Electricity

Electrical current is 110/220 volts, 60Hz. Flat blades with round grounding pin or rectangular blade plugs are used. Most of the electricity is provided by Diesel/Generator Sets.

Language

English is the official language and the one most commonly spoken, but visitors will hear Creole, Spanish, Garifuna and Mayan as well.

Money

The unit of currency is the Belize Dollar (BZD), which is fixed against the US$ as BZD2 to US$1. Most tourist resorts, hotels, restaurants and tour operators accept US currency, so visitors should make sure they understand which dollar rate (Belize or US Dollars) is being quoted. Credit cards are only accepted in large tourist facilities; ATMs are widely available in larger towns.

Tipping

Tipping in Belize is voluntary but as in any country, good services should be rewarded with a 10 percent tip. Upscale hotels and resorts may add a 10 percent service charge to guests' bills, and this usually goes to the porter and maid who assisted them. Tour guides should be tipped a few extra dollars for their effort and taxi drivers should be tipped only if they help carry bags or take travellers on a guided tour.

Health

No vaccinations are required for entry to Belize. Travellers arriving from a yellow-fever infected area require a vaccination certificate. Cases of dengue fever have occurred, and seem to be increasing, so insect repellent is strongly advised. Malaria prevention is recommended for those travelling outside Belize City. Potable water is available in most areas of Belize but it is advisable, if in doubt, to drink bottled or boiled water. Medical facilities are poor in the city, and almost non-existent elsewhere. Cases of severe illness or injury usually require expensive medical evacuation. Adequate medical insurance is therefore vital. For divers there is a hyperbaric chamber at Ambergris Caye.

Safety

There have been incidents of tourists falling victim to violent crime. Muggings have been reported in San Pedro, Caye Caulker, and Placencia, and in parts of Belize City. Visitors should take sensible precautions to minimise the risks. These would include not wearing expensive jewellery, keeping valuables out of sight, staying in groups, avoiding dark alleys, and not walking alone on the beach at night. It is also advisable to use qualified guides for exploratory trips off the beaten track.

Local customs

A laidback attitude permeates Belize and usually carries over into conversation, so visitors who approach locals should try to be friendly, relaxed and patient. Locals aren't especially accepting of homosexuality, but are unlikely to show their disapproval. Still, there are no gay venues and, as a precaution, it's best to avoid public displays of affection.

Doing business

Belize has a fairly informal business style, although punctuality and politeness are appreciated. Handshaking, the exchanging of business cards and some small talk is expected before getting down to business. Dress is usually casual, but neat, with men in short-sleeved, collared shirts without a tie; however government-related business is more formal. Business hours are usually 8am to 12pm and 1pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Duty free

Travellers over 18 years do not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g tobacco, wines or spirits not exceeding one litre and personal goods or souvenirs to the value of 200 BZD. Restricted items include plants, meat and meat products, live animals and processed food items.

Communications

The international dialling code for Belize is +501. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). Roaming costs can be expensive. For visitors staying longer than a week or two, the cheapest option is usually to buy a cheap local phone with a prepaid SIM card. WiFi is widely available Belize City.

Passport & Visa

All visitors to Belize must produce a passport valid for at least the period of their intended stay. It's recommended, however, that passports be valid for six months after departure from holiday destinations. All visitors should also have return tickets and documents for onward travel, and funds amounting to US$50 per person, per day. Visas are usually granted on arrival for 30 days but extensions are usually possible for a fee.

Entry requirements

United States citizens do not require a visa for stays of up to 180 days. A valid passport is required.

British passport holders, irrespective of endorsement regarding national status, do not require a visa - immigration officials will grant a period of stay on arrival and extensions of this original allowance will be possible for a fee. A valid passport is required. No visa is required.

Canadians do not require a visa - immigration officials will grant a period of stay on arrival and extensions of this original allowance will be possible for a fee. A valid passport is required.

Australians do not require a visa - immigration officials will grant a period of stay on arrival and extensions of this original allowance will be possible for a fee. A valid passport is required.

South Africans do not require a visa - immigration officials will grant a period of stay on arrival and extensions of this original allowance will be possible for a fee. A valid passport is required.

Irish nationals do not require a visa - immigration officials will grant a period of stay on arrival and extensions of this original allowance will be possible for a fee. A valid passport is required.

New Zealanders do not require a visa - immigration officials will grant a period of stay on arrival and extensions of this original allowance will be possible for a fee. A valid passport is required.

Useful contacts

Belize Tourism Board, Belize City: +501 223 1913 or www.travelbelize.org

Emergencies: 911.

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Belize Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 332 9636.

Belize High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7723 3603.

Belize High Commission, Ontario, Canada: +1 416 865 7000.

Embassies / consulates in Belize

United States Embassy, Belmopan: +501 822 4011.

British High Commission, Belmopan: +501 822 2147

Canadian Honorary Consulate, Belize City: +501 223 1060.

Australian Embassy, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (also responsible for Belize): +1 868 822 5450

South African High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica (also responsible for Belize): +1 876 620 4840.

Mission of Ireland to the UN, New York City, United States (also responsible for Belize): +1 212 421 6934.