Do You Need to Book Ahead? Can you wing it in Belize? Or do you need to book hotels in advance?
There are several things you can do to enjoy lower prices. The most obvious is simply to go off-season, when most hotels drop rates 20 to 40%. Exact dates vary from hotel to hotel, but the low season generally starts just after Easter and runs until about mid-November. Ambergris Caye has more than 70 hotels and condotels. Occupancy rates on the island average less than 50%, so there are normally rooms available even in high season. Easter and Christmas/New Years are usually almost fully booked.
With most hotels having excess capacity, particularly in June, September and October and to a lesser degree also in the other off-season months, discounts of several types are available. In the off-season, many hotels have “walk-in” rates. These rates, typically 15 to 20% off the already dis¬counted summer rates, can be real values.
Many hotels post special discounted rates for September and October, the two slowest months of the year for tourism. Hotels also offer sizable discounts for stays of a week or longer, or have a value package such as “stay seven nights/pay for five.” Frequently, hotels offer discounts for Internet or other direct bookings, saving them travel agent or wholesaler commissions. These direct booking discounts usually range from 10 to 20%, and occasionally are as much as 30%.
When booking, always ask, “Is that your best rate?” or “Do you have a lower rate?” or “That’s a little more than I was hoping to pay – is there a way I can get a better rate?” Keep probing to find out if you’re getting the best price. Most hotels require a deposit to hold reservations, usually nonrefundable or only partially refundable. Nearly all hotels in Belize have websites and email. You can use their web sites and social media pages to help you choose your accommodations, but remember that these sites are advertising and naturally put the best face on things. Nearly all hotels in Belize are small, and though many won’t admit it for fear of alienating travel agents and travel wholesalers, most would prefer you book direct, preferably via the internet. That saves them agent commissions, plus the cost and trouble of mailing brochures and telephoning back and forth. Some, but not all, hotels offer discounts for direct bookings via the internet. Many don’t advertise this, but it won’t hurt to ask.
You have several different types of lodging from which to choose from in Belize:
Condotels: These are condominiums run like a hotel. Units are individually owned and rented to visitors by on-site management that typical takes 40 to 60% of the gross. They have most of the same amenities as a regular hotel, except usually not a restaurant. Most condotels on are not the large sprawling condo complexes found in Florida or Hawaii. They are small, only two or three stories high, with from one to three dozen units. Typically they have a mix of one-and two-bedroom units; a few have three-bedroom suites. The advantage of a condotel is that you get a lot more space, including a kitchen, for a price not much more than for a regular hotel. The drawback is that most condotels do not offer the range of services of a hotel, such as room service. Condotels range in price from under US$100 to over US$400 or more a night.
Beachside cabañas and cottages: These come in two flavors – thatch and not. Thatch cabañas have thatch roofs and palapa-style walls, usually over concrete block or wood frames. Other properties have more traditional wood-frame or con¬crete cottages or cabins. Beachside cabañas are available from around US$75 to more than US$600 a night.
Hotels: Nearly all hotels on are are small to medium size. Most are small, under 50 rooms. Hotels come in all price ranges, from US$15 to over US$400 or more a night. Nearly all the hotels, except for a few budget places, are on the water.
Privately owned houses for vacation rental: Dozens of private homes and villas are available throughout the country for weekly rental. Rates start at around US$700 a week and go up to US$6,000 or more.
Longer-term rentals: Monthly rentals of houses and apartments are available, starting at around US$300, for a small apartment, though most rentals are US$500 to $1,000 and up. The best way to find a rental is to ask around in person.