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BELIZE

“The Jewel,” as Belizeans affectionately call their home, has a spectacular reef—the second-largest in the world—with premier diving and snorkeling. A handful of its 200 offshore islands offer the kind of seclusion and dreamlike surroundings that continue to provide both luxury and romance. For those willing to explore deeper, the rewards are even richer. Virgin rainforests with more than 30 percent protected land. The largest cave system and the tallest waterfall in Central America. Riverbanks are home to hundreds of singing birds, giant iguanas, and roaming jaguars. Miles of turquoise Caribbean water and golden sand, all a mere one-to two-hour hop from the interior. A dazzling array of marine life—from whale sharks to the rare seahorse.

Beyond its natural wonders, Belize is an unexpected cultural and sensory feast. This is a Caribbean country at heart, with splashes of ancient Mayan, African, and European influences. That mélange underpins every aspect of life, from a cuisine of coconut rice and beans and fish stew with mashed plantains to annual celebrations of both Caribbean and Latin Carnivals.

EXPLORE BELIZE

TRAVEL TIPS

AIR TRAVEL

Philip Goldson International Airport Many hotels and resorts offer airport shuttles. Taxis into town cost around BZ$50.

Two companies (Maya Island and Tropic Air) fly between all major towns in Belize. Planes are small, flights are short and generally affordable, and both companies enjoy good safety records.

BOAT TRAVEL

Caye Caulker and Ambergris are serviced by ferries from Belize City; there is also a boat from Corozal to Ambergris with a Sarteneja stop. No regular boats to the smaller islands and cayes, but passage can be arranged with a private boatman from Dangriga, Hopkins or Placencia, or through resorts and hotels.

BUS TRAVEL

Most travel in Belize is done by bus. All towns from Corozal to Punta Gorda are serviced by one or more of a variety of private bus services, and you can usually flag down a bus on the highway.

International Bus Services Frequent buses from Guatemala and Mexico travel to border towns; daily express buses go all the way to Belize City. One nightly bus runs from Belize City to Cancun Airport.

BOAT TRAVEL

International Boat Services Chetumal, Mexico, to San Pedro Livingstone and Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, to Punta Gorda Puerto Cortés, Honduras, to Belize City, Placencia, and Dangriga.

CAR TRAVEL

Belize drives on the right side of the road. All major highways are paved, but none have shoulders or dividing lines. Speed bumps are common but not all are marked.

HEALTH

Technically, a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers aged older than one year arriving from an affected area, though immigration officials rarely, if ever, ask to see one. In general, your routine vaccinations—tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, and polio—should be up to date. Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all travelers over age two and should be given at least two weeks (preferably four weeks or more) before departure. Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for travelers who will have intimate contact with local residents or potentially need blood transfusions or injections while abroad, especially if visiting for more than six months. It is also recommended for all health care personnel and volunteers. Typhoid and rabies vaccines are recommended for those headed for rural areas.

HOURS OF OPERATION

Outside of banks, phone companies and government offices you’ll generally find most opening hours to be flexible. Restaurants and bars tend to keep longer hours during high season but will also close early if they wish (if business is slow etc). Banks 8 am-2 pm or 3 pm Mon-Thu & 8 am-4 pm or 4:30 pm Fri Pubs & Bars noon-midnight (or later) Restaurants & Cafes 7-9:30 am (breakfast), 11:30 am-2 pm (lunch) & 6-8 pm (dinner) Shops 9 am-5 pm Mon-Sat, some open Sunday.

PASSPORTS AND VISAS

Passports and Visas You must have a passport that is valid for the duration of your stay in Belize. You may be asked at the border (or airport immigration) to show a return ticket or ample money to leave the country. You do not need a visa if you are a citizen of a British Commonwealth country, Brazil, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, the United States, or Uruguay. Visitors for purposes other than tourism must obtain a visa.

TRIP INSURANCE

Comprehensive trip insurance is recommended for all vacations purchased through Vacays4U. Comprehensive policies typically cover trip cancellation and interruption, letting you cancel or cut your trip short because of illness, or, in some cases, acts of terrorism. Ask about insurance policies that cover evacuation and medical care. Some also cover you for trip delays because of bad weather or mechanical problems as well as for lost or delayed luggage.

Always read the fine print of your policy to make sure you’re covered for the risks that most concern you. Compare several policies to be sure you’re getting the best price and range of coverage available.