in case I wasn't clear the first time, the Manatee Highway is NOT a highway…no matter what the map says. You have been warned.
Bring a good insect repellent with you and apply it every day, religiously. You ain’t seen skeeters like Belizean skeeters! We were all covered with bites.
Bring appropriate wet weather gear and warm clothes. Even in March, which is supposed to be a dry time, we were hit with three solid days of rain and unseasonable chilly temperatures. To that end, if you have room for an extra blanket, bring that along as well. It is likely that your hotel will not have one in your room and the nights, especially in the mountains, can get downright cold.
Rain jackets would have been nice. Plastic bags will do.
On Sundays, on the mainland of Belize, EVERYTHING is closed. Really….everything. Make sure you are well stocked up on Saturday.
Bring with you a few rolls of toilet paper and baby wipes for the trip. We didn’t document the “unplanned potty stops” for nothing. You can sometimes drive for hours without seeing another soul let alone a proper restroom.
Be sure to “get off the beaten path”. Of course it goes without saying to use good judgment and reasonable caution when traveling anywhere unfamiliar. Just don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. Some of our most memorable experiences came from spur of the moment decisions and wrong turns. Leave a little room for spontaneity.
If you can, travel with children. They are truly the best ambassadors. Admittedly, our children being well traveled and fiercely independent may not represent the “average child”… as if there is such a thing. Growing up without the commonplace electronic entertainment of video games and the musical isolation of ipods, they are accustomed to finding their own fun and making friends. I understand, in this day and age, this isn’t reasonable for many people but if you can leave the electronics behind, do it. Tune in to the regional radio stations, play “I Spy”, give the kids their own map so they can chart the course themselves and give them some ownership in the adventure.
Unfettered by grownup fears, prejudices and preconceptions, if you let them, your children will build a bridge to the heart of another culture and dare you to walk across.
Do you dare?