No one seems to want to hear this, but having just spent the day trying to check telephone numbers for the new Fodor's Belize & Guatemala guide, I am now sure this is going to be another big mess for the Belize tourism industry.

BTL has a news release on its Web site which explains the new system, which goes into effect May 1. First number is the district area code (2 for Belize, 3 for Orange Walk, 4, Corozal, etc.), the second number is the service provider code (0 prepaid, 1 mobile services, 2 regular landline) and the last five digits are the customer number.

BTL explains how you convert the old numbers to the new. Sounds fairly simple.

Only problem is, when you check BTL's database (you put in the old number and get the new seven-digit number) in many cases the new number is quite different from the old. That's especially true of numbers outside Belize District, but even in Belize District -- in some areas, for example on Caye Caulker, ALL the numbers will change. Unless BTL has a system to smooth the transition, people dialing the old number, say to make hotel reservations from the U.S., will not be able to get through.

Just to take a couple of examples:

Chaa Creek reservations in Cayo now is 09-22037. Put the number in BTL's on-line database and out comes the new number -- 824-2037. The 8 is the Cayo area code, the 2 is for land line, but where the heck did the 4 come from?

Or take Iguana Reef Inn's number on Caye Caulker -- old number 022-2213 New number is 226-0213

Where's the logic in that?

Problem is, there's no formula to really know for sure which numbers will change and which will follow the general BTL "format."

It's a pain for me to have to check every one of hundreds of phone and fax numbers in the guide (and some are not in BTL's database at all) but imagine the trouble this is going to cause the poor businesses in Cayo or Caye Caulker that depend on getting phone calls or faxes!

The good news for San Pedro is that it looks like most numbers on Ambergris will follow the formula -- e.g. a number that is now 026-xxxx will become 226-xxxx.

--Lan Sluder

Belize books and publications by Lan Sluder:
Belize First Magazine (
Fodor's Belize & Guatemala Guide
Belize First Guide to Mainland Belize
Adapter Kit: Belize (the first and only comprehensive guide to living, retiring, working and investing in Belize -- a best-seller on
UpClose Central America
San Pedro Cool (coming soon)

Lan Sluder/Belize First