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Belize FAQ

Belize Facts for Visitors

Government: Independent nation since 1981, member of British Commonwealth of Nations. Parliamentary democracy with two major political parties, the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People’s United Party (PUP). UDP currently holds power, led by Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel. Belize has a Constitution, which includes a Bill of Rights.

Location: Belize lies on the eastern coastline of Central America, bordered on the north by Mexico (the Yucatan Peninsula), on the west and south by Guatemala, and on the east by the sparkling waters of the Caribbean Sea. It is separated by sea from its neighbor to the southwest, Honduras.

Size: Approximately 8,866 square miles. Belize’s mainland is approximately 180 miles long and up to 68 miles wide. Belize also consists of over 200 cayes (islands), ranging in size from a few hundred feet to 25 miles long and four miles wide; most of which are located inside the 200 mile Belize Reef.

Population: The population of Belize is approximately 200,000. There is a great deal of ethnic diversity among Belizeans, who include Creoles (African-European), Mestizo (Spanish-Indian), Garifuna (African-Indian), Mayan, Anglo-European, Middle Eastern and Asian.

Language: English is the official language and is widely spoken, as is Spanish. Other languages include Creole, Mayan and Garifuna.

Departure Tax: A tax of $17.25 US is charged when leaving Belize; this must be paid in cash or travelers’ checks (credit cards not accepted for departure tax.) Further, travelers entering Belize International by air and connecting to in-country flights are charged a $.75 US security fee.

Entry Requirements: A passport and return ticket is required to enter Belize. No visas are required for citizens of the U.S., British Commonwealth nations, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey and Uruguay.

Customs: U.S. residents are permitted a $400 per person (or $1,100 per family) duty-free tax exemption upon returning to the U.S., and can also bring back one quart of alcohol and 200 cigarettes duty-free.

Currency: Local currency is the Belize Dollar. One U.S. dollar is worth two Belize dollars. The Belize dollar is fixed to the U.S. dollar so this rate of exchange does not fluctuate. U.S. dollars should be exchanged directly in purchasing goods and services, as banks will charge a fee (currently is at .0125) to exchange U.S. to Belize dollars. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere in Belize. Credit Cards/Travelers’ Checks: Nearly all hotels, restaurants and shops in the major towns and tourist areas take all major credit cards. Street vendors and smaller establishments in remote areas may accept only cash or travelers’ checks. It’s important to keep travelers’ checks in a waterproof pouch, as they are considered void if they get wet. Representatives of VISA, MasterCard and American Express can be contacted at the four commercial banks in Belize City (Atlantic Bank Ltd., Bank of Nova Scotia, Barclays Bank, and the Belize Bank. Banks are generally open Monday-Friday from 8 AM-1 PM and Saturdays, 8 AM-11 AM. American Express also has a representative at Belize Global Travel Services, Inc., at 27-7257.

Electrical System: Same as US (110 volts AC). However, most jungle lodges, and most Cayes, are on diesel generators so electricity is both costly and environmentally unsound. We recommend that you minimize your use.

Telecommunications: All telecommunications services (direct dial phones, fax, telex, cable) are available; but calls from Belize are much higher than an equivalent call to Belize. The country code for Belize is (501) and there are currently 17 area codes within Belize. Remote jungle lodges usually have short wave radio communications linked to cellular service. If you are business visitor planning to spend some time in Belize and want a temporary internet account, you can make arrangements by contacting Belize Telecommunications, Inc. ("BTL"), Belize’s sole internet access provider (e-mail them at: sales@btl.net).

Postal Rates: Rates to the US are: BZ $.60 for letters, $.30 for postcards. Rates to Europe are: BZ $.75 for letters, $.40 for postcards. First class mail between Belize and the US averates 8-10 days to delivery. International Express mail from the US to Belize usually arrives in 3 business days; cost is $14.00. When writing letters to Belize, abbreviate Central America as C.A. Be sure to include the periods; otherwise the U.S. Post Office will send your letters to Califonia.

Time Zone: Belize is in the Central Standard Time zone, and does not utilize daylight saving time.

Sales Taxes: Belize recently instituted the "value added" ("VAT") tax. This tax, set at 15%, is applied to all goods and services except hotel accommodations. There is a 7% hotel tax. Some hotels also add a 10-15% "service charge" to the bill; inquire about this when checking hotel prices.

Tipping: Tipping is voluntary; tips of 15% are acceptable; more if the service is exceptionally good. Some hotels and restaurants add a 15 percent service.

Climate: Belize is subtropical, with a mean annual temperature of 80 degrees F. Winter storms may bring the temperature down to the low ‘60’s; it can reach the mid-90’s on the mainland in the hottest part of summer. Trade winds blow along the coast and on the cayes most of the year, keeping temperatures pleasant even in the hottest months, except for a few weeks, generally around mid-August through mid-September. The dry season generally lasts from November through May; the rainy season is typically June-November. Hurricanes occasionally occur; they are most likely to hit in August through October. Rainfall is heaviest in the south and the jungle areas, lightest in the north and on the Cayes. Water temperature averages between 79 and 83 degrees F.

Water: Most Belizean homes and hotels use cisterns to collect rainwater for drinking and home use. In severe droughts, cisterns may run dry. Regardless bottled water is advisable. Visitors should be aware of the need to conserve water during the dry season, especially on the Cayes. Do not eat fruit you have not pealed yourself, stay away from leafy vegetables like lettuce, and avoid ice cubes. These are common causes of amoebic dissentary and giardia, both of which are unpleasant enough to be worth avoiding at all costs.

Time: The local time is Greenwich mean time minus six, the same as U.S. central time, year-round (no daylight saving time).

                                                    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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