We spent a total of 78 days traveling 1,540 miles through just about every inch of Belize (an impressive feat since driving from the northernmost point to the southernmost point in this tiny country is only 286 miles). We traveled all around Belize City, went bird watching in the Rio Bravo Conservation Area (just one of the places where we saw tons of the amazing birds in Belize), flew out to Ambergris Cay, drove down to Hopkins to look for whale sharks, headed out to Turneffe Atoll and made it all the way down to Punta Gorda plus all of the Mayan ruins, jaguar sanctuaries, cave adventures and dive sites in between.
As we bid goodbye to Belize we wanted to share a short list of random observations, quirks, tips and foibles which we noted while in the country.
- Belize is the size of New Hampshire with the population of Anchorage.
- The tonic water is lavender colored–except when it’s not.
- Skype is mostly blocked for reasons we never figured out.
- The two main cigarette brands are Colonial and Independence, an interesting irony in a country which received its independence from Great Britain in 1981.
- Hardly anyone smokes.
- The country is a very rich melting pot. You can sit in a 15 table restaurant and see Garufinas, Menonites, expats from around the world, Ladinos and sundry travelers all in one (mostly congenial) place.
- There are, essentially, only four main paved roads in the country.
- The paved roads are in great shape, hardly trafficked and have very few speed bumps.
- Speed bumps are commonly called “sleeping policemen.”
- You almost never see a cop except in Belize City.
- Most non-tourist-based business (and even a few of those) close between 12 and 1:30, including government offices, banks and post offices.
- You can easily and instantly extend your visa for an additional 30 days at immigration offices in Belize City, Punta Gorda, Belmopan or Dangriga for BZ$50 (US$25) per visa. NOTE that your extension time starts from the day you extend, not from the end of your current visa.
- English is the official language of Belize (though Spanish is encroaching fast).
- There’s no tricky currency conversion to master since the exchange rate is pegged at two Belize dollars for every 1 US dollar.
- Belizeans can’t help but smile back.
- The dominant radio station is called Love FM and the DJs are extremely fond of Lionel Ritchie and the Pointer Sisters and any song about love–interspersed with Jamaican dub reggae and Madonna. But mostly Lionel Ritchie…
- There are WAY more animals than people in nature-rich Belize. Get a grip on the Beasts of Belize and where to see them in the newspaper story we published on the subject.