Almost every local I met while traveling solo in Belize asked me the same question:
“Why did you choose Belize?”
And to be honest I didn’t really have an answer. I was browsing Southwest airline’s new Central American destinations one day (as one does in their free time). I had already traveled to Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica recently. Jamaica, Aruba, and the Grand Cayman islands all sounded out of my budget. So I landed on Belize.
It wasn’t until after I booked my tickets that I started researching what Belize had to offer and to be honest…the internet kind of let me down. There’s not as much information available for travel and facts about Belize as there are in places like Thailand, Indonesia, or Italy.
So here you go internet. I put together a list of 12 facts about Belize that will be helpful to know before traveling there.
It’s the only English-speaking country in Central America
In fact, most Belizeans are actually trilingual – they speak English, Spanish, and Kriol. Some also speak other local dialects such as Garifuna and Maya. Being in an English-speaking country means you’ll be able to get around really easily.
There IS a difference between rice & beans and beans & rice
I remember one of my first days I asked my waiter what the difference was. He laughed a little bit and rolled his eyes and I could just feel the word tourist being branded onto my forehead. I’m here to save you from a tiny bit of embarrassment. Rice and beans consists of rice and beans MIXED together and cooked with coconut milk. Beans and rice refers to stewed beans in a broth with a side of rice
You can pay in US currency almost everywhere
The steady exchange rate of 2:1 makes it easy to pay in US currency. Fair warning though – you may get your change back in a mixture of US and Belizean dollars. And if you withdraw from an ATM you will definitely be getting Belizean currency.
Belize is a teeny tiny country
The whole country is only about 70 miles east to west. This makes traveling between cities really easy and cheap. Do be aware that the roads are pretty rough and winding so it can take hours to drive between places even if they don’t look far apart on a map.
Odds are you’re standing on a piece of history
There are endless Maya ruins to explore in the country. Some of the famous ones are Caracol, Lamanai, Xunantunich, Altun Ha, and Cahal Pech. What most people don’t know is that there are actually thousands of Mayan ruins around the country — and most are still buried underground. If you drive anywhere where there is land clearing you will see mounds dotting the landscape. These are actually Mayan houses and buildings that date back thousands of years so odds are you’ll be standing on a piece of history at some point during your trip.
Everyone knows everyone
In a country of only 350,000 people, you’re bound to run into someone you know. To put that into perspective, Milwaukee has a population of about 600,000 and I run into friends around town all the time. On bus rides across the country, passengers would often wave to friends and family from the window.
The snorkeling is unbelizeable
Belize boasts the second-largest barrier reef in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. This colorful reef system is home to a whole host of marine animals, making for some pretty incredible snorkeling. The reef is located just off the coast of Belize, and is best enjoyed from Hopkins, Placencia, or one of Belize’s many islands.
Marie Sharp is the only acceptable condiment
Marie started her hot sauce company in Belize in the early 1980s and you’ll see her hot sauce on every table in Belize. Restaurants, coffee shops, airports, bus station bathrooms, you name it and you’ll probably find Marie Sharp’s there. Even if you’re not a spicy food person you can’t leave Belize without trying the sauce.
You’re not as think as you drunk you are
The national beer is the Belikin and you will find it everywhere in Belize. It’s your basic pale lager, nothing fancy but it tastes great on a hot day in the tropics.
It isn’t until you finish your first Belikin that you realize you’ve been hustled. The bottles are the same size as regular 12oz bottle but the glass is much thicker. You’re actually only getting 9.6 ounces in each bottle. Yes, they’re still a great deal but you’ll probably need to buy a couple extra to make up for the trickery. But you probably won’t mind when this is where you’ll be drinking them.
You will never have a peaceful bus ride
Yes, your driver will be blasting those reggae remixes of pop hits the whole 4 hour bus ride. No, it will never grow on you. Just when you begin to relax, someone will hop on the bus selling meat pies and coconut treats. The buses are also extremely crowded. If you’re lucky enough to find a seat, hold on to it tight.
You may see dead people
Instead of burying the dead, the cemeteries in Belize have above-ground coffins. They’ll often be colorful and have flowers and gifts placed near them.
If you want an up-close-and-personal experience with the dead, you can take the ATM Cave Tour. This will put you face-to-face with ancient Mayan artifacts and real human remains. Isn’t that what you look for in a vacation destination — multiple ways to encounter the deceased?
It’s an incredibly diverse country
The five largest ethnic groups in Belize are Latino, Creole, Maya, Garifuna, and, surprisingly, Mennonites. You may also encounter Chinese, East-Indian, and Middle Eastern people. The diversity of the country is evident in their multitude of colorful celebrations, flavorful dishes, and languages spoken.
So there you go, 12 facts about Belize that you should know before you go. Just like every country, Belize has its own quirks that make it unique. Have an open mind and be ready to experience a country unlike any other.
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