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Belize Adventure: a Q & A and Fun Facts, Part 1

Happy weekend eve, everyone! I have had so many questions about our trip to Belize so thought I would do a Q&A. Scroll through to check out our miscellaneous pictures. If you have any more questions feel free to contact me and I will add it to the post. Happy reading!

Quick Info on Belize:

Q: Where is Belize?

A: Central America, Caribbean, bordering Guatemala (Belize is Northeast) and Mexico (Belize is South).

 

Q: What form of government do they use?

A: Parliament (Former British colony that gained its independence in 1981.)

 

Q: What is the Currency in Belize?

A: Belize dollar (2 BZD: 1 USD) They accept US money.

 

Q: What is the population of  Belize?

A:~360,000 (One of lowest inhabited countries in the world.)

 

Q: What is the environment and landscape like?

A: Tropical Rainforest (50%), Northern lowlands, Coastal plain

 

Q: Does Belize have states?

A: No, the land is split into districts.

 

Q: What language do they speak in Belize?

A: In order of frequency and use, Belizeans speak: English (official), Kriol (Belizean Creole), and Spanish

 

Q: What is the Ambergris Caye population?

A: Around 13,000; including approximately 35% expats (according to a local)

 

Q: What is the primary transportation on Ambergris Caye?

A: Although we did see a car or old van once in a blue moon, everyone commutes via golf cart, bike, taxi, or boat.

 

Fun facts:

  1. Belizeans make most money from eco-tourism.
  2. DO NOT drink the tap water.
  3. Belize is one of the least populated countries in the world.
  4. On the islands and especially in San Pedro, you can get local food from stands for a quarter of the price of the ocean-front restaurants. In addition, the local food is better.
  5. Staple Belizean recipes include ceviche, bread pudding, flyjacks, fish or shrimp tacos, Creole seafood, rice and beans, coconut rice, meat pies, Johnny cakes, banana bread (no nuts as is standard in the US), fish stews, BBQ and kebobs.
  6. Fruits and veggies to try: chocho (commonly in the steamed veggies), watermelon, mango, soursop, and pineapple.
  7. Common snacks include: plantain chips, Taki chips, Emperador cookies (lemon was our favorite), and marshmallow textured candies.
  8. The only beer available everywhere is native Belikin, but many bartenders were really excited to tell us about a new offering- Landshark!
  9. Staple drinks in Belize are rum, sangrias, and Belikin beer.
  10. Belize is a common destination for scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing.
  11. Fishermen are drawn to Belize for the “triple threat.” It is one of the only places in the world you can easily chase bonefish, tarpon, and permit in the same day. We chased a school of permit and a school of bones on the fly in a 5-hour period with “terrible conditions.”
  12. Scuba Diving the “Blue Hole” is on most divers’ bucket list and is a huge attraction for Belize. It is a giant sinkhole in the center of Lighthouse Reef, and the phenomenon was a cave that containing stalactites and filled with water as the ocean rose. It is a World Heritage Site of UNESCO and is 410 ft. deep.
  13. Next, used toilet paper almost always goes in the trash rather than toilet.
  14. Air conditioning is definitely a luxury in Belize. If there is air, most use wall units.
  15. Sea turtles, manatees, and great whale sharks commonly pass through the Islands.
  16. Belmopan is the capitol; Belize City was the capital before Belmopan.
  17. 10% of the population of Belize is still Mayan.
  18. Sunrise in Belize in May is about 5:15 AM. Sunset is around 6 PM. Therefore, everyone is up and at it by 7 AM!
  19. About 35% of the population on Ambergris Caye is American and British expats and retirees
  20. The Belize Barrier Reef is the world’s second largest reef behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
  21. Common souvenirs include: Mayan weaved baskets, wood carvings, local art, and coffee.
  22. Ginger is a common resource in Belize and Ginger ale and ginger cookies are common.
  23. Everyone we came in contact with was willing to negotiate prices- from food to golf carts to goods.
  24. Airfare is no more than $500 round trip from most places in the US.
  25. Everyone knows where Secret Beach is and everyone is there on Sundays. It is only reachable by boat or a terrible 7 mile bumpy gravel road on golf cart. #worstgolfcartexperienceeverbutsoworthit
  26. Belize was once the heart of the Mayan culture until they “disappeared.” Instead, most evidence points to a mass exodus after extended periods of draught.
  27. Belize has over 900 Mayan sites.
  28. The average temperature in Belize year-round is 80* Fahrenheit.
  29. Locals are very open about beauty. As a result, I got blatantly hit on and ‘complimented’ by nearly 10 men… while holding hands with my husband.
  30. Belize is in the Central Time Zone, so it was an hour behind South Carolina.
  31. Checkpoints exist through the country to “try to catch you ridin’ dirty,” according to our driver.
  32. Everyone passes everyone at all times on the road- there are no speed limits (or they are not observed!)
  33. Gravel trucks constantly cause broken windshields on the 4 highways that exist in Belize.
  34. Mahogany and Teakwood are common resources in Belize. We passed several plantations on the way to ATM cave.
  35. Jaguars, Vipers, and Howler Monkeys populate the jungles of Belize.

Q & A (on our trip, exactly)

Q: Why did we choose Belize?

A: We wanted to celebrate going on an international trip after paying off our student loans in February 2017. Brad was listening to April Vokey’s podcast, Anchored, with Wil Flack, the owner of Tres Pescadores flyshop on San Pedro. He lives in Belize part of the year and guides in the Pacific Northwest (US) the rest of the year. The best time to fish is during a full moon so Brad joked that the next one was the end of April.

This worked perfectly for our budget, could kick off summer fun, and count as our MUCH needed getaway from the real world. Accommodations and flights are very affordable and there is much available to do including snorkeling, swimming with manta rays and sharks, Mayan ruin-hiking, spearfishing, nature tours, scuba diving, zip-lining, cave tubing, splunking, hiking, boating, drinking, exploring, and, of course, fishing. We are definitely more adventurous travelers so I was all in. We booked the entire trip, including flights one month out.

Q: Where did you stay?

A: The Sun Breeze Hotel in San Pedro City on Ambergris Caye in Belize.

Q: How did you get there?

A: We flew from GSP to ATL, then flew from ATL to BZE (Belize City), took a cab from the airport to the water taxi, and took an 1.5 hour water taxi ride to San Pedro.  We were able to walk to our hotel once we got our luggage from the water taxi.

Q: Did you get a golf cart?

A: We did, but we bargained with the guy at the gas station and arranged to have a cart for 8 hours, gas included for $80 BZD ($40 USD). Although we only had it one afternoon, it was just long enough to ride around the city and see the spots we did not hit see just walking around.  We also rode out to Secret Beach for a couple hours that is really only accessible by boat or golf cart.

Q: How much did it cost?

A: Our overall budget was $3,500. All of pricing mentioned is in US. In the end we spent approximately $4500 after unanticipated costs. We received a tax refund and decided to go for extra excursions on the trip.

Accommodations: 5 nights in San Pedro at the Sun Breeze Hotel was $920 ($184 a night) total. (We actually ate a hotel in Caye Caulker for $117 through a series of unfortunate events lol… more on that later). = $920

Flights were $543 round trip a person including one connection through ATL. Also, it cost $25 twice to check bags and $30 for 6 days parking at GSP. = $1160

We spent $500 US cash on tips for taxis, drivers, fishing guide, bellboys (they don’t give you a choice, grocery store cokes and snacks to mix with our bourbon, and dining out = $500.

We put some dining purchases on our credit card, as we were worried about running out of cash. = $200

Souvenirs = $98

Full Day of Fishing plus tip, lunch included = $530

A recertification dive and a “Discovery Dive” and snorkeling at Shark Ray Alley = $410.

Car transfer, park ticket, driver tips, and guided tour of the ATM cave, lunch included = $410.

2 (2 Round Trip Water Taxi Tickets) = $140

Dramamine, 100 SPF Non-comedogenic Aveeno sunscreen (for our faces), 70 SPF CVS brand sunscreen, 12 quest bars, 6 Atkins bars, and a plastic handle of Bourbon. = $115.

 

Q: What souvenirs did you get?

A: Most of our money was spent on excursions because we both believe in investing in memories rather than things. Plus, I hate knick knacks and things taking up space in my life. We did buy a turtle stain glass ornament that said “BELIZE” on it for our travel Christmas tree $8 US. We also bought about $10 of Emperador and Ginger cookies and Plaintain chips to let my family try. Brad also got a hooded SIMMS shirt from Tres Pescadores flyshop for $80. I also got a manatee shaped tea infuser for $6.

 

Q: How did we pay for the trip?

A: We are super savers and have been living on an aggressive debt payment plan, so we just stuck to that.  We also got some tax money back and that helped cover all our extra excursions.

 

Q: What were the people like?

A: Refreshingly not like Americans! They only needed to make rent to stay happy. Each proudfully boasted his born and raised heritage and ability to call the island home.

As soon as we landed in Atlanta I noticed everyone face-burried in their phones, rushing, and noted how different this was from Belize.  One lady nearly ran me over and shot me a death glare for existing in the way of her blindly blazen path. I only ever received smiles in Belize from men and women alike. We grabbed an appetizer at the Sam Adams bar that had 4 huge televisions, just feet from each other, all blasting terrible breaking news from CNN.  A young lady is loudly discussing her annoyance with a nanny. Her volume and tone begging me to listen to their entire conversation and note her affluence… or infer her affluence. As a result painful chord struck my heart for the slow, quiet, and relaxed island life of which I was blessed a small taste.

Belizeans have a European look with a dark tan. There is also a large population of Gurafin, or Carribeans Creole. They were always joking, happy, and optimistic. It is rare to find a population of people so obviously living in the present.

 

Q: What we would do differently if we visited again?

A: Not leave! We would definitely stay longer- there are a hundred different places to Scuba dive there and I only saw one! I think we will strictly dive next time. Also, I will schedule 2 full days by the pool to just relax! We also want to go sometime cooler- like September.

 

Q: What was the weather like?

A: When we arrived the temperature was 86*F with a heat index of 108*F and what felt like 99% humidity. Our sunglasses and cameras fogged up for the first 2 days, and it was also extremely windy. We were told an unusual heat wave had brought in the heat and wind.  We had to adjust our schedule the last 2 days we were there because they ceased scuba ventures due to dangerous conditions.  The last whole day we had was perfect weather and around 85-90* F with a good breeze.

 

Q: Did you catch any fish?
A: Brad caught his first bonefish on the fly (post to come next week)! I did not catch anything but we both threw about 10 flies over the course of 2 hours at a school of Permit which was so exciting! Our guide said the only reason he could fathom they would not have taken our flies was either a barracuda (common predator) had spooked them before we arrived or an odd weather surge (also a high probability).  In the airport in Belize City we spoke to a group of 4 fly fishermen who had fished 4 total days and only 1 had caught a fish the entire trip.  As a result we felt pretty lucky that our trip was a success!

 

Q: What was something I loved?

A: Scuba diving was hands down the coolest thing I have ever done. It was surreal and gave me such an unexpected adrenaline rush! I also loved hearing the natives’ stories.

 

Q: What was something I did not love?

A: The drivers are terrifying: we were asleep on the way back from San Ignacio on an old church bus van driven by a kid who couldn’t have been 15; Brad and I were asleep on two rows and were awaken with slamming brakes and another horn… we were so tired and went back to sleep but I have no idea what happened! Also, the food on the island was pricier than I had read. It is pricier to eat out there than in the US. Of course, everything is imported to the island via water taxi and San Pedro is pretty touristy.

 

Q: What was the best food we had?

A: I was pretty smitten with the street tacos, but the creole fish, shrimp, and conch with rice and beans was my favorite! I am doing a whole post about what we ate so look for that this month!

 

Q: Why did you not take me?

A: My suitcase is big so we will stuff you in there next time! We absolutely have plans to be back again soon!

 

You should definitely choose to visit Belize if you ever get the chance. Remember to allow yourself a vacation once in a while to destress, fill your happy, and recharge. Have a wonderful Thursday!

With Joy,

Audrey

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4 comments so far.

4 responses to “Belize Adventure: a Q & A and Fun Facts, Part 1”

  1. Emily says:

    Loved your observations about the difference between the people of Belize and Americans! When I went to Antigua a couple years ago I noticed the exact same thing! Really makes you dislike Americans and never want to leave ‘island time’! Can’t wait to read more about your trip!

    • Audrey says:

      I love it! I am trying to remember that mindset but I think its harder because we are so surrounded by advertisements and social media and the glorification of busy. Thanks girlie! <33

  2. Susan says:

    Audi, I sooooo enjoyed reading your Q&A blog!! I learned a lot about Belize from it!! It sounds like an awesome place and I’m so glad y’all got to visit. I think its great y’all chose a sort of off the beaten path location to visit. Exciting and laid back, what great memories!!! Loveu!

    • Audrey says:

      We do have a habit of choosing random or obscure locations… I can’t wait for a vacation with you soon this summer… I love you!