We had an incredible time in Belize last April and couldn’t wait to share our thoughts and experiences. It was more fun, more beautiful, and more friendly than we knew to expect, and we learned a lot in preparation for our RTW trip, too.
Here are 6 things we learned in Belize. Some are just interesting facts, others are about our own situations and expectations. Nonetheless, they are invaluable to us and our future travel plans:
Belize is friendly.
Everywhere we went, we were greeted by helpful smiles and curiosity. Thanks to our car rental, we got off the beaten path a bit more than some travelers might, and it was the best decision we made! “What have you done so far?” and “How long are you here?” were consistent questions, and locals were pleased to hear we were enjoying their beautiful country. They were also quick to provide advice for places to visit and foods to taste, and we learned a lot about their history, culture, and lifestyles while chilling in hammocks with them at the end of the day.
Belize is safe.
We drove over much of this beautiful country and never once felt unsafe. Granted, we did not spend much time in Belize City — we only used it as a transportation hub for water taxis, airplanes, and our car rental — but we felt completely safe throughout our entire trip. You may initially worry about safety because they have higher poverty levels and scrappier buildings and roads than you will find at home, but once you get out of the city and start driving through the country and meeting its people, you will be more at ease. A lack of money does not mean “unsafe.” It simply means a lack of money and opportunity.
Belize is so much more than its beaches.
So many come to Belize and only spend their time on its cayes. Yes, they are beautiful and the Belize Barrier Reef is a great bucket list item, but there is a lot of adventure to be had in its jungles and mainland towns. From its caves to its ruins, and from its scenic drives to its “secret” watering holes, exploring Belize’s mainland was our very favorite part of this trip.
Belize is a great place to road trip.
There are only a few main highways throughout the country, so it’s easy to find your way with Google Maps or a decent highway map. Renting a car here — especially a 4-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance — can get pricey. But if you plan to visit some of the Mayan ruins or travel along Pine Ridge Road or the Hummingbird Highway, your family can save money and enjoy a lot more freedom if you rent a car. You probably won't need a 4-wheel drive along the Hummingbird Highway, but it could come in handy on Pine Ridge Road, especially if you are driving to Caracol. Many sections of Pine Ridge Road have packed dirt roads, and these become a muddy mess when wet. High clearance is also useful — elevated crosswalks are used as speed bumps throughout the country.
Belize is a great place to eat.
From fresh seafood to spicy baked chicken with beans and rice, we really enjoyed the food in Belize. From the start, we fell in love with Marie Sharpe’s hot sauce, which has a brightly-flavored carrot base and great heat. It is created just outside Dangriga and can be found on tables in every restaurant across the country. We put it on everything while in Belize, so we brought back several bottles for ourselves and as gifts. Belizeans also use Recardo in a lot of their chicken, pork, and other meat dishes. Rice, pinto beans, red beans, coleslaw, pasta salad, and potato salad are common side dishes. Pro tip: there aren’t many vegetable-based sides at restaurants, so if you see one on the menu, you should get it! Although they have vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and more at their markets, they must wind up on their plates at home and not in their restaurants. We were seriously jonesing for a spinach salad when we got home.
Belize is not (backpacking) cheap.
We were astounded, time and time again, that so many of the prices were almost what could have been expected in the United States, especially on the cayes. Belizean beer and most of our meals cost just under what we would pay in the US. Our accommodations did not have RTW trip-worthy pricing — between $39 and $72 per day in double-occupancy hostel rooms — until we were in the Cayo, and even there was still higher than we’d hoped. Our older, all-wheel drive, higher-clearance Chevy Equinox was rented from a local company and much cheaper than I could find from international companies, but it was still $65/day. And — most importantly — the very best activities in Belize were quite expensive. Our snorkeling and ATM Cave trips were both required as tours, which were $65-$95 USD each person. Luckily, we didn’t have to spend money on tours for our Xunantunich and Caracol trips because we rented a car with the capability to reach them.
As incredible as Belize is, we were relieved to not have this on our RTW trip itinerary. We have a $50 per day spend goal for our RTW trip, and we would have spent hundreds of extra dollars on all the things that make Belize, well, Belize.
Belize is a country of incredible natural beauty, history, and people. As one of our ATM tour companions said, “Belize is for people who love to travel. It is never the first place someone visits internationally, but it’s always on people who love to travel’s bucket list.” She was so right. Belize was a really fun and rewarding adventure for us, and if you make it down to Belize, we are sure you will feel the same way. It’s un-Belizable.
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