Country guides South & Central America
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.
English is the official language and the one most commonly spoken, but visitors will hear Creole, Spanish, Garifuna and Mayan as well.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
United States passports must be valid for the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of 30 days or less.
British passports should be valid for six months from the date travellers arrive, but visas are not required.
Canadian passports must be valid at least six months beyond the date travellers expect to leave Belize. Visas are not required for stays of up to 30 days.
Australian passports must be valid at least six months beyond the date travellers expect to leave Belize. Visas are not required for stays of up to 30 days.
South African passports must be valid at least six months beyond the date travellers expect to leave Belize. Visas are not required for stays of up to 30 days.
Irish passports must be valid at least six months beyond the date travellers expect to leave Belize. Visas are not required for stays of up to 30 days.
New Zealander passports must be valid at least six months beyond the date travellers expect to leave Belize. Visas are not required for stays of up to 30 days.
Belize Tourism Board, Belize City: +501 223 1913 or www.travelbelize.orgEmergencies: 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.