Untouched beaches, Mayan ruins hiding around every corner, and amazing flora and fauna are only a few of the reasons that make Belize such an enticing place to visit. A British Commonwealth, the tiny country is the only in Central America where English is predominately spoken, and it has long been a favorite spot for Canadians, Americans, and the British alike (note that we are speaking about the Cayes; Belize City and Belmopan can well be skipped). However, aside from those looking for a luxurious stay, Belize has also always been a great destination for backpackers for the following reasons:
One of the biggest hurdles any traveler must overcome when starting their journey is the cost of airfare. Flying abroad is by no means cheap, and most people that choose to backpack throughout a country do so to save money. Fortunately, for backpackers interested in Belize, airfare is always relatively cheap, and it’s fairly easy to get a discounted or free flight if you have racked up miles on your frequent flier card or have a card with great credit card cash rewards.
For exceptionally cheap flights, consider flying into Cancun, Mexico, which is on the Northern border of Belize. Because so much traffic comes through the area, travelers can usually find cheaper flights, and then bus it into Belize.
The Bus System
Belize’s three main highways, the Hummingbird, the Southern, and the Coastal, can get you nearly anywhere in Belize and can do so for no more than 7 USD. Bus stations are incredibly easy to navigate, and the buses themselves will take you to all major attractions.
If riding on a brightly colored school bus isn’t to your liking, then there are several air conditioned Express buses that can take you where ever you need to go. However, by passing up the regular bus systems, you will be passing up on an excellent opportunity to mingle with the culture. So don’t be afraid to hop on a local bus for at least one of your site seeing adventures.
If you happen to hop on the wrong bus or simply want to know a great place to get some food, there will undoubtedly be a Belizean who will gladly point you in the right direction. Belizeans have long been known for their friendliness and hospitality, and as long as you are friendly yourself, they will more than gladly help you find some of the best dining experiences, entertainment spots, and nature activities – including snorkeling areas and Mayan ruins that are often off the beaten path.
While Belize is by no means short on expensive and luxurious accommodations, usually alongside Ambergris Caye, the country also has several other comfortable accommodations that don’t exceed $30 a night for two people. For a backpacker, you can’t beat a comfy bed and a warm meal or good kitchenette for that price, and these types of inns and hotels are often right along main attractions or the coast. Many cheap rooms are often in eco-friendly resorts allowing you to take rain water showers, lounge in a hammock, and enjoy an organic meal.
To get these rooms, you don’t have to book in advance either. Simply have a list to carry around with you before you leave your home or ask locals where to stay while you’re in Belize, and you should be able to walk to the front door of a hotel and grab a room with no reservation at all.
What is great is that you don’t have to worry about exchanging currency. While Belize does have a separate currency, the Belize dollar, nearly all vendors and hotels take US currency – usually with both prices listed on food items, tours, and hotels.
However, it is important to keep in mind that debit card use isn’t as widespread on Belize, especially from Dangriga south, so be sure to carry plenty of cash when traveling from city to city. Major cities will always have ATMs, but to avoid a credit card foreign transaction fee, you will want to make sure that you bring an international safe credit card.
If you don’t mind packing light and toting around a backpack for a week or two, Belize is definitely the place for you. In a matter of 24 hours, you can go from the hot temps of San Ignacio to the balmy beaches of Placencia to the jungles of Punta Gorda, and reach all destinations for only 20USD or so. Navigation is a breeze, and there is always a quick and convenient form of transportation to get you around. So before you opt for that expensive ticket to the UK so that you can backpack through Europe, consider giving Belize a try instead.
Have you visited Belize? Were you backpacking or were you part of a tour? Please share your trip experiences with us in the comments section below, and this post too if you liked it![photo credits @Flickr : sara sosiak, okaycitynate]