Belize’s No Shoes, No Shirts, No Problem attitude in tourist areas and laid back spirit means there are not too many rules to worry about. But as one of the most pristine environments on the Central American isthmus, responsible travelers need to keep a few things in mind. And some things you do not want to miss out on.
1. Do not leave home without your favorite sunscreen and bug repellant. You are coming here for the sun and the rain-forests and there are bugs in the forest and in some beaches no see ums (sand flies). Expect to pay at least double for these essentials if you can find your brand at the tourist shops.
2. When snorkeling or scuba diving do not stand on or touch the coral. They are protected species and delicate. Some coral can literally bite back and deliver a substantial sting if brushed with bare skin. Depend on your tour guide to show you how to explore our marine life without damaging anything.
3. When touring the interior, especially the rainforests and caves, do not wonder off from your tour group. It is easy to get disoriented and lost. Rely on your tour guide to show you the cool things in the forest and how to handle local flora such as medicinal plants.
4. Do not be the last one to leave the nightclub. Bad things can happen to anyone anywhere in the wee hours of the morning. Belize has a high crime rate and tourists stand out especially if you are totally wasted! Go out and return with a group. Be careful of getting picked up by locals you do not know. If you are not Caucasian do not think you can pass for a local for long. The minute you open your mouth the locals will know you are “from foreign”.
5. Don’t do drugs in Belize. Penalties are high for drug offenses and the cops, male and female, are known to go undercover and troll nightspots and tourist areas to entrap locals and tourists alike by offering substances for sale. If caught you can end up being shaken down for a bribe, or dragged to the local “piss house” (police detention if you need to ask) before your trial. It is now legal to have up to 10 grams of the leaf in your residence for personal use.
6. Do not leave home without your VISA or MASTERCARD ATM cards to ensure having quick access to your funds 24 hours a day. Most banks will honor lesser known cards such as AMEX and Diners but you will need to stand in line in a bank during bank hours (8am to 2pm weekdays) present your passport and fill out forms to get cash.
7. Do not pass up snorkeling at one of the marine protected areas. There are several to choose from and most are easily accessible – the Barrier Reef hugs most of Belize’s coast and is an easy and short boat ride from most anywhere. For SCUBA divers, we have world-class diving at any of our three atolls.
8. Do not forget to pack a pair of flip-flops, hiking shoes and pants. The weather in Belize is usually variable. Flip-flops will take you anywhere in comfort, from the beach to walking about towns and villages. For the rainforest and nature trails you definitely want a good pair of hiking shoes and these can be hard to find and expensive here. Loose fitting and comfortable clothes and a hat (not cap) are a must. You need good protection from the tropical sun.
9. Do not expect to find a Cancun-type experience in Belize. It is more rustic and developing here. No McDonalds, Walmarts or high-rise concrete jungles. We are like Cancun was 25 years ago, more natural. Less pressurized.
10. Do not leave without tasting Belizean Cuisine. From Latino dishes such as Escabeche, Cochinita Pibil, Ceviche, Relleno, to Garifuna favorites such as Serre and Hudut, to dependable Creole dishes such as Rice and Beans, Baked Gibunut and Barbeque Lobster – there is wide variety of cuisine for foodies to enjoy.