Monday, June 21, 2010

10 Things I wish I'd known about Belize

I could honestly go on about our time and Belize for ever and ever because there were just so many unique aspects to that country and our trip. However, I believe you have to experience a country for yourself to truly appreciate everything about it. You can read all the travel books in the library but nothing can really capture the essence of a place until you see it for yourself. I do advocate being prepared for any travel whether it's an hour or 20 away so I've put together a list of everything I wish I'd known before visiting the Cayes in Belize:

1. pack a light rain jacket especially if you are going anytime between may and september. Something small enough to fit in a purse or backpack because it can downpour anytime and you don't won't to be caught walking about without one

2. don't exchange your money ahead of time. Exchange booths will charge you a percentage for having your money changed over causing you to loose out on some of your hard earned travel dollars. In Belize they will take american dollars wherever you go and often give you back your change in Belizean dollars (BZ) The exchange rate is 2-1 so you get $2 of their dollars for every one of yours

3. pack bug repellent. Because I find aerosols run out fast I buy lotion bug repellent. you can put it on in the morning and be covered all day, plus I find you don't miss spots like you do with the spray. You'll save yourself from spending an unnecessary chunck of change by bringing your own and not having to buy it there. Same goes for sunscreen, shampoo, etc.

4. I'm a definite planner but one thing I don't recommend (unless you are going in the "ON" season) is to book your tours ahead of time. It really is better to walk around, check out the places, talk to the tour guides and book that way. We booked our snorkeling tours the day of no problem. It's also good because then you can snorkel based on the weather. If it's been raining the water will be cloudy and not as good for seeing fish. Also if you are going to snorkel it's usually better to snorkel in the AM, that way the water is more calm and you won't risk getting sunburnt or caught out in a rainstorm. If you don't like crowds, snorkel in the afternoon because chances are you'll get a guide all to yourself.
I recommend on Ambergris Caye and look for Carlos on Caye Caulker.
*The Tanisha Tours does NOT provide fins and snorkel so that will cost an additional $5. Carlos provided them for us. Best to ask when you book your tours if these are included if you plan to snorkel.

5. The hot sauce you see on all the tables down there called Marie's is the best hot sauce ever and I'm not even a big hot sauce fan. Buy some at the end of your trip and bring it's amazing

6. In Ambergris Caye at night there were a variety of street food vendors in the park area. Chad and I got burritos one night and they were amazing...until I woke up in the middle of the night with the worst stomach cramps ever. Chad had an upset stomach too and he has a garbage disposal for a stomach so I think it must have been the street food. I wouldn't recommend. Also all the rum punches and fruity drinks in Belize will have ice in them and when in foreign countries it's best to only drink the bottled water which means staying away from the ice as well. I know their water is potable so it's supposed to be regulated but don't take any chances. Even buy bottled water to use to brush your teeth. In Thailand bottled water was in every hotel room in the fridge of every place we stayed at. In Belize we were on our own. So drink the beer and stock up on the water and drink a lot.

7. Buy a towel down there and throw it away or take it home for a souvenir. But you probably won't want to use your hotel bath towels and chances are slim they will provide beach towels and you def don't want to waste precious suitcase space packing one. Chad and I bought one and shared it but it's so hot out that after you are done swimming you dry off quick.

8. The bakeries are amazing down there and def a good buy for snacks and breakfast as they are open all day. In the bakeries in Ambergris Caye you walk in, grab a metal tray and tongs and put what you want on the tray then take it up to the front and pay. I was very confused the first time I entered one but I watched the locals and learned this. Very different from our bakeries where everything is in glass cases.

9. Most every place you will want to pay cash and save the plastic for hotels, golf cart rentals and tours as all these "bigger" operations take cards. Also if you want to buy any wooden carvings (stingrays, sharks, etc) buy them off the guys from the street. You'll get a much better price than in the gift shops

10. Ladies, buy a good purse like this:

I absolutely love love love my Kavu purse. It has all sorts of great zippers and stowage. I can fit a full size water bottle in here as well as my cell phone in the separate cell holder. It's great to have your hands free (esp if you are back packing because then you sling this over your shoulder and don't have to dig around for your plane tickets etc), it doesn't hurt your shoulder and if you carry a hoodie, towel, etc you can tie it on here. I also keep our passports with us the whole time in a plastic dry bag and leave photo copies in our luggage just in case. Unlike Costa Rica or Thailand none of our hotels in Belize had safes so I carried everything on me at all times. You just never know!

So there you have it, ten things I wish I had known before I had gone. Of course, Chad and I were originally supposed to go to Peru so I was caught totally off guard going to Belize, but being the avid traveler I was eager to explore this new country. Our tennis shoes we had planned on using to hike the mtns. in Peru never were used so unless you were planning on jungle trekking leave them at home.

As the locals say, "Get a piece of the jewel!" (aka enjoy Belize!)

No comments:

Post a Comment