Belize‘s Caribbean spirit means there aren’t too many rules or major “faux pas” you need to worry about here, it’s as laid back as it gets. Nonetheless, as one of the most pristine countries in the region, with the largest protected area and the second largest Barrier Reef in the world, there are a few things to keep in mind as a responsible traveler. The others are experiences you shouldn’t miss during your visit.
1. Do not leave the sunscreen or bug spray at home: You’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors and depending on the time of year, bug spray will be essential and useful for hikes. And of course, sunscreen is always needed. Both of these are expensive to purchase in Belize.
2. Do not touch or step on the coral when you go snorkeling or diving, nor the rainforest wildlife: If you’re new to snorkeling or diving, do ask your tour guide and learn how to explore marine life the right way. Help preserve Belize’s natural resources. Similarly, if you’re in the rainforest and see a cool species, don’t touch it, merely admire from a safe distance.
3. Do not forget to pack a pair of pants and a strong pair of hiking shoes: The weather can be unpredictable in Belize, and while generally warm, there are occasional cold fronts as well as rainy summer months. Hiking in the rainforest requires good coverage and protection, so be prepared! Clothes, repellent and other goods are more expensive in Belize.
4. Do not turn up at a nightclub or party before ten: The party never starts before 10 p.m., that’s a good rule of thumb to go by. It applies even more so if you’re heading to the club.
5. Do not leave without tasting Belizean food: The local cuisine is not only diverse, it’s delicious. You can taste Creole food – usually a stew with rice and beans – or Garifuna dishes, consisting of fish and coconut broths, or Mestizo/Latin foods, like tamales, garnaches and more. And always throw on some Marie Sharpe hot sauce! Be warned, you’re likely to gain weight during your stay.
Don’t miss trying a heaping plate of stew chicken with rice n’ beans! – © Lily Lebawit Girma
6. Do not skip a snorkel or dive trip to the Barrier Reef: Snorkeling or diving Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the Blue Hole or the southern parts of the reef, off Tobacco Caye or South Water, are amazing experiences, and still the number one reason folks head to Belize.
7. Do not forget to bring an ATM-machine friendly bank card: I have seen visitors who are stuck because their particular credit or bank card isn’t accepted worldwide. Be sure and check with your bank before you leave.
8. Do not skip staying in the rainforest: Over 30% of Belize’s lush, jungle interior is protected by law. With a low population density, this means the country is still in excellent shape conservation-wise and ahead of its neighbors. Staying overnight at a jungle lodge here is a must. You won’t regret it.
9. Do not go home without visiting a caye or offshore island: Ah, Belize’s cayes are pure paradise. You simply can’t go home without spending at least a night on one. My favorites are South Water Caye and Caye Caulker.
10. Do not be shy: Talk to the locals! Belizeans are undoubtedly the friendliest people I’ve met in the Caribbean (OK, next to Jamaicans), and they love to share their tales about Belize with visitors and their knowledge of the country. Soak it all in! As beautiful Belize is on the outside and inside, the people here make all the difference.
- Lebawit Lily Girma