Answers to Your Questions about Belize


(Last updated December 2004)

Note:  It is impossible for use to go back and update each and every detail of each question.  Some information here may be out of date.


BY LAN “THE-BELIZE-ANSWER-MAN” SLUDER

These are some of the questions posed to Lan Sluder from visitors to the BELIZE FIRST Web edition. Lan Sluder, author or co-author of five books and many newspaper and magazine articles on Belize and editor and publisher of BELIZE FIRST, attempts to provide answers to any reasonable question about Belize, usually within 24 to 48 hours. E-mail your question, with your full name and city of residence, to Lan at bzefirst@aol.com.

Answers to questions of general interest are posted here, and by sending the question to Lan you are granting the right for your question and your name (but not your e-mail or physical address) to be published.

For ease of review, questions and answers are listed in these categories:

Getting to Belize


Traveling Around Belize


Driving to Belize

Cruise Ships

Weather in Belize

Tours


Places to Stay


Diving Belize


Money and Banking in Belize


Living in Belize

Working/Investing in Belize


Sports/Adventure


Miscellaneous


Post-September 11 Issues




GETTING TO BELIZE

Q: Do you have any recommendations for budget travel agents for flying into Belize. Trying for the lowest price, no frills.

Phil Johns


A: The cheapest way to get to Belize often is not to fly to Belize but to fly to Cancun (or sometimes Cozumel) and then bus from there. There are many charter flights into Cancun from the U.S., Canada and even Europe, often at fares that are one-third to one-half what they are into Belize. From Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you can take a bus to Chetumal (four to six hours and US$12-$20 or so for a nice, comfortable reserved seat) and there transfer to a Belize bus into Corozal Town or Belize City. Or you can fly (US$37) or water taxi (US$20) from Corozal Town to San Pedro.

If you want to fly directly in to the international airport at Ladyville (Belize City), some of the on-line travel agents/consolidators offer fares that are less than those available directly from American, US Air, Delta, TACA or Continental. However, there is no one service that is always cheapest -- you have to check with several to see which has the best deal on the dates you want to go. It's also a good idea to check the regular fares on Expedia.com, Orbitz.com and Travelocity.com, or directly with the airlines' Web sites, as on a given date these could be as cheap or cheaper than a "consolidator" fare.

A number of web sites claim to find the lowest fares for you. Besides Expedia.com, Orbitz.com and Travelocity.com and similar, there are sites like lowestfares.com, hotfares.com, cheaptickets.com and cheapofares.com. Some sites such as supersearch.travelzoo.com claim to seek out and compare fares from a variety of sites. Another option is the auction sites, such as www.skyauction.com and Priceline.com.

You may want to talk to a Belize specialist such as Barbara Kasak, Barb's Belize, El Paso, TX, www.barbsbelize.com, 888-321-2272 or Katie Valk in Belize City (www.belize-trips.com). They may be able to save you money simply because they are on top of all the latest deals, plus they know Belize very well.


Happy travels!

--Lan


Q. Whom or where do I contact to get the bus schedules from Cancun to
Chetumal & then to Corozal Town or Casablanca by the Sea?


A. ADO (Autobuses de Oriente) is the major carrier in this area. They have a Web site, but last time I checked the schedules on-line were not complete. I know ADO GL (premier) has two buses a day from Cancun to Chetumal, and the regular ADO has frequent departures from Playa del Carmen to Chetumal. ADO and Riviera provide frequent service from the Cancun airport to Playa. It's a little over 4 hours to Chetumal from Playa, and around US$14, where you can transfer to a Novelo bus (US$2 to Corozal Town.) From Cancun on ADO to Chetumal the price is about US$20. There is no bus service to Consejo where Casablanca is located, but you can take a taxi.

--Lan


Q. Is it true you go through duty-free at the international airport in Belize before you go through customs? If that is true is that the best place to buy a few items?

Dana

A. At one time there was a duty-free shop in the arrival area. However, the last few times I was through the international airport, most recently a few weeks ago, there was no duty-free in the arrival area. The only duty-free shops now are in the departure lounge areas. You may want to buy duty-free at your departure airport in the U.S. or wherever you are leaving from.

--Lan



Q: Where might I look/arrange travel from the airport
at Chetumal down to Belize so I can get to Ambergris Caye?
You mentioned taking a taxi to the border and then a bus,
do I just show up or should I arrange something?



harmerr

A: When you get to the airport in Chetumal, you will be able to find a taxi to the border. Probably around US$5 or so. The taxi will drop you at the Mexican side. You will have to go through Mexican immigration/customs and then through Belize immigration and customs on the other side of the river. The cheapest thing to do is to get on the Belize bus (it will be Novelo's, probably) and ride across the river. The bus will stop at the Belize office and wait for you and other passengers and then go on into Corozal. However, if you are willing to pay around US$20 you can get a taxi on the Belize border, which will take you to the Corozal airstrip. Or you could take a bus on to Belize City and then take a water taxi to Caye Caulker.


--Lan



Q. We are considering renting a car in Cancun and traveling down and into Belize. I have found two rental car companies -- Europcar is one -- that would rent cars and allow them to cross the border. The considerably lesser of the two has an economy car for about $250 USD per week with unlimited miles.

In the voyage from Cancun I would like my wife to see Tulum and any other sites you feel would be "not-to-missers". We just do not have enough experience to make a good decision on this leg of the journey. It has been 20 years since I was in the Yucatan.

Once into Belize we are thinking of going to Ambergris Caye for a few days. We would like to stay in a clean, moderately priced facility and I would do a couple days of diving. From AC we are thinking of traveling to Caulker Caye for another few days. From Caulker to one of the other atolls or out-islands for a day and then in the mainland. We would like to travel south and to some of the Mayan ruins.

R. Penney

A. I think you will be amazed at the changes that have taken place in the Yucatan, especially the Cancun-Tulum corridor. There have been huge investments by U.S. , Mexican and European companies, with many large hotels, condos, timeshares, and entertainment complexes all along the coast, plus there is now a major highway. As you go farther south, things are less commercialized, and there are still some remote, quiet villages. Cozumel has changed, but not as much as many of the coastal areas.

Do not hurry too fast to Ambergris Caye. Northern Belize is pleasant, though there is not that much to see, but it is not at all touristy. I especially like the Corozal Town area, the Shipstern/Sarteneja peninsula and the Lamanai area.

On Ambergris, in the moderate category, among others I recommend Mayan Princess (if you can get a deal), The Tides, Corona del mar, and as a step up, but still a good value, Banana Beach. On Caulker, you cannot do better than Treetops --- US$40 or less a night, spotless, delightful hosts -- though Anchorage, Tom's, Shirley's, Chocolate's, Seaside Cabanas and Trends Beachfront among others are all good.

For Maya sites, I believe the three tops ones in Belize are Caracol, Lamanai and Xunantunich, in that order. Some of the cave sites are also fascinating. Of course, Tikal in Guatemala (only 1 1/2 hours from western Belize) is far and away the most dramatic of all the Maya sites in the region.

As to renting in Cancun and driving or going by bus to Belize from Cancun and renting there, it sounds to me that the cost is about a wash, or that it would be a little cheaper to rent in Belize, given the Belize US$15 a day supplement plus the cost of Belize insurance you'll have to buy at the border plus any storage cost for the car while you're on the cayes plus the fact you'd be paying for the car the days you are on the cayes and unable to use it. So it comes down to whether the convenience of having a car in Mexico would be worth it to you.

Also, I'd ask what will happen if the Mexican car breaks down in Belize -- will they come get it, pay for repairs, or what? Most Belize car renters, at least the larger ones, will send out a mechanic to repair or replace the car. You will find that Belize roads, other than the Northern, Western, Hummingbird and part of the Southern highways, are pretty bad and do a number on a car. It's rare to travel in Belize for a week or two without having at least one flat tire, for example, or to have some other more serious mechanical problem due to rough roads.

The reason for high rental rates in Belize is two-fold: one, the wear and tear on the vehicles, but more importantly the 75% or so import duty/taxes on cars. As to the high cost of flying into Belize City, that has long been something tourism operators in Belize have griped about, but the economics are that mass tourism destinations such as Cancun and Cozumel get the cheap air service whereas niche destinations get less service and higher prices.

-Good luck.

--Lan



Q. We are planning on going to Belize Aril 5th - April 15th. I thought we
would fly to Cancun, stay a few days and then take the buses to Belize.
We have never been to Belize before, but there are SO many hotels and
attractions to choose from, it's overwhelming. What I would like to do
is decide where we will stay and what we will see once we arrive in
Belize, possibly securing a place to stay for only the night we arrive
in Belize, as it may be late at night. Do you think there will be a
problem finding an available place to stay or getting in to see some of
the attractions? I just don't want to get there and have everything be
all booked up. I don't know how crowded it is there and don't want to
be caught without any place to stay. On a side note, what we would
really like to do is fly fish the flats, but not the expensive tour
group way. Would you think we could just find cheaper guides once we
arrive there?

Thanks! Your website is fabulous!!

Amy Bona


A. As you are arriving after Easter, there should be no problem in finding a place to stay without reservations. Some places could be fully booked on a given night, but you can find another.

In a particular area, good fishing guides pretty much charge about the same thing. For example, around Ambergris Caye you're going to pay US$200-$250 a day for guide (for two people) with a boat, tackle, ice. You can probably find someone to take you out for a few dollars less, but you get what you pay for. Once you get to wherever you are going, you can ask around and see which guides are available and find someone you like.

--Lan




Q: Would you know the best flight route to get to Ambergris Caye from
Spokane WA?


The gateways to Belize are: DFW (American), Houston (Continental and TACA), Charlotte (US Air), Newark (Continental, weekly), Atlanta (Delta, weekly) and Miami (American and TACA -- TACA via San Pedro Sula, Honduras). So, whatever airlines from Spokane are best for you to those gateways would be the way to go. From Belize International, you take Maya Island or Tropic Air for the 20-minute hop to San Pedro. You can also take a taxi (US$20) to the Municipal airport and fly either airline to San Pedro for about one-half the cost from International.

--Lan


Q: I understand that liability insurance is available when entering Belize from Mexico. Is 'full coverage' insurance also available (coverage for theft, accident repair, medical) and insurance for RVs?


Jim Rennak

A: You should be able to get full insurance at the border, though extras probably will be pretty expensive. I think you can get an on-line quote for various types of vehicle insurance from F&G Insurance in Belize City (www.fandginsurance.com) though I don't know specifically what they offer for RVs.

TRAVELING AROUND BELIZE

Q. I am planning a trip down to Belize and my girlfriend an I have a question. Seeing as how Belize is a former British colony, do you drive on the American side of the road or the British side of the road? Many of the Islands drive American cars but in the British side of the road. I went to the AAA web site but to no avail.

William Devine



A. In Belize you drive on the right. Signage is American-style also, e.g. distances in miles rather than kilometers.

--Lan

 

Q. How do I get to San Pedro (Ambergris Caye) after I get to Belize's International Airport?

Mogo Blake

A. Getting to San Pedro is easy as lime pie, but it does require at least one stop along the way. There is no international air service direct to San Pedro’s little 3,200 foot airstrip. Continental, US Air, Delta, American and TACA fly nonstop into the International Airport at Ladyville just north of Belize City from five or six U.S. gateways: Houston, DFW, Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta and Newark.

From Belize City: You can either fly or take a boat to San Pedro. It’s a 20-minute flight; the boat trip takes about 75 minutes. Two Belize airlines, Maya Island Air and Tropic Air, each have about one flight per hour every day to San Pedro, starting at around 7:30 a.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m. In peak visitor season, sometimes additional flights are added to accommodate demand. Flights originate from both the International Airport in Ladyville about 9 miles north of Belize City, where your international flight arrives, and Municipal Airport, a small airstrip in Belize City. In many cases the same Maya Island and Tropic flight picks up passengers at both airports, making the short hop between the two in a few minutes.
Should you fly to San Pedro from International or Municipal? Depends on whether you’d rather save time or money. It’s easier just to fly into International and walk over to the domestic terminal and catch your connecting puddle jumper. But you’ll save money, especially if traveling in a party of several people, by flying from Municipal. Adult and child one-way fares on both Maya Island and Tropic are approximately US$49 from International; from Municipal, adult one-way is US$27. Round-trip fares are twice one-way. Rarely are there any bargain fares or discounts for advance booking.

Transferring between the airports requires a 25-minute taxi ride. A taxi from International to Municipal is US$20 for up to five passengers. A tip isn’t necessary unless the driver carries a lot of your luggage, in which case add a couple of bucks. Taxis have green license tags. They are plentiful and await passengers just outside the main lobby

A party of four adults pays almost US$400 round-trip to San Pedro via International, and around US$250 round-trip from Municipal, even including the taxi transfers.

Do you need to make reservations for Maya Island or Tropic flights in advance? Off-season, it’s not really necessary, though having a reservation won’t hurt. In-season, a reservation might save a wait. Most hotels on Ambergris Caye will arrange for your air travel to the island at the time you make your hotel reservations, and there’s usually no extra cost to you. The hotel gets a small commission from the airline.

You also can book direct with the airlines by telephone or over the Internet. Here’s contact information:

Maya Island Air: 800-225-6732 or 501-226-3838, fax 226-2192; e-mail mayair@btl.net or miaspr@btl.net; schedules, fares and reservations at www.mayaairways.com.

Tropic Air: 800-422-3435 or 501-226-2012; e-mail tropicair@btl.net; schedules, fares and reservations at www.tropicair.com.

Another option is to take a water taxi or ferry from Belize City to San Pedro. The trip, mostly on fast open boats with twin outboard engine seating 20 or 25 people takes about 75 minutes. On a sunny, calm day, it’s a great introduction to Belize; on a rainy, windy day, the trip can be wet and rough.

Most boats belong to the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association (tel. 501-223-1969). These leave from the Marine Terminal in Belize City at 10 N. Front Street near the Swing Bridge. The Marine Terminal (tel. 501-23-1969, e-mail bmtm@btl.net) has a waiting area and two small museums to visit while you wait. Boats to San Pedro leave at 8 am, 9 am , 10:30 am, Noon, 1:30 pm, 3 pm and 4:30 pm. Adult fares are US$15 one-way to Ambergris Caye. Children 5 to 10 go at half price; under 5 free. You disembark at Sharks pier in the middle of town. Fares just to Caye Caulker (45 minutes) are US$10. You can make reservations, but boarding is likely to be first-come, first-served. A cab to downtown Belize City from the International Airport is about 25 minutes and US$20 for up to four or five people.

Keep traveling!

--Lan


Q. In a few attempts to reserve a rental car in Belize City this coming July, it appears that the rental companies are closed during that time. Do you have any advice on how to get a rental at the airport? Is it better just to take a bus (to Corozal Town)?

Brian and Darlynn

A. The rental car companies in Belize City are NOT closed in July. They are open year round at the international airport. Some of the dozen or so rental places at the airport do close on Sundays, but in most cases their Belize City offices are open that day and they can arrange to have a driver meet you at the airport and bring you to their in-town office to do the paperwork. If you want to take a bus to Corozal, you can walk, hitch or possibly get a taxi (drivers prefer the bigger fares into Belize City) the 2 miles or so out to the Northern Highway and catch a bus there going north to Corozal/Chetumal.

--Lan

Q. Hi, my wife and I are arriving at the international airport at 1:30.  we would like to catch a bus to Tikal spend the night and next day there then get over to San Pedro. Wwhat
is the best and cheapest way to do that? and any idea's on what hotel to stay at in tikal? we are on a pretty tight budget.

David


>>

A. With arrival at 1:30, assuming your plane is on time, it's possible to get to Tikal that day, but it won't be easy and you will be traveling partly after dark (not usually a good idea in Guatemala). You will have to take a taxi (US$20) into town to the Novelo's termimal or else hike a mile out to the Northern Highway and take a bus (around US$1) into town, then take a Novelo's bus to Benque Viejo (US$3 and about 3 hours), then cross the border and catch a Guat chicken bus to Flores, or be dropped near El Remate and either stay there or change to a bus to Tikal.

Personally, I think I would go to San Pedro first. Then you can come back to Belize City early one morning and either take the Linea Dorada "luxury bus" (US$15 to $20) to Flores, or do the regular bus. You can also fly to Flores. Tikal Jets has inexpensive flights on Mondays and Fridays. Maya Island and Tropic fly daily but at higher cost.

--Lan


Q. Despite many searches in guide books and on the net, I
was unable to figure out an approximate cost of flying one way between
Belize and Guatemala city and what are the schedules.




A. Tikal Jets now offers inexpensive flights on Mondays and Fridays -- about US$70.  The only other airline that offers that service is TACA, and it involves a change of planes in San Salvador.

There is daily "deluxe" bus service between Belize City and Guatemala City, with a stop in Flores, on Linea Dorado. I believe the fare is US$50. Regular bus service would be much less. Linea Dorado has a Web site.

--Lan



Q. my brother, friend and i will be going to belize in early may, staying at ambergris caye for several days and then plan to go to belize city to head toward tikal and western belize for several days (one night in tikal and one in western belize). here are the questions regarding transportation for this side trip - 1)is it best to rent a car in belize city and plan to drive to tikal? the travel guides say that driving rental cars into guatemala may not be allowed by some car rental agencies, 2) is it better to take a bus to western belize and then transfer to a tikal bus?, or 3) best to rent a car in belize city, drive it to the border (perhaps leaving it at a lodge where we would spend a night after the tikal trip), and then bus to tikal and back? any thoughts on the pros and cons of these ideas would be helpful. we do want to spend a night and day in western belize looking at rain forest-related things (we are all biologists by trade or interest) and perhaps seeing some of the mayan ruins in western belize as well. thankx

Swampjrd@aol.com

A. The easiest way to get to Tikal (other than to fly, which is pretty expensive, but both Maya Island Air and Tropic Air in Belize, plus a couple of Guatemalan airlines, do fly from Belize City to Flores) is to take the Linea Dorada "luxury" bus which runs daily from the Marine Terminal in Belize City, believe still at 10 a.m. ,to Flores. Cost is US$25. The bus waits while you go through border formalities. From Flores you'll have to take a van or bus to Tikal park. Linea Dorada has a Web site with details -- www.lineadorada.com.

You could also take a regular bus (Novelo's) to the border, around US$3, then take a chicken bus (a few dollars) to near El Remate or Flores. Or arrange with a taxi or shuttle van in Guatemala to take you to Tikal.

Most car rental agencies don't permit their vehicles to go into Guatemala. Crystal in Belize City does, and I think Thrifty in Belize City still does as well. Also two rental places in San Ignacio, Safe and Western, do. Whether you can get Guatemala insurance at the Belize-Guatemala border is problematical, however. Personally I would recommend not driving in Guatemala.

In western Belize, you might look at duPlooy's Lodge -- the late owner, Ken duPlooy, spent many years collecting plants and trees from all over Central America and planting them at the "Belize Botanical Gardens" on the grounds of duPlooys. (His wife, Judy, still runs the place.)

--Lan

Q: We will be visiting San Pedro island this December. We are a family of 4
who want to reduce the cost of a very expensive week vacation by taking a
ferry. I've looked and asked but, want someone with knowledge to provide an
opinion. We arrive at the interntional airport at 425PM if all goes well.
From what I understand all transportation to the islands ends around 5pm we reserved a place starting that night at Coral Bay Villas can we even make it there that night? Our departure is for 1025 AM can we expect to leave from the island in time to catch the morning flight? Thanks for any information that may help. This is our first trip there.

Alexandra Jaffe
Long Beach


A: You will not be able to make the water taxi/ferry going to San Pedro. I advise you to either to pay the extra money and fly from International, or, if you arrive early and get through customs quickly (very unlikely) to take a taxi to the Municipal Airport (US$20) and fly from there. Fares from Municipal are approximately one-half those from International, and Maya Island and Tropic offer children's fares from Municipal. In both cases the last flight is around 5:30 p.m., so you might make it. In high season, sometimes additional later flights are added to accommodate tourists coming in late in the afternoon. If all else fails, just spend the night in Belize City -- the Radisson Fort George has two swimming pools and cable TV and is a favorite of my kids.

Returning, with luck you might be able to make your flight, though I doubt it. . You are supposed to be at the airport at least 2 hours in advance. You would probably be better off flying back as well.

--Lan


Q. I took the bus from Placencia to Dangriga. It went through a
beautiful area that was very green and had sailboats on a river. I would
love to go back there but have no idea where that was. Any idea?
Elfi Gilford


A. By road from Placencia to Dangriga you first go north about 15 miles along the peninsula, with the unpaved road fairly close to the sea and lagoon, though views are often obscured by mangroves or other trees, and then west, inland, about 10 miles to the Southern Highway. You then go north (the Southern Highway is now paved in this area) about 25 miles on the Southern Highway to the intersection with the Stann Creek District Highway. There are a number of small creeks and rivers that cross the road. You turn east and go about 6 miles into Dangriga. While at various points on this route you see the Caribbean or Placencia lagoon or small rivers, and some areas are quite lush and green (depending on the time of year and the amount of dust) I'm afraid I can't really place the area you describe.

--Lan

 

Q: In celebration of our twentieth wedding anniversary and my birthday, my wife and I have created a preliminary itinerary for a tour of northern Belize. What has us hung up is learning how to safely get from one locale to another. We understand that you could be most helpful in telling us how to travel from:
a) Belize City to Lamanai (and the Lamanai Outpost Lodge);

b) Lamanai to Pooks Hill Reserve (and the Pooks Hill Lodge);

c) Pooks Hill to Tikal National Park (and the Tikal Inn);

d) Tikal to Belize City in order to fly to Ambergris Caye.

Any insights you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Vic Reichman


A: Personally for the Belize mainland part of your trip I'd rent a car and drive. You will see a lot and probably will strike out on your own and discover things you otherwise wouldn't have seen. I've driven all over Belize for the last 10 years, often with my family, including to Lamanai Outpost and Pook's Hill, and have never had any trouble at all other than an occasional flat tire.
But if you don't want to drive, you can fly (charter) to Lamanai Outpost, or go by car to Orange Walk and take a boat up the New River. The lodge routinely arranges transportation for its guests. The boat is especially nice.

For getting to Pook's Hill, assuming you don't drive, you can have Lamanai get to back to Belize City and then have Pook's Hill meet you and take you to the lodge (you could even take a taxi). Pook's Hill I'm sure can get you to San Ignacio, or even arrange the trip to Tikal for you. I personally recommend that you not drive in Guatemala at this time, and that you go with a reputable tour operator. You can also take a Mundo Maya (Linea Dorado) van from Belize City to Flores.

Then from San Ignacio you can take a van (US$25 per person), bus (US$3) or taxi (US$80-$100) back to Belize City where you can catch a plane (cheaper from Municipal) or water taxi/ferry.

It's not really possible to go into the details of these various options in this e-mail. As you can see, it would make it all much easier and in the end cheaper to just rent a car. If you don't do that, I would just suggest you have the Belize lodges arrange transportation for you. They do this routinely, but the charges will add up.

You can get a rental car, such as a Suzuki Samurai, for US$65 to $75, plus tax and CDW (but your credit card may cover that -- I use Amex and it covers the CDW in Belize.) I usually rent from Budget, which is Belize's City class operation. But Crystal, Thrifty and Hertz, among others, are also pretty good. If you look at what the hotels charge to run you back and forth, the rental car will probably save you money, or at least you'll break even plus have the car to go where you want, when you want.

Drive safely!

--Lan

Q: We're planning to rent a car and travel through out belize over around 5 or 6 days including Placencia and the Cayo district. We want to go cheap and were considering just parking somewhere and laying back the seats and sleeping that way. Is that safe? Also how would you recommend going to Tikal, bus, or crystals auto rental.

Eric Barber


A: I think you would be asking for trouble to sleep in your car. A parked car is an invitation for burglary, and if you're in the car you could be a target, too. I parked my car in the jungle along the Macal river a couple of weeks ago, in an area where you would think there weren't any people at all, and over night someone tried to break into it. They were unsuccessful, but they did break the door handle.

As to going to Tikal, either car or bus would be okay. Bus is much cheaper, but if you already have the car then you would be paying for it anyway. You may have difficulty getting Guatemala insurance for the car, and your Belize insurance won't cover the vehicle in Guatemala, so you may have to carry the entire risk yourself. There have been a number of recent incidents in the Petén, including attacks on tourists near Tikal, but if you are careful and speak some Spanish then it should be okay. Unless there are heavy rains, the road to Tikal should be fine.

--Lan

Q: Thank you for your Web site. I found it helpful and candid. My wife and I are planning a trip there for next May, and I've got a few questions:
-I'm thinking about taking a water taxi from Belize City to San Pedro. You mentioned that sometimes the waters can be rough. How rough?
-I've seen that there's different companies that offer water taxis to San Pedro. Is there one that you prefer? How do I get to the embarking spot from the airport?

Luis Segarra


A: The waters inside the reef are shallow and can be very choppy if it is windy. Also, most of the boats are open and if it rains it's a wet ride. Even if it's not raining there's often a good deal of spray. But it's not as if you're in the open ocean with 40 foot swells or anything like that -- most days it's not a bad ride. On a sunny calm day it's a beautiful ride of about 75 minutes to San Pedro, 45 minutes to Caulker. The boats I prefer are the ones operated by the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association. They leave from the Marine Terminal, which is a good place to wait for the boats. There's a seating area and two small museums. You buy a ticket at the reception desk. Boats leave here going both to Caye Caulker (US$7.50) and San Pedro (US$12.50). The last boat to Caulker is around 5 and the last to San Pedro at 3.

--Lan

Q: Can you tell me whether there are any scheduled ferries from Punta Gorda to Livingston, Guatemala. Does a boat go every day?

Mark Lawhead


A: There are scheduled water taxis (Requena's and Paco's) daily from Punta Gorda to Puerto Barrios. Last time I checked they both left early, at 9 and 8:30 a.m. respectively. They will stop at Livingston if there is enough demand. A couple of days a week boats may make a scheduled stop at Livingston. Fares are around US$10 to $12.50, plus you have to pay the Guatemala exit tax (US$10) and PACT fee (US$3.75).

Take special care in Guatemala!

--Lan

Q. We will be sailing from Ambergris Cay to Cozumel in March for two weeks. Would you tell us some interesting stops along the way including safe overnight anchorages?

Mary Kallstrom, Lebanon, New Jersey


A. Since Ambergris Caye is in northern Belize, just down from the Yucatan and separated only by a narrow channel, most of your sail trip will be in Mexican waters. Mexico is really not my area of expertise. I would suggest though, that if you don't already have it, you get Cruising Guide to Belize and Mexico's Caribbean Coast, by Freya Rauscher (Wescott Cove Publishing) -- it's the best cruising guide to the region and includes general charts.

--Lan

DRIVING TO BELIZE

Q: Hello I am thinking about driving my ‘94 Ford Ranger pickup truck . Can you tell
me how much the duty will cost to come in as a tourist. Also what should I
expect driving through Mexico?

Lisa Trosper


A: It will cost you nothing to bring in your truck is you are a tourist. You will be given a visitors card allowing entry for up to 30 days, and your truck will be entered on your passport. Thus to leave Belize you will have to leave with your truck (you cannot sell it in Belize.)
You will have to buy Belize insurance for your truck. It can be purchased at the border.

As for traveling through Mexico, here is a brief excerpt from my Belize First Guide to Mainland Belize book (available from Amazon.com, $14.95):

Arriving by Land from Mexico: What to Expect
By Bus: Since air fares are significantly less expensive to Cancun or Cozumel, Mexico, than to Belize City, some frugal travelers choose to fly there and bus to Belize. However, a new tourist entry fee of 160 pesos (about US$17) per person makes flying into Mexico a little less economical. If flying into the island of Cozumel, you’ll need to take the ferry (under US$6) to Playa del Carmen on the mainland, then walk to the bus terminal where ADO and other buses run to Chetumal. If arriving at Cancun, when you buy your ticket for transportation out of the airport explain that you want to go to the central bus terminal in Cuidad Cancun; you will be dropped off at the front of the terminal. Mayabus and ADO are among carriers to Chetumal from Cancun. First class express buses make fewer stops. Deluxe and first-class buses have reserved seats, air-conditioning, free videos and clean bathrooms. Some have attendants who offer drinks. Rates vary with the value of the peso, bus class and other factors but most are under US$15 from either Playa or Cancun to Chetumal. It takes about five to six hours from Cancun or Playa to Chetumal, depending on the stops and traffic.

At the Chetumal main bus station, you switch to a Batty bus. About a dozen Batty buses a day go from Chetumal to Belize City, starting at 4 a.m. and running to 6:30 p.m. The trip to Belize City takes three to four hours and costs US$4.50 for regular buses and US$6 for “premier class” which offers newer air-conditioned buses. There has been a wave of consolidation in the Belize bus business, and Novelo’s now dominates the Northern routes. The Belize buses stop at the border. You get off and clear Mexican immigration. Then you reboard the bus, cross the Rio Hondo, and go through Belize immigration and customs. The whole process usually takes about 30 minutes. You can also take a taxi from bus terminals to the border for around US$5. If you just want to go from the border to Corozal Town, the cost by bus is US 75 cents, or around US$15 for a taxi. However, if you’re not driving or on a bus, you’ll have to walk across the bridge between the Mexican and Belize border stations.

TIP: Belize does not observe daylight savings time, and Mexico does. Keep track of the time change when crossing the border.

By Car: A few travelers drive through Mexico to Belize. The trip from Brownsville, Texas, is about 1,225 miles and usually takes three to four days. Total nonstop driving time is around 28 hours. The fastest route from Brownsville/Matamoros is via Veracruz, Tampico and Villahermosa. You stay on Mexico national route 101 for about 118 miles, then route 180 or, for part of the way, 180D (a toll road) for 742 miles, then route 186 for 357 miles and then about 5 miles on route 307 to the Belize border. The toll roads are expensive, but you can make 70 mph on them, much faster than on the regular roads.

Driving through Mexican towns can be confusing, because roads are poorly signed. In general, avoid going through the town centers (Centro), as you can easily get lost and the hotels are more expensive.

To enter Mexico (and later, Belize) by car, you need your original vehicle title, and if your vehicle is not paid for, a notarized letter of permission from the lien holder. Besides paying the new Mexico tourist entry fee of 160 pesos (about US$18), which allows entry for up to six months, you have to provide a credit card in lieu of posting a cash bond to guarantee that you will bring the car back out of Mexico. By car, you are allowed only US$50 per person in merchandise to be carried into Mexico, plus as a resident of the U.S. or Canada you can bring in such items as binoculars, laptop computer, TV, camping equipment and fishing equipment.
If you are transporting goods of US$1,000 or more and are going through Mexico to Belize, you are supposed to use the services of a customs broker at the U.S.-Mexico border and get transmigratory status, which costs money in fees and, many say, in bribes to Mexican federal officers along the way. It’s best just to enter Mexico as a tourist and not go the transmig route.
Mexican auto insurance is required; it costs from around US$50 for five days. Insurance for a month or two is not much more than for a few days.

For current road conditions in Mexico, call the Green Angels (if you speak Spanish), tel. 011-52-5-250-8221 from the United States or 91-5-250-8221 within Mexico. Except on toll roads, driving after dark in Mexico is not advised. You may be stopped frequently for inspections. As of mid-2000, gas in Mexico was about US$2.05 for regular unleaded (magna sin), US$2.25 a gallon for premium, and US$1.70 a gallon for diesel.

You should exchange enough U.S. dollars to get you through Mexico, as U.S. dollars are not widely accepted, or are accepted at a low rate of exchange. The exchange rate for U.S. dollars in late 2000 was 9.25 pesos to the dollar, down from a high of around 10 pesos in 1999. Gasoline stations in Mexico usually do not accept credit cards.

Sanborn’s (tel. 800-222-0158, e-mail info@sanbornsinsurance.com; www.sanbornsinsurance.com) is a good source of information on travel in Mexico and for Mexican auto insurance. A Web site with all types of helpful information on Mexico is www.mexconnect.com.

On arrival at the Mexico-Belize border, you again need your original title (no photocopies) for your vehicle, or, if you do not own it free and clear, a notarized statement from the lien holder that you have permission to take the car out of the U.S. You also have to buy Belize auto insurance. There are brokers at the border. Three months of insurance should cost about US$50 to $60, or one month about US$30. Crossing the border you may have to have your car sprayed to kill hitchhiking bugs – the fee is around US$4.50.

If you plan to stay in Belize and keep your vehicle there, you have to pay import duty. The rate varies by number of cylinders and type of vehicle, but it runs about 45% to 88% of value. If you are just visiting, you should not have to pay the import tax, but the car is entered on your passport so you cannot sell it in Belize. There are customs brokers at the border to assist you with your paperwork. They’re worth the small fee – perhaps US$20 to $40 – they typically charge.

TIP: Avoid border crossings on Mondays, the busiest day.

Keep on truckin’!

--Lan

Q. Just wondering what it would take to get my 94 BMW R100 motorcycle into BZ? Thanks for the help!

Randy Westphal
SedonaMEDIA.com


A. I'm just not sure exactly what you mean. If you are coming in as a tourist, you'd just need to buy Belize vehicle insurance, which you can do at the border. Your moto will be entered on your passport, and you can't depart Belize without it unless you make arrangements and post bond. If you are coming in as a resident or otherwise want to keep your motorcycle in Belize permanently, or to sell it there, you'll have to pay import duties and sales tax, depending on the value of the vehicle.

--Lan Q: I've read a lot of articles on your site regarding Belize. I work 8 months in USA and am interested in taking a vacation to Belize for maybe 1 to 3 months. My question is this: Can you take a camper and drive through Mexico and into Belize for such a vacation? I realize this may
be a complex question/answer. I can actually think of about 10 other questions (at least) regarding this question. Like where can you stay, would one get harassed by authorities for parking, where to park, what about crime, would one be looked upon as "rich" and targeted by thugs? etc... and so on. Do you have to pay a ton to enter in? would plates and a license from USA be honored? I guess you are the man who would know these answers.

A: Yes, there is no problem in taking a camper through Mexico and into Belize. Many people do it, at least in Mexico and some go as far as Belize. It is best and safest to stay in campgrounds or, with permission, on the grounds of hotels or private homes. Otherwise you do run a risk of theft or in rare occasions worse. Mexico has quite a few RV campgrounds, though many are of poor quality compared with those in the U.S. Belize has only three or four RV campgrounds, but especially in Cayo district there are hotels that offer trailer space.

The best guide to campgrounds in Mexico, and it also covers Belize, is Traveler's Guide to Mexican Camping, second edition, by Mike & Terri Church, US$19.95.

You will only be granted a 30-day entry permit into Belize, but you can get the permit renewed for up to six months (at a cost of Us$12.50 per month.)

Happy trailering!

--Lan

Q: I am interested in a day trip, driving from Cancun to Corozal.
I have questions:


1. How many Km is the drive?
2. What "hold ups" can I expect at the boarder?
3. What's the best place(s) to see in this short amount of time?

Genghis Hill


A: Most car renters in Cancun do not permit their vehicles to be taken into Belize, so you'll have to look around if you want to find a vehicle you can drive into Belize. You'll have to buy Belize insurance at the border. Crossing the border is quick and easy, aside from issues relating to the vehicle.

The drive from Cancun to Belize is about four hours. So round trip it's a full day of driving, with little time to see anything in Belize. From the border at Chetumal to Belize City is about two hours one way.

There's not that much to see in far northern Belize, although Corozal Town is a pleasant small town and there are a couple of small Maya ruins in the area, including Santa Rita. There is a small museum and visitors center in Corozal Town. As a visitor from Mexican, you can buy cheap gas and gewgaws at the Corozal Free Zone just south of the border. The best restaurants in Corozal Town are Cafe Kela, Cactus Plaza and Tony's.

A new casino is planned for just south of the Free Zone, but it won't open for a couple of years.

Frankly, you'd be better off spending at least one or two days in Belize, rather than trying to do anything on a day trip.

--Lan Sluder

CRUISE SHIPS IN BELIZE

Q. I've been surfing the web trying to find a cruise that would allow us some time in Belize ...preferably a few days. None that I can find offer more than 6-8 hours there, and I can't imagine taking such a tiny sip and then being denied a whole glass! I'm curious about your impression of the experience cruise participants have in Belize...is it even worth it? What can you really do in a few hours? Do you know of any special cruise-type experience that allows for time in and around Belize beyond a single day?

We live in New Mexico and, although we are both well-travelled, have never taken a cruise and are a bit hesitant. We like casual, down-to-earth, even grubby experiences and have no desire to live like kings. We're more likely to be found in the lowliest local cafe or bar than the four-star restaurant designed for tourists.

Might you have any suggestions for us? Your opinions would be greatly appreciated!

Jim and Sue Neidhart (it's the latter who is rattling your cage)


A. About 200 ships will call on Belize City this year, but all are there just for a day or less. That's the nature of mass tourism cruising.

I believe the only ships that currently spend any time in Belize are those of the American Canadian Caribbean Line, which has small ships (around 100 passengers) stopping in Belize during some months of the year.

Otherwise, you'll just have to fly to Belize.

--Lan

Q. I was visiting your
website (www.belizefirst.com) and I have a few questions. Both me and my
fiancé are taking a Carnival cruise for part of our honeymoon from Miami FL
and will be stopping in Belize on Sept 18th 2002. (The previous week we will
be in Aruba). My situation is that I have problems with my ears where I can
not get any WATER in them, which knocks out any under water events. Since we
will only have so many hours to visit Belize what would be the best events
to do while we are their for the day? We both love taking pictures and are
beach people as well. We do not want to be on a 7 Hour event and miss out on other areas.

Robert Ghigliotti
Staten Island, NY


A. Since you can't get water in your ears, that would rule out the two most popular tours from Belize City: the cave tubing tour and the snorkeling tour to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. So I'd suggest one of the Maya ruins tours, either Altun Ha or Xunantunich. After or before that tour you could walk around the Fort George area of Belize City for awhile -- see the museum in the old gaol, see the lighthouse, old colonial buildings, etc. Alternatively you could take a water taxi from Belize City to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, and spend the day there. The water taxis (US$22 round trip) leave and return from the dock at the Tourist Village where the passengers are brought in on tenders.

--Lan

Q. We will be arriving into Belize City on Norwegian Sun Cruiseship in late
August and are interested in diving the "Blue Hole" while the ship is in
port for the day. Can you recommend a dive operator that can accommodate
us? Anxiously awaiting your reply. If the Blue Hole is not practical
for a day trip, what would you suggest as next best option? As we have
some non-divers in our group, which tour would you recommend they take in
Belize?
gitana@juno.com


A. I don't believe it's practical to do the Blue Hole on most cruise stops to Belize, due to the time required to get to Lighthouse Atoll from Belize City. Some cruise lines do offer a dive trip to another atoll, Turneffe, from Belize City. That trip takes about 7 hours and costs around US$120 for a two-tank dive. Some cruise lines also offer dive trips to the reef around Ambergris Caye.

The most popular shore excursion in Belize is cave tubing. This involves floating down the Caves Branch or other river on inner tubes. At some points, you go through caves on the underground river, and there are Maya relics in some of the caves. Also popular are the snorkel trips to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley where you can snorkel or swim with nurse sharks and sting rays. Other popular trips are to Maya sites at Altun Ha or Xunantunich.

--Lan

Q. My name is Cherie Kahen and I will be taking a cruise with my husband to the carribean and stopping in belize city from 7 am to 6 pm on a wednesday. can you recommend anything to do that does not involve flying? I do not feel comfortable on small planes. We were thinking of taking a water taxi to ambergris caye but with the schedule of the water taxi we would have about 4 hrs on the island. Is that worth it? Can you recommend anything else? We dont plan on seeing ruins or anything like that.

A. The most popular tours for cruise passengers are the cave tubing trip, snorkeling trip to Shark Ray Alley near Ambergris Caye and the tour to Altun Ha Maya ruins. You can arrange for these independently, but it is probably easier and more efficient (e.g. you get priority for tendering in to Belize City) just to go on a ship's tour, even if it is a little more expensive.

The new water taxi system in Belize City makes it easier to get to either Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker. You leave right from the Tourism Village where cruise passengers disembark. These boats are bigger and a bit faster than in the ones from the Marine Terminal. It takes about 75 minutes to get to San Pedro and costs US$22.50 round-trip. The current schedule is

From Belize City to San Pedro (arriving at the Texaco dock at the north end of town):
8:30 a.m.
10 a.m.
11:30 a.m.
2:30 p.m.
4:30 p.m.

From San Pedro to Belize City:

7 a.m.
11 a.m.
12:30 p.m.
2 p.m.
4 p.m.

This schedule would give you enough time to experience San Pedro, which is a very pleasant little town.

If you decide to stay in Belize City, I suggest seeing the new Belize Museum (admission US$5) in the Central Bank Building, shopping at the Tourist Village shops, walking around the Fort George area where there are a lot of scenic colonial buildings and perhaps having a snack or meal at one of the local restaurants such as the Wet Lizard.

--Lan


WEATHER IN BELIZE

Q: I have visited Belize many times, usually in the late summer (August - September) or spring (April - May) and have usually enjoyed good weather. I'm now planning a trip for the entire month of October of this year (staying in Placencia). In your opinion, is that a good time to visit?

Jason Bettencourt


A: There isn't that much difference between the weather in October and that in August and September. Statistically, October is the rainiest month of the year in Belize, but only slightly more so than September. (August is usually not as wet, as "maugers" -- short dry spells -- often occur in that month.) Of course it's impossible to accurately predict the weather for any given specific period. October in Placencia this year could be very wet or there might not be too much rain. So far this rainy season, there has been less rain than usual in Stann Creek District.

From early September to early November is also prime hurricane season in Belize, although only four serious storms have hit Belize in the last 70 years, so the chances of a hurricane are relatively small.

In Placencia, a few hotels and restaurants close for parts of September and October, but most are open.

Bottom line: If you like Belize in August and September, you'll probably like it in October as well.

Enjoy Belize!

-- Lan

 

TOURS

Q. Greetings from Ontario, Canada!
I have been busy surfing your BELIZE FIRST site and am very impressed with
the amount of information offered. I have a few questions about Belize, as
a couple of friends and I are thinking of planning a trip for 10 days at the
end of March. Most of the Q&A's on the site were from those traveling from
the US, whereas, we will be coming from Toronto Airport, Canada. You
mentioned that there was an individual that could be of some assistance to
those planning a trip (Katie Valk - info@belize-trips.com) and I was wondering
if this would be a good contact for us to explore, or if she dealt mainly
with those traveling from the US. To put a twist on things, another friend
that is currently living in Monterrey, Mexico, will be joining us...and I
was wondering how easy it will be for her to get to Belize (via plane or
bus?). You had mentioned that it is cheaper to fly to Cancun and take a bus
across the boarder, perhaps this would be a good meeting place before
heading to Belize? We haven't decided if we should plan this trip on our
own, (rent hotels and a car along the way) or if we should go through a tour
company (something like Kontiki Tours etc)...what would your suggestion be?
Do you know of any reliable tour companies operating out of Toronto? I guess
one concern would be joining a tour that would not give us the freedom to go
where we want to go and see all that we can possibly see. Whereas on the
other hand, we could plan a trip and get held up by unforeseen
circumstances, and we would only have 10 days! As students, we would like
to keep the budget to a minimum, but realize, like any other trip, safety
should be kept top of mind. We love the outdoors, and would like to take
advantage of the vast outdoor adventures that Belize offers (Hiking, Mayan
Ruins, Snorkeling, Caving, Canoeing and Kayaking etc) and would love to
spend some time in the Cayes. After visiting the Belize Tourism Board
website, the possibility of a visit has us very excited...but we don't
really know where to start! Any information/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Kate Slater



A. I think Katie (info@belize-trips.com) could help you, whether you travel independently or want more of a group thing. She can often get pretty good deals on hotels, though in some cases you may be able to get as good or better a price by booking direct via the Internet. It's also good to have someone in the country to help out if anything goes wrong. If you decide to work with Katie, please tell her I said hello.

In general, Belize is an easy country in which to travel independently, and you rarely save much on package deals. It is usually cheaper to fly to Cancun, either on a discounted regular air fare or on a charter (I'm sure there are numerous charter flights from Toronto to Cancun.) There currently is no air service from anywhere in Mexico to Belize, although one can fly to Chetumal, Mexico, which is at the northern Belize border.

--Lan


Q. I was reading Travel Talk, and you seem to be the one to talk to about Belize. There are 6 of us (all females from 14-49) going on a cruise May 17th that will stop in Belize for a day. The cruise has a brochure full of things to do. Of course I left it at home, so I can't remember all the things we had circled to do, but we want to know whether or not to book the trip from the ship or if we will be able to find safe ones for less money on land and where we should look. We were thinking about kayaking but also wanted to try and visit a wildlife sanctuary. Also I love to ride horses and was wondering what the prices are like off the ship.

We are also traveling to Cozumel, Cayman and Roatan so we can pretty much snorkel anywhere.

I would love to have an expert opinion on what you would consider "must see/must do" at any of these places that you know about.

Judy Wood

A. With six people, easily the most cost-efficient thing to do is to rent a large car or van and do your own touring. Several of the car renters in Belize City, such as Budget and Hertz-Safari, offer vans such as a Mitsubish L300 van seating up to 12 people for around US$100 a day plus tax and CDW. (Budget's Belize Web site is www.budget-belize.com)

Driving in Belize is easy and safe, and roads are fairly well marked.

Among the interesting sites within a short drive of Belize City are:

Belize Zoo, 45 minutes west from Belize City
Crooked Tree, a great birding area, 1 hour north
Xunantunich ruins, 1 45 minutes west
Cave tubing at Jaguar Paw, 1 hour west
Altun Ha ruins, 1 1/4 hours north
Baboon Sanctuary, 1 hour northwest

If you decide to go on a tour, you can arrange that at the Fort Point Tourist Village which is close to where you come in from the cruise ship, or through the ship. I think the most interesting and unusual thing to do is the cave tubing, where you tube on a river in part through underground caves and can see Maya artifacts. The Belize Zoo is small but fascinating, with most of the Belize wildlife represented.

--Lan

Q. My wife and I have booked our first trip to Belize for late March and will
be staying just outside San Pedro. We were wondering if you could recommend any rainforest tours. Specifically, we were looking for a day trip tour with a heavy emphasis on wildlife. We have seen a number of tour guides listed on the official Belize site, so if you know of a specific tour group and/or specific tour you enjoyed, we'd appreciate it. We're pretty active and don't mind some hiking, but pretty much just want to pack in as much widelife/jungle as we can in one day, so we can spend the rest of our week snorkling. Thank you in advance for your time and we're picking up the latest Fodor's this week.
Kent Smith

A. Most of the tours from San Pedro are "general interest" trips rather than focusing on wildlife or birding, though guides usually are knowledgeable about local wildlife.

Among the general interest tours, you might look at the one to Lamanai. It is a full-day tour that includes a trip up the New River where you will see some birds and other riverine live, and through the New River Lagoon where there are lots of crocodiles. The Lamanai site has a resident troop of howler monkeys. Tanisha Tours runs the best trip to Lamanai.

You might also look at birding trips to Crooked Tree. Elbert Greer, whose birding columns for the San Pedro Sun were just collected in a book, Birdwatching with Bubba, does tours.

But really for the best wildlife spotting, you need to spend more than a day on the mainland.

Although I did the update on Fodor's, the issue that's in bookstores now is a bit dated. I have just completed revising the 4th edition but it won't be out until summer. I'd look at The Rough Guide to Belize or Moon's Belize Handbook, or my Guide to Mainland Belize.

--Lan Sluder

Belize books and publications by Lan Sluder:
Belize First Magazine http://www.belizefirst.com/
Fodor's Belize and Guatemala Guide
Belize First Guide to Mainland Belize
Adapter Kit: Belize
Fodor's UpClose Central America
Belize Book of Lists 2000
San Pedro Cool (coming soon)


Q: I am a female solo traveller from England who would like to visit Belize in February 2002. I would like to spend about 10 days (give or take) touring Belize (plus 4 or 5 nights somewhere on the beach but with the accent on flora and fauna rather than diving). I do not want to travel independently but would like to be part of an organised tour. There are a very limited number of tours on offer from the UK and wondered if you had details of anyone in Belize (or even the USA) who provide group tours. I have searched the internet but can only find tour operators in Belize that arrange packages for a minimum of two people. Hope you can help! By the way, I have read the readers' reviews of hotels and found them very informative and interesting. Thanks for any help you can give (even if it is that no-one provides such tours, at least I will know not to search any more!)

Angela Mann
England


A. I would recommend you talk (via the Internet) with Katie Volk with Maya Travel (e-mail mayatravel@btl.net, P.O. Box 458, Muncipal Airport, Belize City, Belize, C.A.). She's a former New Yorker who has lived in Belize for many years. She arranges independent and group tours in Belize, is very knowledgeable and can probably provide the type of tour you want.

There are also a number of tour operators in the U.S. and Britain that do tours -- often nature, birding or adventure tours. Most can handle either individuals or groups.

Among these are:

USA:

Close Encounters, P.O. Box 1320, Detroit Lakes, MN 56502, tel. 888-875-1822, www.belizecloseencounters.com

International Expeditions, One Environs Park, Helena, AL 35080, tel. 800-633-4377, www.ietravel.com

Slickrock Adventures, P.O. Box 1400, Moab, UT 84532, tel. 800-390-5715, www.slickrock.com

Elderhostel, 11 Ave. de Lafayette, Boston, MA 02111, tel. 800-877-8056, www.elderhostel.org

Wildside Birding Tours, 14 Marchwood Center, Exton, PA 19341, tel. 888-875-9453, www.adventurecamera.com

BRITAIN
Trips, 9 Byron Place, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1JT, tel. 0117-987-2626, www.tripsworldwide.co.uk

Journey Latin America, 12-13 Healthfield Terrace, London W4 4JE, tel. 020-8747-8315, www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk

Naturetrek, Cheriton Mill, Cheriton, Alresford, Hampshire S024 ONG, Tel: 01962 733051, www.naturetrek.co.uk

Adventure Bound, 14 Barley Mow Passage, Chiswick, London W4 4PH, tel. 020-8742-8612, www.adventurebound.co.uk

Cheerio!

--Lan

 

PLACES TO STAY

Q. I would be very grateful if you could let me know how to get in contact with the Gaviota Hotel on Tobacco Caye. All the internet links seem to not be working. Also do you have any idea what sort of price range the hotel is in? Many thanks

Mindy Gill

A. Try calling 501-509-5032 (as of today, May 1, 2002, all telephone numbers in Belize have changed to seven digits).

Last I heard, a few weeks ago, rate at Gaviota was US$50 for two people, inclusive of all meals, plus 7% tax. Might be a bit less this summer.

--Lan

 

Q. I just have two questions.

1. What is the best cheap hotel on the beach in San
Pedro?

2. What is the best cheap method of getting from
Belize Intl. airport to San Pedro?

Oscar Novoa

A. 1. Rubie's.

2. Walk a mile to the Northern Highway (or hitch a hide). Flag down a bus going to Belize City. Take the bus into town (around a dollar). Walk to the Marine Terminal and take a Caye Caulker Water Taxi to San Pedro (US$12.50).

--Lan

Q. A friend sent me your website as a good resource for my first time trip to Belize at the end of May 2002. So far I must say your website has been fantastic. We will be traveling to Belize for 10 nights and will split our time b/t Ambergris, Caye Caulker, San Ignacio and Placencia. If i might indulge you, i have a few questions about lodging accommodations in each. For a portion of our trip, we are willing to spend if it's a good value but would also like to mix some good economy lodging in as well where appropriate to balance out the costs. With that said our questions are as follows (I hope the length does not scare you off - we are excited about the trip and don't want to make too many mistakes):

1) In Ambergris, is it worth the money to stay at the likes of Ramon's Village or Captain Morgan's Retreat in the north or can better value be had while still getting the Belizean experience at Caribe Island, the Belizean Shores, the Seven Seas Resort or Coconuts;

2) In Caye Caulker, what are your thoughts between the Lazy Iguana, Sea View Hotel or the Tropical Paradise Resort?

3) In San Ignacio the choices seem more difficult. On a very economy scale the web page for Midas Tropical Resort seems like you get the "jungle" experience at a very low cost but there must be something lacking for the price to be so low. Any thoughts? Our other choices are the more upscale Blacaneaux, Black Rock Lodge, or Crystal Paradise.

a) Any thoughts on whether the packages offered by these Cayo District resorts are the better value to setting everything up myself?

b) Any reccommendations on the most reliable, comfortable and economical transfer service from Belize City to San Ignacio?

4) In Placencia, we are trying to decide between Blue Crab Resort, Kitty's Place, Ranguana Lodge, the Nautical Inn or the Serenity Resort. Thoughts?

I would truly be appreciative of any response you could provide me on the above. I understand that our travel tastes and interests may be different than yours but nonethelss your thoughts and opinions would be greatly appreciated. We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

Jeff Freid

A. 1) In my opinion, while both Ramon's and Captain Morgan's have appeal, for many they may not be worth the additional cost compared to a condotel, where you often get more space for the money. I especially like the small condotels such as Banana Beach, Belizean Shores, Belizean Reef, Paradise Villas, The Palms, Villas at Banyan Bay and others. My new guidebook to Ambergris Caye, San Pedro Cool (available from Amazon.com for $14.95) has ratings and reviews of all hotels on the island.

2) My tops picks on Caye Caulker for value and location would be Tree Tops, Trends Beachfront, Anchorage and Seaside Cabanas, although all of the places you mention are fine. If going off-season, you can just arrive on Caulker, walk around and pick the hotel you like. My San Pedro Cool guide also contains a miniguide to Caye Caulker.

3) Your selections for Cayo are all over the board from low budget to deluxe. The best lodges in Cayo are Ek 'Tun, Chaa Creek, Blancaneaux and duPlooy's. If you can afford those, they are great places. There are also many choices in less expensive price ranges (including the safari camp at Chaa Creek and the budget rooms at duPlooy's). My choices among these also include Banana Bank, Ian Anderson's and Pook's Hill (all in Cayo District but located closer to Belmopan), Nabitunich, Crystal Paradise and Green Heaven. In the budget range, Martz Farm, Trek Stop, Clarissa Falls, Parrot's Nest, and Hummingbird. In town we like Aguada and Martha's. You can download selected chapters of my Belize First Guide to Mainland Belize free from our Web edition of Belize First. Among these chapters are a couple on Cayo with complete hotel information.

4) In Placencia, of the places you mention, I would put Kitty's and Nautical Inn at the top. Serenity is closed. . Blue Crab and Ranguana are good places.

--Lan


Q. 1) What are your thoughts of the Caribe Island Resort on Ambergris Caye?

2) Has Placencia been so damaged by the hurricane that we are better off
staying extra days on the Cayes instead of incurring the cost to head down
to Placencia? Or is the snorkeling from Placencia worth the extra trip?

3) If I don't want my lodge in Cayo District to arrange for my
transportation from Belize City can you recommend any reliable, comfortable and cost effective shuttle/van services? Any idea what we should be paying for this service?

JEFF FREID

A. Caribe Island Resort is under new management, which is making a lot of positive changes. Depending on the rate, it can be a good choice.

Placencia is recovering but it is taking longer than anyone thought, and especially in Placencia village things are still a good ways from normalcy. Personally at this time I'd probably stay on the cayes or possibly go to Hopkins.

The Aguada Hotel in Santa Elena has a nice Mercedes van which makes the Cayo-BZE trip daily depending on demand. I believe the rate is still US$25 per person one-way.

--Lan

Q. I visited your site today and I;find it very cool and helpfull. My friend and I want to go to Belize in October this year. We want to ask you if it is save for backpackers to travel around Belize?? And also if there are cheap questhouses to stay or are there just expensive hotels? Hope to hear from you soon,
greatings from Holland, Marjolein and Richard

A. There are two ways to look at costs in Belize. Either it is one of the most expensive countries in Central America or it is one of the cheapest in the Caribbean.

Double rooms in safe, clean guesthouses in Belize are available in most areas for US$15 to $30.

--Lan

Q. hello and thanks for reading this.. i am looking to go down for a week. all i really want to do is lay out on the beach or pool side and soak up the sun. would like a nice place but pretty near night life. will be going single-age 50, i will snorkle but doublt i will dive again--too scared. i have a good body and will be in a thong-is that going to be a problem? are american beers available on sanpedro? bud, miller, coors? what do you do, just wallk around at nite and go from bar to bar?---sounds good to me! i am currently thinking of beachfront suites or belize beach suites- or should i think about going south some? thanks a ton,,,,

clark gilmore

A. Sounds like Ambergris Caye is the place for you.

If you want to easily go out for drinks and dinner to different spots, you probably should look at hotels in town or on the south end. North Ambergris hotels require a water taxi or other boat trip to and from town. This gets expensive and becomes a bit of a hassle, especially late at night.

U.S. beers are available at some bars and in a few groceries but are very expensive -- several dollars a can even in groceries. Most visitors enjoy the local beers -- Belikin, Lighthouse and Belikin Stout. If you have a fridge, you can have a case of regular Belikin delivered to your room or condo for under US$20.

Thongs are not a problem around the pool but more conservative attire (regular swimsuit or shorts and tee-shirt) would be better in town.

--Lan

Q. My fiance and I are considering Belize as our honeymoon destination. We will be traveling 8-12-02 for 5-7 days. Can you recommend locations and lodging? We want to soak up the sun, do some snorkeling, visit ruins. Thanks.

Jeff Pitman

A. It's difficult to make recommendations without knowing your budget, but here, from my Belize Book of Lists (a complete version is available as an Adobe Acrobat pdf shareware download from our Web edition at www.belizefirst.com) are a couple of lists of honeymoon ideas and romantic places.

--Lan

>>

Great Honeymoon Ideas
Belize is a popular honeymoon spot. With some prior planning, visitors even get married in Belize. Here, in no particular order, are our suggestions for great honeymoon destinations in Belize.

For Soft Adventure in the Jungle
Here are four jungle lodges where you can enjoy nature with creature comforts and privacy:
• Chan Chich Lodge, Orange Walk District. In the middle of the bush, with cut trails for easy jungle access and good local guides to share their knowledge with you. Cabañas are single units for privacy. Very safe, very good.
• Lamanai Outpost Lodge, Orange Walk District. Beautiful setting on the New River Lagoon near Lamanai ruins. Take a spotlight nature tour at night. Thatch cabañas aren’t fancy but are well- designed and private.
• Jaguar Paw, Belmopan Area. Ride the river and explore caves by day, enjoy good food and air conditioned comfort by night.
• Ek’ Tun, near San Ignacio. Only two deluxe private cabins, in a lush jungle setting, with excellent food.

For Luxury
For a sybaritic honeymoon, consider one of these options:
• Villa units at Blancaneaux, Mountain Pine Ridge. You’ll live like a movie star at Francis Ford Coppola’s place. Swim in the river, visit nearby waterfalls, tour the ancient city of Caracol.
• Beachfront owners’ villas at Victoria House, Ambergris Caye. Luxurious designer villas directly on the water.
• Condo units at Villas at Banyan Bay, The Palms or Banana Beach, Ambergris Caye. Lots of space, and units at Banana Beach and Banyan Bay have whirlpools.
• Cayo Espanto, a small private island near Ambergris Caye, has individual houses with pools.

Budget Honeymoon
• Stay in a tent at a “safari” camp at Chaa Creek near San Ignacio.
• Honeymoon in a “tree house” at Parrot’s Nest near San Ignacio.
• Rough it (a little) on the reef in a cabin on Tobacco, Ranguana, South Water, Long or other small caye.
• Camp at Cockscomb Preserve – common kitchens are available to cook your own meals.
• Enjoy an island on a budget with a spic ‘n span room at Tree Tops Hotel, Chocolate’s or Tom’s Hotel, Caye Caulker.

Kickback and Relax Honeymoon
For a low key, no-pressure honeymoon, try one of these:
• Enjoy a beautiful tropical island at Pelican Beach Resort’s cottages on South Water Caye.
• Relax, snorkel and doze at Little Water Caye.
• Treat yourself to a private cabaña on a remote atoll -- Lighthouse Reef Resort, Manta Reef, Blackbird Caye or Turneffe Lodge.
• Do a beach holiday in one of the three cabañas at Beaches and Dreams, Sittee Point.

Get Away from It All
• Charter a sailboat and visit your choice of more than 200 islands in the Caribbean off the coast of Belize (see 5 Boat Charters, page 78)
• Rent your own private island – French Louis Caye is one that’s available for around US$150 a day. It has a wooden house, snorkeling right off the beach, and no mosquitoes. (Reserve through Kitty’s, Placencia.)


...

10 Most Romantic Places to Stay
Any place may be romantic if you’re truly in love, but here are some hotels that help the romance flow. Our selections are based on setting, general ambiance and privacy.

(Listed Alphabetically)
Blancaneaux, Mountain Pine Ridge
For those with a yen for luxury, a villa here would make a wonderful love nest – soaring thatched ceilings, indoor/outdoor Japanese-style baths, decks with views of the river.

Capricorn, North Ambergris Caye
Mini-resort with cabins on the beach and an enticing restaurant.

Casablanca, Consejo Shores
Away from the crowds, with a view of Chetumal Bay and the Mexico beyond.

Cayo Espanto, Near Ambergris Caye
Your own house with small splash pool, on a private island.

Chan Chich, Gallon Jug, Orange Walk District
For lovers with an interest in birding and wildlife.

Ek’ Tun, Cayo
Two deluxe thatched cabanas for jungle quiet times by lamp light.

Luba Hati, Seine Bight (Placencia)
Run by an Italian, so it has to be romantic, right?

Maruba Spa, North of Belize City
A certain atmosphere of lassitude and sensuality in the jungle.

Mata Chica, North Ambergris Caye
For the hip in love.

Victoria House, Ambergris Caye
Barefoot but upmarket seaside resort – the seafront villas here are special.

Q. We are planning to go to Belize on the 23th of May. We where wondering if it would be possible to stay on, or right at the beach somewhere in Belize, in a hut/lodge or something like that for a cheap price. We have no idea if this is possible, we went to the Phillippines last year and it was no problem overthere so we hope we can do this again in Belize! I hope you can help us!
Thanks, Cynthia Weel

A. Belize is not the Phillippines, but there are several places where you can stay in a cabin or cabana on the water fairly inexpensively.

My first recommendation would be Tobacco Caye, which is a tiny island directly on the reef (you can snorkel from shore). Accommodations there start at around US$45 to 50 a night for two people INCLUDING all meals -- Gaviota is about the cheapest.

Another option is Hopkins village, on the coast south of Dangriga. Rooms/cabanas are available here starting at around US$15 double without meals.

The most popular budget destination in Belize is Caye Caulker, one of the Northern Cayes with a population of about 800 and around 35 hotels. Most of the nicer places are US$20-$50 a night double, or more, but some are less expensive.

--Lan


Q. We are thinking of going to Ambergris Caye in December 2002. We would like to stay somewhere quiet, it doesn't have to be fancy, does need to be on the water, preferably with kitchenette or kitchen. Do you have any recommendations?

Thank you!

Sue Stevenson



A.
Quite a few of the small condotels and suites hotels on Ambergris Caye should work great for you. Here are some of them, from reviews in my new guidebook to the island, San Pedro Cool. And you won't regret choosing Ambergris Caye!

--Lan

>>

THREE STARS PLUS Blue Tang Inn, tel. 866-337-8203 or 501-226-2326, fax 226-2358; e-mail bluetanginn@btl.net; www.bluetanginn.com. New management has done a lot to improve this property, which was formerly Rock’s Inn. The 14 studio-type suites with kitchens in this three-story blue hotel have been remodeled and upgraded, and there’s a new “cozy” swimming pool. (For those who aren’t divers, a Blue Tang is a colorful tropical fish seen around the barrier reef.) Rates US$90 to $115 off-season, US$125 to $140 plus tax November through April, including continental breakfast. Bottom-line: Quality suites accommodation at north edge of town.

THREE STARS PLUS Coral Bay Villas, Coconut Drive, P.O. Box 1, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-3003, fax 226-3006; e-mail cbayvillas@btl.net; www.ambergriscaye.com/coralbayvillas/index.html. One-bedroom beachfront condo suites in a white two-story concrete building with red tile roof. No pool, but there’s a nice sandy beach. Offered through Southwind Realty, rates start at around US$95 double, plus tax. Bottom-line: Another nice condo choice.

THREE STARS PLUS Caribbean Villas, Coconut Drive, San Pedro, tel. 501-226-2715, fax 226-2885, e-mail c-v-hotel@btl.net; www.caribbeanvillashotel.com. Owners Wil (a dentist by profession) and Susan (whose influence is seen in the design of the hotel) Lala and friendly on-site management make the difference here. There's a variety of accommodations in the two-level whitewashed buildings with tile roofs, from small studios to two-bedroom suites. No pool ­ we’re told one may be planned ­ but you’ll enjoy the small beach area and pier, with a little artificial reef for snorkeling, and there are two outdoor hot tubs. No restaurant, but several are nearby, as is Island Supermarket if you want to self-cater. A "people perch" is great for a bird's eye view of the island or for letting the birds see you. Free bikes for guests, phones in rooms but no TV. Wil gives new guests a free golf cart tour of the island. This has always been one of our favorite hotels on the island. On a recent visit, Susan Lala showed us around, and everything still looked good to us. The Lalas are redoing some of their rooms and conduct an annual “fall cleaning and spruce up.” Some of the newer places on the island, however, with freshly minted rooms, swimming pools, in-room jacuzzis, cable TV and other spiffy amenities, may grab more of today’s generation of San Pedro travelers. Properties like Caribbean Villas, even with their lovely and quiet settings, may need to make new investments to keep up with the Joneses. Still, most guests are enthusiastic about Caribbean Villas, and the hotel enjoys a high rate of repeat guests. Rates are US$95-$245 double mid-November through May, and only a bit less, US$85 to $225, the rest of the year. All rates plus tax (no service charge). Bottom line: Friendly capable management and lovely setting make a visit here a good experience.


THREE STARS Paradise Villas, Barrier Reef Drive, San Pedro. Paradise Villas is an attractive low-rise condo colony at the north end of town, with a bit of a complication. The complication is that the units are managed and rented by several different groups, including Nellie Gomez Property Management, Tradewinds (which owns and manages the largest number of units), Paradise Villas Belize and Caye Management. Making it even more complicated is that a few owners, including several who own two or more units, such Bob Howard, operating as Beachfront Suites (beachfrontsuites@aol.com) and Susan Garcia (susangg@garcia.mpowermail.com) also offer their units privately. To confuse you even more, these Paradise condos are unrelated to the similarly named Paradise Resort Hotel, except that is next door. If you want to stay at Paradise Villas, just contact several of the agents and see what’s available and compare prices. Choose from either one- or two-bedroom condos. The two-bedroom units are not as big as some other two-bedroom suites at island condotels. Though units vary in furnishings and amenities such as whether the air conditioning is just in the bedroom or throughout the units, they are basically similar. Rates also vary among the different agents, but most are in the range of US$125 to $185 in-season and US$90 to $165 off-season. Agents: Nellie Gomez Property Management, P. O. Box 143, Pescador Drive, San Pedro Town; tel. 501-226-2087, fax 226-2400; e-mail nellie@btl.net; www.nelliesproperty.com. Paradise Villas Belize, P.O. Box 96, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-3202, fax 226-2892; e-mail info@paradisevillasbelize.com; www.paradisevillasbelize.com; Caye Management, Barrier Reef Drive, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-3077, fax 226-2831; e-mail cayeman@btl.net; www. cayemanagement.com. Tradewinds (this travel wholesaler manages 12 Paradise units and has a manager with an office across the street), tel. in the U.S. 800-451-7776, fax 414-258-5336, in Belize tel. 501-226-2822, fax 226-3746; e-mail belizetradewinds@aol.com; www.tradewindsparadisevillas.com. In most cases, V, MC and Amex are accepted by these agents. Bottom line: Comfortable, if slightly confusing, condo colony.

THREE STARS Mayan Princess, Barrier Reef Drive, San Pedro; tel. 800-850-4101 or 501-226-2778, fax 226-2784; e-mail mayanprin@btl.net; www.mayanprincesshotel.com. This three-story, seafront condotel, painted a distinctive coral pink, has 23 large and attractive one-bedroom suites (king or queen beds) with air conditioning, kitchenettes, phones and cable TV. Rates are a good value at US$90 double off-season, US$125 in-season, plus 7% hotel tax and 10% service. Dive packages and long-term rates available. No pool, but each suite has a balcony with wonderful views of the sea, and the whole atmosphere here is comfortable and homey. Ably managed by Sheila and Rusty Nale. Bottom line: Convenient, comfortable suites on the water at reasonable rates.

THREE STARS PLUS Belizean Reef Suites, Coconut Drive, San Pedro; tel. 330-544-4302 or 501-226-2582, fax 330-652-0026; e-mail bzreef@yahoo.com; www.ambergriscaye.com/bzreef/index.html. Bright white, spic 'n span one-bedroom/one-bath, two-bedroom/two-bath and three-bedroom/three-bath condos, on the sea. This is a popular spot for travelers who want a great location and lots of space. The first-floor units on the water are primo. There’s air conditioning in bedrooms only. No pool, but there’s a good beach close by at Ramon’s. Rates US$80 to $165 off-season, US$135 to $249 in-season. Rates plus tax, no service charge. US$10 per person additional over two. Children under 10 not accepted. Bottom line: Very nice small condotel in a very good location.

FOUR STARS The Palms, P.O. Box 88, Coconut Drive, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-3322, fax 226-3601, e-mail belizepalms@btl.net; www.belizepalms.com. This three-story condotel on the water has nearly everything going for it - 12 attractive and well-decorated condominium apartments (8 units are two-bedroom and the rest one-bedroom), a nice small pool surrounded by tropical greenery, a sandy beach, and an excellent location at the south edge of town. Rates off-season: one-bedroom condo, US$98 to $115, two-bedroom US$158, with discounts on week or longer stays; in-season: one-bedroom, US$148 to $168, two-bedroom, US$208. Rates plus tax and 10% service charge. US$20 extra per person over two in the one-bedroom and four in the two-bedroom. Bottom line: Excellent option for a condo vacation.

THREE STARS Corona Del Mar/Woody’s Wharf, Coconut Drive, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-2055, fax 226-2461; e-mail corona@btl.net; www.ambergriscaye.com/coronadelmar/index.html. This is a low-profile lodging spot at little over a half mile from town, but regulars know it offers pleasant rooms and attractive apartments on the water, at moderate cost. Owners Woody and Helen host you in their 12 large rooms and four suites. As a bonus, just across the street is Carmen’s restaurant, one of the best inexpensive places to eat on the island. Off-season rates US$75 to $105; in-season US$120 to $145, all plus tax and 10% service. Bottom-line: Friendly, homey place.

THREE STARS PLUS HHH + Xanadu Island Resort, Coconut Drive, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-2814, fax 226-3409; e-mail xanadu@btl.net; www.xanaduresort-belize.com. Xanadu is billed as the “world’s first monolithic dome resort,” a description which might sound good to an engineer but doesn’t exactly get our poetic juices flowing. Happily, these monolithic domes look nicer than they sound. Owner Ivan Sheinbaum showed us a new unit that was under construction. The building process is costly, but the result is a masonry dome with foam insulation that, according to Ivan, a Canadian originally from South Africa, is fireproof and can withstand winds of up to 300 mph. The domes are covered with thatch palapa roofs, and inside the 10 condo suites, most of which have a queen bed and full bath on the main floor and a second bath and queen bed in an upstairs loft, are attractively furnished in earth tone colors, with central air-conditioning, fans, phones and cable TV. You get the use of bikes, canoes and kayaks gratis, and the hotel even covers taxi fare from the airstrip. There’s a nice little stretch of beach, a 350-foot pier and a new freshwater swimming pool. Rates US$165 double in-season and US$125 mid-May to mid-November, plus 7% hotel tax but no service charge. Bottom-line: Something different on the beach.

 FOUR STARS PLUS Villas at Banyan Bay ( P.O. Box 91, San Pedro, tel. 501-226-3739, fax 226-2766, e-mail: banyanbay@btl.net, www.banyanbay.com. On a recent trip, my family and I stayed in one of Banyan Bay’s two-bedroom, two-bath condos, and a terrific family place this is. Especially in summer, the majority of the guests here appear to be families. The kids seem to love the big, two-section pool, and dad and mom go for the fully equipped kitchen and the jacuzzi off the master bedroom. The beach here, about a mile and a half south of town, is one of the best on the island, though it does have some seagrass, and there’s a dive and gift shop on the pier. Rico’s restaurant, new in summer 2001, didn’t knock us out, but service was good, and it has a beautiful setting on the water for drinks or dinner; breakfast is handy and well done. We were impressed by the space at Banyan ­ these units are twice as big as many of the typical two-bedroom condo on the island ­ and by the high degree of maintenance. The apartments we saw look just as good now as when they were built several years ago. The woodwork and cabinets are mahogany, and the cathedral ceilings in the main living area sport a stunning array of tropical hardwoods. And, the air conditioning works. At Banyan Bay, the units get cool and, with the help of ceiling fans, stay comfortable. At this 42-unit condotel, there’s 24-hour security, cable TV and all the pleasures of home ... if your home happens to be just steps from the Caribbean. Yes, we know this is an RCI-affiliated time-share but happily that’s just a minor part of the operation. A new office/lobby and fitness center are under construction, and plans are for expansion to the temporary St. Matthews med school site, with more units and another pool. You don’t get this quality for peanuts. Rates start at US$200 off season for two people (though there are packages and some discounts available) and range up to US$375 for four people in high season, plus 7% hotel tax. Bottom line: Upscale two-bedroom condos on the water, great for families or two couples traveling together.

FOUR STARS Banana Beach, Coconut Drive, P.O. Box 94, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-3890, fax 226-3891; e-mail bananas@btl.net; www.bananabeach.com. This is one of our favorite places on the island. This condotel has just about everything to make your vacation a success ­ a genuinely friendly staff, spacious and smartly furnished one-bedroom suites and a setting on one of the island’s best beaches. The 35 one-bedroom units are in a single three-story building, designed in a style similar to Mexican hotels, around a courtyard with swimming pool, within watermelon seed spitting distance of the sea. We recommend you go for one of 14 seafront units, especially the second and third floor deluxe units on corners, which have fabulous views of the Caribbean and king beds. A little cheaper are the 12 ocean-view units and nine pool-view units. All units have kitchens, A/C, phones and color cable TV. The hotel can set you up with quality tours and diving. So successful has Banana Beach been that owner Tim Jeffers in 2002 is building another 28 units or so next door, along with another pool plus a restaurant and dive shop. Rates start around US$100 double a night off-season for a courtyard suite and go up to around US$175 for a deluxe seafront suite, including taxes, but there are many packages and discount deals, so contact the hotel for the latest offering. Book direct on the Internet, and you’ll probably get the best deal. Extended stays (four weeks and longer) drop the price down to as low as US$64 a night including taxes, and monthly rentals are even cheaper, under US$50 a day off-season. You can’t stay in a Hampton Inn in Podunkville, Indiana, for that. Bottom line: Great choice for value, service and a seafront vacation.

THREE STARS Mata Rocks, P.O. Box 47, San Pedro; tel. 888-628-2757 or 501-226-2336, fax 226-2349; e-mail matarocks@btl.net; www.matarocks.com. Mata Rocks is a small beachfront hotel with 11 rooms and two junior suites, just south of Banana Beach. With its stucco and wood exterior in a distinctive white, turquoise and purple paint scheme, Mata Rocks has a comfortable, relaxed feel. The beach bar hops, however, and if you want to pop into town, about 1 1/2 miles away, bikes are complimentary. All units have A/C and little fridges, and the junior suites have kitchenettes. In-season doubles US$120 for rooms and US$145 for suites. Summer rates US$85 to $96. Rates are plus tax but include continental breakfast. Bottom line: Relax in laidback surroundings on the beach.

(FOLLOWING ON NORTH AMBERGRIS ABOVE THE CUT)

THREE STARS PLUS Belizean Shores, P.O. Box 1, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-3000, fax 226-3003; e-mail mail@belizeanshores.com; www.belizeanshores.com. Like Coral Bay, this is a condo development by the Southwinds Realty folks. Belizean Shores, about 4 miles north of San Pedro, has 12 buildings, each with four units and all with sea views. The pool is a beaut, and huge, the beach is nice, and there’s a 350-foot pier. Rates US$125 to $145 double May through mid-December, US$145 to $165 in-season, plus tax. Bottom line: Agreeable new condo development.

THREE STARS SunDiver Beach Resort, tel. 877-297-8904 or 501-226-5018; e-mail sundiver@btl.net; www.sundiverbeachresort.com. This is a relaxed beach resort about 5 miles north of town. The 12 rooms and suites are comfortable but not deluxe, and some are a tight squeeze for the furniture. All have air conditioning and satellite TV with six channels. Restaurant, bar, swimming pool. Rates US$110 to $200 in-season, US$85 to $165 rest of year, including continental breakfast. Package deals and discounts are available which may reduce prices by 20% or more. Also, a weekly all-inclusive package of room, all meals and local beer, rum and soft drinks is available from US$800 per person based on double occupancy. SunDiver also manages units at Caye Villas (HHH +) and other properties, with rates around US$300 to $450. Bottom line: Relaxed, secluded small resort.

THREE STARS PLUS Playa Blanca Resort, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-5206; e-mail gaz@btl.net; www.playablancabelize.com. Run by Gary “Gaz” Cooper, an expatriate Brit and well-known dive operator in San Pedro, Playa Blanca is more a large private home (where everyone happens to dive or hang out on the beach) than a regular condotel. The piece de resistance is the penthouse, a 2,200 square-foot second-floor suite with three bedrooms and two baths and great views of the water; it also has access to a large patio and roof-top sunning area. This huge space, which goes for a whopping US$550 per night in-season and almost as much, US$495, May through mid-December, could be right for a family or a group of divers, as it sleeps 8 to 10. Available also are large one- bedroom (US$165 off-season, US$185 in-season) and huge 1,400 square-feet two-bedroom suites (US$225 off, US$250 on). Dive packages with Gaz Cooper’s dive operation also are available. There’s a beach bar and, by the time you read this, a pool, but no restaurant. As you are about 5 miles north of town, (a trip to town is free on the hotel’s boat if it’s going, otherwise it’s a US$10 water taxi ride one-way) this is not a place for those who want to try a different restaurant for every meal. There are six hotel restaurants within a half-hour walk, but it’s not as if you can pop next door for a burger when you get hungry. Bottom line: Off-the-beaten path condo suites in a beautiful waterfront setting.

Q. Got alot of valuable information from your site but have one question. Two
families are planning a trip the beginning of June to ambergris caye
staying at Xanadu. I have four kids age 7, 5, and two 2 year olds(almost
three) and the other family has a 13 and 7 year old. What medical
facilities are available on the caye, close by, or what precautions should
we take or arrangements should we make ahead of time. e are planning a
cave tubing trip for one of the days during the week of our stay. Do your
recommend other accomodations for families with small kids. Any
information your can provide will be GREATLY appreciated

Jerry Wagner


A. Health: The standards of health and hygiene on Ambergris Caye are high, similar to that of popular resort islands in the Caribbean. Not many visitors become ill from traveler's diseases or from drinking the water. While malaria, dengue fever and other tropical diseases are present in Belize, they are rare in San Pedro, and as a practical matter most visitors to Ambergris Caye don't get any special shots or take other precautions before they come. No shots are required for entry into Belize, except for yellow fever if you are coming from an infected area. However, it's always a good idea to keep tetanus-diphtheria, Hep A and B and other vaccinations up to date. Malaria prophylaxsis may be advised for mainland travel; it is highly advised if you are going to remote mainland areas in southern Belize or into Guatemala. Chloroquine, taken once a week, starting two weeks before arrival, is usually all you need in most of the region. Better be safe than sorry. Check with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, tel. 404-332-4559 or visit www.cdc.gov, for the latest information. The biggest vacation-spoiler on Ambergris is probably sunburn. You're only 18 degrees of latitude north of the Equator, and the sub-tropical sun is much stronger than back home.

Medical: There are three medical clinics on the island and several physicians, nurses and a volunteer dentist resident here. Clinics: Lions Clinic, tel. 501-226-2073; Ambergris Health Services, tel. 501-226-2751; San Pedro Health Clinic, tel. 501-226-2536. Among the physicians are Dr. Otto Rodriguez (tel. 501-226-2854) and Dr. Lerida Rodriguez (tel. 501-226-3197, e-mail lerida@btl.net). Two small offshore medical schools are on Ambergris Caye: St. Matthews University and Medical University of the Americas. St. Matthews has about 185 students, and Medical University, which started in late 2001, has fewer than 50. (St Matthews is moving to the Cayman Islands in April/May 2002.) A number of dentists and private medical clinics are available in Belize City. Many serious problems can be treated at Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City (Princess Margaret Dr., tel. 501-223-1548), a modern public hospital albeit one plagued by equipment problems and supply shortages. It’s hard to beat the rates, though ­ US$17.50 per day for a hospital room. Much more expensive but reputedly offering a higher standard of health care is a private hospital in Belize City, Belize Medical Associates (5791 St. Thomas St., Kings Park; tel. 501-223-0302; e-mail bzemedassoc@btl.com). Belize Medical Associates, an affiliate of South Miami Hospital, offers 24-hour emergency room care and has specialists on staff, including those in dermatology, general surgery, gynecology/obstetrics, internal medicine, orthopedic surgery, pediatrics, psychiatry and radiology. Those with even more serious or life-threatening problems may want to get care in Mexico, Guatemala or the U.S. Wings of Hope in Belize City (tel. 501-223-0078) can handle medevac.

Xanadu should be fine for kids.

--Lan

Q. Much of the info given on your website is quite outdated? Ex. it cost
$20 US to leave the country, taxies from Goldson Airport to BC is
$17, gas is $3/gal up, the VAT tax was removed some time ago and
replaced with 8% sales tax.

I really appreciate your excellent website.

Sharon Borgman


A. On our Website, we do not go back and update old articles, and many of the details in the old articles are now out of date or incorrect. Since ours is a free site, we don't have the incentive or the time to constantly update the hundreds of pages of archived articles on the site. One of these days we will devote a week or two to going through the site and discarding old information. The information in our current articles and in our current books is accurate as of the time of publication, to the best of our knowledge.

--Lan
Q. I have been reading some of your input on your website and from the forums at Fodors. If you don't mind i have a couple questions for you. I'm scheduling our Honeymoon for March of 2003 in Belize. I'm planning about 3 days in Turtle inn, in Placencia, if its open and rebuilt by then and about 6 days on Ambergris. Im searching for the best place to stay. We want some place with a pool, air conditioning, a beach, somewhat romantic would be good too. any suggestions? Thanks for your help
Chad Lincicome


A. If you want a full-service small resort, I'd look at Victoria House, Mata Chica and Portofino. All do a lot of honeymoon business, all are very nice (but not cheap) and have a romantic atmosphere. Of these, at present Victoria House is the only one with a swimming pool; all three have A/C.

If money is absolutely no object, you might look at Cayo Espanto, which has villas on a private island on the back side of Ambergris. The villas have small "splash pools" and A/C.

Perhaps not as romantic, but offering a lot of space and excellent value, are some of the condotels. Among the best of these are Villas at Banyan Bay, The Palms, Banana Beach and Belizean Shores. All of these have A/C and pools.

I'm told that the opening date for Turtle Inn is now December 15. They are making good progress on the resort and I would think they would make that deadline. I am told, though, that they do not plan to have A/C.

--Lan

Q. I am traveling to Belize next week with my two children and I was wondering if it is safe to drink the water as well as any local bottled drinks. You seem so very knowledgeable about the region and I figured I could get a straight honest answer. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Mary


A. Sure, in nearly all areas where a tourist is likely to go -- San Pedro, Cayo, Placencia, Belize City, Corozal, Punta Gorda -- the water is treated and fine to drink. Ice in drinks is okay also. In a few areas, including remote villages and also Caye Caulker, I recommend you drink bottled water. There also have been some problems with water quality recently in Hopkins and Dangriga.

In some coastal and caye areas, while the water is potable it may not taste too good or have a brackish smell.

For those who prefer it, bottled water is sold just about everywhere in Belize. The local Coca-Cola bottler also bottles purified water along with Coke, Fanta and other U.S.-style soft drinks.

In general, the standards of health and hygiene in Belize are quite high. There's no reason not to eat salads, fruit, etc. Even food from street vendors is almost always okay.

The best advice is to use common sense and to ask locally if in doubt. Your hotel will tell you if there's any problem with the water, as the manager doesn't want to have any sick guests on his/her hands.

--Lan

Q. My fiance and I are considering holding our wedding in Belize. We're
particularly smitten with the relative seclusion, nearby Mayan ruins and
birding and caving opportunities advertised at Ek' Tun, a B&B on the Macal
River (www.ektunbelize.com). However, with a wedding party between 20 to
25 people, Ek 'tun can't comfortably accommodate us all. (I expect that
we'll need at least a dozen private units, each of which can handle two
adults.)

Perhaps you know of a similar secluded residence in Belize equipped to
handle (& feed) our guests? Complete isolation isn't necessary, but we are
interested in a location that is more or less out of a developed area.

Any contact information you can provide for a wedding planner in Belize
(if one exists) would be helpful, too.

Thank you for your free expertise!

Julie Garrison



A. Ek'Tun is a great place, but it definitely wouldn't be able to handle a party of that size. Quite a few of the other lodges in Cayo could, however. The top ones, both quite expensive, would be Chaa Creek and Blancaneaux, the latter being in the Mountain Pine Ridge.

A step down but still very nice would be duPlooy's, Five Sisters (in the Pine Ridge), Hidden Valley Inn (now under new ownership and reopening this fall after some upgrades and adding a pool) and possibly Warrie Head. Also, closer to Belmopan are Banana Bank and Pook's Hill, though neither may have quite as many rooms as you need, and, if you need air conditioning, there's Jaguar Paw. Mopan River Resort is another good choice, though it's not really a jungle lodge and is close to Benque Viejo town.

In Northern Belize, there are two excellent lodges, both in remote areas -- Lamanai Outpost at Lamanai ruins and Chan Chich at Gallon Jug.

I would think all of these places can handle your group's food and drink needs. Chaa Creek, Lamanai Outpost, Chan Chich, Jaguar Paw, Mopan River, Blancaneaux, Five Sisters and Hidden Valley all have at least 12 cabanas. The others would be close but may not have quite enough cabanas or private rooms.

--Lan

Q. What can you tell me about Blancaneaux?

Terry Warburton


A. I've stayed at Blancaneaux three or four times, most recently about three weeks ago.

The villas (USS$300+ a day) are fantastic, two big bedrooms with 20-foot high thatch ceilings, two Japanese-style baths, big living/kitchen area (open to the outside). The regular cabanas are okay but far less interesting, just a bedroom and bath with a deck.

The grounds are beautifully landscaped, and the manager, Anne Wood, has done a good job in disguising the problems with the pines due to the pine beetlees. This time of year, it's a bit hot and humid even in the Pine Ridge, though less so than around your place, but you can take a dip in the river/swimming area or suck up some beers in the bar, which has slate carvings by the Garcia sisters and wine from Francis's vineyards.

The restaurant is expensive but pretty good. Figure US$30 a head for dinner.

Lots to do in the Pine Ridge, of course -- plenty of waterfalls, trips to Caracol, etc.

All in all it's a fine place, but I think Ek'Tun (you've been there, right?) is also great -- the pool in particular.

Five Sisters, just down the road from Blancaneaux, is also a great place for a beer or a light meal.

--Lan

Q. We are planning a trip-7/10 days to Belize in Jan.. and I am confused on where the best places to visit are-there will be 4 of us and 2 are divers and they will get that out of the way the first 3 days-the other 2 of us will join them after 3 days for an additional 7 days and we do all the other stuff-swim, snorkel, hike, bird watching, etc. and I am confused as to where to begin the itinerary and should we use a travel agent here or there?
Cindy Crawford, Morristown , N.J.


A. The best diving in Belize is around the atolls -- Turneffe, Lighthouse and Glovers -- but these are far off the coast and the only accommodations are in remote dive and fishing lodges, with nothing else to do -- no shops, tours, or anything except diving and other water sports.

It sounds like your group would be best off staying in San Pedro (Ambergris Caye). The diving right around Ambergris is only good recreational diving, but you can do day dive trips to both Turneffe and Lighthouse atolls from San Pedro (Glovers is too far away). Ambergris Caye has Belize's best selection of hotels, restaurants, clubs, etc. and also from here it is possible to do day tours of the mainland to see ruins, wildlife and so on.

You can arrange all tours, dive trips, etc. after you arrive. In general for Belize it's easy to book your own hotels, air and other arrangements, and you may save a little money by booking hotels direct as compared with going with an agent. If you want a knowledgeable agent, you might get in touch with Katie Valk at Maya Travel in Belize City (info@belize-trips.com) or Barb's Belize in Texas.

--Lan


Q. We have two big questions -- the first is about lodging. We have narrowed our lodging choices to Ek'tun, Chaa Creek and DuPlooy's. DuPlooy's is cheaper than the other two. Ek'tun sounds so wonderful, do you feel that it's worth the additional $$? I suspect that, including food and tours, Chaa Creek would be equally or even more costly than Ek'tun, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

The other question we're trying to work out is regarding transfers. Doing research on resort websites, I'm finding that transfers between the airport at Belize City and the resorts are around US$140. My guidebook is telling me that we could take a bus to San Ignacio for around $3, and then get transport from there to any resort for around $20-$30. So why are these transfers so expensive? Is it worth the extra $$ for two hearty people? Similarly, we are facing the same questions with regard to transport to Tikal. Resort-organized trips are upwards of $300 per person, but it seems that we could do this more cheaply on our own. On the other hand, if it's a lot of trouble to get to Tikal on our own steam, it may be worth the extra cost. Do you have any thoughts on this?


A. Although some things have changed at Ek'Tun since I stayed there last year -- Phyllis Dart and her husband, Ken, who together did just about everything at the lodge, have split up, and Phyllis is running things now, with some hired help -- Ek'Tun really is a terrific place. Beautiful setting, best swimming pool in Belize (a natural mineral pool in a quiet location where you can swim and listen to the howler monkeys). Any of the three places you are considering would be good, but even with the changes I might give Ek'Tun the edge, unless you are looking for more luxury and a more sociable atmosphere, in which case I would go to Chaa Creek.

On transportation to Cayo, this a common question, and the answer really just depends on how much you want to trade off convenience versus cost. There are three basic ways to get to Cayo: Use the hotel's transfer (the most expensive but the most convenient); by shuttle van operated by places like Aguada Hotel (about US$25-30 per person, and you'll usually still need to take a taxi or pay extra to be taken to the lodges); and by bus (now about US$4) and then taxi to the lodge. The same is true for travel to Tikal -- you can do it all by public transport which is cheap but quite a hassle, or you can day a trip (day trips are US$75-$85 or so per person as organized by one of the lodges or larger hotel operators, more for overnight, with slightly lower prices from independent operators, some of whom can be contacted at Eva's restaurant) or some combination -- e.g. bus to the border, then hire a taxi or shuttle van in Guatemala. Again, it's a matter of convenience versus cost, but in this case there is the additional concern for safety. Also, very little English is spoken in Guatemala, and that could be a factor for some. Given the occasionally unstable situation in Guatemala, you may want to go with a reputable Belize tour operator. That doesn't necessarily guarantee a trouble-free trip, and some argue that you're more likely to be bothered if you are in a tourist van than on a local bus, but on balance I'd rather be with an experienced Belizean driver who does the trip regularly with American visitors.

--Lan

Q. My husband and I are retired 73/61 years old. We would like to visit
your lovely place but need your suggestions. We are not really active as
far as physical activities, but we are not elderly by any means. We had
a home in old mexico for many years and it sat right on the beach so we
don't really need a place on the water. I feel that I would rather put
more money towards all of the tours, trips, etc.
Do we go for a complete package or do we just get the best airfare and
book our own room? I am into some message sites so I am getting the feel
for the place as to how far it is into town from one end to the other. I
feel that we would enjoy being right in San Pedro so that we can walk to
a place to eat as that is what my husband would enjoy most along with
all the activity. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks for your time and trouble. OH by the way, this would be for this
coming January as that is our 25th anniversary.

Gay


A. You mention San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. While that's a great destination, there is of course much more to Belize than just this one small island. You may want to spend at least part of your time on the mainland, say in Cayo District (Western Belize) or in the Hopkins area (southern coast) or even in Corozal Town, which is off-the-beaten path, very inexpensive and pleasant in northern Belize, next door to Chetumal, Mexico.

In general, in Belize you don't need to do a package, and in many cases you will actually save money by booking things yourself direct, especially via the Internet.

On Ambergris Caye, nearly all hotels are on the water. You can get a moderately priced place and still enjoy the breezes and view by being on the water. Among the moderately priced, good-value places in or near town are Mayan Princess (one bedroom efficiency suites), Lili's, Rubie's, Seven Seas, Holiday Hotel and Coconuts (south of town, a bit of a walk). Keep in mind that if you are coming off-season there are all kinds of deals and discounts available.

--Lan

Q. I was given your name & e-mail address by Paul Pollard, a good
friend of mine from church, who grew up in Belize. My fiance & I are trying
to plan a honeymoon trip to Belize in Dec 2002. We must travel as economically as possible, so Paul
suggested you had "all the answers." We have already realized that we must
get our plane reservations asap, as the "cheap seats" are almost gone. We
are trying on expedia.com, or American Airlines. We have found a package
deal on Luxury Link for a 7 night stay at Jaguar Reef Lodge. (You can view
it on their website if you wish, it is the Honeymoon Expedition which
includes a choice of side trips, food, etc. etc. Our travel agent also has
a 5 night package at Journeys Inn on Ambergris Caye, but we were told it
isn't as great as it used to be, and that Mata Chica was better.......what
do you think?

My question to you is, can you give us any feed back on Jaguar Reef Lodge,
or anything that can help us make up our minds. We prefer a quiet,
laid-back, on the water atmosphere, as opposed to the wild night life
scene. Would we be better off without a package deal & just get a neat
place to stay & pay for our own day-trips & food? We would appreciate a
reply soon as Keith is leaving for a medical mission trip to Zambia on the
4th & will not return until the 21st. So we feel like we need to pin
something down if possible before then.

We do so appreciate any help you can give us. We really hope that we can
work something out. This will be a trip of a lifetime!!!!!!

Rita Hickey & Keith Morgan



A. A couple of points: First, on air fares there is no rhyme or reason as to pricing to Belize. Often, the cheapest fares are available very close to departure dates. However, since you going during prime time in the Western Caribbean, it probably is a good idea to book now. I'd suggest you talk to Barbara at Barb's Belize, who is a travel agent in Texas who specializes in Belize and can probably get about the lowest fares to Belize -- E-Mail - escape@BarbsBelize.com or call 888-321-BARB (2272). Or you could contact Katie Valk, an American who is a travel agent living in Belize City -- she knows the country from top to bottom. E-mail info@belize-trips.com.

In general in Belize there usually is no advantage to booking a package. You may want to book direct or go through an agent like Barbaba or Katie. (Sometimes you will get a lower price booking direct over the Internet.)

There's nothing wrong with Jaguar Reef, but if you want to stay in Hopkins you might also look at Hamanasi, which is newer and I think a little nicer than Jaguar Reef.

The two places you are looking at on Ambergris Caye, Mata Chica and Journey's End, are very different. Journey's End is a mid-market, large (for Belize) resort and Mata Chica is an upscale small personalty place. Without knowing what your budget is or what you are really interested in, it's impossible to suggest a specific place. In general, some of the top places on Ambergris, popular with honeymooners, are Victoria House, Mata Chica and Portofino but there are also a number of wonderful less expensive places, including some great "condotels" that offer value and extra space such as Belizean Shores, The Palms, Banana Beach, Xanadu, Belizean Reef and others.

--Lan


Q. I must say I enjoyed reading Belize First. I found it
very informative. My wife and I are planning a 10 day
trip to Belize starting August 19. We have 5 days
planned in Placencia at the Green Parrot and another 5
at EK TUN. Although we are aware of the events and
some conditions from Iris, it seems as if the most
folks are vague as to the conditions as they exist
today. I'm hoping to get a clear picture as to what we
can expect when we stay in Placencia with respect to
tours, dining etc. It would be very helpful if you
might be able to share any info or thoughts ..or
suggestions for that matter you might have.
Shawn and Kristin Delaney



A. The part of the Placencia peninsula north of Seine Bight village -- and that includes where Green Parrot is located -- was not badly affected by Iris and basically is 100% recovered. Now, Seine Bight village and Placencia village are definitely still not back to normal. I was last there just a few days ago. A lot of palms and other trees were blown down or stripped, and there is still some debris and vacant lots where homes were blown away. Nearly all of the restaurants and bars in the village and elsewhere, such as Mango's in Maya Beach, are open now. Some people find the condition of Placencia village a bit depressing, especially if they had visited the area before, but others think it is fine and like it a lot.

August in Placencia tends to be pretty slow, and a few hotels and other places may be closed, and hotel restaurants may request that you make reservations as otherwise they may not have enough entrees, but you can definitely find places to eat. Of course, Green Parrot has a restaurant, too. The restaurant at Robert's Grove is consistently the best on the peninsula, though it is expensive. The Saturday night barbeque is great.

Ek'Tun is a terrific place.

--Lan

Q. I could really use some help! We will be
spending 10 days in Belize over Christmas and New
Years and I am really stuck on where to stay. Myself
and my husband (45,46), 3 boys(11,12,16) and my mother
76. I think I would rather stay in Placencia,
probably Inn at Robert's Cove. But I'm worried that there
isn't enough there to occupy children. Are there
places close by that the 16 year old can walk to that
are safe? Is there another place you would recommend
that would be better?
As far as Ambergris caye, I was looking at
Ramon's only because it is so close to everything for
everyone. Problem is that it sounds sooo touristy! But
then again I will be a tourist! Is there a better
place to stay in Ambergris, possibly a condo of some
sort since we are six people and would love the idea
of being able to cook breakfast and stuff like that.
Any help you can give me would be GREATLY
appreciated!

Wendy Armstrong

P.S. Whats the best wholesaler for airfare?




A. I think your family would be happier in San Pedro. My kids (now 13 and 18) have always preferred San Pedro to Placencia. There's much more to do and it's easier to get around (the Inn at Robert's Grove is excellent, but it's within walking distance of very little).

In San Pedro, you ought to consider some of the condotels, which offer much more space and amenities than Ramon's Village, at the same or lower price. Close to town in the same area as Ramon's there are two excellent places -- The Palms and Belizean Shores. Both are on the water but Belizean Shores does not have a pool. About 1 1/2 miles south of town, on a nicer beach (but you'll need a golf cart to get back and forth) are two more excellent places -- Villas at Banyan Bay, which has large two bedroom units and Banana Beach which has mostly one-bedroom suites but also has some new suites of two, three and four bedrooms. If you don't mind being away from town on North Ambergris, Belizean Shores is a very good value in a condotel.

As to wholesalers and consolidators, see the first answer to the Q&As on our Web edition (www.belizefirst.com). It lists a number of them. There is no one best one. You'll just have to call and see which offers the best fares at the time. Sometimes you can even get the best fare directly from the airline. If you want more service and Belize knowledge than you'll get from an airline or consolidator, try Barb's Belize.

--Lan



Q. We are planning on visiting the San Ignacio area in Belize this year in early
October and have the following questions:

1) What are your personal recommendations for lodges? I've tried
repeatedly to contact Maya Mountain Lodge and Green Heaven Lodge which
are recommended on your website but have not received any
responses from them.
2) We are interested in seeing Tikal and Caracol while in San Ignacio. Can you
recommend any good tour operators?

Thanks in advance for your help!! Your website was very helpful in providing
info!

Aimee Grimes



A. At the top end, I recommend Ek'Tun and Chaa Creek lodges.

At the middle range, I recommend duPlooy's (the less expensive rooms are in the moderate category), Green Heaven, the safari camp at Chaa Creek, Warrie Head, and closer to Belmopan, Pook's Hill and Banana Bank.

A number of different tour operators run trips to Tikal, including lodges like Chaa Creek and Windy Hill, and independents, some of whom work out of Eva's restaurant. They are pretty much all the same. Basically they just offer transportation to Tikal and some assistance in crossing the border; only Guatemalans can provide guide services at Tikal.

--Lan


Q. My husband and I are traveling to Belize for a fact finding for retirement trip July 6-14. We are looking mostly at the Cayo and Corozal Districts with a few days' relaxation at Ambergris Caye. The "Guide to Mainland Belize" has several suggestions for hotels in or near San Ignacio, and other books list several on Ambergris Caye. What would be your recommendation for a mid-priced hotel (US$50-75) in these two locations? We prefer something like a cabana or hotel with a local Belizean feel, within walking of a restaurant and bar, although we are renting a car. Do we need A/C in Cayo? When we are traveling around the country, we would like to remain somewhat flexible....do we need to book ahead this time of year, or is it OK to "wing it?"

Please send the Drivers Guide to Belize by Emory King to me at the address below.
Claire Stevenson


A. In Cayo, in the Belize First Guide to Mainland Belize I recommend the Aguada and still like it. Around US$25-$30 double for an air-conditioned room (new rooms are in the back).

On Ambergris Caye, prices are higher. If you want something in the US$50 to $75 range, in my new guide to San Pedro I recommend Seven Seas and Coconuts. The Tides also is at the top end of that range or a little higher.

It's unlikely you'll have any trouble finding a room offseason. On any given night, a hotel can be full (for example, this week there is a series of international tourism meetings in Belize City which has most of the best rooms in the city booked) but you'll be able to find something.

We'll ship out the Driver's Guide (2002 edition) within 24 hours. It is US$14 plus $4 S/H.
We'll bill you.

Thank you.

--Lan

Q. I hope that you don't mind me e-mailing you. I saw your name and address
listed on the Fodor's Travel Talk pages, and you seem to be the Belize guru.
My husband and I are thinking of visiting in February or March of 2003. We
are planning to stay in the jungle part of the time and at the beach on
Ambergris Caye for the rest. I think my top two choices for jungle lodges
are Jaguar Paw and Maruba. They look rather upscale--roughing it without
really roughing in. I'm hesitant to say that I would chose one of the two of
them over Chaa Creek or Chan Chich just because the rooms are
air-conditioned, but it is a rather big factor. Of those two, which would
you recommend, or are the others worth not having A/C?

As for the beach part, do you recommend Ambergris Caye or somewhere else? I really like the looks of both Portofino and Victoria House, and Portofino
would be my first choice if only they had a pool (although I think I read on
some web site that they were planning to have a seawater pool. Do you know
anything about that?) We are looking for luxury and good service, but would
like to stay within the $275 to $300 range per night. We usually travel to
the Caribbean or the Riviera Maya in Mexico, but wanted to do something a
little different this year.

Melissa Harshman


A. Sorry to be late in getting back to you. I've been in Belize.

As to the jungle lodges, as you say both Jaguar Paw and Maruba do have A/C. That's more of a factor in the summer than in February/March, when temps, while still subtropical, are more moderate.

Personally, I think Chaa Creek, Chan Chich and Ek'Tun are all superior to Jaguar Paw and Maruba. Maruba isn't really a jungle lodge; it's more of a spa for Californians. Jaguar Paw has an interesting location, but it often is overrun by large tour groups from the cruise ships who come to do cave tubing.

Yes, Ambergris Caye is probably your best choice for the beach portion. Both Portofino and Victoria House are good choices. I also like some of the condotels on the island, which in general offer essentially the same services but twice the space at lower cost than the full-service resorts. Banyan Bay is particularly nice.

--Lan


Q. Greetings! We will be in Belize this month and have a couple of questions. We are chartering a sailboat from Placencia. We have some divers among us. Could recommend 3 dives for us? How safe are the waters for sailing? We have an overnight in Belize City, what would you suggest we do? I appreciate your insight, we are eagerly anticipating our visit.

Elizabeth Mayfield


A. I would suggest you arrange your dives with the dive shop at Robert's Grove. They are a class operation and will do rendezvous dives with The Moorings boats and can take you to all the best places. (Some of The Moorings boats soon will be docked at Robert's Grove Marina.) Where you go on a given day will depend a lot on weather and sea conditions.

In Belize City, I would stay in the Fort George area (the three best places to stay there are the Radisson, Great House and Colton House) and see sites in this area, which is protected by the tourist police and is safe to walk around in. The new Museum of Belize in the Central Bank Building complex is well worth seeing. I was there just yesterday. The new Tourist Village is clean and attractive and has some nice little shops and restaurants. For dining out, consider the Wet Lizard, Harbor Light, Smokey Mermaid and maybe the Village, a steak house in the Tourist Village. If you like to gamble there is a casino at the Princess Hotel (but don't stay at the Princess.)

There are a number of old colonial buildings in and near this area which are interesting -- St. John's Cathedral, the Supreme Court Building, a number of old houses and mansions, and others.

--Lan


Q. First, I would like to Thank You Mr. Sluder for your excellent web site.

Second, It may have been you or a similar looking gentlemen that
directed me
towards a potential vacation in Belize. Please allow an elaboration...

Last May I returned from a vacation along the resort filled Mexican
Mayan coast. As I and a few other travelers waited for our return flight to Houston
at the Cancun airport there was a man talking to us about a place named Belize "just
south of here". That person (maybe it was you?) seemed very knowledgeable and directed
us to learn more by visiting a web site.

Well long story short, I have booked a two week adventure to Belize with
the help of your web site (I now subscribe to your magazine) and the message
boards.

This Friday (April 26) I will leave Green Bay Wisconsin for 4 days at
the Aguada Hotel and then 10 days on Caye Caulker at TreeTops Inn.

My only unfinished business is how to 'best' get from the International
Airport to the Aguada Hotel. I am a single traveler and the Aguada will only pick
up 2 or more people for the trip from the airport. At this point they do not expect
anyone else to be arriving from the airport that day (3:00pm flight).

I have attached the only bus schedule that I could find listed on the
internet. This schedule appears to have a westbound bus leaving about every 30 minutes
until 9:00pm at night. Also Express service is indicated at both 5:00 &
5:30pm, which I understand are nearly non-stop.?.?

Can you explain how to get to a / the bus terminal from the Int. Airport
and if the attached bus schedule is accurate or where to call/view an updated
schedule?

One last question/concern is the trips and tours to TIKAL. I have read
that some operators no longer offer that option due to "potential harassment" or
the "safety risk involved". What is your present opinion on this?

Thank you for any reply!

Matthew Grassel



Q. First, I might suggest you consider offering to pay for two fares for the Aguada transfer, as that is an efficient and low-hassle way to get there. Often there are other travelers going to Cayo (even if not to Aguada) and you might ask on the flight for others to share the trip.

Another low-hassle way to go is to take one of the other shuttles to Cayo. Discovery Expeditions (discovery@btl.net, tel. 011-501-2-30748) is one operator that does a lot of shuttles to Cayo. Seems like the fare is a little higher than Aguada's but it would be cheaper than paying two Aguada fares.

If you do want to take a bus, the easiest way is to take a taxi into Belize City (US$17.50) -- ask the driver to take you to the Novelo's terminal, and there you can catch a bus going west (around US$3-$4). Alternatively, you can walk about a mile from the International Airport terminal to the Northern Highway and flag down a bus going into Belize City (about a dollar). The schedules that are up on the Internet (Belize by Naturalight site) are mostly out of date now, as there has been recent consolidation, and Novelo's and its subsidiaries, Northern Transport and Southern Transport, is the only major operator in the country. Fares also have risen recently, but the difference is slight -- a dollar or so more. You can call Novelo's at 011-501-2-72025.

While there have been some incidents at and near Tikal, many operators are still making the trip and I personally would not hesitate to go. Tikal is fabulous and well worth any small risk.

That was not me at the Cancun airport, as I have not been there in several years. It possibly was Marty Casado, who runs the AmbergrisCaye.com Web site. I know he flew into Cancun en route to Belize not too long ago.

Hope you have a good trip.

--Lan

Q. We are planning on staying at Ramon's on Ambergris Caye for 10 days. I haven't been able to find any lodging with a gym or exercise facility. Do you know of any?

Kathleen Anthony



A. There is one small gym on the island, Oscar's. It has some exercise equipment, but don't expect the latest bells and whistles. It's a little north of town. Your hotel will be able to tell you how to get to it.

--Lan

Q. Hey there Lan, a couple of questions for ya. My fiance and I are planning on spending our Honeymoon in Belize in the
end of October or Beginning of November. Our budget is about $5000. I have
looked at many places and packages, however, I am wondering what you would
suggesst. We have about 10 days or two weeks. I would like to get the full
Belize expierience. I would like to spend time on the beach, diving in the
water, and also hiking in the rainforest. I would also like to have the
honeymoon accomodations wherever we go. I'm not sure if we should split the
trip into one section on Ambergris Caye and one section in Cayo, or also
include Placienda. How wuld you split up the trip?
I have seen your recomendations for Chaa Creek and Ek'tun and both look
amazing. Is one better than the other as far as "things to do" goes?
On Ambergris Caye we would like to have some honeymoon seclusion, but
would also like to be able to go out and party at night. Where would you
recomend.
There is also a place called Pleasure Cove Lodge in Dangriga, the package
they have looks great, and they offer a "Honeymoon night" getaway where they
repel you 300' down to an candle lit cavern next to a waterfall for the
evening. Have you heard about this place, and would it be worth is to
sacfifice staying at the other two locations to do this? The package they
have seems to include Rainforest and Diving tours.
Anything you could tell me would be great. Im just looking to start out
right with a great honeymoon that includes diving hiking and relaxing on the
beach.

Vince Terlep
Washington, D.C.


A. With 10 days, I would recommend just two locations -- probably Ambergris Caye and Cayo. With two full weeks, you could add a third location. I would suggest either a remote caye lodge at one of the atolls, such as Turneffe Lodge or Blackbird Caye or Lighthouse Reef Resort (packages are usually week-long but off-season you can generally get half-week packages) OR at Placencia or Hopkins.

Pleasure Cove Lodge is not in Dangriga but in Hopkins/Sittee Point. If you want something really special in Hopkins, I strongly recommend Hamanasi. They have beautiful honeymoon suites and treehouses, a fantastic pool, good restaurant and a strong dive operation.

In Cayo, I think Ek'Tun is fantastic for honeymooners. There are just two cabanas, and everything is personalized. The pool there, a natural mineral water pool, is isolated and you likely would be the only ones in it. The honeymoon suite at Chaa Creek is also great, if you want a larger, more active, full-service lodge resort.

On Ambergris Caye, I'd suggest either one of the condotels south of town such as The Palms or Banana Beach or Xanadu or for a full-service resort, Victoria House.

Packages can sometimes save you money, but you can arrange any trips or tours you want on your own, using either the hotel or other operators.

--Lan

 

Q. I am planning a trip to Belize in early December, and am trying to determine
if getting a hotel with air conditioning is a necessity. I live in Northern
California, where the evenings are cool even in the heat of summer, and I
have a hard time sleeping if the temp is above 75 degrees F. We will
probably stay 5 days in either Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker and then
another 5 inland around San Ignacio. What do you think?

Thanks for your help.

Janie Barrett


A. On the cayes, it depends in part on where the hotel is and how it is located. There is almost always a prevailing offshore breeze, and nighttime temps are usually in the high 60s to low 70s F. in December, though on a given day they can be colder or considerably warmer. So if the hotel is situated to catch breezes and has fans, you don't need A/C. On Ambergris Caye, nearly all hotels, except a few budget ones, do have air conditioning. On Caye Caulker, air conditioning is rare, and only a few places, such as Iguana Reef Inn, have it.

Inland, daytime temps tend to be hotter than on the cayes, but evening temps in winter are usually cooler, mostly in the 60s. In the Mountain Pine Ridge part of Cayo, winter temps in the evenings can be downright cool, dropping to the 50s or rarely into the 40s. Of course, as in most areas on a given day weather can be unpredictable -- it can occasionally be uncomfortably hot even in December in Cayo.

Another factor is that most of the time it is quite humid in Belize, so the air temps are a little misleading -- it usually feels hotter than it is.

In short, since you are sensitive to heat, you may want to be safe and get air conditioning.

--Lan


Q. Thanks for the personal AND forum answers you've given me. What a help.
Now that I've gotten the air tickets and places to stay I have gotten my panties in quite a wad over this passport issue. Ours expire in August. We are coming in May. Where did that poster get the info about needing an expiry of at least 6 months AFTER arrival in Belize. With so little time left, I am almost afraid to send them in even with an expedite service.

Thanks again and again and again,
Samantha

>>

A. That is a technical requirement of the Belize government. To my best knowledge, it does apply to passport holders of all nationalities, including Americans. The likely reason for this rule is that although initial entry in Belize is for only up to 30 days, once inthe country you can renew entry for up to six months. However, again to my knowledge as a practical matter the Belize government does not enforce this rule. I have friends who went to Belize with passports expiring in less than six months and they had no problems.

However, *airlines* sometimes do enforce this rule, or try to. They have an interest in not having passengers refused entry, as they have to fly them home, possibly at their own expense. I have another friend who was flying from Florida to Belize, with a passport that had less than six months validity remaining, and initially he was denied boarding. The agent claimed he had to have a passport valid for more than six months. My friend argued the issue. He was traveling on a Canadian passport and argued that this rule didn't apply to Canadians, and the airline finally let him board.

Chances are, you won't have any problem. But to be absolutely on the safe side, if possible you should have your passport renewed. Your U.S. congressional representative can probably expedite delivery for you. Just call the local office and see how long it should take.

--Lan

Q. Hi, we want to stay one of the small cayes (i.e., tobacco caye,southwater caye)we don't mind rustic but want screens, private baths and hot water. I have searched the web, but would love some first hand advice. Is there one that is particularly better than others. We have have 3 small children and our friends have 4.We'd love a moderately priced resort.Thanks

Elizabeth Hamilton

A. Either island might work for you. Just keep in mind that these are VERY small islands. Tobacco Caye is about five acres, the size of two or three football fields and there are no shops or restaurants (other than at the lodges). Almost all of the hotels are basic, essentially just wood rooms or cabins with thin board walls. The mattresses are usually thin foam. I point these things out because most of these places are NOT "resorts" -- they are more like fish or dive camps, or at the top end, lodges. These are islands for people who just want to relax, snorkel, swim, fish and relax some more. There is literally nothing else to do other than that (and eat and drink). Some people love it, and others think they will love it but get really ready for something else after a couple of days. Private baths are available at most of the lodges, and there is some electricity, generally solar, with mostly rainwater showers (given the temps, you won't miss the hot water).

The price is right, though, especially on Tobacco Caye. Rates there start at around US$50 a day (at Gaviota) for two including three meals and range up to around Us$100 double at Tobacco Caye Lodge, including meals. Tobacco Caye Lodge is arguably the nicest, but there is not a tremendous amount of difference among them.

You might also look at Pelican Beach's cottages on Southwater, which most people love, though these are more expensive, have composting toilets and no hot water showers. Blue Marlin Lodge on Southwater is the most "upscale" option, but Pelican Beach's beach is much nicer.

Tobacco Caye usually has fewer mosquitoes and sandflies than Southwater.

--Lan

Q. First of all, thank you for all your kind info on Belize - on your website, and the thorntree at Lonely Planet. You probably get asked stuff like this all the time, so I apologise for throwing it at you again! I was hoping for some advice:
I was thinking of going to Belize for 2 weeks in April, for my honeymoon. We'd be staying in chan chich, hamanasai, and possibly chaa creek; going with JLA. I was just wondering if people have had experiences of these places and whether they considered them worth it - it being our honeymoon we were hoping to stay in relative comfort but go somewhere a bit of the beaten track, and go scuba diving.
I've been given conflicting advice (which i guess is inevitable) about Belize - the bad stuff related to coastal mozzies, hassle, and Belize City. My main worry is the 'hassle' - is this mostly confined to the big city areas, or is it all over the place? (Somebody told me not to take my newlywed there, for fear of harrassment).
Also, we were thinking of trying to stay in one of the treehouses at Hamanasi - any info on what that's like?

Thanks for your time!

Tim Lambard


A. Hamanasi, Chan Chich and Chaa Creek are all excellent places. I've personally stayed at all of them, several times in some cases, and have never had anything but a good experience.

At Hamanasi I definitely think the honeymoon suites or treehouse suites are worth the extra money over regular rooms. At Chaa Creek, the honeymoon or garden suite also is worth the extra money, as it has a jacuzzi, four posters and more privacy if you take the whole suite. At Chan Chich, the cabanas are all about the same, but it is best to get one that is at the edge of the plaza and not near the kitchen and bar.

One other place I'd recommend in Cayo is Ek 'Tun -- just two cabanas, but they are private, the food is excellent and the lodge has the best swimming pool in Belize, a natural mineral water pool with sapphire blue water, cut out of limestone. Since there are rarely people around, basically you have a private pool, and often you hear howler monkeys in the distance. It's fantastic.

Really, you will not be bothered or harrassed anywhere in Belize, except in certain areas of Belize City a few layabouts might say something or try to sell you drugs. Most of Belize, however, is very unlike most of the rest of Central America, parts of the Caribbean and also Mexico where you are routinely approached by higglers and beggars. In Belize you rarely will be even asked to buy anything.

Mosquitoes are not much of a problem on the coast or the cayes anywhere there is a seabreeze, which is pretty much everywhere on or near the water in April. Sandflies might be a problem in Hopkins -- sometimes they are, sometimes not. Cayo due to its limestone terrain which absorbs water quickly has almost no bugs. Chaa Creek doesn't even have screens on their windows.

Hope you have a good trip to Belize.

--Lan


Q. My wife and are are planning a trip to belize for our 15 year anniversary. looking for great resorts or hotels on the best stretch of beach.

Brian
blub4072@aol.com



A. Belize of course offers much more than beaches, and indeed if a beach is your # 1 priority you might want to look at other destinations, as the Belize Barrier Reef just offshore stops the wave action that in other areas makes for wide sandy beaches. Most beaches on the coast and cayes (inside the reef) have shallow water, fairly narrow ribbons of sand and often some eel-grass on the bottom.

The best seaside resorts in Belize, all rated four stars or better, are:

Ambergris Caye and Nearby:

Caye Chapel Golf Resort
Cayo Espanto
Mata Chica
Victoria House
Villas at Banyan Bay
Banana Beach Resort
The Palms
Ramon’s Village

On the Mainland:

Hopkins Area:

Hamanasi
Kanantik
Jaguar Reef Lodge

Placencia:
Inn at Robert's Grove
Luba Hati

--Lan


Q. I saw a treehouse, 12 feet above ground, where we could stay; however, I lost the website for it and can't remember the name. Can you help?

C. Brusacoram
Minnesota

>>

A. You are probably thinking about Parrot's Nest in Bullet Tree in Cayo district. They have a Web site, www.parrot-nest.com. Their e-mail is parrot@btl.net. It might also be Martz Farm near Benque Viejo, which has little cabins perched in the trees above a creek.

--Lan

Q. We have booked the Aguada Hotel for Nov. 8, 9, 10, and 11th. Lenny Wragg
has suggested some tours for us, but after reading message boards and your
book, I have a fairly firm idea of what I would like to do, and would like
to know if it is possible in the time we have.

1. Do you know what is the earliest time the water taxi leaves from
Ambergris Caye to the Mainland? We would LIKE to depart by no later than 8
A.M., arriving on the mainland around 9:30 so that we will still have almost
the entire day to explore the mainland. It would cost us $50 to get to the
Aguada by their transportation, so if we can rent a car for $80 one way (or
close to that), I would rather do that.

2. Can you rent a car going ONE WAY from the Marine Terminal to San
Ignacio? We want to see Jaguar Paw as Cy Young is a close friend to my
cousin and we have communicated with him. We cannot afford to STAY here,
but we THINK this is the best cave tubing area. Is this area not the best
for cave tubing? If not, where is?

3. IS Jaguar Paw worth seeing? If it is, and we cannot rent a car one way,
would it be worthwhile to rent one for the day IN San Ignacio?

4. Another reason we would like the car for a day is to stop by and see
some of the other resorts, especially Black Lodge. I read they have great
food, and we would like to have lunch there. Also, if we ever go back, we
might want to stay there, if our budget was better next time around. Also,
the car would get us to MANY closeby sights in one day.

5. Which is the best Mayan sight? It seems to ME that perhaps Tikal is,
and I THINK it would be nice to go into Guatamala briefly. I used to teach
Spanish and am still fluent, so I am sure that would be fun for us, if it is
SAFE! I think we would go there on a tour, however, - not driving?

6. Compared to Tikal, how is Xunantunich? I doubt we would need to do them
both, so which is better?

7. I canoe here in Missouri all of the time. Is there any advantage to
canoeing on a trip in Belize? Lenny Wragg was suggesting the Barton Creek
Cave and Xunantunich, but would the day to Tikal be better? Is the canoeing
wonderful or what is special?

8. Is there anything in the Caracol Ruins and Mountain Pine Ridge area that
cannot be covered in the similar trips above?

Given that we have Nov. 8th (most of the day), the 9th, 10th, and 11th, what
is the best way to accomplish cave tubing, the best Mayan ruin, the
rainforest, etc? If you had this length of time to do things, what would
you do, and how would you accomplish them? We will also be spending a week
on Amgergris Caye from Nov. 1st through Nov. 7th, so we will have the beach
and snorkeling experiences there.

Lana Spillane

A. My first general response is "in Belize, don't overplan." Things are bound to go wrong. Just go with the flow, and enjoy. Most things that you want to do can be arranged after you get there.

As to renting a car one way to San Ignacio, some car renters do have drop and pick-up rates, but on a short rental they may not be affordable. I've had a Belize City car rental agency deliver a car to me in Corozal when arriving by land for Mexico. I believe I was charged about US$35 drop fee. You will just have to ask to see if the drop/pick-up fee makes it affordable for you. You can also rent a car in San Ignacio, from Safe or Western. With only four days on the mainland, you may find it a better deal to rent a car four the whole four days -- it will certainly save you money on the transfer to San Ignacio plus the various tours around the area.

The earliest ferry to Belize City is the Thunderbolt, leaving at 7 a.m. The earliest Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association boat is at 8 a.m. It takes about 75 minutes to get to Belize City.

Sure, Jaguar Paw is worth seeing. It does offer excellent cave tubing trips.

The most interesting Maya sites in Belize in my opinion are Caracol, Lamanai, Xunantunich and Altun Ha, in that order. But Tikal is better than any of these. All the sites are interesting, though, and each is worth seeing in its own way. There have been some incidents at Tikal, but it is safe if you go on a tour.



--Lan

Q. Hi, you once again answered my questions on Fodors & said you had a list
of restaurant reviews you could not post on the Fodor site but would e-mail to me. I'd love to get that.
Thanks for the information!

Peggy Etheridge

A. Below are the restaurant reviews from my new guide to Ambergris Caye, San Pedro Cool, which will be published later this month. Bon ap!

--Lan


>>

BEST PLACES TO EAT
Ambergris Caye has Belize's widest selection of restaurants of interest to visitors, ranging from inexpensive local spots and pizza joints to a couple that will have you reaching for your Platinum Amex. The emphasis is on seafood, of course, but many restaurants also serve chicken and pork. Lobster is usually the most-expensive item on the menu (in-season mid-June to mid-February), at around US$15 to $20. Pasta and Mexican-style dishes also are popular. After all that pricey seafood, an honest plate of Belizean beans and rice will taste real good.
Vegetarians can get by okay in San Pedro, even if you don’t eat seafood. Rice and beans are ubiquitous (but often these are seasoned with lard or meat). Jade Garden offers some excellent vegetarian Chinese dishes. Many Mexican places, including La Margarita, do up vegetarian burritos, and of course pizza is available at many spots. Sweet Basil has a good selection of salads and, in general, is vegetarian-friendly. Mango’s has several tofu items. Fruit plates, with mangos, bananas, watermelon and other local fruits, are a part of breakfast at a lot of places. Many restaurants will do vegetarian versions of their specialties ­ just ask.
Dress on the island is very casual. Even at the spiffiest places, tee-shirt and shorts are okay.
Keep in mind that small restaurants on a resort island can change overnight, with the loss of a cook or a setback in the personal life of the owner. Always ask locally if the restaurant you’re thinking about is still good.
Our star rating system is based on a number of factors, first and foremost the quality of the food. However, service, atmosphere, setting and value also play a role. A hole-in-the-wall take-out joint may have the world’s best fried chicken, but even so it won’t earn four or five stars. Our system:
HHHHH One of finest restaurants in Central America and the Caribbean, with food, service and atmosphere of a uniquely high standard. Worth a special trip just to dine here.
HHHH One of the top restaurants in all of Belize, with outstanding food, service and atmosphere. Go out of your way to experience it.
HHH A superior restaurant, with excellent food and, in most cases, very nice atmosphere and good service. May also be a good value.
HH A dependably good place to eat, with well-prepared food and above-average atmosphere and service. May also offer above-average value.
H Recommend for unpretentious food, well-prepared, where you get your money’s worth.
Price ranges shown are for typical meals for one (usually dinner), not including tip, tax or alcoholic drinks. Reservations are usually not necessary, except where noted. Price ranges:
Inexpensive, under US$5
Moderate, US$6-$15
Expensive, US$16-30
Very Expensive, over US$30

IN TOWN OR NEARBY:
HHH + Elvi's Kitchen, Pescador Drive, tel. 501-226-2176, fax 226-3056. Yes, it's a little touristy, and yes, the waiters are a little hyper, and, yes, it's a little more expensive than some, but Elvi's does a fine job with fish and just about everything. Doña Elvia Staines began her restaurant as a take-out burger stand in 1974. It has grown in fame and fortune year after year, until today it is probably the best-known restaurant in Belize. There are still burgers on the lunch menu (under US$6) along with shrimp and fish burger versions. At dinner, you choose from large selection of seafood, chicken and other dishes, and almost all of it is good, with prices mostly under US$15 for entrees. On Fridays, Elvi’s has a buffet featuring Maya dishes such as Pibil pork, season meat wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground pit. We always enjoy our meals here. The sand floor and the living frangipani tree around which the main dining room is built add atmosphere. Open for lunch and dinner. Moderate/Expensive.
HHH Jambel Jerk Pit, Barrier Reef Drive, tel. 501-226-3303. Take a fat Belizean grouper and jerk it Jamaica style and whattyagot? Some of the spiciest, tastiest food in San Pedro, that’s what. The chicken wings, jerk-style pork, fish and chicken are all delicious. If the wind isn’t too brisk, eat up on the roof, with great views of the water. Next to Big Daddy's, in the middle of town at Central Park. Moderate.
HHH Papi's Diner, Middle Street, behind Seven Seas, tel. 501-226-2047. This is another great local find. There’s no water view here, and the atmosphere is a bit like being on someone’s back porch, but just about everything here is good, and the prices (fried chicken, US$4, or grilled fish, US$9, both served with potato and steamed veggies) are a bargain. Moderate.
HHH Caliente, Spindrift Hotel, Barrier Reef Drive. Run by Elvi Staines' daughter, this spot, which opened in 2001 in the old Little Italy space, is getting attention for its spicy versions of traditional favorites such as conch ceviche and for its delicious soups. Locally very popular for lunch. Closed Monday. Moderate/Expensive.
HHH The Reef, Pescador Drive, tel. 501-226-3212. This local favorite serves tasty Belizean fare in large portions at small prices. It recently went a bit upmarket ­ with linoleum on the floor instead of sand. Open for lunch and dinner. Some of the dinner specials are overpriced. Moderate.
HHH + Blue Water Grill, at SunBreeze Hotel, Coconut Drive. New in late 2001, Blue Water Grill occupies the old Caruso and Rasta Pasta space. Run by Kelly McDermott, Blue Water Grill is aiming high, with Asian-influenced dishes such as teriyaki chicken and vegetable tempura. One night a week sushi is offered. Prices are equally high ­ for example, a salad with shrimp is US$12 and a mixed seafood grill of shrimp, fish and lobster is US$25. Expensive/Very Expensive.
HH + Celi's Restaurant, San Pedro Holiday Hotel, Barrier Reef Drive, tel. 501-226-2014. Celi's, on the beach side of the Holiday Hotel, is one of San Pedro's better choices for seafood. The catch of the day is around US$10, broiled, fried or stuffed, and comes with a side order such as fries, beans and rice or cole slaw. Most other entrees are around US$8 to $12. Kids will like the fish or chicken fingers, burgers and fresh juice drinks (watermelon, lime, orange, pineapple). You can dine inside or in a screened area by the beach. Open for lunch and dinner. Moderate/Expensive. Celi's Deli (H +, Inexpensive), for quick snacks, sandwiches, and meat pies, is nearby.
HH + Mango’s, Barrier Reef Drive, tel. 501-226-2859, near the town library. This peppy little place serves Caribbean-Cajun food, like roast-beef po’ boys. But, wait a minute, there’s tofu, too. Check out the creative graffiti in the bathroom. Moderate. Closed Wednesdays.
HHH Caramba  Pescador Drive  Very popular, very well priced, very friendly.  A great choice for casual dining.
HH Estel's-by-the-Sea, Barrier Reef Drive, tel. 501-226-2019. Charlie and Estella Worthington run this little seaside restaurant near Central Park. With its sand floor and piano (you ain’t heard piano until you hear it played on a sand floor), this place reeks with atmosphere. It’s a favorite spot for breakfast, with all the usual egg-and-bacon basics including fried potatoes, but you’ll also enjoy the burritos and huevos rancheros. Opens early, closed Tuesdays. Moderate.
H + Rubie's (or Ruby's), Barrier Reef Drive, tel. 501-226-2063. If you can’t sleep or are heading out for a day of fishing, get up early and grab a casual breakfast at Ruby’s. For a few dollars, you can enjoy Guatemalan coffee, burritos and the best coconut tarts on the island. Later in the day, there are sandwiches and daily specials. It starts serving around 6 a.m., and usually stays open until dark. Inexpensive.

HH Lily’s, Barrier Reef Drive, tel. 501-226-2059. First-rate breakfasts and nicely done fish at lunch and dinner. Moderate.
HH Fido's, Barrier Reef Drive, tel. 501-226-3714. (Pronounced FEE-doh’s.) Popular, centrally located spot for a beer (Belikin, US$2.50, Guinness Stout U$3) and a bite ­ burgers (US$5-$7), fish and chips (US$8) or lobster burrito (US$10 for two). Live music many nights. Moderate.
H + Master Lee’s, Buccaneer Street, tel. 501-226-3896. Jumbo fried chicken breast and a huge serving of fries or rice is only US$2.50. Open 11-2 and 5-10. Inexpensive.
HH BC's Beach Bar, on the beach just south of SunBreeze, tel. 501-226-3289. Don’t miss the Sunday afternoon barbecue here. Moderate.
H + Mickey’s, Tarpon Street, near the airstrip, tel. 501-226-2223. On Wednesdays at lunch, order the lobster burrito and settle in for some fabulous eating. Inexpensive/Moderate.
H + Cannibals, Barrier Reef Drive, tel. 501-226-3706. North American comfort food like burgers, ribs, potato boats. Closed Sunday, Monday. Moderate.
H + Tropical Take Out, Coconut Drive near the airstrip, tel. 501-226-2288. Some folks, arriving by plane, make this their first eating stop in San Pedro, and it’s a good introduction to Belizean-American food at low prices. Inexpensive.
H + La Popular Bakery, tel. 501-226-3242. Best baked stuff on the island. Two locations, in town and at north end of town. Inexpensive.
H + Ambergris Delight, Pescador Drive, tel. 501-226-2464. Good pizza. Moderate.
H + Los Cocos, cheap Belizean-Mexican items like stew chicken and pork chops. The atmosphere is pretty low rent but the food more than makes up for it. Inexpensive/Moderate.
H + Various street vendors on Front Street at Central Park offer food that is cheap, good and safe to eat. You can get a whole plate full of delicious food for US$2.50. Don’t worry ­ it won’t upset your tummy. Also don’t miss the Lions Club barbecue on Friday and Saturday night. The barbecue is great and the flan is out of this world. Inexpensive.

SOUTH OF TOWN
HHH + Jade Garden, Coconut Drive near the Belize Yacht Club, tel. 501-226-2506. This is the place for Cantonese-style Chinese food on Ambergris Caye, but it also serves good seafood, such as broiled catch of the day, with baked potato and cole slaw (US$10), broiled lobster (US$18), T-bone steak (US$10) and other items in a very pleasant setting. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how good everything here is. More than a few locals consider this their favorite “regular spot” on the island. The owners, the Wong family, have been in Belize for four decades and have operated Jade Garden for more than 20 years. Moderate.
HHH + Victoria House Restaurant, Coconut Drive at Victoria House resort, tel. 501-226-2067. The restaurant at Victoria House, once dependent on unexciting buffets, has had a marked change for the better, with an innovative new menu revolving around fusions of Caribbean, Mexican and American cooking. Try the shrimp beignet with pineapple salad and remoulade sauce (US$17) or beef medallions with potato cake, bell pepper marmalade and mole sauce (US$20). Reservations suggested. Expensive.
HH + Rico’s Bar & Grill, Coconut Drive, at Villas at Banyan Bay. No other restaurant on the island has a better seaside setting than Rico’s, which opened at Banyan Bay in 2001. It’s right on the beach. This is a fine place for breakfast or lunch on the water. After your lunch, you can feed your leftovers to the “pet” moray eels that hang out at waterside. Dinners are on the pricey side, but, again, the seaside setting is wonderful. Moderate/Expensive.
HH Carmen’s, Coconut Drive, across from Woody’s Wharf. This casual spot has the best breakfasts on the South End, and for value and simple good eating, you’ll like Carmen’s for other meals, too. Moderate.
HH Taste of Texas, at Hideaway Sports Lodge, Coconut Drive, tel. 501-226-2141. This convivial spot, run by several ladies from Texas, does indeed offer an authentic taste of the Lone Star state’s incomparably rib-sticking cuisine, notably chicken fried steaks. Moderate.
HH El Patio, Coconut Drive, tel. 501-226-63063. El Patio next to the Internet Café is a nice spot for grilled fish and a Mexican song or two. Portions tend to be small, however. Moderate/Expensive.
HH La Margarita, Coconut Drive, tel. 501-226-2222. Great margaritas (of course), including the 40-ounce Grande, and tasty Tex-Mex food, especially the fajitas. Good vegetarian burritos, too. Closed Tuesdays. Moderate.
HH Sea Grille, Tropica Resort, tel. 501-226-2701. We really enjoy the breakfasts here. For dinner, it’s a little pricey. Moderate/Expensive.
H + Antojitos San Telmo, Coconut Drive just south of La Margarita, tel. 501-226-2921. It’s just a joint, but a great joint, with snacks like tacos and burritos for almost nothing. Inexpensive

NORTH AMBERGRIS
HHHH + Capricorn, about 3 miles north of San Pedro, tel. 501-226-2809. We attended the grand opening party at Capricorn in July 1996 (and got drenched in a downpour leaving the party.) The food was great then and it has only gotten better. Chefs Clarence Burdes and Miguela Tunn select top ingredients and prepare them with elegant simplicity. Among the favorites are the rosemary foccacia appetizer (US$4) and chilled stone crab claws with garlic and dill dip (US$25). There are daily featured items such as Acadian-style chicken or crab cakes. The wine list is small but carefully chosen, priced mostly in the US$25 to $50 range. Like the food, the seaside setting is cozily romantic but not overdone. You can dine on the verandah or inside. Capricorn can be reached via the golf cart path or by water taxi. Reservations essential. Expensive/Very Expensive.
HHHH Rendezvous, about 4 miles north of town, next door to Journey's End, tel. 501-226-3426. We’ll meet you here! This may be the first Thai-French fusion restaurant in Central America and surely it’s the best. Run by expats who formerly lived in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, Rendezvous has become one of the top restaurants on the island. With just 24 seats, the setting is intimate, on the second floor of a colonial-style house by the water. The menu changes frequently, but you can expect dishes such as pad thai (US$16) or chicken in a red curry coconut sauce (US$15). The restaurant even makes its own wines (from imported grape juice). A second location at Maruba Spa near Altun Ha is planned. Reservations suggested. Reached by water taxi. Expensive/ Very Expensive.
HHH + Sweet Basil Gourmet Café, Tres Cocos area, tel 501-226-3370. As you hike or drive your golf cart north, it's a surprise to find this little "shoppe" in a pink and blue two-story house beside the cart path, about one-quarter mile north of the river channel. Small, pricey but interesting selection of imported cheeses, wines and patés, plus deli sandwiches, salads and all kinds of sophisticated items. Try the shrimp salad with lime dressing (US$11), salade Niçoise with shrimp (US$16) or the chicken sandwich with provolone (US$12) with iced coffee (US$2). Get your picnic lunches here, too. Devine Wine in town is under same ownership. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays. Moderate/Expensive.
HHHH Mambo, Mata Chica Beach Resort. Wow! You'd never have thought Ambergris Caye would get this kind of place, which opened in late 1997. The restaurant space is open and appealing. Everything is designed to the hilt ­ even the menus show hours of design time. On the menus are a selection of sophisticated Italian dishes and seafood, along with daily specials (US$27) such as paella and lobster lasagna. The imported beef is excellent here, too. But you need to bring plenty of money or plastic. We paid US$80 for three small dishes at lunch here (and all we got were the entrees, no bread or salad or side dishes) plus two beers, one glass of wine, and one deliciously rich chocolate mousse desert. Locals describe it as the place to go for an anniversary dinner. Open for lunch and dinner. Reservations suggested. Reached by water taxi. Very Expensive.

NIGHTLIFE
San Pedro is not exactly a world-class party town, although some residents and visitors tend to be hard drinkers. Nightlife usually consists of drinks and dinner at a local restaurant, with perhaps a later visit to one of the "clubs" or hotel beach bars.
Big Daddy's is probably the hottest spot on the island, and things sometimes go late and loud here. Across the street, Jaguar’s Club hops, too, especially toward the weekend. The real action at these spots often doesn't get started until midnight. If you want to get down and get loud, get to the Barefoot Iguana south of town. Fido’s is always busy, with lots of people dropping in for a drink or to hear some music. Several hotels have popular beach-side bars, including the Pier Lounge at the Spindrift Hotel, (home of the chicken drop), Ramon's, Exotic Caye, Coconuts and Mata Rocks. If, after a long day in the sun, you're too pooped to pop a Belikin, you'll be glad to know that many of the island's hotels have cable TV, with about the same channels as you'd get in the U.S.
The Palace Casino ­ where the slogan is “It Ain’t Vegas” ­ offers low-key gambling six nights a week (closed Wednesdays) from around 7 until midnight. There are four blackjack tables, maximum bet US$10, and some slot machines. For more action, you can try the Princess Casino in Belize City.


>>Q. Do you have any info on the Royal Palm Villas, good or bad?

Thanks,

Don Wismer


A. Here's what I say about the Royal Palms in our new guide to Ambergris Caye, San Pedro Cool.

[Three Stars] Royal Palm Beach Club, San Pedro, tel. 501-226-2148, fax 226-2329, e-mail royalpalm@btl.net. This development is another island property in transition. It started as condos, tried without much success to go timeshare and now seems to be settling back into condoland though as of this writing it is still “offering” timeshare weeks. We don’t know what to tell you. There are 38 one and two-bedroom units, with a pool, pier and dive shop. Rack rates are around US$160 double in-season, US$130 off-season, plus tax and 10% service, but recently doubles in-season were available for US$127 plus tax. Bottom line: You might take a chance.

--Lan



Q. What is the best place to stay in a little hut on the beach away from all the people. On the beach with a tropical surrounding would be great! Thanks for you help!!!
Mike Marshall

A. You don't say what your budget is, but here are a few possibilities:

North Ambergris Caye -- Mata Chica Resort (very expensive)
Cayo Espanto -- very, very, very expensive
Ranguana Lodge, Ranguana Caye -- moderate
Serenade Island Resort, Frank's Caye, off Placencia -- moderate
French Louis Caye, off Placencia (arrange through Kitty's in Placencia) -- moderate
Glover's Reef Resort, Glover's Atoll -- inexpensive

--Lan


Q. Do you know anything about the Hotel Seine Bight? I found some stuff online and it
looks like a really cool place, but I don't know how recent it is. The email
address I found is a bust, so I'm not sure how to contact them.

Jennifer Haupt
Seattle, Washington

A. The Hotel Seine Bight became the Bahai Laguna Hotel a couple of years ago; there were a variety of problems and the hotel closed maybe 18 months ago. It is now rotting away.

--Lan

Q. I am getting married, and we would like to go to Belize on our
honeymoon. We are probably going to stay about 10-12 days and I have a few
questions I was hoping you could answer for me.

I was thinking of originally going to Ambergris Caye and the Cayo -- is
10-12 days too long for those places? Should I also visit Placencia if I'm
going to Ambergis? Would I be seeing and doing more of the same? Or could
I go to all three places. If I did, how much time would you spend in each
place?

As for accommodations -- I was thinking the Lodge at Chaa Creek in Cayo,
because it just sounds right. But then I get confused with AC. I was
thinking Mata Chica, because it sounds romantic to have your own cabana on
the beach, but everyone keeps talking about Victoria House. Which do you
recommend? Also, I know Mata Chica is not too close to town, is that a
problem? Do we want to be close to town? Is that a reason to stay at the
Victoria House? And then, Placencia -- which hotel would you recommend
there?

And final question, alot of these places have honeymoon packages with
flights to and from the airports -- should I go that route or book my own
flights? Is it easy to get these flights once I am in Belize?

I really appreciate any help you can give me. Of course, I would be more
than happy to write up a trip journal when I return for your website as
well.

Haleh Nazeri
New York

A. I think the Lodge at Chaa Creek is an excellent choice, especially the honeymoon suite (the regular duplex cottages are not quite as private as some honeymooners may want). In that same area, you might also look at Ek 'Tun -- a fantastic place, just two private cabanas and the most gorgeous natural swimming pool in the country. Phyllis Dart, the owner, is a great person and can arrange everything for you.

On Ambergris, I think either Mata Chica or Victoria House would be a great choice. Mata Chica is probably more romantic. You are in a remote area, a boat ride away from town, but on a honeymoon that might be a plus. The only negative for me about Mata Chica is that it doesn't have a pool, whereas Victoria House does. If you stay at Victoria House, I'd spring for the honeymoon suite or owner's villa. They are much nicer than the regular rooms.

On arranging transportation, the easiest thing is just to let the hotel handle that for you. Usually the cost is about the same as doing it yourself. But you can handle it yourself, either before you arrive or once you get to Belize. In May, which is after the high season, you should have no problems getting reservations/space.

On Placencia, the absolute best place to stay there is Inn at Robert's Grove, especially the new deluxe suites -- they are really worth the extra money.

You can do all three places in 10 to 12 days. On a 12-day trip, I'd probably split it something like 4 or 5 days on Ambergris Caye, 4 or 5 days in Cayo and 3 days in Placencia. Placencia is different enough from Ambergris Caye that you can see and do some quite different things, beyond the beach and water activities. Although the Placencia peninsula was badly damaged by Hurricane Iris in October, Inn at Roberts Grove had little damage and most of the peninsula should be back to normal by May.

Congratulations!

--Lan

Q. Do you know anything about the facilities at "Banyan Bay Resort" on Ambergris Caye ? I am planning a trip for February and I am considering staying at this location. Any information you might have would be greatly apreciated.

Steve

A. Yes, I have visited Villas at Banyan Bay several times and stayed there with my family in August 2001 for about a week.

It's a great place, about 1 1/2 miles south of town: Each condo-style unit has two bedrooms and two baths (with a whirlpool in the master bath), full kitchen, living area and balcony with a seaview. The units are large, around 1,000 square feet, and nicely furnished. Lots of tropical hardwoods -- mahogany cabinets, ceiling in living/kitchen area is paneled with a variety of woods.

There's a huge swimming pool and a good beach, with a dock and a dive and gift shop. Rico's restaurant is on site, though you can walk or cart to a number of other restaurants. I thought Rico's was pretty good, especially for breakfast or lunch.

--Lan Q: My name is Paul Parks and I am planning a two week trip to Belize beginning Nov 17th, 2001. Originally I had planned to spend at least a week of it in Placencia, but considering the damage I am seeing from reports on Iris, I guess that is out of the question. Four years ago I was in Belize for a
couple of weeks and spent some time in Ambergris Caye, Caye Chauker, and San Ignacio. I don't mind repeating that itinerary, I had a wonderful time at
all locations, but would like to experience different areas of Belize. Do
you have recommendations, I am thinking about Dangriga and Stann Creek,
maybe "Sandys" for a few days of the trip. Also, I noticed you mentioned
Tobacco Caye, Ranguana Caye or South Water Caye, in some of your Q and As. Can you provide more information on these Cayes? Also have you heard how Glovers Atoll survived the hurricane? I had thought about going there for a week, taking the weekly boat I've read about out there, but it started from the area near Placencia. Any information and suggestions regarding South Belize would be very appreciated. And one last question, can I travel
easily from Belize to Roatan and back again? I arrive and leave Belize City
and had originally planned to attempt reaching Roatan and the Bay Islands
from Placencia. I will be traveling with my girl friend we are in our mid 40s but act and think much younger and usually stay in budget accommodations such as Ruby’ss on Ambergris Caye.
Thanks in advance for this service, I'm going to Amazon now to purchase your book on living in Belize.

Paul Parks


A: As of this writing (early November 2001) I agree that Placencia is not quite ready for prime time tourism yet, though some of the resorts north of Placencia village are open (but they are depending on trucked-in water and power from generators.)

Also, both Tobacco Caye and South Water Caye had storm surge damage from Hurricane Iris. Some, not all, of the few hotels on these islands may be back in operation by late November.

I would suggest that in addition to the areas you visited last trip, which received no damage from Hurricane Iris, you look at:

Hopkins/Sittee Point between Dangriga and Placencia: This area is somewhat similar to Placencia, but smaller and less developed. There are some excellent hotels here -- Hamanasi is the top place, but there are good small hotels such as Tipple Tree Beya Inn (budget) and Beaches and Dreams (moderate).

Corozal Town in northern Belize: This is off-the-beaten tourist track, but is one of my favorites. It is safe, friendly, cheap and while there are no real beaches, the setting on the Bay of Chetumal is beautiful and there is a good bit to do around the area. Hotels are some of the best values in the country. I recommend H'ok K'in Guest House (budget-moderate), International Cozy Corners Guest House (budget), Casa Blanca by the Sea (moderate) and Smuggler's Inn (budget-moderate) -- the latter two are in Consejo.

There is no easy or inexpensive way to get to the Bay Islands by boat. There was a weekly boat to Puerto Cortez, Honduras, from Placencia/Dangriga, but even if that is still operating it's still a long haul to the Bay Islands. The easiest thing is to fly from Belize City to San Pedro Sula and from there take a plane to Roatan or elsewhere in the Bay Islands.

--Lan

Q: My husband and I are going to Belize in March. We are considering Caribbean Villas, Xanadu, and Banana Beach. We want a place to get away from it all, but close enough for restaurants and night life. We travel alot and want a place that is not too basic. My husband is a diver and I may take a resort diving course. We also to take tours. Could you please make some recommendations. Thanks for your advice.
Helen Alspector

A: All three places are very good. I would probably give Banana Beach a slight edge based on value. The seafront rooms are worth the extra price. Caribbean Villas is a little closer to town, and the management is excellent; it does not have a pool, however. Xanadu certainly has the strangest construction of any place on the island, but the units are surprisingly nice inside. Xanadu was supposed to be installing a new pool -- haven't check to see if they did.

I would stay in any of these places and be happy (I have stayed in CV and Banana Beach but have only toured Xanadu.)

--Lan

Q. Lan, first of all thank you for being so helpful to so many.

We want to take our kids to Belize to stay in the rainforest, and Chan Chich
is our preference right now over Chaa Creek because--it has a pool (our
kids are 8 and 6)!

Someone told us that Chan Chich was attacked by bandits last year, and that its remoteness and proximity to the Guatamalan border make it vulnerable. This scared the wits out of my wife, and she is hesitating. Can you give me any feedback? Also, is the road to Chan Chich--which also appears remote--safe?

Pete Ward


A. I am unaware of any incident like that at Chan Chich. If whoever told you has specifics, I would appreciate hearing about it.

There have been several incidents near the Guatemala border at Cayo, which we have reported in Belize First, including a hold up my masked Guatemalans of a Chaa Creek tour bus last spring. Overall, however, Belize remains quite safe and 99.9% of visitors never experience any crime or have any safety concerns.

The road to Chan Chich, through Programme for Belize lands, is remote, which is part of its appeal. I have driven it several times, including with my family and kids, and have never felt any concern. However, as an alternative you can fly to Chan Chich's airstrip.

Below I have put a recent report on Chan Chich by a BELIZE FIRST reader.

--Lan


My wife and I, 50-something, spent a week at Chan Chich about a month ago (early Dec, 01). It was as great as various sources had lead us to hope for. The small-plane ride in was exilerating, seeing nothing but tree-tops in all directions. The setting was great: the authentic thatch-roof buildings, tropical flora on the well-kept grounds, and the jungle surrounding it. The food was great too, with more selection than we had expected...a menu of maybe 10/12 entrees per meal. Their policy on tipping...leave one all-encompassing one at the end, don't worry about it until then...and the atmosphere of trust..."honor system" cold beverages at the pool round-the-clock...made us relaxed and comfortable throughout. We were not really birders coming in, but became such, for a week at least, as the fantastic guides on various tours spotted many species for us. We had mainly been thinking parrots, and did see plenty of them flying into the complex in mornings and evenings. We saw spider monkeys literally from the porch of our cabana on occasion, and howlers literally while relaxing at the pool one afternoon. We saw many mammals, mostly on the drives. Besides monkeys the most exotic were peccaries, a tayra, and a tamandua anteater which I saw way up in a tree with binoculars while hiking. Mesquitos were NOT a major problem. One thing I must warn the sedentary about...the complex is on a Mayan plaza. Because of that the hiking trails general start by going downhill, and finish with a final and (by then) difficult uphill climb. Also, the trails often have a very thin but very sticky layer of mud. I just left my sneakers on the porch all week. Nonetheless, I loved hiking the trails...mainly at dawn while my wife slept late. The late night howling of the Black Howlers, often very close-by, was seriously reminiscent of King Kong's roars. It was exilerating and a definite highlight of the trip. Overall....fabulous!


Q: I tried to get into Victoria House, per your suggestions, but they were all booked. I stuck with your suggestion of Ambergis and found Mata Chica to have an opening. From previous posts on the Fodor's site, it sounds like you'd approve of this. It's a little far from town, but we don't expect to venture there too often. We're most interested in the beaching activities.

I'm off to pick up your latest book to read up before the trip. If you find you have time, would love to get your take on the following:

Malaria risk - What's the story with Malaria down there? We're gearing up for it with preemtive pills - especially for our time exploring the rainforests. Is it really a concern?

Bugs - I keep reading about the bug issue and sand flies/fleas being terrible. What are your thoughts here? I'm under the impression that it's based on moisture. Jan / Feb are supposed to be dryer months. Are the bugs going to be brutal or can they be kept at bay with spray?

Water safety - Keep hearing conflicting stories here. Everyone tells us don't drink the water. Bottled water only. What's the real story?

Crime - Heard some unsavory stories of late. Any special precautions we should take?

I know the above may sound a bit paranoid, but its our first trip to Belize and just want to make sure we have a great time and avoid any unpleasantries if possible.

Cheers and many thanks for your help.

Rick Rawitham55@aol.com

A: Mata Chica is a beautiful, well-run small resort with interesting, color-coordinated cabanas in a lovely seaside setting. It is about 5 miles north of town, on North Ambergris, and a US$10 per person water taxi ride to town, if you do not take the hotel's water shuttle. I personally prefer to stay near town or south of town, as I like to go to a different restaurant every meal and really enjoy the San Pedro ambiance, but others like being in a more remote setting. The other downside is that it does not have a pool, and the restaurant is quite expensive.

As to bugs, you will probably not be bothered at all on Ambergris Caye, unless you get back from the water where there is no breeze from the seas. In Cayo district, due to the limestone earth that aborbs water quickly, there are almost no mosquitoes or other bugs. Some jungle lodges don't even have screens on their windows. In some other areas, there are sandflies and mosquitoes but most visitors to Belize are surprised at how few bugs they encounter.

On drinking the water, the government says about 70% of the water in Belize comes from safe, clean, totally potable sources. The other 30% is mostly in remote villages in border areas and the far south, where you are unlikely to go. Most visitors drink the water with no problems. I have never been sick from the water in Belize in 12 years of traveling all over the country. Certainly in resort areas such as San Pedro, the water and ice is perfectly fine. But if you like bottled water you can buy it just about anywhere. The local Coca-Cola bottler, among others, distributes bottled water.

As to crime, Belize City has a crime problem (though visitors are rarely affected) and there have been some incidents near border areas with Guatemala. But again 99.8% of visitors to Belize never experience any crime and the most common reaction we hear from people who have actually been to Belize is that they felt safer than "back home." Certainly there is no fear of terrorism in Belize.

Malaria risk is essentially non-existent in resort areas such as Ambergris Caye and also in urbanized areaas. Due to the lack of mosquitoes, it is rare in Cayo but it does exist due mainly to vectors from Guatemalan immigrants. In the far south, it can be a problem, though, again, in 12 years of traveling around Belize I personally have never heard of a case affecting tourists, though doubtless there have been cases, and only a handful of cases of malaria affecting foreigners (expats, archeologists, missionaries and hotel owners.) Still, it is probably cheap insurance to take chloroquine, which is all one needs in Belize.

--Lan


Q. We want to go to Belize first part of Feb for one week. 2 adults, non divers.
From what I can find on the web, Ambergris is the place to stay. No idea about different resorts.
we want white sand beach, No big waves, 3+ accommodation.
Budget of about 1200 pps including air from LAX. Can you recommend any agents or agencies? We need air/ transfer/hotel inclusive pkg. As you can see we need to book them soon. We live in San Diego county, California.

Jerry IVANHOU@aol.com


A. Sounds like Ambergris Caye is the place for you. There are many beachfront resorts that will meet your needs, including Banana Beach, Coconuts, Caribbean Villas, Xanadu, Paradise Villas and others. Most are in the US$150 a day or less range double.

For airfare deals, here is a list of wholesalers and consolidators that may offer the best fares. TACA, Continental and American are the only three airlines providing international service to Belize.

The cheapest way to get to Belize is usually not to fly to Belize but to fly to Cancun (or sometimes Cozumel) and then bus from there. There are many charter flights into Cancun from the U.S., Canada and even Europe, often at fares that are one-third to one-half what they are into Belize. From Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you can take a bus to Chetumal (five to six hours and US$15 or so for a nice, comfortable reserved seat) and there transfer to a Belize bus into Corozal Town or Belize City.

If you want to fly directly in to the international airport at Ladyville (Belize City), many of the on-line travel agents/consolidators offer fares that are less than those available directly from American, TACA or Continental. However, there is no one service that is always cheapest -- you have to check with several to see which has the best deal on the dates you want to go. It's also a good idea to check the regular fares on Expedia.com and Travelocity.com, or directly with the three airlines' Web sites, as on a given date these could be as cheap or cheaper than a "consolidator" fare.

Another option is the auction sites, such as www.skyauction.com and Priceline.com.

Among the consolidator/discount agents and services with deals on flights to Belize are:

Diversified Travel Management (consolidator), Cape Coral, FL, www.tourandtravel.com, 800-458-8281 -- ask for Ted

Barbara Kasak, Barb's Belize (travel agency specializing in Belize), El Paso, TX, www.barbsbelize.com, 888-321-2272

Latin Discounters (consolidator), Brisbane, CA, www.latindiscounters.com, 877-426-8676

Fly CheapOL (consolidator/travel agent), Mars Travel, Houston, TX, www.flycheapol.com or 888-702-4242 or 888-222-0631

Intra-National Tours (consolidator), Houston, TX, www.Intratours.com, 800-334-8069

Traveland (consolidator), Los Angles, CA, www.traveland.com, 800-321-6336

Belize Tradewinds (travel wholesaler specializing in Belize), Wauwatosa, WI, www.belizetradewinds.com, 800-451-7776

Happy travels!

--Lan


Q. I've enjoyed reading all of the information you have on the Web. We are going to Belize the end of March w/our two kids, ages 14 and 15.
Our reaction to the information we've received is that it would be fun to stay at Ambergis Caye. However, we really want to get in a jungle/forest trip and also the Mayan ruins. We are trying to figure out if we can do that headquartering out of Ambergis Caye, or if we need to pack up and move to other district for part of the day. I think we'd be happy if we could just get a day trip to the jungle in and another to the ruins. Would we stay at Ambergis and then move to Placencia for the second half of the week, and do the jungle and ruins trips from Robert's Grove? Or, can we do everything out of Ambergis? Thanks so much.

Gail V. Perry
Madison, Wisconsin


A. You can easily make day trips from Ambergris Caye to the mainland -- to Altun Ha ruins, Lamanai ruins, cave tubing at Jaguar Paw, the Belize Zoo, to Crook Tree and elsewhere. Quite a few tour operators in San Pedro offer these trips on a regular, often daily, basis.

Jaguar Paw and the Lamanai ruins trips would be to the most "jungle-like" areas. Crooked Tree is known as a birding area.

--Lan


Q. We are a Danish couple in our late 20s touring CA for about 4 weeks starting
1 February 2002. Right now, our plan is to spend 7-10 days in Belize. Since
we plan on taking a PADI certificate while in Belize, we have been sort of
focused on where to go for the best accomodation and dive schools on the
Cayes. However, as we’ve started reading more about Belize, we have become
more interested in things to do on the mainland as well. Our perspective for
the entire tour is experience over comfort, so we expect to be roughing it a
bit.

It would be very helpful if you could provide us with your insights on the
following:

Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye?
It seems that Caulker used to be the less expensive - does this still hold
true? On the other hand we would expect Ambergris to have a wider selection
of diving operators (we haven’t deceided which operator to choose yet, so if
you have one or a few which you can recommend it would be very helpful as
well).

Things to do on the mainland ?
The PADI course usually takes 3-4 days and we might want to spend another
day or two diving. What would be your recommendations if we would like to
spend to or three days on the mainland as well? Is it possible to take day
trips from the Cayes or should we prepare to stay overnight on the mainland?
I guess we should expect to spend the night if we plan on going to Western
Belize?

We have read a lot of your comments to questions on www.lonelyplanet.com and
have found them a great help in our tour planning, so any other insights you
may have would be greatly appriciated!

Jonathan Bernsen
Denmark


A. Caye Caulker is still a budget island. There are a few places on Ambergris Caye that are in the budget category, but about 80% of the hotels on Caye Caulker are budget. Most restaurants on Caulker also are inexpensive, whereas San Pedro has a range from inexpensive to expensive.

Diving costs about the same on both islands, possibly a little less on Caulker, and certification may be a bit cheaper. As you say, you have a larger selection of dive shops in San Pedro, but there are several on Caulker from which to choose.

In any event, the two islands are just a short water taxi/ferry ride from each other, so if you start on one and don't like it you can move to the other.

You can do day trips to the mainland from either island, but it is generally more relaxing and less expensive to relocate to the mainland rather than taking day trips. Cayo in western Belize is the area where you'll probably want to be. Lots to do there -- caving, rivering, visiting Maya ruins, butterfly farms, etc. -- and a variety of hotels and lodges in all price categories. One of the three Cayo district chapters in my Guide to Mainland Belize is available as a free pdf download on our Web edition of Belize First.

--Lan

Q. My husband and I will be going to Belize in April and are interested in any
info you could provide us with with respect to the above Caye. Have you
any specific information on Gavota Coral Reef Resort? I appreciate your
time
Ginny Wade


A. Tobacco Caye is an increasingly popular destination because, since the island is on the barrier reef, it offers snorkeling from shore. It is a VERY small island, just three or four acres, with no stores, clubs, restaurants, etc. except in the five or six hotels, so this is not a place for those who want to do and see a lot.

Gaviota was damaged by Hurricane Iris in October but has rebuilt. I heard from a reader who is on Tobacco Caye now. She tried making reservations with Gaviota but they were full -- they quoted her a rate of US$50 for including meals -- and I believe ended up at Reef's End for around US$80 with meals (plus 7% tax and transport to the island, US$15 per person each way from Dangriga).

All the places on the island are pretty basic. Tobacco Caye Lodge is probably the most "upscale."

--Lan

Q. I was wondering if you could answer the following questions about my
upcoming trip to Belize in the end of May. Thanks so much for your help.

1. We (two of us) are trying to decide whether to spend a couple of days
diving Ambergris Caye where the dive spots are close to the accommodation
but not supposed to be so great in terms of seeing large sea animals or
whether we should spend the time making long boat rides from the mainland
out to dive sites near the atols. We don't have time to meet the minimum
stay requirements at the resorts on the atolls. We're wondering do you know
if the atols are worth the effort to get there for day-diving only?

2. We are also planning some dives to see whale sharks during the full moon.
Do you have a recommendation on dive operators and places to stay in the
Placentia area? Do you recommend staying in town vs. a resort-type hotel?

3. Can you recommend any hotels/operators that offer trips to cockscomb park
that offer the opportunity to experience the jungle, hike and see some
animals as opposed to sitting in a vehicle all day.

-Michael Adelberg


A. First, in the off-season when you are coming, the remote atoll lodges may offer a shorter stay. The diving around the atolls is superior, so you might check into that with any of the lodges you are interested in.

Yes, I think most serious divers would say that it is worth the time and money to get out to the atolls for diving, at least for one or two days. From Ambergris you can get to Lighthouse and Turneffe, but to Glovers you will want to leave from southern Belize.

As to staying in Placencia, as you may know the peninsula was badly damaged by Hurricane Iris. It is coming back but Placencia village in particular is still pretty badly beaten up. Things should be better in May, though. Placencia village has mostly budget accommodations. The nicer resorts such as Kitty's, Robert's Grove, Nautical Inn, etc. are north of Placencia village.

You might also want to look at Hopkins. Hamanasi is a beautiful new dive resort there, and there also are some cheaper places.

Most any of the hotels in Placencia and Hopkins offer day tours of Cockscomb and other sites in the area, often using the same tour guides. You can make those arrangements after you get there.

--Lan


Q. Hello from White Salmon, Washington. My husband, daughter (age 17 and and adventurer) and myself can only get to Belize for 9 days. We have found so many fantastic ideas that we are overwhelmed about where to go. We thought we would divide our time with about 5 days on the beach somewhere,and the rest of the time at a jungle lodge. We want to snorkle at least 3 or 4 times, also Kristin wants to go cave tubing, swim with the sharks groupers and rays and bird and animal watching or listening. Night life and shopping are not important. We prefer to stay in a comfortable location but are maily looking for atmosphere and adventures to remember.
So far have looked at ian anderson's spot and beaches and dreams and also jaguar reef...(this one is a bit expensive for us). If you were going to pick just two spots to spend this week (even if they were on the spendy side) what would they be? Thank you in advance, I've been reading your other answers and picked up some good info.

Cindy, Jim and Kristin Janney


A. Both Ian Anderson's and Beaches and Dreams are good places in the moderate category.

If you want to go more upscale than Beaches and Dreams and still stay in Hopkins, I highly recommend Hamanasi -- beautiful rooms and suites, nice beach, gorgeous pool.

As an alternative to Hopkins, with a little better beaches and better snorkeling close at hand, you might consider Ambergris Caye. Some people shy away from Ambergris Caye because they think it is too commercialized or too "popular" but it is popular for a reason -- it offers an excellent laidback vacation experience with a wide choice of accommodations, the best restaurants in Belize, friendly people, pretty good beaches and good snorkeling and diving. There are a number of nice condotels on the island with lots of room for families, and affordable rates, including The Palms, Banana Beach (an especially good value) and Banyan Bay.

If you want a fabulous jungle lodge experience, and can afford around US$100 per person a day including meals, I highly recommend Ek 'Tun Lodge. They have only two cabanas, but the jungle setting is fabulous and their natural mineral water pool is the best in all of Belize.

Me, if I were going to pick top places to stay in Belize, in the expensive/deluxe category I would probably pick Inn at Robert's Grove in Placencia (deluxe suite) or Hamanasi (suite) on the coast, Victoria House or Banyan Bay on Ambergris Caye, and Chan Chich, Ek 'Tun, Chaa Creek (the garden suites) or Blancaneaux (a villa) as the jungle lodge.

--Lan



Q. 1) Heat/humidity/bugs - How hot is it during the daytime in these
locations? We are from Houston, TX, so we are familiar with scorching
summers. How does Belize compare to Houston in May and June? Is there
still a problem with sand fleas? What about mosquitoes?

2) Hurricane Iris - Has the Placencia area recovered yet? Even if the
hotels have been repaired, how is the surrounding flora and fauna?
Would you recommend Placencia or Ambergris? I am looking to relax on
the beach with the kids. My husband dives and fishes.

3) Cayo region - I have been looking at Maya Mountain Lodge. We would
like to stay at a clean, safe place with lots of activities. We don't
need the most luxurious room, but we don't want the most spartan
either. Is there another lodge we should consider before Maya
Mountain? Also, was the landscape in Cayo damaged from the hurricane?

C. Crochet


A. May and June, before the seasonal rains begin, can be very hot in Cayo -- up to 95 to 100 degrees, with high humidity. I don't think you'll find it much worse than Houston, however. On the coast and cayes the temps are lower and are further mitigated by prevailing breezes from the water. There are rarely any mosquitoes or other bad bugs in Cayo district; some of the lodges don't even have screens on their open windows. On Ambergris Caye, there are few mosquitoes unless you get back away from the water on the far north or south of the island, and there are few sandflies. In Placencia, again the mosquitoes are no problem unless the prevailing breezes die down; sandflies are occasionally a minor problem.

Placencia village has not yet recovered, but it should be pretty much back to normal by May or June. North of the village, except in Seine Bight village, things are already mostly back to normal. Flora is recovering quickly, as it always does, and though there were some losses of monkeys and other wildlife south of Placencia, it is not a serious problem. I personally prefer Ambergris Caye, as there is much more to do, better restaurants and a wider choice of accommodations, but many people like Placencia.

Maya Mountain is a decent mid-level place. It does have a small pool, which is a plus with kids. I would also look at Nabitunich, Green Heaven Lodge and duPlooy's, all moderately priced (at duPlooy's there also are more expensive digs). Green Heaven has a lovely pool. If you want to stay closer to town, I recommend Aguada, which is around US$25-$30 double with A/C, and it has a pool. The rooms may be a bit crowded with two kids, though. There was no damage at all in Cayo from Hurricane Iris.

--Lan


Q. I understand that a hurricane did extensive damage
to the Placenia Peninsula last fall. I had planned
(nothing booked yet) to stay at Roberts Grove resort
this April or May. I have not heard back from two
e-mails sent to them since the first of the year. Is
it possible that they are too busy rebuilding/ or
without internet service to respond?

What are the beaches there like?
Are there any nearby "public" beaches that would be
of a fairly sandy bottom rather than grass filled?

I would be traveling alone, and looking for a laid
back area without a lot of extra activities. Just a good
beach for snorkeling and sun. Will the Placenia area
be "up & running" by April/May or should I think about
area(s) north for this Spring.

Matt Grassel
Green Bay, Wisconsin


A. Robert's Grove was essentially undamaged by the hurricane. It is a beautiful hotel, well-run, one of my favorite places in all of Belize. I especially like the new deluxe suites -- they are just about my favorite places to stay in Belize. I can't imagine why they haven't answered your e-mails, except possibly that local telephone service is still spotty.

All the beaches (16 miles or so of them) on the peninsula are public. There is a good deal of seagrass -- it's the barrier reef offshore that causes it -- but the beaches at and near Robert's Grove are among the better ones on the peninsula.

About everything north of Placencia village is now back in operation. I think most everything, even in the hard hit areas like Placencia village, will be more or less back to normal by April/May.

--Lan



Q: We are going to Belize in February and will be staying in the jungle at Ek' Tun for 3 days. Do you know if it is necessary that we get any particular inoculations or to take the malaria treatment? We are 40 and are bringing an 8 year old. Just wondered what the latest trend was. Also, any damage sustained from hurricane Michelle in Belize?


Cheryl Blum


A. First of all, Ek 'Tun is a wonderful place. My family and I stayed there in August. The natural swimming pool and the grounds are just incredible.

As to sticks and health precautions, I think it is a good idea to have one's basic shots up to date -- tetanus, Hep A and B, etc. -- regardless of where you travel.

The area around Ek 'Tun has very few mosquitoes, so it is not a high-risk area for mosquito-born disease such as malaria or dengue fever. Having said that, I believe Ken Dart, co-owner of Ek 'Tun, has had malaria three times, though his wife, Phyllis, has not had it at all in more than a decade in Belize.

While your chances of getting malaria are quite small, I personally think it is cheap insurance to take a malaria prophylaxsis. Chloroquine is all you need, once a week, starting two weeks before arrival and for four weeks after returning. This medicine is safe, having been used for many decades, with few if any side effects, and it is fairly inexpensive. You may want to get the advice of your doctor, health department or tropical medicine specialist.

--Lan


Q. I would like a recomendation on one last thing. Between caye Caulker and Glovers Atoll. Glovers sounds perfect but I am a little concerned about diving and fishing there. Our party will consist of 2 couples (divers), I read a bit about there is no diving off Glovers. And Fishing. mostly me. I am a avid FLy fisherman and want desperatly to try my luck for tarpin and bone fish. Taking this into consideration, which place would you recomend and why? Dax FIREWALKRR@aol.com
>>


A. I think you've been misinformed about Glover's Atoll. The diving there is excellent, some of the best in Belize, certainly far better than around Caye Caulker. The three atolls in Belize are where the world-class diving is. The fishing should also be excellent, both fly and trolling. Again, probably better than around Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye, except possibly for bonefish.

The downside (for some) is that Glover's Reef Atoll is quite primitive. Think outhouses and do-it-yourself showers. But it's cheap.

--Lan

 

Q: Do you have any reports on Coral Bay Villas? Also,
should I look at staying North of the town vs. South?
Andrew Buerger



A: I dont' recall receiving any reader reports on Coral Bay Villas, but it is an attractive small condo-style property just south of town. I have visited it and would recommend it.

As to staying North or South, below is what I have to say about the subject in my upcoming book, San Pedro Cool.

WHERE TO STAY
Probably the biggest decision you'll make about Ambergris Caye is where to stay. We’re not talking about a specific hotel but about the general area. The area you choose will determine to a great degree the experience you have on the island. You have four basic options:
1) in the town of San Pedro
2) just to the south of San Pedro near the airstrip, within walking distance of town
3) on the south end out of easy walking distance to town
4) on the north end of the island above the channel.
There is no one "best" place to stay. Each of these four areas has advantages and disadvantages. Which area you choose depends on what you want from your vacation. If you're looking for privacy and the feeling of being away from it all, consider the south end or the north end of the island. If you prefer easy access to restaurants, nightlife, shops and other activities, you'll likely be happier in San Pedro town or just to the south. There's little or no advantage to any one area in terms of beaches, although the beaches in town tend to be more crowded with boats than those outside of town.
HEART OF TOWN: Hotels in the town of San Pedro, with a few notable exceptions, are older spots, among them the original tourist hotels on the island. They are, again with a few exceptions, less expensive digs. If you're looking to save a buck or two, this may be the place for you. You also will be right in the heart of things, no more than a few sandy blocks from some of the best restaurants, bars, shops and dive operations on the island. Party animals will want to stay here or just the south of town. Accommodations here include Rubie's, Holiday Hotel, Spindrift, Martha’s, San Pedrano, Mayan Princess, Paradise Hotel, Paradise Villas and Fountain Blue.
AIRSTRIP SOUTH: If you want a larger variety of moderate and upscale lodging but still be within walking distance of the attractions of San Pedro Town, think about staying at the south edge of town and the area just to the south of town. The San Pedro airstrip is here, but you should have few or no problems with airport noise, since the planes are small one- and two-engine prop jobs, and there are no flights after dark. This is a good compromise between the activity of town and the remoteness of the north end and far south end. Among the hotels here are SunBreeze, The Palms, Belizean Reef Suites, Ramon's Village, Exotic Caye/Playador, Belize Yacht Club, Changes in Latitudes, Hide-A-Way, Coconuts and Caribbean Villas.
SOUTH END: Although most of this area is beyond a quick walk to town, this a major growth area for tourism on the island. Some of the nicer upmarket hotels are located here, and more are on the way. An increasing number of restaurants and amenities also are located here. Until 1996, the town dump was in this area, but happily it's now been moved farther south. At the far end, you're two to three miles from San Pedro, so for visits to town you'll need to rent a golf cart (US$60 or $65 for 24 hours), ride a bike (some hotels offer them free to guests), take a taxi (about US$5 to town) or take a hotel shuttle, if available. Among the choices here are Villas at Banyan Bay, Tropica, Mata Rocks, Banana Beach, Royal Palms, Victoria House, Caribe Island Resort and Sunset Beach.
NORTH END: By all accounts, the area north of "the Cut" - a narrow channel of water separating the south and north ends of the island - is where much of Ambergris Caye's growth will occur over the next decade or two. Houses, hotels, and even a restaurant or two are going up here. At present, though, access is limited by the fact that there are only two ways to get to the north end: One is via a tiny, rickety, hand-pulled ferry over the channel, and then via a hike or ride on a narrow path to the various resorts and villas. Bring plenty of bug spray.
Eventually, when the local political, ecological and financial situations are sorted out, we'll see a bridge put in here and perhaps, eventually, another one coming down from Mexico. We may also see an air strip on North Ambergris. But these events are still years away from fruition. The other current option is via boat or water taxi (US$5 to $10 per person, or more, one way by water taxi, although some hotels provide free shuttles, at least during daylight hours). To get to San Pedro for dinner or a bit of action, you'll need to take a boat, and that can be something of a pain, particularly after you do it three or four times. Accommodations on the north end include Capricorn, El Pescador, Captain Morgan's, Essene Way, Belizean Shores, Playa Blanca, Journey's End, SunDiver, Los Encantos, Portofino, Avalon (formerly Casa Caribe), Mata Chica and Basil Jones Club.
Not on Ambergris but close by, off the back side of the island,  is Cayo Espanto.

--Lan

Q: We are a family of 5 with 3 teens. We heard of an opening for accommodations at Banyan Bay (4 days) and 5 Sisters (4 days) Dec. 26th. Originally I wanted to stay in cabanas on the beach, but of course none are available to date.

How are accommodations at those two resorts? How do we get from one to the other and book tours? Is there another jungle accommodation you would recommend?

Emily Gobright


A: Both are excellent. Banyan Bay is particularly nice for families, as all units have two bedrooms, two baths, plus a kitchen, living area (with sleeper couch) and balcony. Great swimming pool and a nice beach. My family and I stayed there this summer and found it ideal.

Five Sisters isn't as deluxe as its neighbor, Blancaneaux Lodge, but it's a nice, Belizean-owned lodge in a beautiful setting (many of the pines in the Mountain Pine Ridge, however, have been killed by a pine beetle infestation.)

To transfer between the two, you could fly or take a ferry to Belize City, then rent a car for the drive. You could stop by the zoo en route and the car would likely save you money over having to pay for transfers and expensive tours for five people. Alternatively, Four Sisters can arrange transportation. You can also take a bus or shuttle van to San Ignacio, but you would have to hire a taxi to take you into the Mountain Pine Ridge.

--Lan

Q: We have finally made our flight reservations for this Christmas season in Belize. Here is our burning question: with two adults and two boys 10 and 13, we can't seem to decide between the Mopan River Resort and Clarissa Falls Lodge. We still have some of that adventurous spirit in us and think (since we live here in rural Appalachia) that renting a 4-wheel drive and sightseeing on our own would be grand. But there is something to be said for letting someone else do the planning for us...Kayaking, tubing, one Mayan Ruin, Mountain Pine Ridge (with or without needles!), cave tubing, horseback riding, etc are on our "to do" list. Mopan RR doesn't offer several of those so maybe Clarissa is better. We've also looked at Banana Bank. We're thinking we'll save money by trekking on our own, too. Is that likely? Any suggestions? Any concerns?
One last question - If the current storm/hurrican Michelle will skip Belize, would you choose a couple of free days in the south or the very north? We already have reservations for 4 days at Belizean Reef on Ambergris, but think we'd like to check out the southern coast, too.

Jeri Minford
North Carolina



A: Mopan River Resort and Clarissa Falls are about as different as two lodges can be. Clarissa Falls is mainly a budget place, though some of the larger cabanas aren't exactly cheap. It's all pretty basic, however, the thatch equivalent of a motel with linoleum on the floor. Mopan River by contrast was done up in first class -- everything very well designed, in good taste and, in some cases, with luxury touches (especially the suites units). The mattresses at Mopan River probably cost more than an entire cabana at Clarissa Falls. Even though Mopan River is considerably more expensive, you do get a lot for your money -- everything is included down to tips and taxes and transfers.

If you want a lodge that's not an all-inclusive, I think Banana Bank would be a good choice. Especially for kids -- it's the top horse place in Belize and also has monkeys, a jaguar and one animals on the grounds. Another good choice in the mid-range in price would be duPlooy's. Another would be Pook's Hill.

I wouldn't wait long to make the decision. Even in this year, Christmas is looking to be heavily booked in a lot of areas in Belize. Seems like Pam Picon at Mopan River told me she was booked up or nearly so during at least part of the Christmas period.

At this time, it looks like Michelle is going to miss Belize and keep heading north. However, Iris in early October didn't miss and devastated much of southern Belize, from Placencia south almost to Punta Gorda. While things will be getting more back to normal by Christmas, there is still going to be lot of clean up to do, especially in Placencia village, Monkey River and in rural Toledo district. You'd be fine in Hopkins or on the north end of the Placencia peninsula. I personally like northern Belize, especially Corozal and also the Lamanai ruins, but a lot of people think it's too quiet.

--Lan

Q: I'm a 19 year old male currently working in the IT sector of Vancouver,
Canada, and was looking to escape the daily bump and grind (at the age of
19, that must sound ridiculous). In my research I have found Belize to
have the desired cost of living as well as the type of environment that I
am looking for. I am looking to spend somewhere in the neighbourhood of
$50 US/day (of course, the cheaper the better, but I'm trying to be
reasonable). The main focus of my trip is going to be relaxation and
exposure to nature. I will require minimal amneties and am an avid camper,
so I shouldn't have any problems going the budget route. So far the place
that seems to most fit my needs is called BFREE, and is located in the
Toledo district. I was wondering if you have heard of or been to this
location, and if you could offer an idea of some other places that may
satisfy my needs.

Another goal of this trip is to possibly meet some new people, and I was
wondering how populous the Toledo district is, and what kind of journey it
would take to get to some of the more inhabited areas.

I also understand that southern Belize is relatively cool, and was
wondering if there were any other major differences between the Southern
and Northern travel destinations.

Any response would be much appreciated, and I appreciate the wealth of
information you have provided on your website. Keep up the good work!

Matt Chambers



A: I know only a little about BFREE. I had understood that it, like several other programs in Belize, was primarily involved in providing programs to student groups from U.S. colleges. I know Meredith College and Carson-Newman, two North Carolina colleges, among others, have summer or semester abroad programs there.

I see that BREE's Web site says that it is open to visitors, but I do not know anyone who has stayed there independently.

Keep in mind that Hurricane Iris in October devastated much of Toledo District. More than 13,000 people are still homeless or in temporary shelters. Huge areas of rainforesst and bush have been blown down. You might want to check with BFREE to see how much damage they sustained and when they plan to be fully operational again.

You are misinformed about Toledo District being cooler. It is in fact one of the hottest, most humid and rainiest parts of Belize. Some parts of Toledo get more than 200 inches of rainfall a year. It is mostly a lightly populated, very poor area. Most residents are Maya or Garifuna, though there are Creoles, East Indians and Americans/Canadians and Europeans as well.

There are a number of organizations set up in Belize that offer a fairly low cost nature-oriented experience for visitors. Among these are:

Tropical Education Center (associated with the Belize Zoo)
Monkey Bay
Programme for Belize

There also are many budget hotels in Belize where you can stay safely for under US$20 a night. Most of these are listed on our Web edition of Belize First or included in popular guidebooks.

Good luck.

--Lan


Q. The family [myself, wife and two girls (age 7 and 9)] have decided to go to
Belize for the first time for 6-8 days in late March. The girls are
interested in jungle tours, river canoeing and such, while my wife needs
some relaxing beach time also. Do you have any suggestions for a good place
from which to base our adventures? Quality travel agencies that have
handled families with young children?

I appreciate the informative site and your advice.

John Dagnello



A. I think you'd want to split your time between Ambergris Caye and a lodge in Cayo.

Frankly, you don't need a travel agency and generally will get better rates if you book direct via the Internet (nearly all hotels in Belize have Web sites and e-mail).

In San Pedro, I'd recommend a condotel such as Villas at Banyan Bay, Banana Beach or The Palms. In Cayo, I'd recommend a jungle lodge such as Ek 'Tun, Chaa Creek or duPlooy's.

--Lan

 

Q: I am 67 years old and want to take my adult children and spouses on a relaxing vacation. I looked at MOPAN RIVER RESORT and liked the all inclusive price, secluded area ect. I was told it is very hot and humid, mudy from many rains and much diseas. What is your opinion.

Jim


A: Belize does have a subtropical climate, similar to that of South Florida, so, yes, if you consider Florida's climate hot and humid, you might not be happy in Belize.

Mopan River Resort is a very nice, upscale all-inclusive resort in western Belize. It is not a jungle lodge but is located near a small town on the banks of the Mopan River.

As to mud and disease, you've been misinformed. While Belize rivers do sometimes flood after heavy rains (as from recent tropical storms and hurricanes in the region), there has not been any significant flooding recently. Belize is a developing country, but the standards of health and hygiene are high -- for example, you can drink the water in most areas -- and there are no major concerns about disease except the normal precautions one would take when traveling in a sub-tropical, developing country.

Whether or not you would have a relaxing vacation, traveling as you say with your "adult children and spouses," likely would depend more on your family circumstances than any condition in Belize. I’ve noted, Jim, that when a guy travels with several spouses trouble can sometimes ensue.

Also on the health scene, the good news is that Belize is not suffering from the recent anthrax scares and other bioterrorism concerns that are affecting much of the USA.

--Lan


Q: My husband and I were planning to go to Belize in March and stay on the Placencia Peninsula. We like laid back beach places with snorkling and a few nice restaurants. Would you recommend another area in Belize instead in view of the damage done by hurricane Iris? Some of the Cayes sound pretty, but the "Rough Guide" cites sand flees as a problem in those. Do you have any suggestions?

Lois Mann

A: Sand fleas or flies are a problem in some areas of Belize (including, incidentially, Placencia) just as they are in some coastal areas of the U.S. Some people are affected more by them than others, and DEET spray or an oily lotion such as Avon Skin So Soft or baby oil can help.

They tend to be worse in winter (December through February), but this can vary. A number of the smaller, more remote cayes including South Water Caye do have them, as do Caye Caulker and the Hopkins/Sittee Point area north of Placencia.

One place where they are rarely a problem is Ambergris Caye, the most popular destination in Belize and the area of Belize with the widest variety of quality accommodations and restaurants.

--Lan

Q: We are two women in our fifties coming to Belize on December 3 and leaving December 13. This is the itinerary we have planned (with the help of a somewhat confused travel agent and Solar tours).

We are renting a car (4 wheel drive).

2 nights Fort George Radisson
5 nights Jungle Paw (near Belmopan)
3 nights Mata Chica (no car)

We went to Costa Rica last year and loved it. We want to watch birds and see nature and also snorkle. And see the people and the city.

I got nervous when they said on the web that the water was rough where you snorkle. I still don't consistently do it right (water in mask and eyes). Are there locations we can get to from Mata Chica that are better for people like me?

Will we be able to drive to enough places of interest from the Jungle Paw? We originally were scheduled to stay 2 nights somewhere else that was in the park not far fromthere but we thought it was a hassle to change hotels and the other hotel (5 Sisters I think) was not supposed to be as nice.

Will Mata Chica be too far from the town and too full of honeymoon couples for us to feel comfortable?

Are we really going to have to eat most of our meals in the hotels or are there any grocery stores or restaurants around? We are paying for all of our meals and hotel meals tend to be fattening.

Any suggestions for us to make the most of our stay. Last year in Costa Rica we went on a hosted tour, not guided, via General Tours and things went very smoothly. Will we be able to get the flavor of Belize or will we be spending our time getting lost or driving from place to place and reading travel books?

What do you think/suggest?

Thanks

Nola Krasko



A: First, I would recommend you consider not staying in Belize City, unless you just want to see a small Caribbean city. While it is not as bad as its reputation, and the Fort George Radisson is a good international-style hotel in a safe area (the Fort George area), for most people Belize City is not Belize. It offers very little in the way of shopping or sightseeing. It's much like a small version of Kingston, Jamaica. Unless you are arriving very late in the afternoon, I would suggest you drive directly to your first hotel or lodge and get your vacation started immediately.

Jaguar Paw (not Jungle Paw) is a good lodge. It is unusual in that it has air conditioning. It is in a lush jungle area, and the river tubing and cave tubing there is good. Earlier in the year, the caves were closed due to dispute with the government, but they were only closed for a short time and are now open for visitors. Jaguar Paw is out in the bush, though, about 7 miles on a rough road from the main highway, so getting back and forth to other areas is a bit of pain, especially if you are doing it frequently. I might suggest reducing your time there to perhaps three or four nights.

Two other wonderful lodges in Cayo that I suggest you consider are:

Ek 'Tun -- just two cabanas in a lush wilderness area, with beautiful setting and the best swimming pool in Belize (a natural mineral pool). It is remote, however, and because it's across the Macal River from the road you have to come and go by boat. I stayed here in August and loved it.

Chaa Creek Lodge -- beautiful grounds and a lot to do nearby, much more than if you spend all your time at Jaguar Paw. You can easily drive to ruins, butterfly farms, the botanical gardens at duPlooy's, the rainforest medicine trail, etc. Plus the town of San Ignacio has groceries and such. I've stayed here many times and love it.

If you want to avoid the hassle of driving yourself, finding your way around, etc. you might look at Mopan River Resort, which is an all-inclusive but a lot better than that may sound. Everything is included, including transfers, tours (including to Tikal) and it's all nicely done. The owners are very interesting and I don't think you would get fattening meals there.

There are lots of restaurants and plenty of grocery stores -- mostly very small -- in most areas. The exceptions are if you are at a remote lodge or, obviously, at an all-inclusive. At Mata Chica, you are pretty much away from things. Getting back and forth to town, unless you take the hotel's boat, is expensive (US$10 per person each way by water taxi). You might look at staying in or near town, or on the South End. Among thep places I recommend are Villas at Banyan Bay, Banana Beach, The Palms and Fountain Blue. These places also have pools, which Mata Chica does not.

The water can sometimes be rough for snorkeling, and for the best snorkeling you have to go out by boat to the reef. But in December unless there is a cold front down from the north the water should be fairly calm.

--Lan

Q: Just ran across your web page. I found it a great source of information. I
am trying to find out about the Singing Sands hotel, but couldn't find any
reader reports. Have you run across any? Any help would be greatly
appreciated. I'm trying to find a reasonably priced hotel somewhere in the
range of US$50 -90 for a single.

Eric Leyland

A. I've stayed at Singing Sands and visited it numerous times. It is a nice, moderately priced place in Maya Beach.

Unfortunately, it was fairly seriously damaged by Hurricane Iris in October. The pool was more or less destroyed and some of the cabanas were blown around. I am not sure when it will reopen. Placencia village, Seine Bight village and Monkey River were basically destroyed by Iris. A few resorts on the peninsula have reopened, especially north of Placencia village, but water is being trucked in and power is from generators.

If you are going to Belize soon, you might look at locations from Hopkins/Sittee Point north, as those areas were unaffectd by the storm.

If you want to be on the southern coast, you might look at Hopkins. Beaches and Dreams is excellent -- in season would be at the top end of your budget. Tipple Tree Beya Inn is the best low-cost choice in Hopkins.

I hope you enjoy Belize as much as I do!

--Lan

Q: Do the Villas at Banyan B ay have a website and or an email address? Does Ek'Tun have a website or phone number? Are there day trips from Ambergris Caye to the jungle or is the travel time too long? thanks for your help.

Patty Smith


a: For villas at Banyan Bay try http://AmbergrisCaye.com/pages/lodge/banyan.html. It’s a great place, especially for families.

For Ek'Tun, it's http://www.ektunbelize.com. Say hello to Phyllis Dart for me.

There are popular day trips from San Pedro that go through bush and jungle to get Maya ruins. These include trips to Lamanai and Altun Ha. Birders can arrange trips to Crooked Tree, which is a great birding area (not really jungle, though). Probably the trip that takes you to an area that looks the most like "movie jungle" is the cave tubing trip to Jaguar Paw, which is a terrific trip.

--Lan

Q: I just read that the Seaside Cabañas in Caye Caulker might be noisy at night from nearby businesses. Have you found that to be the case? I just booked 5 nights there for December in cabaña #15, which is apparently brand new and 10 feet from the water. I am not looking for luxury or total isolation, but also don't want to be kept up by loud music, groups talking nearby, or noise from the dock. Any other impressions of the accomodation at Seaside Cabañas would be appreciated. Thanks.

RIadevaia


P.S I am paying $75/night, so if you compare it to other places, please keep that price point in mind. Thanks


A: Seaside Cabanas is in a busy area, at the main public dock, but I would not say it's particularly noisy at night. There are restaurants and other businesses nearby, but that's true of many of the hotels in the village. If you want to get more away from things, you could choose a location farther south, say Anchorage or Shirley's. Or even Treetops, which is set back from the beach a little and in a residential area.

I think Seaside Cabanas are very nice, though I also think they are a bit pricey. They get the US$75 a night, though, because they offer the thatch cabanas, which some people like, and more importantly because they are one of the first two hotels people see when getting off the water taxi, so they are get tons of walk-in traffic.

Me, I would rather stay at Tree Tops for half the price, but a lot of people would prefer the more "exotic" atmosphere of Seaside Cabanas.

Note:  Seaside Cabanas was destroyed in a fire in 2003, but they have been rebuilt.

--Lan

Q: I plan to send an inflatable boat (a surprise Xmas gift) in advance of
our arrival to Ambergris Caye. This would be a ~$2,500 value item,
weighing about 200 pounds, including its small outboard motor.

Sure would appreciate any insights you might have into this plan.
Notable questions on my mind include:
- identity and reliability of freight services into Belize and out
to AC
- import duty ? we plan to ship it home when we depart
- any licensing requirement for use?
- tie-ups available?
- alternatives: buy one there? Sell it instead of shipping home?

John Plunket

A: I think the best thing to do is to talk to Lane at Express Lane Shipping in San Pedro. She handles all kinds of importing and express shipping for expats and others in San Pedro. Her contact information is:

Belize Business Development
Alijua Suites, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
E-Mail: lane@btl.net
Tel. 501-26-3083 Fax: 501-26-3084

She can probably advise you, but I suspect that on an item like that the government customs people are going to try to hit you for import duties, which will be substantial.

There is a new license fee requirements for boat operators, but as I understand it this rule does not apply to small inflatable boats. But in Belize, who knows?

--Lan

Q: After reading several of your posts on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree and
visiting your Web site I figure you are probably the best person to ask! Myself (definitely) and a couple of friends (possibly) plan to visit Belize over Xmas/New Year. Two of us live in Spain so would be looking at flying from here, the other friend lives in London. I'm not sure what the best way to travel is, i.e. either via Miami or Houston in the States or someone has suggested Mexico and travelling overland into Belize. Obviously with the recent attacks on the U.S. those routes may be disrupted or even cancelled.

Also, as none of us have visited Belize and will all be on tight budgets, a listing of cheap accommodations would be really useful. We want to see the Mayan ruins, do some jungly things and (especially me) dive a lot. Are there any cheap, idyllic cayes to base ourselves on with dive facilities. There is no way we could afford some of the dive lodges I've seen advertised on the web. I'm sorry if these are mundane questions that you receive all the time but I hope you don't mind helping.

P.S. I am a freelance photo-journalist so will want to take some nice pictures also.

Jacqueline Roberts
Spain


The cheapest way to Belize from Europe usually is to fly on a charter to Cancun, Mexico. From there it is less than five hours by bus to the Mexico/Belize border at Chetumal. Mexican buses are very nice. From Chetumal, you can take a Belize bus to anywhere on the mainland of Belize. There are ferries from Belize City to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, and to Caye Caulker; there also is a ferry from Corozal Town to San Pedro. At this time, none of these routes has been interrupted or changed due to the recent terrorist events.

There are plenty of inexpensive, safe, clean hotels in Belize, especially on Caye Caulker, Tobacco Caye, Corozal Town, San Ignacio and Placencia Village. Our Web edition of BELIZE FIRST, under Recommended Lodging, (http://www.belizefirst.com/bfhotrec.html) lists our recommendations for hotels in all price ranges, including budget ("C"). Here are some budget/low-moderate hotels (most under US$25 or $30 a night for two) that we especially recommend. These are not the cheapest but they are among the best:

Corozal Town: International Cozy Corners Guesthouse, Marvirton Guesthouse

San Ignacio Area: Aguada Hotel, Martha's Guesthouse

Hopkins: Tipple Tree Beya Inn

Placencia: Manatee Inn, Tradewinds, Deb & Dave's Last Resort

Caye Caulker: Trends Beachfront, Tree Tops, Tom's, Tina's Bak-Pak Hostel

Ambergris Caye: Ruby's

PG: Tate's Guesthouse

Enjoy Belize!

--Lan

Q: My husband and I have been to Cozumel the last several years in November. We love the laid back feel Cozumel has to offer. We stay at the Presidente so that we can snorkel off the beach. We aren't interested in all-inclusive resorts. This year we're considering Belize as hour 7 night destination in November. I would LOVE to hear your suggestions. We aren't interested in "bright lights" but like nice accomidations...preferrably on the beach. I saw a comment you made about not wanting to stay at one place the entire visit...if you don't mind...would you give me some suggestions and guidance?

Crystal Featherston


A: I've only been to Cozumel a few times, first about 25 years ago and then a few times in the last few years. There are many differences between Coz and Belize. One is that in general Belize does not have the "Americanized" development of Coz -- the many cruise ships, the American franchised clubs, the large hotels and timeshare touts.

Also, of course, Belize is a country, not an island. So there's a much larger variety of places to go, cultures, ecosystems, and so on. The closest thing to Coz in Belize is Ambergris Caye, though in some ways Ambergris is more like Coz 25 years ago than Coz today. Mostly sand streets, more bikes and golf carts than cars, no building higher than three stories.

Since you like Cozumel, I'd suggest you start by looking at Ambergris Caye. The AmbergrisCaye.com Web site is a wealth of information -- thousands of pages of information. My Fun, Free & Easy Guide to Ambergris Caye (get to it from the home page of our Web edition of Belize First at http://www.belizefirst.com) may also be a good resource, as it rates most of the hotels and restaurants on the island and provides ad-free information on tours, diving, snorkeling etc. There are a number of very nice condotels on Ambergris, small condos that rent rooms to hotel guests. Among the best are Banana Beach, The Palms, Banyan Bay, Paradise Villas and Mayan Princess. There are many small inns and hotels, virtually all beachfront. Prices are similar to those in Cozumel, though lower off-season.

Then you might also look at Placencia, which is even less developed than Ambergris Caye. www.Placencia.com is a good starting point. My book, Guide to Mainland Belize, has a lengthy chapter on Placencia, but we have not put this on the Web. The top places in Placencia include Inn at Robert's Grove, Blancaneaux's Turtle Inn, Kitty's, Nautical Inn, Rum Point Inn, among others.

Of course much of the interest in Belize is because of its Maya ruins, rainforests, caving and other activities which are in the interior, not on the cayes or coast. I have put a few of the Mainland Belize chapters on our Web edition at www.belizefirst.com in Adobe Acrobat pdf format for free downloading.

Good luck!

--Lan

Q: I'm currently planning a 5 week trip of the Yucatan peninsula and was
hoping to pick your brain for info on the Belize-leg of the trip. We're
planning to spend about 14 days in Belize and will be arriving and
departing via Chetumal. We're hoping to spend time both on Caye Caulker and
in the Cayo district. Which area would you advise to visit first? Are there
any "must-sees" that should not be missed under any circumstances (whether
in these two areas or elsewhere)? Should we be thinking about visiting
Placencia or Hopkins? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Sarah Power


A: As to which you visit first, Caulker or Cayo, that's entirely personal preference. You'll likely go to Belize City either way, to catch a water taxi or to hook up with a Cayo bus. There is now a ferry most days at 6 a.m. from Corozal Town (leaving from the Tony's/Corozal Bay Inn dock) to San Pedro, and from there you can take a ferry/water taxi to Caulker. If you've been spending most of your time on the water in the Yucatan, you may want a change and go inland to Cayo.

As to must-sees in Cayo, certainly caving would be at the top of the list. There are four or five great caves accessible via tours. There are three butterfly farms in Cayo -- Green Hills is the best. On Caulker there's not much to do except for snorkel/dive trips to the reef or longer ones to the atolls. Hol Chan marine reserve including Shark Ray Alley is a good snorkel trip. You might check our Web edition of Belize First and downloand the free chapter on Cayo from my book, Guide to Mainland Belize. There also are a few other chapters available for free download in Adobe Acrobat pdf format. Also, my Belize Book of Lists ranks all the must-sees all over Belize. It can be downloaded as shareware.

As to Hopkins and Placencia, I like them both -- just depends on how much time you have in Belize. You probably don't need to do both. The beaches are somewhat similar. There are a lot more restaurant and hotel choices in Placencia, but Hopkins is an interesting, friendly Garifuna village that is well worth seeing.

Happy travelin’!

--Lan

Q: My fiancee and I are considering Belize for our Honeymoon. We are interested in staying for two weeks and traveling to maybe 3 or 4 different places. I did something similar in Costa Rica a couple years ago with some buddies and had a blast. However that was more of an "adventure" than I think my future wife would enjoy. Is traveling via rental vehicle safe in Belize? And can you give me 3 or 4 locations that would be decent for a laid back but safe and comfortable honeymoon. We don't want the all inclusive resort feel, but would like the accommodations to be nice. I would be interested in visting both the beaches and the interior of Belize. Thank you for your time.

Kris


A. Yes, travel by rental car in Belize is as safe or safer than Costa Rica. I've traveled to nearly every corner of Belize by car over a period of 10 years and have never had a problem, other than an occasional flat tire. I recommend Budget as the best car rental agency, but Crystal, Thrifty and Hertz also are good.

Four areas you might consider for your honeymoon are:

Ambergris Caye, the most popular destination in Belize -- it has a Caribbean island atmosphere, with lots of small hotels, good restaurants and plenty of things to do, but the streets are still mostly sand and the main form of transportation is still golf carts or walking. I recommend Banana Beach and Fountain Blue Hotel as two moderately priced but nice accommodations.

Cayo District around San Ignacio -- this is the best place in Belize to see ruins, go caving, go canoeing on a river, visit butterfly farms and hike. I recommend Ek' Tun as a great honeymoney lodge, and also duPlooy's, Chaa Creek and Green Heaven.

Placencia -- this peninsula on the southern coast has 16 miles of beach, a range of hotels from budget to deluxe, good restaurants, two small villages (one Creole and one Garifuna) and a very laid-back atmosphere. I recommend Inn at Robert's Grove and Kitty's. Alternatively you could stay in the Hopkins/Sittee area, which is somewhat like Placencia but smaller. I recommend Hamanasi.

Corozal -- this is a little visited part of Belize, next to Mexico in the north, but comfortable, friendly, safe and cheap. I recommend Casablanca Hotel in Consejo.

More information about all these areas and hotels is available on our Web edition of Belize First.

--Lan


Q: What an interesting website. Here are my questions, and I hope I am not being redundant. I am seriously thinking of a trip to Belize but we are not divers nor are we snorklers. We are to just looking to hang out and swim, not have to worry about anything. My kids love calm water and swimming in big pools. Hubby likes hanging out and soaking up atmosphere. I just want to get away from New York. Is Belize for us? Can we drink the water? We went to the Dominican Republic last year and although we had a good time, we did get very sick in spite of all our precautions. Is Belize kid friendly? My girls are 11 and 7.

Patty



A: I believe Belize, especially Ambergris Caye, will be perfect for you and your family. My kids, now 17 and 12, have always enjoyed this island. They like the fact that they can walk safely around San Pedro Town, that everything is casual (tee-shirts and shorts are okay even in the best restaurants), that golf carts are the main form of transporation, and that there's a lot to do, from trips out to the reef to hanging out in town to day trips to the mainland.

Some of the family-friendly condotels and hotels with nice swimming pools are Villas at Banyan Bay (this condotel is excellent for families, with two-bedroom units, a nice beach and a very large pool), Paradise Villas, Banana Beach, SunBreeze and Belizean Shores.

Yes, you can drink the water in most places in Belize, including Ambergris Caye. The standards of health and hygiene, especially in tourist areas, are pretty high. I won't say that there has never been a case of someone getting an upset stomach, but it doesn't happen routinely. Belize is not Mexico or the Dominican Republic.

--Lan

Q: I am trying to decide what would be the best place for 2 adults and 3 teenagers to stay on Ambergris Caye. I would like as nice as beach as possible. It doesn't have to be huge, but I'm a little leary of hearing about sea grass. The photos all look great of the beaches. I'm not
sure how I would feel walking into weedy water. Ramon's Village looks interesting - how far away from town? I like the prices at the Banana Beach

Marguerite


A: Most beaches on Ambergris Caye do have some seagrass -- it's the barrier reef which is a wonderful resource for sealife but it does reduce the wave actions which creates wide sandy beaches and dead sea floors. For a family, I'd highly recommend Villas at Banyan Bay -- they have only two bedroom suites, a nice big pool and a good beach. It's a few hundred feet toward town from Banana Beach. Another good family place is Sunset Beach, farther south -- they have new three bedroom condos. Ramon's is fine -- a little pricey for what you get but it is close to town, just a couple of hundred yards. Pretty good beach and a small pool. If you stay there, you'd need to spring for one of the large suites.

You’ll enjoy la isla bonita!

--Lan


Q: I have read recently of the damage to the pine forest, and since we were planning on staying at Blancaneaux Lodge next spring we are reconsidering whether that is a good idea. What do you believe to be the impact of the problem on the region, particularly at resorts such as Blancaneaux? Will they just need to thin out a few dead trees or will their cabanas now be surrounded by tree stumps once the clean-up work ends? Would you still invest the time and money to include three nights at Blancaneaux as part of a ten day vacation? Thanks for your insight.

Terry Root


A: Frankly the impact is considerable. Pine Ridge Lodge, for example, is now surrounded just by dead tree stumps. However, Blancaneaux, because it has extensive land-scaping and plantings of various kinds of trees, is less impacted than the other three lodges in the Pine Ridge. In the late spring, in the "dry season" there also is the consideration of forest fires. Fires potentially will be worse than ever due to the dead trees. Keep in mind, though, that the Mountain Pine Ridge region encompasses several ecosystems, not just the pine ridge. In the adjoining Chicquibul wildnerness and Maya Mountains you have broadleaf jungle, not mountain pines. Blancaneaux remains a convenient base for exploring these areas including Caracol.

--Lan

Q: Friends of mine are looking for affordable accommodations for 2 months
for a villa/condo with a full kitchen. They are 41 & 46 and stayed
in Puerto Aventuras last year for Jan & Feb. Should you have any referrals for Belize or Costa Rica it would be greatly appreciated. My wife and I usually visit for a couple of weeks where they go.

Steve Bryant


A: The main area for short-term (under three months) rentals in Belize is Ambergris Caye. There are many private homes and condos which can be rented by the week or month. However, they do tend to be pretty expensive, especially in-season. One of the nicest condos is Banana Beach (banana@btl.net), which starts I think at about US$1200 a month. Caye Management is the company in San Pedro which has the most rentals. Barrier Reef Drive, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Phone: +501-26-3077 Fax: +501-26-2831 Email cayeman@btl.net. Another company is Ambergris Seaside Real Estate and Rentals, (Sue Wiesing and Charles Payne), P.O. Box 163, Barrier Reef Drive, San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye. tel. 501 26 4223; email: seaside@btl.net, www.ambergris-seaside-realestate.com. Also, there are some private rentals advertised on www.ambergriscaye.com.

There are also some rentals in Placencia. Kitty's Place (Kitty's is being sold so this may change) manages several rental houses. Also, Barnacle Bill's has two really nice one-bedroom houses on stilts in Maya Beach. You can check on www.placencia.com for information on these and other rentals.

My favorite place for longer-term stays in Belize is off the beaten tourist track -- Corozal and Consejo in northern Belize. Consejo Shores development (Bill Wildman, Belize Lands, blzland@btl.net) occasionally has some rentals.

There also are a few rentals in the Hopkins/Sittee Point area.

Bring the suntan lotion!

--Lan

Q: I am trying to take a short trip to Belize with my 13-year-old daughter. I have not made hotel reservations because I work for an airline and will be flying standby, so I am not sure on what day I will be arriving or leaving. Do you have any suggestions on where I can stay (as cheap as possible) on a moments notice? Where would I find out about horse back riding in the jungle or beach?

Katherine


A: You didn't say when you planned to go to Belize, but assuming it is not at Christmas, Easter or other holiday period, you should be able to find accommodations most anywhere without advance reservation.

Please see our Web site (click on recommended hotels) for our current recommendations on the best accommodations in all price ranges and in all parts of Belize. You might also download our Belize Book of Lists, which is shareware, for recommendations of the 10 best in nearly every category.

For horseback riding, Banana Bank Lodge near Belmopan and Mountain Equestrian Trails near San Ignacio are the two best places. However, quite a few lodges in Cayo (western Belize) offer some kind of horseback riding, including Chaa Creek, duPlooy's and others.

Ridemcowgirl!

--Lan

Q: We have reserved flights into Belize City in mid-March for one week for our family of five, along with our friends, another family of five; all with teenagers. Our sons love to bonefish and fly fish. We think we want to stay on Ambergris Cay. We are considering staying in villas at Captain Morgan's that have kitchens. Being away from town sounds good to us, although still having San Pedro easily accessible is important. That way, the kids can go there to do what they want and we'll have things available. Do you have an opinion on Capt Morgan's? It seems to be a good price and the website makes it look like what we want, staying directly on the beach, a nice place...thank you very much for your help.

Melinda.

A: Captain Morgan's gets somewhat mixed reviews. I've stayed there and liked it, but changes since then have not all been positive. The pluses: The condo units are attractive, the pool is nice, and the beach setting is pleasant.

With teenagers, I would question whether you really want to be on North Ambergris. It's a boat ride from town -- a water taxi is minimum US$5 one-way per person, so it really adds up, and it gets to be a bit of a pain waiting for the taxi and going back and forth, especially after dark. I know my teenagers much prefer to be nearer town.

My recommendation would be to look at some of the condotels south of town: Villas at Banyan Bay has beautiful two-bedroom units, a great pool and it's on a nicer beach than Captain Morgan's. It gets a lot of families. My family stayed there about three weeks ago, and we all thought it was fantastic. Banana Beach is a great value, but it has only one-bedroom units. Sunset Beach a bit farther south is building new three-bedroom units -- really nice if you need the space.

All of these are far enough south of town that it's handy to have a golf cart, though you can walk to town, and there are some restaurants nearby. The Palms, which has one- and two bedroom units, is closer to town.

Smell the salt air!

--Lan

Q: We have the opportunity to spend 3 to 4 weeks in Belize. We would like to
stay in a cabin or cottage independant of a resort. Is there an affordable
way to accomplish this? Are there private rentals available?

T.V. Schilling


A: Yes, there are condos, houses, cabins and apartments for short-term rental in Belize. The area with the largest number of these is Ambergris Caye. Here, "condotels" are a good option. Among the recommended condotels on the island are Paradise Villas, Banana Beach, The Palms and Mayan Princess, with rates for a one-bedroom unit starting at about US$85 a night off-season. If you want a house, there are several real estate agencies that offer weekly or monthly rentals on Ambergris Caye, including Caye Management. Prices start at around US$500 a week off-season. Sometimes individual house or condo owners also offer short-term rentals. You might post your request on the message board on AmbergrisCaye.com.

Caye Caulker has a few furnished apartments for short-term rental. Among these are M&M Apartments and Heredia Apartments. All the hotels on Caulker are small, and you can get a clean cabin or room on a weekly or monthly basis from about US$100 a week.

Placencia also has an increasing number of vacation cabins and houses. Among these are two attractive seafront cabins on stilts at Barnacle Bill's in Maya Beach. Kitty's (the hotel) also manages several houses in and near Placencia. Secret Garden is a small two-bedroom house in the village, privately owned, that is usually available for rent. Some small resorts have waterfront cabins that can be rented on a weekly or monthly basis, especially off-season. These include Tradewinds and Harry's in Placencia village. A few rentals are also available in Hopkins.

The cheapest place in Belize for rentals (except for rural villages) is Corozal Town. However, generally you'll need to be there in person to arrange rentals.

Most of the places mentioned above have Web sites and can be researched through a search engine such as Google.

Please Belize me!

--Lan

Q: What can you tell us about the Five Sisters Falls & Lodge as well as the
Hamanasi Dive & Adventure Resort. Our travel agent wasn't able to get us into the Chan Chich lodge or others that she said were most desirable so has suggested these to us. We'd like to
spend a few days in the jungle and a few days on the water. We have two
boys, 14 and 17 and although they don't mind roughing it, their parents like
their comfort. My wife likes little fancy shampoos in the showers. Hope you
can help us out.

Brooks and Josh Brand


A: I have visited Five Sisters on a number of occasions, though I have not stayed there (I have stayed several times nearby, at Blancaneaux, and I stayed at Hamanasi about a month ago.
Both are very good places. Five Sisters, which is Belizean owned, has a beautiful setting on the Privaison River with waterfalls and nicely landscaped grounds. The service and food are usually pretty good. The only small drawback now is that the pine beetle infestation in the Mountain Pine Ridge has killed most of the pine trees in the area, though there is still a lot to see and do. In my guide to Mainland Belize, I rate Five Sisters three stars.

If you want a recommendation on a truly great lodge, I'd recommend Ek 'Tun, in a lush jungle setting on the Macal River. However, they only have two cabanas and may be full at Christmas. I give it four stars plus.

Hamanasi I really enjoyed. The units are much nicer than I had expected. We stayed in a suite, which I recommend, but there also are "tree houses" -- small suites back from the beach, and regular rooms. There's a beautiful pool, a nice little beach and a good dive operation. The food is good and not as expensive as at some other resorts. The owners are still getting some of the kinks out of their operation -- for example our air conditioning wasn't working well -- but overall it is excellent. I give it four stars.

The surf ‘n turf is great in Belize!

--Lan

Q: Can you tell me honestly if there is anyplace on the reef or cayes that does not have a bug problem. We loved our two trips to Belize. But the bugs have absolutely killed me. Any suggestions would be of great help as we are about to plan a trip the first week in December.

Kathleen Stephens


A: Guess it depends on where and when you go. I just got back from an extended trip throughout Belize with my family, and we had almost zero bug problems. The only places where we needed Off for mosquitos was at Cerros ruins in northern Belize and at Blue Creek in Toledo district.

There are almost no bugs in Cayo district.

Ambergris Caye has few mosquitos in and around San Pedro town, or on the water anywhere, and sandflies are a problem only on North Ambergris. There are sandflies on Caulker, in a lot of coastal areas and on quite a few of the cayes, though I find them worse in South Carolina. As long as the wind is blowing, on the coast and cayes mosquitos are rarely a problem.

Keep buzzing!

--Lan

Q: This assumes we do Ambergris Caye and find a place for all 7 nights. Our needs
are, roughly in order: kitchen (I'm a vegan and love to cook), close to
town (like to be near some life), not under construction, quiet (is this
waaay contrary to 'close to town'?), air conditioning, and a pool. We don't
need to dive all with one outfit, but that may work best for price. We're
not cheap but we'd like to do this as reasonable as possible. I have looked
at the following:
- Caribbean Villas
- Corona del Mar
- Belizean Reef
- Paradise Villas Beachfront Suites
- The Palms
- Spindrift
The question is: what do you recommend and am I missing any?


A: I would rate the condotels and hotels you list in this order, from best down:

The Palms
Belizean Reef
Caribbean Villas
Paradise Villas
Carona del Mar
Spindrift

Note, however, that of these only the Palms and Paradise Villas have pools. If you don't need a pool, Mayan Princess in the middle of town is pleasant and a good value. Wouldn't worry about noise -- even the places in town are pretty quiet.

Bottom line would be that The Palms most closely meets all your needs, though it's among the most expensive of your options.

All things considered, the best value condotel on the island is probably Banana Beach, with beautiful one-bedroom suites with kitchens at around US$100 a night or less off-season. It's 1 3/4 miles south of town. For families that need more space, Villas at Banyan Bay with gorgeous two bedroom units is hard to beat.

Enjoy the snorkeling!

--Lan

Q: I am visiting Belize with a friend very shortly and I would appreciate very much if you could
give me some advice. I am having a very difficult time deciding on a place to stay in Cayo. Many of them are very expensive or limited in their activities. I would not mind spending the money but I'll only be in Cayo for about 3-4 days and then staying at Ambergris for a week (will probably take a dive package). These are the activities that I would like to do while in Cayo: cave tubing, Barton Creek Cave canoeing, Mountain Pine Ridge tour, Guatemala shopping (maybe). So far, I've been wavering between Five Sisters, Casa Maya, and Aguada Hotel. Five Sisters has the best accomodations and quality service/staff but their 4-5 day package will cost $675/person! That's a lot of $ to spend for only 4-5 days. Also, what about this pine beetle infestation problem in Pine Ridge? I don't really understand it and does this pose a danger to travelers?

Alison Chin


A: Aguada is highly recommended. Best value in Cayo -- air conditioned room for US$25 double, and there's a pool. It is not in the bush though. It's located in Santa Elena which is just next door to San Ignacio. They can arrange all types of tours, but they are somewhat expensive.

I do not recommend Casa Maya.

Five Sisters is great.

The pine beetle infestation is no danger to travelers at this time (in the dry season next year the dead wood could cause a rise in forest fires). But it is unsightly, with thousands of acres of dead trees. If you want more of a bush experience at a moderate cost, you might look at the Macal River camp at Chaa Creek -- US$50 per person including meals. Very nice setting on the Macal River. Another good budget lodge choice is Clarissa Falls, though it is on a cattle ranch rather than in deep bush and is on the Mopan River.

--Lan

Q: We have a series of questions: We are particularly interested in Maya culture and nature (waterfalls, caves, animals etc.). What are the best spots in the northern part of Belize? I have read a lot about mozzies. How bad is it on the Cayes and how bad in the mainland jungle? (They can't possibly be worse than in our
back yard this summer.) We are not sure if we should take malaria prophylaxsis or not. We have traveled Southeast Asia and have never taken any prophylaxsis but always took precautions not to get bitten. In addition we always carried Lariam just in case. Would you say it is absolutely necessary to take
something in advance? How high is the risk of catching something and what regions are the most dangerous? We plan on traveling light and staying in budget accommodations. On the 14 day tour you have suggested in your book, are there inexpensive hotels/hostels/backpackers/etc. to stay along the way? What can we expect and how much would a night per person be in US$? How do you keep on top of the weather situation? What's the best way to know about upcoming storms (If you are in the middle of the jungle)?



A: For Maya ruins, Lamanai, Xunantunich and Caracol. For caves, the area around San Ignacio (Cayo). For animals, the Lamanai area, Crooked Tree, the Gallon Jug/Chan Chich aream Programme for Belize lands, plus the Belize Zoo.

On the cayes and coast, mosquitoes usually are not bad at all, as long as the offshore wind is blowing and if you do not get too far back away from the water and the breeze. There are very few mosquitoes in Cayo district. In swampy areas and in the far south there can be a lot of mosquitoes.

Malaria is present in Belize, and the incidence in Belize is actually one of the highest in the region and indeed the world on a per capita basis. As a practical matter, most of the cases are among immigrant groups or among people who live in remote bush areas especially in the far south or southwest. If you are going to be in the bush a lot, it is probably good insurance to take prophylaxsis. It is not necessary to take Larium -- chloroquine, which has been around a long time and is safer and less expensive, is sufficient in Belize.

Don’t expect hostels per se in Belize -- there is one on Caye Caulker, Tina’s Bak-Pak Hostel -- but there are inexpensive hotels in most areas, especially Caye Caulker, Placencia village, San Ignacio and Corozal Town. About US$25 double (US$12.50 per person) plus 7% hotel tax will get you a safe, clean room in most areas. One of my newer books, Belize First Guide to Mainland Belize, provides listings for most of these hotels on the mainland. In this price range: In San Ignacio, I particularly recommend Aguada and Martha's; in Corozal Town, International Cozy Corners (just opened); in Placencia, Manatee Inn and Trade Winds; on Caye Caulker, Tree Tops, Tom's, Trends Beachfront and Jaguar Morning Star Guesthouse; on Ambergris, Ruby's. In Belize City, reasonably safe places include Seaside Guest House and Downtown Guest House.

To keep in touch with the weather and news, the best thing is to carry a portable radio, preferably with short wave. In towns and villages, most people (and hotels) will have television and Internet access.

Happy trails!

--Lan

Q: My hubby and I are planning a trip to Belize in February. We have 6 days, arriving at about 3:30 on a Friday. Thought we would spend 1st night in BC, than head up to Pine Ridge area for next couple of days, possible horseback riding, then back to Cayes. We're budget minded, having been Peace Corps volunteers in Grenada a decade ago, but also want to enjoy our time without kids in decent conditions. Looking for recommendations on where to stay and how to get there without costing mega $$$. Is it advisable to take boat from BC to Cayes or jusy fly it? Should we skip the night in BC and simply go straight to a Caye or up to Pine Ridge? Not planning on renting a car. Your advice is very much appreciated. Also, FYI, we're both civil engineers. My area is solid waste disposal (garbage) and hubby's is transportation. Having dealt with these issues on Grenada and in El Salvador, we're always interested to see how things are handled outside the U.S.

Deb McDonald, Blue Earth, Minn.


A: I would say just skip the night in Belize City, unless your flight is delayed, and consider going first to the cayes. The last ferry to Caye Caulker (Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association at the Marine Terminal in Belize City) is at 5 p.m., but the last to San Pedro is at 3. It's easier to fly from International but costs more, around US$50 one-way from International versus $12.50 by boat or US$25 from the Municipal airport. To get from International to Municipal you have to take a taxi, which is US$17.50.

If you need to stay over in Belize City, I highly recommend Colton House.

If you want to go to the Mountain Pine Ridge, you may not able to get there in the afternoon with your flight arriving so late in the day, unless you rent a car. You can get to San Ignacio (El Cayo) by bus (about three hours, US$3, though you will have to take a taxi into Belize City first, US$17.50, or hike out to the highway and catch a bus into Belize City) or van (US$25 per person) but there is no bus service into the Pine Ridge. You could stay overnight in San Ignacio - the Aguada Hotel, US$25 for A/C room, is recommended. They also run a van service from the international airport and can arrange tours in Cayo. However, you really will be better off renting a car, in my opinion. It will actually save you money when you add the cost of airport transportation, tours, etc. Plus you will see a lot more. I recommend Budget, Thrifty or Crystal. Note that the pine beetle infestation in the Pine Ridge has devastated large tracts of the mountain pine there.

Have a great trip!

--Lan

Q: I'm going to Belize/Ambergris Caye to attend a wedding in November.
It's being held at the Sundiver Resort. Can you please give me any information/opinions on this resort re:
rooms/rates/food/etc.

Carmen Woolsey

A: Sundiver is a resort about 4 1/2 or 5 miles north of San Pedro Town. To get there, you have to take a water taxi or other boat from San Pedro. It opened a couple of years ago; it was formerly another property which Sundiver took over. It's owned by a Canadian family. It got a bit of publicity when it hosted part of the crew for the "Temptation Island" TV show.

Sundiver does mostly group packages. It's not the cheapest place on the island, or the best value, but we get mostly positive reviews of the place. Rates are all over the place, due to the packages, but are mostly in the US$200-$300 a day range, double, including activities and most meals.

You can get a lot of information from the resort's Web site at www.sundiverbeachresort.com.

--Lan

Q: I am planning a trip to Belize in October. I am on a moderate to low budget. So far I have decided to visit both Placencia & Caye Caulker. I am looking for rest, relaxation, solitude, and beautiful beaches with
the option for jungle day trips. My questions are: Have I chosen wisely (Placencia & Caye Caulker)? Do you have any recommendations for places to stay? Will I be safe as a single female traveler? Should I go with a travel-agent or book everything myself?

Susan



A: Placencia Village and Caye Caulker are both excellent budget destinations. Neither have truly beautiful beaches by the standards of the Caribbean, but they aren't bad. Neither place offers a lot of solitude, but then neither is crowded or overdeveloped.

On Caulker in the budget/low moderate category I highly recommend Tree Tops and Chocolate's. I also recommend Tom's, Anchorage, Shirley's, Tropical Jaguar Moon and Lazy Iguana B&B, among others. In Placencia village I highly recommend Tradewinds and Manatee Inn. I also recommend Seaspray, Deb & Dave's, Ranguana Inn, Coconut Cottages among others.

Yes, you will be safe as a single female traveler in Belize. Just follow standard traveler’s precautions.

You should book everything yourself, preferly via e-mail.

Enjoy your trip!

--Lan

Q: My girlfriend and I would like to know what is the best cheap hotel or guesthouse in Belize City. We are Canadian and are preparing for a long trip in Belize.

Olivier

A: I would say the best (safe, clean, well-run) budget hotel in Belize City is Seaside Guest House at 3 Prince Street on the South Side. A little cheaper and good is Downtown Guest House at 5 Eve Street, on the North Side. Freddie's and North Front Street Guest House also are okay and clean. For a complete list of recommended budget hotels (and other hotels, too) see our Recommended Hotels in Belize on our Web edition.

--Lan

 

Q: I would like to visit Belize in the end of this month.I am planing my vacation for 4-5
days in there. First of all I would like to stay in a hotel next to the beach and spend around US$30-40. I would like to rent a car and visit world-class jungle. I like to
dive and want to try it in Belize. Would you be so kind and give me a direction in all of
the above things I want to do. I have no other resource and I have no time to search.

Dmitriy Daraselia


A: You won't have time to do all you want in just four or five days. Belize may be a small country, but it takes a lot of time to get from one place to another.

For cheap beachfront lodging, you'll want to go to Caye Caulker, Placencia Village or perhaps Tobacco Caye. Check out Web edition of BELIZE FIRST for specific budget hotel recommendations. You can dive from any of these areas.

For a jungle experience on the cheap, you might want to spend some time at Cockscomb Preserve. The rooms there are clean and well within your budget. It’s unlikely you will see a jaguar, you might hear one or at least see its tracks. There also are some nice budget lodges in Cayo, including Clarissa Falls, the cheaper digs at Ian Anderson’s and duPlooy’s, Crystal Paradise and the Macal River Camp at Chaa Creek.

If you spend a little time doing research, you'll get a lot more from your Belize experience and will save money besides.

--Lan


DIVING BELIZE

Q. Can you tell me what the average water temperature is, on a monthly basis, for the dive sites near Belize? I'd like to plan a dive trip to Belize in 2002 but our group really likes the warmest water we can find to dive in!

Mark Morkovsky,
Salida, Colorado

A. For a normal year, there is very little variation in water temperature offshore Belize. It is generally around 80 degrees, being warmest July through October.

Here are monthly water temps near Ambergris Caye. Other areas would be similar:

Jan 80
Feb 79
Mar 80
Apr 82
May 83
June 83
Jul 83
Aug 84
Sep 84
Oct 84
Nov 81
Dec 80

--Lan

 

Q: We have heard the atolls are great diving, the Blue Hole is overrated, and
that diving near San Pedro is not as good as the atolls. We don't really
want to move around too much accomodations wise, though. We are thinking
Ambergris Caye for the entire stay, taking boats out to the atolls for
diving. We would also consider doing this liveaboard if we can book a "last
minute" deal, otherwise we are flexible on boat vs. plane and would
consider doing both to get out then back to International. Question #1:
What are your thoughts of this plan? Do you have any specific
recommendations for/against what I've outlined? Should I consider other
places besides AC?



A: Most people would agree with your impressions about diving. For serious divers, who only want to dive, eat, sleep and dive, a liveaboard or a stay at one of the remote lodges at Turneffe, Lighthouse or Glovers (Manta Reef, Lighthouse Reef Resort, Turneffe Lodge, Turneffe Flats, etc.) would probably be the way to go. Ambergris Caye is a bit like Cozumel (Coz of 20 years ago) in that it offers a good deal for the non-diver, such as restaurants, bars, a little shopping. Most of the diving close to Ambergris is recreational diving. Getting to the atolls from Ambergris is a pretty long and expensive trip, however. Quite a few divers also stay at St. George's Caye, near Belize City, though it's not much different in terms of distance from the atolls.

Q: Ciao, I'm from Italy but now I'm working in Mexico City . I love diving and I knew that Belize is one of the best place. I would like to know from you a good hotel neare to a good dive place, because I would ld like to spend my summer holiday there. Thanks in advanced for all the informations you'll send me.

Matteo


A: Yes, there are literally dozens of good hotels near good diving areas. I'd suggest you look at the many Web sites on Belize, specifically for the following areas:

Ambergris Caye
Caye Caulker
Placencia
Hopkins/Sittee Point
Tobacco Caye
Turneffe
Glover's Reef
Lighthouse Reef
Southwater Caye
St. George's Caye

All of these areas have hotels and are near good diving.

Get wet!

--Lan

Q: I am very impressed with the information on your website, but I still have a
couple questions I hope you can answer. My fiancée and I are planning on spending a week in Belize at the beginning of January next year . Right now, we are trying to decide on
accommodations. Due to our short time, we are planning to focus entirely on
the beach/snorkeling options rather than trying to cram too much into the
week. She has been leaning towards a more "budgety" option in Caye Caulker,
but I have seen a couple descriptions that make me a little wary (Rasta
Island, backpackers haven, etc.). Is there any truth to these descriptions
or is it a case of you can find whatever you're looking for? It's not a
safety concern, but we have done the shoestring budget tours of Europe and
while they were fabulous vacations, if I'm going to paradise, I want to find
a place with a paradise feel rather than just another beach. If there is
paradise to be found on the island, can you tell me what the top end
accommodations on Caulker are (preferably with beach front rooms/cabanas)?

This leads into the second topic. In one of your FAQ's, you stated that
beaches on Caulker were adequate, but not wonderful. Considering that the
beach is supposed to be our main focus, is there a better option on one of
the other cayes in terms of beach quality? Which has the nicest beach?

Lastly then, we are also thinking about taking a SCUBA certification course
while we are down there. Exploring the web, it seems like there is a large
price range for the open water course at different places, especially
between some of the dive shops on Caulker vs. other islands (I've seen $250
to $390). Is this an indication of quality by any means or are there some
dive shops that have a less than spectacular reputation? Also, as I look at
some of the resorts offering dive packages, I haven't seen any type of
package that combines certification for the first part of the week with a
couple days diving at the end. Have you ever heard of something like this?

---Scott Wilks


A: I guess I have to start by saying that if beach quality is a prime consideration, you may want to look at other options rather than Belize. The presence of the great barrier reef just offshore in most areas means that the wave energy necessary for development of wide, sandy beaches with dead sand seafloors is absent in Belize. In Belize, most beaches, including those on Caulker, are fairly narrow, and the seafloor off the beach typically has shallow water, and there is usually a good deal of seagrass on the seafloor.

If you want very nice beaches and pretty good diving, you might look at the Bay Islands of Honduras, mainly Roatan.

But to try to answer your other questions:

Caye Caulker is a very pleasant little budget-level island. There are a handful of Rasta types but there's no hassle factor, and if you want to avoid them, just smile and say no to whatever they offer. The beaches, as noted, are just fair at best. If you want better beaches, but still not world class by any means, then I would suggest Placencia, Ambergris Caye, Tobacco Caye, Ranguana Caye or South Water Caye, or one of the remote atoll areas. With the exception of Ambergris, however, most of these cayes are very small and offer little besides a hotel or two and good diving, fishing and other water activities.

On Caulker, most hotels are budget spots or a little better. the best hotel is Iguana Reef Inn, but it is on the back side and not on the Caribbean. Good, mid-level hotels include Chocolate's, Tree Tops, Seaside Cabanas, Trends Beachfront, Shirley's and the Anchorage.

The reason for the difference in dive certification prices is that Caulker does cater to the budget crowd. You might also find some lower prices in Placencia and on Tobacco Caye. I guess the cheapest dive prices in this part of the world would be on Utila in Honduras.

Keep wet! (whatever that means)

--Lan

Q: My husband and I are staying on Ambergris for 7 nights beginning 23 December.
Our annual holiday is mostly about R & R, but we would like to partake in a couple of activities. Can you recommend or suggest a few 'not to miss' excursions from San Pedro/Ambergris? We normally like to "wing it" once we're settled at our destination, but because we will be traveling during a busy season do you think we should book any tours/trips in advance? I am quite interested in a day trip to the mainland to see ruins and we both enjoy snorkeling and learning about local habitats and cultures.

Rochelle


A: The most popular day trips from Ambergris Caye are the trips to see the Altun Ha ruins, mostly by boat, which usually includes a stop for lunch at Maruba Spa; to Lamanai ruins, a longer trip which includes a boat ride up the New River and New River Lagoon and lunch at Lamanai Outpost Lodge; and day snorkels to surrounding islands, often including a stop at Caye Caulker. There also are tours for cave tubing, usually at Jaguar Paw Lodge, and visits to the Belize Zoo. You can also easily do some of the tours, such as the Belize Zoo, independently, renting a car in Belize City (there's an Avis location at the Muncipal airstrip, and flying to/from Muncipal is about half the cost of flying from International.) Even less is taking a ferry over, although the latest boats coming back are at 3 or 3:30. There is a Hertz rental place in the Ft. George area of Belize City, not too far from where Marine Terminal where most of the boats arrive.

All of these are good. I personally think the trip to Lamanai by Tanisha Tours is excellent -- Lamanai is far more interesting and scenic than Altun Ha, and you will see howler monkeys and many birds, but it is a long, exhausting trip. Tanisha Tours is the tour operator that many people give the highest marks, and it also does the Altun Ha trip. There are many snorkel operators, and most do a good job. SeaDuced by Belize does good kayak trips and also other tours. For birders, there is a good birding trip to Crooked Tree. I was at Crooked Tree Preserve recently and was delighted to see a jabiru stork along with many other birds.

I don't think there's much point in booking tours ahead, as so many things can change between now and Christmas. Weather also is a major factor in deciding which day to do what trips. But if you are concerned, you could contact your hotel or an operator such as Tanisha Tours directly (this and several of the other tour operators have Web pages/ads on www.ambergriscaye.com).

By the way, our new edition of BELIZE FIRST, due out any day now, titled “San Pedro Cool” will be a complete guide to Ambergris Caye.

Have a great trip!


--Lan


Q: The Discovery/Travel Channel (cable tv) aired a program on Belize in which they showed a resort named Ramo's Village, or something simular. Would you know of it? And what recommendations mike you suggest for other resorts to stay at.

John McTigue
Spokane, Washington


A: That would be Ramon's Village, in San Pedro (Ambergris Caye). It is one of the oldest, largest (60 units) and best-known resorts on Ambergris. It has an excellent location, just south of town, a pretty good beach, a nice new (but smallish) pool, a popular bar, and an expensive, not-so-great restaurant. The resort retains some of its original thatch-and-sand ambiance, even though it is getting pretty jammed up now. It just opened an annex across the street, Steve & Becky's Cute Little Hotel, which has, while no sea view, nice Caribbean-style cottages. Some complain that Ramon’s is expensive for what you get and that there are better values on the island.

--Lan


MONEY AND BANKING IN BELIZE

Q: I wonder if you can help me I am trying to organise my tax affairs effectively here in the UK. At the moment I travel for business and am out of the country for nine
months or more. This should allow me to qualify as a non resident of
the UK. However I do not have an address at which I am resident. This
is a flaw which the IR might pick up on. I get classed as a mobile
worker, not non resident. I have a bank account in Belize, an IBC registered in Belize, I have
visited Belize three times this year and am planning a fourth visit, I
may retire in Belize, but for the moment I need an address that I can
give to the IR as my address in Belize and a means of recovering any
mail sent to that address. Any suggestions?

Peter V.
U.K.


A: You might contact Diane Kuylen on Caye Caulker. I'm told she provides a mail box service such as you are looking for. Cost starts at US$100 a year. I believe her e-mail is dianekuylen@hotmail.com, or if that doesn't work try dolphinbay@btl.net.

I know part-time expats who have regular post office boxes in Belize, in Belmopan or Corozal or Belize City. Their mail just stacks up there, until they get back to Belize, or they have someone pick it up for them. The cost is nominal, but in most places there is more demand for boxes than there are boxes, so they are not easy to get. I believe you would have to go to the post office in person to apply for a box.

--Lan


Q: Are there any ATM's in Placencia?

Jerry Cann


A: There is a branch of Atlantic Bank in Placencia village (near the Shell gas station) and a new Scotia Bank office. But you cannot use your foreign-issued ATM card there. ATMs at Belize Bank offices (about a dozen around Belize) now accept foreign ATM cards on the PLUS and CIRRUS networks. In Placencia you should be able to get a cash advance against a bank card at Atlantic Bank for a small fee.

Happy travels!

--Lan

Q: I am an American. I work in Saudi Arabia 11 of 12 months each year. Can I start a Belize bank account from Saudi Ababia, without numerious notary public seals? Also, are there benefits to the non-QRP residency visa's? What are the non-QRP visa type? Can I buy shares in the Central Bank of Belize either as an American or as a Belize Resident?

Shimunek


A: Under new regulations (November 2004) non-residents cannot have accounts in local banks, though banks seems confused about this and some still accept non-resident accounts.   Non-residents can open accounts with Belize offshore banks, or just keep their cash in their hometown bank and access it via withdrawals from Belize Bank ATMs, wire tranfers or otherwise.

No, you can't buy shares in the Central Bank of Belize (or of any central bank that I know of). Central banks are owned by the government or by the banking institutions of the country.

Don’t sweat the small change!

--Lan


Q: I hope you can point me in the right direction. I have been searching for information about banks in Belize and the services they offer, but it seems like the banks are not maintaining a Web presence. I understand they are small, when compared with the banks in the US. More specifically, I am interested in the kinds of services they offer to people who stay in Belize for extended periods (renewing their visas every six months), or who decide to become permanent residents, and need to deposit more than a few hundred dollars (the typical amount of money someone spends on a short vacation in Belize). Ideally, they (the banks) would offer savings accounts (perhaps time deposits) with no mandatory conversion of funds from USD to local currency. I am not interested in the solution of keeping the funds in a US bank and arranging for periodic transfers to a Belize bank (as suggested in the book from Bill and Claire Gray). Perhaps this topic is addressed in your upcoming book, and I shall certainly read it (looking for answers to additional questions I have about living in Belize), once it is published, but I am hoping you can address my specific questions about banking via email.

Alex Kohler


A: The Belize Banks (Belize Bank, Atlantic Bank, Alliance Bank and the two international banks with branches in Belize, ScotiaBank and Barclays) offer the same kinds of services most banks in the U.S., UK, Canada, and elsewhere offer -- checking, CDs, savings, mortgages, loans, etc. U.S. dollar accounts are available, but for the average person it is somewhat difficult to get a U.S. dollar account at a Belize bank -- you likely will either have to accept a Belize dollar account, and the risk associated with that, or do your banking in the U.S., which is what 98% of expats and foreign business owners do. Can't really imagine why you'd want to deposit money in a Belize bank beyond your immediate needs, but it's your money.

--Lan

Q: In connection with the Qualified Retiree Program it is required to deposit $24,000 per year in Belize dollars in a Belize bank. If for instance due to short stays in Belize one is accumulating Belize dollars what is the situation with regards to the following:
(a) Is it possible to convert back to US$?
(b) What is the real estate market like if you pay in Belize dollars?
(c) What is the rate of inflation of the local currency?
(d) What sort of interest rate is possible from local banks?

G. Parry-Jones, Saudi Arabia


A: Just to clarify, if you have a pension or social security the total required for deposit is US$12,000; it is only $24,000 if you are getting that amount from investment income.   (Note this has now changed to US$24,000).

Normally the U.S. and Belize dollars are used interchangeably in commerce within Belize, at a nominal rate of US$1 to 2 BZE$. You can pay in U.S. or Belize dollars, and get change in either currency.

Once your money is in the banking system, it is possible to reconvert to U.S. dollars, but it is not easy. Right now, the government is cracking down on U.S. dollar holders in Belize, especially private money changers. Technically, only banks in Belize can exchange money.

Inflation in recent years has been low, under 3% and there was actually a small deflation in 1999. Bank CD rates are in the range of 4 to 12%, depending on term, amount, etc.

As of now, there is little if any difference between real estate prices in U.S. and Belize dollars. This could change in the future, especially if there is increased demand for U.S. dollars.

Watch out for the sharks!

-- Lan

Q: Wondered if you had any information on St James' National Building Society or St John's Credit Union?

Stella Matthews


A: I'm afraid I don't have much information on these. St. James is fairly new, a couple of years old I think, though St. John's Credit Union has been around in one form or another for many years. Both are set up mainly to serve Belizeans, although non-citizens may in some cases apply for loans and non-residents can make deposits, etc.

I do not know of any expat who has built or financed property through St. James, which is somewhat like an S&L in the U.S. or a building society in the U.K. There may be some, however. I am asking around to see if I can find out more.

In general, one should be cautious when dealing with financial institutions in Belize. They do not operate under the same rules or principles as U.S. institutions. I know of many instances where borrowers learned to their dismay that, say, a loan at 12% actually cost them much more than that, when fees, insurance, and all kinds of other charges were added on. Sometimes the real interest rate is close to double the stated rate.

I know of one case going on right now where an American citizen, a lawyer, borrowed from Belize Bank money to purchase a condo on Ambergris Caye, over a period of 10 years. When the 10-year period was over, the bank claimed that not all payments had been made, and that the American owner actually owed an additional $29,000!

I also recommend that if possible when building or buying in Belize you borrow from a U.S. bank, even if you have to borrow against personal assets in the U.S., or from the seller directly (but be sure your lawyer makes the paperwork ironclad.) That is not to say that you can't successfully do business with a Belize financial institution, but keep your eyes wide open and double check everything. Keep meticulous records of every cent you borrow or pay.

Again, the consumer protections available in the U.S. are often not available in Belize, and especially not to non-Belizeans.

--Lan


LIVING IN BELIZE

Q.   I have read two of your books on Belize, and they were very helpful. And much appreciated.

BUT, I have scheduled to be in Belize in Jan. for three weeks, rented an apt. in Corozal with Charottes help and will travel extensively. My major concern is crime. With the recent change in banking laws, I cannot as a non citizen have a bank account/safety deposit box. I think this encourages criminals to target tourist and investors (non citizens). Even though you may carry travelers checks, that I think enourages you to be murdered in order to cash those same checks (connections) so you will not report the loss. I know you are on the Belizeforum, but the Belizeweb.com paints a very negative picture of Belize, so much so, I may change my trip to another country, with finincial loss. I've already paid for several stays, which I will loose, and my commitment to Charlotte will be honored, if I do change my plans.

Tell me, what is your honest appraisel of visiting Belize as a single person or family, for as a US citizen, I feel I will have "rob me" on my forehead.

R.G.

A:  My response? Your concerns, while not entirely without foundation, are based on some erroneous information and misperceptions.

First, the change in banking laws is still in process. Even the banks don't know what's going on. Some banks continue to open new accounts for non-residents. Existing non-resident banking accounts remain open. Finally, if a non-resident needs a local bank account (and many do not), they can simply open an account with an offbank (most Belize banks have offshore divisions).

Second, there's no need to carry around large amounts of cash or traveler's checks. You can simply go to any Belize Bank office (there's one in Corozal Town) and use your ATM card (on the PLUS or CIRRUS networks) to withdraw funds from your U.S. bank account. Works just like back home. I've used the Belize Bank ATM in Corozal Town myself. Or use credit cards just like anywhere or get a cash advance against a credit card at any bank.

Third, nobody in Belize thinks that with some silly little change in the banking rules that, suddenly, rich gringos are carrying around wads of cash. That's simply not the case and I don't think anyone thinks it is.

Fourth, while there is crime in Belize as anywhere (the U.S. is one of the murder capitals of the world, with an average of 400 murders every WEEK) 99.9% of people who visit Belize find it safe and friendly. That's especially true of Corozal Town, which is a sleepy little town. Sure, there are burglaries and thefts and the occasional violent crime, and that will continue. But news stories naturally present the exception rather than the rule, because that's what new is. Unlike a lot of countries, Belize has a free press and people are allowed to point out the blemishes. You'll find most people in Corozal, expats and local residents, just walking around doing routine things without a thought in the world about crime. My family and I were in Corozal a few weeks ago and felt as always entirely comfortable.

My advice: Go, check it out for yourself. You may like it; you may not. But you won't know until you visit.

If you're this concerned about something you've read on the Web, you're probably going to have issues with any country.


-Lan

 

Q. Has the official amount needed to qualify under the QRPI Act changed? I only have $1,600 in pension income, although I have other resources.

 

A. The official monthly amount has changed, to US$2,000. However, I would not let that dissuade you from pursuing Qualified Retired Person status. For one thing, several types of income can be included in meeting the requirement, including pensions, social security, annuities, savings, investment income, etc. Since you have US$1,600 in pension income, which is considered more stable than investment income which can vary over time, perhaps you can show sufficient other income from a variety of sources to satisfy BTB. The BTB really does want to get as many retirees as possible, so they have an incentive to be flexible.    One retiree in Corozal Town wrote me the following: "BTB does not seem to be actively checking whether people are bringing and depositing money. I have been sending the BTB a copy of my bank book with the annual deposit posted. But other people I talk to say they have not been depositing anything for more than a year and have not heard from   BTB."


Q. Is Belize a place where a 36-year-old Californian (with no kids....who's tired of the rat race) could move and live permanently?  Are there any decent jobs...even at any of the resorts? Is it safe?

 

A.   I guess the answer is:   Possibly.

 

Belize is a small, developing country, with high unemployment especially in rural areas, a population of only 266,000 and the economy of a small town of 30,000 people in the U.S.   Pay scales are much lower than in the U.S., roughly one-fourth to one-third of those in the U.S. for similar jobs.

 

To work in Belize you need a work permit, and, unless self-employed or hired by a Belize company that cannot fill the position with a Belizean, you also need official residency status, which requires you to live in Belize for a full year, leaving for no more than 14 days.

 

The Belize government encourages immigration by people who have money to invest and who can create jobs for Belizeans; it makes it more difficult for others.

 

Having said all that, there are Americans who have come to Belize and have found work fairly easily, mainly in the hotel industry or in real estate sales.   And quite a few Americans have come to Belize and started businesses with some success.

 

Q. When visiting Belize last January I saw a couple of private Air Charter operations using single engine Cessna piston aircraft, usually a 206 or a 210.  I did not see any SIGHTSEEING service as is seen in almost every other tourist destination around the world, especially Hawaii.  Aside from the obvious considerations of Belizean Aviation Regulations (whatever they may be) and the higher cost of fuel compared to say, Florida, what are the first things that come to your mind when you think of such a venture?   Normally such operations are conducted in helicopters, but since Belize is a bit more spread out than say, Maui, when considering the distance from San Pedro to the atoll in Belize, combined with the lower operating cost of a singe engine airplane compared to a helicopter, I wonder if the environment might not be better suited to airplane tours in this case.  Is there already someone doing this and I just didn't see their ad, or is no such service provided, and if so do you see a good reason for its absence? 

 

A.   The two local airlines, Tropic Air and Maya Island Air, have from time to time offered this sort of service, either scheduled or by charter.   One was a "Blue Hole" sightseeing trip from San Pedro out to Lighthouse   Atoll.   I don't think they got very much business, even though the Blue Hole is most impressive when see from the air.   I could be wrong, but I don't foresee much tourist interest in this type of sightseeing.   Scheduled internal flights already provide this opportunity to those who want to see Belize from the air, and most of what Belize offers is best experienced from ground (or sea) level.     Possibly there would be some interest from cruise ship passengers calling on Belize City.

 

Q. Where would be the best place to live in Belize if we should decide to move there? We would prefer something coastal. But as far as economy, away from the crime. And how hard would it be to move there from the U.S.?  

 

A. I recommend you look at the Corozal Town/Consejo Shores area in northern Belize. It is not on the Caribbean, but it is on Chetumal Bay. This is a safe, friendly area, close to Mexico for more extensive shopping and medical care, and it is one of the lowest cost places in Belize.

Q. We have purchased a commercial lot on Long Caye in the Lighthouse Reef
Atoll. We are planning on building a Bed & Breakfast with four units to
rent, an office, and a shared kitchen/living area which we will serve
breakfast. We are not planning on moving to Belize, but hiring Belizean
workers to manage, clean, cook breakfast, work the office, etc. We may
rent out canoes, bikes etc. from the office and may have a small gift shop.

What licenses are required to operate this bed and breakfast? Do we need
work permits even though we will not be doing the work? do we need a hotel
license and do we need to form a Belizean corporation? If we need to do
these, who do we contact to get the paperwork? Do we need a Belize bank
account?

If this is not your area of expertise, do you have contacts which would be
useful?

We understand owner operated businesses are a benefit (we have one in the
US). Unfortunately moving are family to the island and living in Belize are
not an option at this time.

Our original plans were to build a vacation villa for our family and rent it
out when we are not there. We have expanded it so that the villa has
multiple units (4 units, 2 are 12'x 24', 2 are a little larger, + individual
bathrooms). It also will have an office and common area to serve breakfast
(shared kitchen, eating area, sitting area). We have not decided for sure
if we will serve breakfast, or just rent rooms and let people use the common
area on their own. Is it worth the effort to provide breakfast? What about
providing services for arranging diving/fishing/snorkling etc. tours? What
about having canoes, kayaks, bikes either for free use with the room or for
rent? Any need for small gift shop? Other suggestions?

It sounds like you may have some advice for what problems you have
experienced staying in non owner present accommodations. Apart from the
obvious one of owners typically put more care into something than hired
workers, have you seen any specific problems we need to watch out for?

I have stayed in a number of villa accommodations in which the owner was not
present which I thought were successful (although could be more so if were
owner operated). I have only stayed at a few places in Belize ...Paradise
Villas (nice, not owner operated, but have a great GM), Hotel Rio (basic
accommodations, not owner operated, enjoyed stay, but saw a number of easy
improvements), Corona Del Mar (I believe it was owner operated, but the
people I thought were the owners did not know the business as well as some
of the Belizean workers, I am not sure what the issue was there, still
enjoyed stay), Villa Boscardi (obviously owner operated, incredible service
and care), Princess Hotel (not really a good one to compare for this case).
We have stayed at other places in other locations in which no one is present
(they arrange for you to get keys upon arrival and clean between stays).
One of our best vacations was in that arrangement. It is common in Hawaii
to rent vacation rentals in this way. My experiences are far more limited
than yours. Your experiences would be helpful.

I would also like your opinion on the need for air conditioning. Our villa
will be on the beach, on the east side. It should receive tradewinds easily
(when they are present). The island is being geared towards being
environmentally friendly (solar/wind, composting toilets, water catchment,
etc.). We are expecting most clients to be divers or recreational or
sporting fishermen. We are planning to have a slightly upscale caribbean
decor (eg. nice furniture, artwork, linens, etc.). We will be working hard
to design for the accommodations to have maximum efficiency for cooling
(cross and roof ventilation, shading, reflective materials, fans, roof
vents, etc). The original design intent was self sufficient accommodations,
but we have the opportunity to tie into a power generator to supply enough
power to run air conditioning if we want (it may be costly to run and runs
counter to the eco friendly goals). I would assume you have stayed at a mix
of accommodations, varying times of the year, some with and without air.
Any suggestions here?

Cheryl Steinmeyer


A. First, I have some unsolicited advice: Your idea about operating a B&B using hired help is a prescription for trouble. I have visited or stayed at more than 225 hotels in Belize, and I don't think I have found even one where it was operated successfully by an absentee owner. (The exceptions of course are a few of the large hotels or resorts such as the Radisson or Journey's End which can afford to hire a professional GM and staff, but even those tend to suffer in the long run compared with the owner-operated places.)

In general, if you are going to be operating a business in Belize, even if you are not there full-time, you likely will need a work permit, in this case a self-employed work permit and residency status which in most cases are fairly easy to get, assuming that you are making an investment and hiring Belizeans. You will also need a permit, administered through the Belize Tourist Board, to operate a guesthouse or hotel. Often also you need a local approval from the village or town council to operate, but in the case of Long Caye where there is no village I doubt you will need anything. You will probably want to have a Belize bank account so you can pay local bills, wages, etc. However, you should avoid putting much money in this account and instead use a bank account in the U.S. for most transactions. As to the form of business, corporation or whatever, that is up to you. You will probably want to have a Belize attorney. I would suggest starting by contacting the Belize Tourism Industry Association (also joining it) and the BTB and seeking their advice. The BTIA has a Belize Hotel Association division for members who operate hotels.

It's difficult to know how to respond to your specific questions because to me it is still unclear what will happen with Long Caye. There are a lot of plans, a lot of dreams, a lot of lots sold, just as in some other areas of Belize where the real estate guys are active, but I think it will be several years before it's clear what kind of a development it will really be, what actually will get built, how transport to the island will be set up, and how owners and visitors will respond to the island as it evolves.

I do agree that villa rentals or similar can be fine without direct owner involvement. If that's what you end up doing, then it might work. But as I said a B&B without on-site involvement by the owner sounds like a recipe for disaster ... anywhere but in particular in Belize.

Finding a competent, reliable, honest manager won't be easy. There are many well-qualified Belizeans who do a great job in the hospitality business, at all levels, but there is a divide that exists between most people brought up in the U.S. or Canada and most people brought up in Belize that can be surprisingly difficult to cross, despite the apparent similarities of the two cultures. The differences may not be evident at first, but believe me they do exist. Also, finding someone who will leave family and friends and live on a remote island I would think would be a real challenge, especially in the early days.

As to air conditioning: When I first started visiting Belize about 12 years ago air conditioning was fairly rare except in the major properties in Belize City and a few on Ambergris. Now it is virtually universal in those two areas and becoming more and more common elsewhere. I would think that in another 10 years it will be difficult to find a hotel that does not offer it, even at the budget level. Americans, who constitute 70% or more of the Belize tourist market, simply expect it. You look at a place like Luba Hati in Placencia, which was beautifully designed and built, in the highest level of taste, but the owner, an Italian who had lived in New York and then Placencia, felt that neither air conditioning nor a pool were needed. The place was a major failure, despite the beautiful rooms and good food (the owner later added a pool and A/C in some new cottages) and is barely hanging on, being closed for four months of the year. Next door, Robert's Grove, which has owners who understand the U.S. market very well, has done great, even following the hurricane. The bottom line for me on A/C is that you can probably get away with not having it initially, if you cater mostly to divers and anglers, but that eventually it will be a necessity to stay competitive, despite its high cost.

I don't mean to be negative. It may be that your idea will work great. As I say, I think Long Caye and what it becomes is still a question mark, but it's a unique place and it could be something special. But I have seen so many people come to Belize, spend a lot of money on their hotel dream and end up with a failure. As you doubtless know, outside of San Pedro, Belize City and a couple of other areas, hotel occupancy rates in Belize are very low. In remote or less visited areas such as PG or Corozal they are laughable, 15% or so. I just came back from Belize where I stayed at a luxury resort the owner had spent years building. It's really beautiful but it has serious marketing problems and there have probably been less than a dozen paying guests in the first two months of operation, an occupancy rate of about 2%.

Good luck.

--Lan

Q. Where would be the best place to live in Belize if we should decide to move there? We would prefer something costal. But as far as economy, away from the crime. And how hard would it be to move there from the U.S.?

Thank you,

Bshelt@Dav.net


A. I would recommend the Corozal Town/Consejo Shores area in northern Belize. It is not on the Caribbean, but it is on Chetumal Bay. This is a safe, friendly area, close to Mexico for more extensive shopping and medical care, and it is one of the lowest cost places in Belize.

For more information on how to retire/live in Belize, I'd hope you'd buy my book, Adapter Kit: Belize, the only comprehensive guide to living/working/retiring/investing in Belize. It's available from Amazon.com and larger bookstores.

--Lan

Q. My wife and I just bought your book and found it informative however,
has anything changed since it was published? At looking a message
boards it seems the college on Ambergris Caye closed and housing cost
have been dropping is this true? We intend to come down and check
things out in the next 2 weeks any additional advice welcome.

We are looking to retire and have a pension over $1000.00 and some money
set aside but we are not rich by any estimation.

As a side note does Belize have a military and how large is it? ( I'm a
US vet and I'm just curious about the question above.

David & Linda Shumate


A. Not much has changed in San Pedro. One of the offshore med schools on Ambergris Caye, St. Matthews, moved to the Cayman Islands, and that has softened the rental market in San Pedro temporarily, though there are two med new schools on the island which are gradually building up their student bodies and I would think the apartment market would firm up in the next six months or so. There has been no real change in the real estate market in terms of sales, and prices for condos and houses are still quite high, similar to what you'd find in some areas of Florida.

If you are budget conscious, you are probably not going to find what you want in San Pedro. It is the highest cost area in Belize and one of the highest in the region. You would be better off looking at a place like Corozal, which is MUCH less expensive.

I was just in both San Pedro and Corozal in the last few days, and I'm still a big fan of Corozal and Consejo.

Belize has a small military, the Belize Defence Forces. The British armed forces still do some limited training in Belize, and the U.S. Army occasionally sends a few troops there, mainly to assist in building bridges, etc.

--Lan

Q. We bought a piece of property a little north of the airstrip in
Placencia in 2001. We have just been informed by the lawyer that handled it that the area has been declared a compulsory registration area under the Registered Land Act.and that we must convert our deed to registered land and be issued a new title by the government. I've been searching different web sites including the government one and really can't find any information
about this land act. Do you have any info on it or an idea about where I
can find out more? Also, the lawyer says he can handle the matter for $ 200 US but as I'm going to be in Belize in Sept., do you know where I can go to take care of it?

Linda Karlson


A. Yes, Belize is gradually moving to a new (and better) system of title registration. Right now, there are at least three systems in effect in Belize: the conveyance system which requires a new title search each time a property is sold, a version of what is called the Torrens system which provides for a property transfer certificate, and the title Registered Land Act system, whereby the owner has a title certificate and the whole system is computerized. Which system you use depends on where the land is. Eventually the whole country will be on this system. Obviously your property is one that is coming under the new Registered Land Act system, which is a good thing.

I don't know the exact details of what is required to complete the registration in your case. I would think you could do it in the Lands office in Independence or Dangriga, but you could call the Department of Lands & Survey in Belmopan (501-822-2333) and find out.

--Lan

Q. We have been to Belize 6 times now our upcoming visit will be for 9 weeks. We took a quick trip down this month to show some art galleries my work (Caribbean Primitive Art) It was very well accepted with several of the better Galleries and hotels wanting some. We did not sell or leave any because we do not have work permits. Can we legally mail the art down? The Galleries say its done all the time but as we want to get work permits we dont want to risk our chances by breaking any laws. Do you have any info on this? Also The Barrow Law firm in Belize City has told us they can,with proper papers, pass port etc apply for a work permit for us and appear as our representive at the interveiw what do you know of this practice. We are US citizens. Debbie Cooper

A. I would not think there would be a problem with mailing your art to Belize for showings in galleries, especially not if it was created outside of Belize. However, you might want to contact Lee Vanderwalker-Kroll, an American who has a gallery and art business on Caye Caulker. She could probably give you advice. The business is Caribbean Colors, and the Web site is www.Caribbean-Colors.com, e-mail caribbeancolors@hotmail.com

--Lan


Q. I have ordered and recieved your Belize First Magazine and the Adaper Kit. They are both very informative. I am of course interested in retiring in Belize under the Retirement Incentive Act. You mention in your literature $15,000 of personal belongings can be brought into the country tax free. I have heard that if you decide to leave the country at a later date (things didn"t work out) you cannot take your belonging back with you. Is this true. I didn"t read anything in your material about this which I thought to be odd. If so would this also include your car, boat etc. Thank you for your help on this . D. Craig Castanien

A. There is a statement under the terms and conditions of the retirement program:

"Participants within this program must inform the Belize Tourism Board prior to leaving the country indefinitely so that the assets received under this program can be liquidated. "

However, your belongings, car, etc. are your possessions, not the government's. I have not heard of a case where these possessions would be considered "assets" to be liquidated by the government.

Of course, the assumption is that participants will give the program a fair try, based on reasonable research knowledge, and not just participate for a few months. I would think that the government would have a case, should they decide to pursue it, to collect import duties on property brought into Belize under the program if the participant decided to leave shortly after entering the country. And, it is specifically stated in the Act that if a Qualified Retired Person sells or gives away any property brought in under the program to someone in Belize that the participant will owe import duty and sales tax on the property.

But your best bet is to ask the BTB directly for their interpretation. Just e-mail Gina at gina@travelbelize.org and ask her the question.

--Lan

Q. I am planning to take a trip to Belize in either late July or
August to visit property that my wife purchased in Consejo. I have a few
questions that you may be able to guide me with.
1) I am probating my wife's will in the US, and since the belize
property is in her name and I will be the beneficiary. Give I have the
US court papers in hand, who and where do I go or contact to get the
title transferred to me?
2) can I get a rental car in Corozal for about $55 per day and where
would I go? I plan to go to cancun and than take a bus to Corozal.
3) Also my granddaughter has a patent on a special towel for the beach
use. I am looking for someone to mfg the product. Are there any contacts
that you could provide me in belize that might be interested in
manufacturing a product like this?

my home e-mail is Greenblo@tampabay.rr.com.

Thanks in advance for any guidance that you can give me.


A. I am not sure of the legal details involved in transfer title after the death of an owner. Normally you would hire an attorney to take care of that for you. You may want to speak to Bill Wildman, who developed Consejo Shores and who knows all the ins and outs of real estate in Belize, about it.

There are no regular car rental places in Corozal Town, though some local hotels can arrange it and some of the Belize City rental agencies will send a car up. I was in Corozal last week and had Budget from Belize City drop me a car -- they charged a US$50 drop fee. You might also check with the Gomez brothers in Orange Walk Town, which is about 35 miles away. They have been recommended to me by several people -- they rent old Crown Vics for around US$40 a day and probably would drop one off in Corozal. Telephone is 501-322-2037.

Sorry, don't know of any manufacturing contacts in Belize for your towel. Belize has very few manufacturing facilities of any type. You might have better luck in Mexico.

--Lan

Q. Has the official amount needed to qualify under the QRPI Act changed? I only have $1,600 in pension income, although I have other resources.

--Linda


A. The official monthly amount has recently changed, to US$2000. However, I would not let that dissuade you from pursuing Qualified Retired Person status. For one thing, the BTB is pretty flexible, and all types of income can be included in meeting the requirement, including pensions, social security, annuities, savings, investment income, real estate income, etc. Since you have $1,600 in pension income, which is considered more stable than investment income which can vary over time, perhaps you can show sufficient other income from a variety of sources to satisfy BTB. The BTB really does want to get as many retirees as possible, so they have an incentive to be flexible.

Second, I have been told by some recent retirees under the program that as a practical matter they have had to deposit only US$1000 a month (or $12000 a year) in a Belize bank, despite the change in the official requirement. One retiree in Corozal Town wrote me the following: "BTB does not seem to be actively checking whether people are bringing and depositing money. I have been sending the BTB a copy of my bank book with the annual deposit posted. But other people I talk to say they have
not been depositing anything for more than a year and have not heard from
BTB."

I would suggest that you contact Gina Anderson at the BTB.

--Lan


Q. I am an American Sign Language interpreter and I would like to know if there is a deaf populace in Belize and if there is any employment for a skill such as mine. I appreciate your time and any information you may be able to provide.

Marianne Oteiza


A. I would imagine the incidence of deafness in Belize is about the same as elsewhere in the developing world. I have seen an estimate that there are about 13,000 deaf persons in Belize out of a population of 240,000. I do not know how accurate that estimate may be.

There is a small Mennonite-run institute for the deaf in Cayo District in Western Belize. You might get in touch with them. Their contact information is: Cayo Deaf Institute, Baking Pot, Central Farm, P.O. Box 427, Belize City, Belize, Central America, tel. 501-8-38078, fax 501-9-12101.

You could also contact the Belize National Association of the Deaf, P. O. Box 1212,
BELIZE CITY, Belize, Central America. Tel. 501-2 72768, fax 501-2-78470.

--Lan


Q. Recently, I saw an advertisement in a magazine offering Belize passports.
Is this real or a scam of some kind? I am a Canadian with a valid Canadian
passport, presently living and working at Nigeria in the offshore
exploration business.
My friend and I are interested in a trip to Belize in September / October.
On our return from Rio we will stop at Miami. As far as I know it will be
very easy to book a return from Miami, We use Navigant travel at Houston
for our travel arrangements. Do you have a suggestion for an agent well
connected to Belize and possibly good rates. Hotel suggestions would also
be appreciated.

Ross Casey


A. The Belize Economic Citizenship ("buy-a-passport") program was controversial and has been discontinued as of January of this year, though applications in process are being completed. Other programs, including the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive program, continue as before.

A good travel agent who knows Belize is Barb's Belize (www.barbsbelize.com, 1-888-321-2272). For an agent in Belize, it's Katie Valk at www.Belize-Trips.com in Belize City-- e-mail info@belize-trips.com

It's not possible to suggest hotels without knowing where in the country you are going, your budget, etc. We have extensive hotel recommendations, including star ratings of most Belize hotels, on our Web edition of Belize First at www.belizefirst.com.


Q. I have just finished reading your Adapter Kit Belize. I ordered it
through Hastings Book Store -- they had it in for me in 5 days. My wife and I
have made the decision to move to Corozal Town area. I do have a
couple of questions that I am having a hard time getting a distinctive
answer to. The first question is how do my wife and I enter the country as
tourists and bring in our personal belongings (we intend to apply for a
self-employment work permit after we are in the country). The second
question is how do we get government departments to return emails about
these inquiries. Thanks for your help with our questions and congratulations
on a job well done with your book.

Bob Harper


A. Thank you for buying Adapter Kit: Belize. I appreciate it!

As to your questions, the letter of the law is, I believe, is that you will not be able to bring in your household goods and such without paying import duties and taxes on them. Of course as a visitor you can bring in items for personal use and can bring in a vehicle for temporary use (it will be entered on your passport).

The reason, as I understand it, is that customs officials cannot assume that you will get an exemption sometime in the future.

As to government officials not answering your questions, welcome to Belize! You will find that as a non-voter, non-Belizean you will often run into this problem, especially if you are working via e-mail or even by phone. In person, things may work a little more smoothly. One of the points I make in Adapter Kit is that expats are not so much at the bottom of the social ladder as beside it -- government officials (there are exceptions, of course) are much more responsive to their political constituencies. In Belize, I am afraid, you are a "nobody" at least until you become an official resident or a citizen.

In the meantime, I'd suggest you telephone government offices, or better yet, visit in person. It's easier to ignore e-mail than a persistent, but polite, voice on the phone or in person.

If you are investing in Belize, you may get a more attentive hearing, but that depends in part on how much you are investing and how you "work" with the government officials.

Those who decide to enter Belize under the Retired Persons Incentive Program generally find that the Belize Tourist Board, which administers that program, is much more responsive. Of course, retired persons under this program cannot work.

--Lan

Q. We were just wondering if there was a market for satellite TV and/or high speed Internet access in Belize? Are there companies already offering those services? If so, do you know how much they offer the services for and what features they have? For example, which stations and what is the internet bandwith that is offered.

Were aren't looking for a huge market - just enough to pay for a few trips down there :-).

Mike & Brian
mhennage@pacbell.net

A. At the present time, by law the only (with a few special exceptions) legal ISP in Belize is Belize Telecommunications Ltd., the local telecommunications monopoly. It is illegal to use satellite for Internet access or even (at least in theory) to use the Internet to make telephone calls.

This supposedly is set to change at the end of 2002, when BTL's monopoly officially ends.

--Lan


Q. I read recently the Belize government announced last May that it
intends to end its economic citizenship program at the beginning of
the next fiscal year--that is, March 2002. Is that true that Belize
will no longer offer a legitimate and reasonably priced passports.

I would qualify under the QRPIA, does the above have anything to do
with that status, or affect it in any way?

Will any change to the economic citizenship program affect how
Belize's IBC (International Business Corporation) rules and any
related Belize offshore banking/tax benefits?

ackermansf@sprintmail.com

A. The planned discontinuation of the controversial Economic Citizenship program (buy-a-passport) has no effect at all on the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Program or on any offshore or IBC program.

--Lan

Q: I have been researching Belize with the intent of relocating there. I have been interested by properties having some type of fruit or nut plantations. I would like to know if I owned one of these properties could I benefit from the sale of the fruit? Can one make enough money to live without having to get a job? What about raising geese or chikens? Could they be sold to a market? Is this line of thinking feesable or am I wasting my time?
Gerry


A: Of course there are many sides to the issue, but there's no reason why one couldn't make a living from small farming operations, truck gardening, fruit and such. Certainly there are Mennonites and others who do. You have to keep in mind that the Belize market is small and spread out, so export operations, for cacao, citrus or for high-value niche products such as herbs or organic produce, are often more feasible than selling to domestic markets. However, it may also be possible to generate good income from well-run truck farming, raising fowl or livestock, especially if you can serve a speciality market such as local tourist hotels and restaurants.

I recommend that you spend as much time in Belize as possible, talking to other farm and ranch owners to see the special problems faced in Belize.

--Lan

Q: I have a few questions about some "logistics" of living in Belize: What is veterinary availability like in Belize? (Based on government website, it appears it is possible to bring small domestic pets.) I gather there are not alot of bookstores and/or newsstands in Belize. How's the library?
I hesitate to ask this for fear of sounding snooty, but might as well:
what does Belize offer in the way of the arts? How easy/difficult is it to get things to Belize.... like mail order items, etc. on an occasional basis (I'm not talking about huge stuff that requires a container.)

-Caroline


A: There are vets in Belize City, Corozal Town and elsewhere. Expats with dogs or cats don't seem to have trouble getting care for their animals. Some pets don't adapt well to the hot, humid Belize climate, however, and may suffer from diseases they pick up from stray animals. But it seems to me that most expats in Belize do have a dog and generally they report no big problems. Yes, it's simple to bring pets into Belize. There's information on whom to contact in Adapter Kit: Belize.

Right, there are not a lot of bookstores in Belize. There are small bookshops in Belize City, San Pedro and San Ignacio, but the inventory is limited at best. There are public libraries in all towns. Don't expect the New York Public Library but at least you can find some reading matter.

If fine arts -- opera, dance, symphony, theater, galleries -- are a priority, Belize is not for you. I mean, there's only one movie theater in the entire country, and it just opened about a year ago. There are some talented artists working and several galleries in Belize City and San Pedro have some interesting work. There are a couple of dance troups. Belize is a lot like a small town in the U.S. There aren't a lot of public venues for the arts, but artists, writers and musicians find each other and there are small groups that support the arts and hold meetings and such.

As to ordering items from abroad, yes you can do that. You will have to pay import duty on a lot of items, which can be substantial. And international mailing costs are high. For example, the U.S. recently eliminated lower postal rates for books sent overseas -- it now costs almost US$12 to ship one of my Adapter Kit: Belize books from the U.S. to Belize. This is one reason why there are so few bookstores in Belize.

There are small companies -- Express Lane in San Pedro is one -- that sort of specialize in handling catalog shipments from outside of Belize. They handle the customs and duty for you for a small fee.

--Lan

Q: We are moving to Belize and want to buy a car when we get there. I'm 55 yrs old and qualify as a retired person. Are there used cars for sale in Belize? What are the price ranges for say a ten year old car or truck? Could one buy a Volkswagon in Mexico say in Chetumal or Cancun and drive it into Belize? Or would it be better to buy it in Miami, Florida and ship it to Belize.

--- David Holmes


A: Yes, there are used cars for sale in Belize. It's possible you could find a good deal, but in general the relatively small market for used cars and lack of competition mean that prices are usually higher, 10 to 20% higher, than in the highly competitive U.S. market, and the selection is much smaller. Also, many used cars in Belize have had a hard life, due to the bad roads. There are no laws to protect consumers if you get a lemon.

Under the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Act, any car you bring into Belize (including one you buy from Mexico) is supposed to be three years old or less. If it is older, in theory (and probably in practice) you will have to pay duty on it. Duty varies by number of cylinders and the value of the car, but figure 65 to 75% of book value. Pick-up trucks (not SUVs) are taxed at at a lower rate, around 10%.

It could be worth seeking an exception to the three-year rule from the Belize Tourist Board. I've not heard of them granting it, but I guess it's possible.

Overall, if you are going to be in Belize long-term under the QRPIA I think you would be better off bringing in an almost new vehicle from the U.S., even with the cost of shipping from Miami or wherever, you'll likely come out ahead. There's a glut of quality used cars now in the U.S., prices are low and selection is huge. As a Qualifed Retired Person, you vehicle would be entered duty-free.

--Lan

Q: My wife (65)and I (68), Canadian Citizens,want to
retire in Belize. I have a government pension of
US$800/month, my wife's US$400/month. Our investments
with a major investment firm (in both names) yearly
bring in more than US$ 20,000/YEAR.

We are interestd in a residency (yearly or permanent)
but not a citizenship. Would you please let me know
where I can find a web page (in case you cannot answer
this) that explains the conditions for each of the
above alternatives? I could not get it on the
government site where they just say $24K per year for
the yearly one.

Berman

A: The first thing you have to understand about Belize is that you cannot always depend on what you read or are told,

Despite what the Belize Tourist Board Web site says, the requirement is still that you must have US$24,000 annually in investment income OR $12,000 annually in either a pension (government, large company, etc.) and/or annuities.

Whether the BTB will permit you to pool your pension income and your wife's, I'm not sure (technically you are not allowed to, but this is Belize) but you should be able to pool your pension and your investment income to qualify.

If you would like the straight facts on retiring in Belize, I would suggestly, without false modesty, that you buy my new book, Adapter Kit: Belize. It is the ONLY comprehensive guide to living, retiring and investing in Belize. It is US$17.95 and is available on-line from Amazon.com, where it is a best-seller, and also from Barnes & Noble.

This book will give you facts that you can depend on, based on interviews with dozens of retirees in Belize.

I would recommend that, if you haven't already, you spend at least a few months in Belize before you commit to the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive scheme, as Belize is not for everyone.

--Lan


Q: I am a builder in Arizona with many years in commercial and residential development and interested in relocating to Belize. What is the demand for a person with my expertise in Belize?

Jim Sparling


A: There is certainly demand for qualified builders in Belize. Until Hurricane Iris, there was more demand for construction, mainly from expats, in places like Placencia than local builders could meet. After Iris, there is a lot of demand for rebuilding and repair of local homes and businesses.

That said, whether you can successfully enter the market or not is another matter. As in many places, well-established local firms dominate the market. Mennonite builders in particular are well established and in demand. You may also face a number of obstacles in terms of getting residency and work permits. Working, and specifically building, in Belize is quite different from the U.S. The materials are different, the way people do things are different, there are shortages of many materials and of skilled or semi-skilled workers in some cases. Theft and shrinkage is a problem, and many expat business people have problems dealing with local politicians and ways of doing things.

Keep hammering away!

--Lan

Q: Are there ophthalmologists (medical eye doctors) or optometrists (nonmedical practioners) in Belize? How many of each and where are they located? How many people are thought to be retired in Belize?

Jonathan Christenbury


A: There are opthamalogists and optometrists in Belize, mostly located in Belize City but some have offices elsewhere including San Pedro. I do not know the exact number, but there are at least five opthamalogists in practice in Belize City alone, and several opticians and optometrists. The opthamalogists offer the usual range of services including cataract surgery, intraocular lens implant, radial keratomy, etc. There also are a number of eye surgeons and other eye specialists just across the border in Chetumal, Mexico.

I am not sure if you are asking about how many expats are retired in Belize, but if so the answer is, no one knows for certain. My estimate is in the range of only 2,500, but many Americans, Canadians and others have bought property in Belize but do not live there year-round.

Keep your eyes open!

--Lan


Q: I have e-mailed several other people with no reply so I am hoping you can help. I live in Texas and am thinking of relocating to Belize. I have had a kidney transplant with no problems
as of yet but to be on the safe side I would like to know if there is a dialysis program in Belize and if
so where the centers are located or if you could get me in touch with some one who would know would be
greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Seth Freeman

A: Sorry to give you this news, but from what I have learned at present there is no kidney dialysis available in Belize. I was told that it is possible that a private medical group may set up a program, primarily for tourists who require dialysis while on vacation, but I have no further information on this.

I also was told that, unless things have changed recently, there is no dialysis available in Chetumal, Mexico, the capital of Quintana Roo state just across the border from Corozal Town. The closest dialysis is in Merida, Mexico, or Guatemala City.

Here is what I was told by Alvaro Rosado, Ph. D., CEO of Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City, the largest public hospital in Belize:

>>No, KHMH does not [have dialysis]. There has been a lot of interest expressed in this area recently. From companies wanting to "lease" KHMH equipment to groups wanting to donate equipment. The private sector might be considering a "tourist" attraction package involving dialysis service. KHMH does not have this
service high on its priority list at this time. As soon as we can provide the other basic services we consider more urgent we will be ready to consider this.<<

--Lan


Q: I have a few questions about living in Belize. I am coming to vist for 20 days to scout out property. My questions are:
1) What is the bank interest rate currently on CD's?
2) Do we need to bring our daily medications?
3) Do we need a prescription at the drug store to get medications such as blood pressure medication?
4) What can we expect to pay for rent on a two bedroom living quarters?

James H. Humphreys


A: CD and savings rates in Belize (Belize currency accounts) range from around 4 to 12 percent depending on the amount and term and the bank. Keep in mind that most expats and retirees keep most of their funds in a U.S. or other hard-currency bank and only deposit in Belize what is necessary for routine transactions (or in the case of people in Belize under the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Act the minimum required by that Act.) The Belize dollar is not a currency that can be easily exhanged outside Belize.

I would bring your regular medications. They probably are available in Belize, but they might not be, or not be in the same size or strength as what you are used to. Outside of Belize City, they might not be available at all.

Many medications are available in Belize without a prescription (you may need to show an empty bottle) but this is less the case in Belize than in Mexico. Doctors often own pharmacies in Belize. Costs for medications are generally considerably less in Belize than in the U.S.

As in the U.S. or anywhere rent varies tremendously based on location. In a less expensive area such as Corozal Town or in a remote village you might pay less than US$100. On Ambergris Caye or in Belize City you would pay US$600 to $1000 a month, or more. The more time you spend in Belize, the less you will pay.

Enjoy Belize!

--Lan

 

Q. I have a few questions. Can you get AOL in Belize or other Internet services? If so how much are they for unlimited monthly use. I have a business where I use the Internet many hours a day. Do they have high speed cable or DSL or T1 service there? If you live on Ambergris Caye is there a ferry that can take your car back and forth to the mainland or do you have to fly there? Are there any malls? (Fiance asked me to ask that one.)

Kelley


A. I suspect that Belize is not going to be for you.

1. There are no malls in Belize. There is not even a McDonald's or a K-Mart.

2. The only ISP in Belize, at least until 2003, is Belize Telecommunications, Ltd. BTL'S exclusive license expires in December 2002, and the government has said it will not renew its license. At present, however, other ISPs are illegal. There is no such thing as unlimited monthly use in Belize. There are no affordable broadband connections at this time, although a few businesses, such as Internet casinos, who can afford -- at least until they go broke -- the high cost do have high speed connections. A few people use satellite connections, though they are against current Belize law.

3. To get a car to Ambergris Caye you have to have it brought over on a barge. Cars are discouraged on the island, though if you have local connections and money you can bring another vehicle to add to the already overcrowded streets. You can fly or take a watertaxi back and forth to the mainland.

--Lan



Q: I'm originally from Germany and have been living in Mexico for the last 3 years. Due to the nature of my job (being an independent technical consultant worldwide) I can choose to live in any place of the world. I was in Belize once and heard now of the posibility to pay no tax for income which is earned in foreign countries if I'm resident in Belize. Now, my questions are:
1. Is it right that there is no income tax for self-employed if the money is earned outside Belize?
2. Do I have to be resident to make the tax declaration in Belize?
3. What are the requirements to be a resident?

Saludos,
Edwin Reichel


A: While we are not in the business of giving tax advice (please check with your tax advisor, accountant or lawyer) in general it is true that official residents of Belize are not taxed in Belize on income generated outside of Belize. There of course may be tax liability in the country in which the income is earned.

Attached is a chapter from my upcoming book, Adapter Kit: Belize on the options available for residency in Belize. The attachment is in Adobe Acrobat pdf format.

Never max the tax!

--Lan

Q: My wife and I are going to work for a resort in Belize (yes our work papers
are already in process) and a car will be a real help. Where can I find the exact import requirements and duties if you don't have that available yourself? We realize they are high but we've heard for instance a 4 cylinder vehicle is much cheaper to import than a V-8.

Kent Krepps


A: Here is the basic info on duties when importing vehicles into Belize:

Automobiles New or Used:
(Customs used U.S. Blue Book value as basis, plus evaluation by customs officer)
4 Cylinder 45% duty + 8% sales tax

6 Cylinder 45% duty + 15% replacement tax + 8% sales tax
based on evaluation of vehicle by customs

8 Cylinder 45% duty + 15% replacement tax + 8% sales tax based
on evaluation of vehicle by customs

Golf cart 25% duty + 8% sales tax

The replacement tax is complex. Here's a worksheet example using a hypothetical six-cylinder vehicle:

6 Cylinder 45% duty + 15% replacement tax + 8% sales tax

First get NADA Blue Book Value. To estimate this, go to http://www2.nadaguides.com/.
Checking the price of this vehicle, it says that the Average Trade-In for this vehicle is:
$6,975, and the Average Retail: $8,700. ( US dollars)

Average these two prices = $15,675 = Value (Belize Dollars)

The actual value at the import point will be determined by the customs inspector who takes into account mileage, condition of vehicle, etc.

Find 45% for this price = $7,053 = Import duty.

Add this price to value = $22,728
Find 15% of this price = $3,409 = Replacement tax.

Add these two together again = $26,137
Find 8% of this price = $2,090= Sales tax.

Now, add the Import duty, plus the Replacement tax, plus the Sales tax =
$12,552 (Belize dollars)

You might also want to consider buying a vehicle in Belize, or taking the bus!

--Lan

Q: I am retired, tired of the Spokane winters and thinking about moving to Belize. First, I would like to set up an IBC and trust in Belize. Can you recommend a reliable, honest source to do this? Also, do you know what it would cost for me to bring my 93' Ford Explorer to Belize?

Jim Bryan


A: We are unable to make recommendations on specific companies for IBCs. However, I recommend you talk to a reputable international firm such as the accounting firm KPMG, which has a small office in Belize (Web site at http://www.kpmgbelize.com/bz_ibc.htm). Note that IBC are not for residents or citizens of Belize.

If you are retiring to Belize under the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Act, you will pay nothing to import your vehicle if it is 3 years old or newer. For a '93 Explorer, or if you are importing a vehicle not under the Retired Persons Incentive Act, it will depend on the specific Blue Book Value, number of cylinders and the condition of the vehicle, but as a rule of thumb you might figure around 65% of the retail value.

Good luck!

--Lan

Q: Pardon me kind sir, I am a citizen of Houston, Texas and I'm thinking of
possibly moving to Belieze in the future because I'm afraid that the laws on
indentification are going to start to chafe me pretty soon because of the
so-called "war on terrorism" heating up here. I'm as hurt by the attack on
us as much as anybody but there's a limit to what I'm going to be able to
take in the name of increased national security.

My concerns about Belieze may seem unreasonable, but I believe you'll see
that they are also typically Texan.

First on my mind are the regulations on firearms. Here in Texas we're free
to own guns and we don't even have to put up with those stupid 3 Day waiting
periods for handguns as I hear they do in Florida. Or at least that's how
it's been up til now. We're also allowed to carry concealed handguns
provided we take tests and get a license from the state of Texas. Businesses
can prohibit them on their premises by posting a sign.

So I'm curious about whether it's legal to own a gun in Belieze, whether
they have registration or licences or whether you can just own one. What
sort of hunting if any, is legal in belieze, whether you may carry a gun in
any part of that country either concealed or openly and under what terms.
And if the situation is so bad that people aren't allowed to protect
themselves, even in rural areas what the penalty might be for illegally
posessing firearms. Might it be possible to gain the right to keep and bear
arms by serving a term in their army, national guard, police force or
militia? Contrariwise, what might be the easiest way to bring my gun or guns
with me to Belieze.

I have been reading and will continue to research Belieze before coming if I
so choose, so I really don't need very specific information right now. An "I
don't know" would be fine, I'd simply appreciate any information at all.

A second area of concern is the possibility of homeschooling my children
when and if I have any. I have read that Belieze has compulsory education
and I'm hoping that reasonable exceptions can be made for knowledgeable
people to instruct their own children at home. What if any are the
allowances for home-schooling if you know? Are you hounded if you don't put
children in school, are there special exemptions? And if you can teach your
children at home do you have to prove yourself by providing credentials? Or
give grades and reports on your children's progress to a school board or
government official?

And my third question is whether there are any regulations or prohibitions
on keeping gold or other precious metals privately. If I were to choose, for
instance to keep some of my savings in the form of gold in a safe in my
house are there any special restrictions, taxes etc? Well, I suppose this is
special information that I ought to ask an expert on banking.

I guess that the only other thing I'm worried about is whether your
situation with the internet is getting better yet.

So what do you like best about Belieze? What drew you to it in the first
place?

Greg


A. Gun laws in Belize are much more restrictive than in Texas. Tourists and non-residents may not possess guns at all. Citizens and residents may own guns legally if they obtain a license from the government and pay a fee.

While primary education is compulsory in Belize as it is in the U.S., home schooling is generally accepted as an alternative. Some expats with children home school.

To my knowledge, there are no regulations in Belize against keeping gold or other precious metals.

--Lan




Q: I enjoyed your web site very much and have ordered a couple of your books. You indicated
you were open to answering questions.

First, I spent a month in Belize last year NOT as a tourist! I received permission from the Fisheries department to sail on a small commercial fishing boat with friends I knew from Belize City to the Turneffe
Islands area. We were at sea for a couple weeks. Objective: learn the waters, channels, etc. Admittedly, I had some fun too! I have a sailboat on the West Coast of the US. I'm planning to sail through the 'Canal' and settle in Belize. Any information you might have regarding transiting the 'canal' and passage up the Caribbean to Belizean water would be gratefully appreciated.

Further, it's not my intention to 'play tourist' in Belize (or elsewhere!). I'm 55, and a retired college mathematics teacher (22+ years - statistics, calculus, etc.). My desire is to settle in some
coastal port (other than Belize City) and offer my mathematics (and computer) skills to some school(s) (either P/T or F/T). Even working with an orphanage would be fine. I'm not fanatical, but I do have
irrevocable Christian ethics and values. I've sailed much of the world, and Belize is where I'd like to productively live out the remainder of my days.

I've already attended to much 'red tape', corporate concerns, etc. in Belize, and have many local fisherman friends there. I've scoured every web site I could find on Belize ...... most all were way to 'tourist oriented' for my desires. Any advice/information/"insider" web sites) you might have regarding my plans would be deeply appreciated.

Ralph Harris, Salem, Ore.


A: I'm glad to answer questions, but I don't know that I'll be able to help you much. It sounds like you've already gotten a good start on local knowledge about Belize. I'm not much of a sailor myself and am certainly not an expert on Belize waters. Your Belizean fishermen friends likely will be the most help to you.

Nearly all of the Web sites on Belize, including mine, are oriented to the visitor to Belize or to the individual interested in living/retiring in Belize.

The site www.belizeans.com is one that is run by a Belizean and focuses more than most on issues of interest to Belizeans. You might also want to subscribe to the Belize Culture mailing list. There are some crazies on the board, just like in Belize, but some good folks and good information, too. To subscribe/unsubscribe send to bz-culture-request@psg.com the message:
subscribe or unsubscribe. Send comments to bz-culture-owner@psg.com.

The Belizean Web Ring links to some sites by Belizeans, mostly those living outside of Belize.

Good luck!

--Lan

Q: We are making plans that we might move to Belize, but we don't know yet if Belize has very good schools. If Belize has a few very good schools then it would be interesting to know where. We of course would like to move near a big town which is near the beach, where we could quickly relax, but be also quickly between many friendly people, and tourists, where we could quickly make shopping, where there are better possibilities to find a job etc., e.g. San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. But our daughter has the higher priority according to the school. Most important is that our daughter gets to a very good school, e.g. private school where the school hours are daily longer and the child learns more daily, where she could develop her talents quicker and more successfully. Our daughter is almost 7 years old and some of her talents are: speaks 3 languages fluently English, German and Polish; musical talents and plays already beautifully violin, art and handicraft, mathematics etc. So the school for our daughter has the highest priority. There where our daughter would have the most advantages we would adjust ourselves. Which school, and in which part of Belize, do you think, would fit our situation the best ?

Kopszewski


A: Your daughter sounds very talented. Unfortunately, I don't believe you will find a school in Belize that will be entirely satisfactory to you. The best schools are in Belize City, but the crime rate in Belize City is high and few expats want to live there, unless they have to because of business. There is one fairly good private elementary school in San Pedro, but by international standards it is not an exceptional school. You have to understand that Belize is a very small, poor country, with only 240,000 people and a GDP of a small town of 25,000 in the U.S. or Canada. It does not have the resources nor does it have sufficient affluent population to support a truly top-flight international primary school. However, for what it is worth, my own personal belief is that talented children can do well in many different educational environments.

Go Crimson!

--Lan

Q: I am a lawyer in Canada and am from the US originally. I believe that once one is outside of either of those jurisdictions for a certain number of months, one is no longer liable to pay income tax within Canada or the US (for instance, I have not paid income tax in the US since I became a resident of Canada). I believe the period of time one must be out of the US to be exempted from paying income tax there is 18 months. Also, We will be visiting Belize in January, spending a few days at DuPlooy's outside of San Ignacio and a couple of days on Ambergris Caye. Would we be able to buy a copy of your book in one of those two areas?

Johanne


A: To my knowledge Adapter Kit: Belize is not yet available in Belize. It is available now from Amazon.com, where it is a best-seller, and Borders.com. It will soon be available in regular bookstores in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere. The publisher may also have distribution at hotels and gift shops in Belize.

On taxes, I do not claim any expertise in the U.S. tax system, but it is my understanding that in general U.S. citizens, unless they renounce their citizenship, in which case special rules apply, may be subject to U.S. taxes on their worldwide income regardless of their place or length of residence. There are, however, exclusions for income up to a certain limit for those who meet residency tests for living outside the U.S. while maintaining U.S. citizenship or alien residency. Special tax treaties between the U.S. and Canada may also apply. Here are excerpts from some FAQs on expat taxation from Joseph Solomon Financial Group (http://www.reducemytaxes.com/uscitiz3.htm):

--Lan

>>
(2) My entire income  qualifies for the foreign earned income exclusion. Must I file a tax return?
Maybe. Every U.S. citizen or resident must file a U.S. income tax return if certain income levels are reached. Income for filing requirement purposes is figured without regard to the foreign earned income exclusion.
(3) I am a U.S. citizen and have no taxable income from the United States, but I have substantial income from a foreign source. Am I required to file a U.S. income tax return ?
Yes. All U.S. citizens and resident aliens, depending on the amount of the foreign source income, are subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income.
(4) I am a U.S. citizen who has retired, and I except to remain in a foreign country. Do I have any further U.S. tax obligations ?
Your U.S. tax obligation on your income is the same as that of a retired person living in the United States.
(5) I am a U.S. citizen. I have lived abroad for a number of years and have only recently realized that I should have been filing U.S. income tax returns. How do I correct this oversight in not having filed returns for these years ?
You must file the late returns as soon as possible, stating your reason for filing late.
(6) My U.S. employer pays my salary into my U.S. bank account. Is this considered U.S. income or foreign income ?
If you performed the services to earn this salary outside the United States, your salary is considered earned abroad. It does not matter that you are paid by a U.S. employer or that your salary is deposited in a U.S. bank account in the United States.
(7) How do I qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion?
To be eligible, you must have a tax home in a foreign country and you must be a U.S. citizens or a resident alien who is a citizen or a resident alien who is a citizen or national of a country with which the United States has an income tax treaty in effect. You must be a bone fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year, or you must be a U.S. citizen or resident and be physically present in a foreign country or countries for at least 330 full days during period of 12 consecutive months.
18) I am a retired U.S. citizen living in Europe. My only income is from U.S. sources on which I pay U.S. taxes. I am taxed the same income in the foreign country where I reside. How do I avoid double taxation ?  

If you reside in a country that has an income tax treaty with the United States, that country may allow a credit against the tax you owe them for the U.S. tax paid on U.S. source income. Nontreaty countries, depending on their laws, may give the same type of credit against the tax you owe them for the U.S. tax paid on U.S. source income.
If double taxation exists and you cannot resolve the problem with the tax authorities of the foreign country, you can contact the
- Internal Revenue Service
- Assistant Commissioner (International)
- Attn: CP: IN: D: CS
- 950 L'Enfant Plaza South, S.W.
- Washington, DC 20024
<<


Q: I, will, of course, be buying your books, as well as those of others, written to inform and educate outsiders about Belize. Still, I must question the disparity between what I've read thus far of your illuminations on Belize and those of Bill and Claire Gray. Would you mind giving me a bit of insight in that regard? I've also made contact with a fellow by the name of Raymond Stevens, who lived there and had a computer graphics business in Belize City (he closed it down after experiencing overly-confiscatory governmental interference....it was called The Unity Shoppe). He seems to know Belize well and seems to still hold
Belize dear, and thus far has offered very specific recommendations on tracking down affordable housing. I know we haven't met, but I'm 55 years old and have "been around" a bit. I must admit to having become very wary of "experts".....I've found that for every "expert" on about any given subject, there's another "expert" who holds a completely different view. Please take no offense, but are you truly interested in helping folks who are interested in re-locating to Belize, or are you just "in business"? Thank you for your
time and attention!

James E. Torpey


A: No offense taken, but I suggest you make your own decision about who is right and who is wrong on Belize. I'm in the business of writing and selling books and magazines. I'm not in the business of being a PR flak for Belize, nor do I offer tours or sell real estate.

I have met the Grays (not their real name) and sell their book, which is very popular. They seem like nice folks and know a good deal about Belize, too, especially about northern Belize. I don't agree with all their opinions, and I think they underestimate the cost of living in Belize, at least in some cases. Different people have different views.

You can talk to all the people you want, but until you actually spend some time in Belize you will not know as much as you think you do or even know what questions to ask. As I say, Belize is not for everyone.

Good luck!

--Lan


Q: I would like to information on moving to and living in Belize. I am
American. I would like to move my family for at least a year maybe more.
We are a working family of four, two of which are small children under the
ages of ten. We own a home in Florida which is our current residence. We
do not plan on selling our home, but our savings are less then 10k. What in
your opinion would be a good resource for me to look into? Do you have any
information off hand that you can provide me with? Thank you for your time.

George A. Wells


A: I hestitate to hype my own book, but, heck, it’s the only thing available that is comprehensive and up to date on living, retiring and working in Belize, so I will:

Adapter Kit: Belize by Lan Sluder, ISBN 1-56691-350-0, Avalon Travel Publishing, 262 pages, many maps and photos, $17.95. It's the first and only comprehensive guide to living, retiring, working and investing in Belize. Adapter Kit: Belize is available now from Amazon.com, Borders.com and other on-line bookstores, and it is also now in most large bookstores such as Border's and Barnes & Noble. It should be in distribution in bookstores worldwide within a few weeks. If you want to order it directly from me, for delivery in the U.S. it is $17.95 plus $4 shipping/handling. Send check to Equator, 287 Beaverdam Road, Candler, NC 28715.

One problem you will have is finding a job. Work permits are hard to come by, and jobs in Belize pay only a fraction of what a similar position in the U.S. would pay (even though groceries, electricity, gasoline and some other items of everyday life cost more in Belize than in the U.S.) Another problem you will have is finding a good school for your kids. Belize schools vary, from quite good (some schools in Belize City and in larger towns) to awful (schools in remote areas especially in the far south.) Teachers do their best, and many students are highly motivated, but with text books and equipment in short supply, things are difficult. Some expats solve the problem by home schooling.

Good luck!

--Lan

 

WORKING/INVESTING IN BELIZE

Q: Great site... My wife and I were in Belize last year and enjoyed it thoroughly... we went to Caye Caulker and Placencia and got to know many local people... we manage a fishing lodge in Canada and have been in that business for almost 30 years... I am wondering if you can tell me how to find out if there are opportunities for managing or opening fishing lodges down there... we did some fishing and had a great time, but have no idea how to find out if there are people looking for experienced management people... I realize Belizeans come first for most jobs, but may not be qualified for a lot of management positions... I don't mean that in a demeaning way, it's just that its a small country with what appears to be a somewhat crude educational system... we really liked the people we met and found them personable and intelligent... however: we did have some close calls in Belize city even though we knew better.... but the trip was most enjoyable and a wonderful experience... thanks for your time and I am bookmarking your site.

Bob Tinkess


A: Your best bet would be to contact directly some of the resorts and lodges that specialize in fishing and ask them about their needs:

El Pescador Fishing and Beach Resort, North Ambergris Caye
Manta Reef Resort, Southwest Caye
Lilpatt Sittee River Resort, Sittee River
Ranguana Lodge, Placencia
Turneffe Island Lodge, Turneffe Atoll
Turneffe Flats Lodge, Turneffe Atoll
Bob's Paradise, Monkey River
Blue Marlin Lodge, Southwater Caye
Belize River Lodge, Belize City

You might also talk with Mary Toy (associated with Kevin Modera Fishing Guides) in Placencia.

All of the above have Web sites for contact information. Keep in mind that none of these places is large, and at least one of them is for sale.

There is always opportunity in Belize for investors who can hire Belizeans and provide jobs and revenue for the Belize economy. Of course, you have to be willing to lose your investment.

Good luck!

--Lan

 

Q: Are there any chiropractors in Belize? In your opinion is there a need for more?

Herb Golden

A. Yes, there are chiropractors in Belize City, San Pedro and Placencia and perhaps elsewhere. As to demand for their services, I have no idea. Belize, is a country with just 240,000 people and with per-capita GDP only about one-tenth that of the U.S. Thus, total demand for chiropractic services in all of Belize is probably no more than in an American town of 25,000 to 50,000 people.

--Lan

Q: I am Cuban graduated family practitioner medical doctor. I am living in USA.  I will like information on how would I be able to practice medicine in Belize. I am bilingual, 7 years of experience as family doctor, also massage therapist graduated in USA. Please any information will be appreciated.

Felipe Alfonso


A: I have been told by U.S. physicians that they have found it difficult if not impossible to become licensed in Belize. However, most of these physicians did not plan on becoming official residents or citizens of Belize. If you become a resident (generally you have to live in Belize for one year before applying for residency) in theory you would have the right to work in Belize.

Certainly Belize needs doctors, but those in private practice appear to try to limit the number of physicians admitted to practice in Belize, just as U.S. medical associations appear to make it difficult for foreign doctors to practice in the U.S.

As you no doubt know, most physicians in Belize are employed by the government, and the pay is low -- under US$20,000 a year to start. There are a couple of small private hospitals and a number of doctors, mainly in Belize City, have private practices.

There are quite a few Cuban physicians (and nurses) in Belize now as part of a Cuban government program.

I would suggest that you begin by contacting the Ministry of Health in Belmopan. Good luck.

--Lan

Q. If I have $5,000 in my pocket, a college degree, scuba diving certification, how hard would it be for me to come to Belize and get a job.
Thanks for any information,
Frank Vandy



A. Fairly difficult. The unemployment rate in Belize is 11%, twice that in the U.S. Pay scales vary, but in general are one-fourth that in the U.S. To work in Belize you have to have a work permit, which is not easy to get and costs US$750 a year for most positions. Since April 1, it has been illegal for an employer to hire or employ a worker without a Belize Social Security card.

It's not impossible to find work in Belize, and quite a number of expats have done it successfully, but it won't be easy, and you probably won't make much money.

--Lan



Q. You mentioned the Mennonite builders and their pre-fab homes. Can you tell me a little more about them and their work.?How would one get more information about them or how to contact them. I don't think surfing to www.mennonite.com/belize will do it. Thanks, Brian

A. The Mennonite pre-fabs are usually small wood cabins, though some are larger. Basically they are just wood planks, sawn by Mennonites in Spanish Lookout or elsewhere, and then put together in sections. They are not fancy, but in a sub-tropical climate they seem to do the job. You can see them around the country. For example, several of the small hotels in Placencia use them -- Green Parrot and Ocean's Edge, for two.

Various Mennonite builders in Spanish Lookout (Cayo) and elsewhere do them. One is Linda Vista Lumber Yard in Spanish Lookout, tel. 501-8-38052, and another is Midwest Lumber Mill, also in Spanish Lookout, tel. 501-8-30308.

Best thing would be to go there in person and look at the kind of things that are available.

--Lan

Q: I am writing to inquire about a business venture I am considering in San Pedro. I spent some time in San Pedro recently and saw an opportunity to start a business that would not compete with the locals, at least it appeared so to me, and would like to get your input. I will be taking a huge risk to leave my current job and start new at 41, but I feel it could be the opportunity of a life time, as well as assist some Belizeans in fulfilling their dreams as well. I am considering opening a tattoo shop in San Pedro and know that I could employ Belizeans to work there as well. What do you think of this idea? Am I way off track? I have investigated the business side and am aware of all the licensing, etc, that I will need. I don't want to overload you with information on my research. So, can you share your thoughts on this idea with me? I would really appreciate it.

Diane F.


A: You would just as well ask the Man in the Moon his opinion on a tattoo parlor in San Pedro, as I know absolutely nothing about the tattoo business and in general don't understand the appeal of tattoos to the "younger generations." I have no idea whether it would work in San Pedro. I would only be able to make two comments:

One, over the years I have noticed that expats opening a business in Belize have a tougher time than they think they will. Almost everything takes longer and is more expensive and more difficult to execute than they had anticipated. My advice is always to take the revenue figures in your pro forma and cut them by half and then double your expense figures, and you may have a good idea of what your business in Belize will actually do.

Two, if you are going to open a business in Belize, I think San Pedro is the place to do it, at least for the next five years or ten years. Tourism is healthy in San Pedro, it is more or less year-round rather than being highly seasonal as in some other areas, and there is enough money running through the economy that a well-run business can get a piece of it.

Sorry I couldn't help any more!

--Lan

Q: I am a female with a young daughter. I am contemplating relocating to
Belize and finding employment there. It seems so perfect to read about.
My question is: are there employment agencies and is it as "safe" as the
States?

Ashley


A: Unfortunately, there are few jobs in Belize, and the jobs that are available are primarily reserved for Belize citizens. Even if you could get a job, the pay is very low -- about one-fifth to one-fourth the pay for a comparable job in the U.S.

There are no employment agencies in Belize.

Keep in mind that the entire Belize economy is only about the size of the economy of a town of 25,000 people in the U.S.

Not to discourage you, but the reality is that Belize does not seek and does not want people coming to Belize to find jobs; Belize needs investment from those who can provide jobs in Belize.

Make your fortune in the U.S. and THEN come to Belize!

--Lan

Q: Is it possible to purchase land from the government? I would like to restart my life and a friend suggested Belize, growing teek trees. I am I superintendent of a golf course and would to know if land is availible.

John


A: Ordinarily the Belize government does not sell land. There is a program under which Belize citizens or residents of long-standing can lease land for a nominal amount, clear it and build on it and eventually buy it, but that is not practical for most people, as it requires official residency or citizenship and a lengthy period of time in Belize.

There is however plenty of land available on the private market. All it takes is money. There are few restrictions on ownership by non-citizens.

Teek? You mean teak? Costa Rica is the cradle of teak plantation schemes.

--Lan

Q: What job opportunities are there in Belize in the hospitality industry?

Anthony Spiteri


A: Most hotels in Belize are small and owner-operated. The largest property in the country has only about 120 rooms, and most have under 20, so opportunities for management level work are somewhat limited. In the restaurant and bar field, it is almost impossible for a non-Belizean to get a work permit, unless you are investing in business and operating it. Having said that, there are always opportunities for hard-working people who have a variety of skills and experience in operating in developing countries. If you are interested in working in Belize, I’d suggest you e-mail your resume to the larger properties.

--Lan

Q. Wil Nelson here, currently planted in Washingtom state
- across the sound from Seattle. Hopefully I'll be the
last to wish you a Happy New Year! Got a quick request
for you - ready to sell it all and move to what seems
like home to me, and would appreciate your potential
of making a (simple) living in Belize. I'm 46, a
skilled media producer with back ups in the spa and
pool industry (both sales and service), but lack deep
pockets. Have your book reserved for me at book store,
and picking up same tomorrow - but would appreciate
your take on the subject. Current marriage is coming
to a close, and to be honest I'm a bit sick of state
side. Any potential in Belize? Will make the trip with
25-30 grand in cash, and my video editing studio in
tow but would appreciate your opinion on making a
living in the area. Also if you would, your advise on
driving in from Mexico - think I can make it there
alive? Looking forward to getting a chance to meet you
for a drink some day. Thanx in advance for your
response!

Wil Nelson

A. I hope that my Adapter Kit: Belize will answer most of your questions.

The problem is that the Belize economy is tiny, about the size of a town of 25,000 or 30,000 people in Washington state, and currently suffering from the economic crunch and travel slowdown in the U.S.

If I were you, I'd head first to San Pedro (Ambergris Caye) as that's where the money and tourism action still is, and it's really the only place that offers any real business opportunity right now (other than Belize City, but few expats want to live there). Keep a tight watch on your cash, as there are a lot of sharks in Belize, and not just in the water.

There's also the problem of a work permit, which are increasingly difficult and expensive to get. But if you start your own business or develop good contacts in Belize who want to hire you, you can probably work around that.

You should have no problem driving to Belize. The trip through Mexico is safe enough, just a very long haul.

Good luck.

--Lan


Q: My wife and I are just over 50 years old, and we are looking to retire in Belize. We are wondering what kind of job opportunities there are in Belize. I am a pilot and my wife is in computer technology. Can your country use our skills? Who would we contact?

Les Nunemaker



A: While your skills are in demand in Belize, whether you can find work there or not depends on a variety of factors -- your willingness to work for a fraction of U.S. salaries, whether you can get a work permit, and whether you are willing to spend some time in the country to explore opportunities, among others. It is highly unlikely that you can find work without being in the country.

There are two small airlines in Belize -- Maya Island Air and Tropic Air, plus several charter operators. Computer work is limited, but a few larger companies such as Belize Telecommunications Ltd. do have a need for those with computer skills.

Since you are over 45, you likely qualify for the incentives available under the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Act. However, residents under that program cannot work for pay in Belize; you would need to get regular residency, which requires a one-year period in the country before you can apply for residency.

I'd suggest that you get a copy of my new book, Adapter Kit: Belize. It's shipping now from Amazon.com and is available at major bookstores. It should be in libraries soon. This book (262 pp., many photos and maps, US$17.95) covers the latest information on living, retiring and working in Belize.

Belize welcomes baby boomers!

--Lan


Q: Is there a need for therapists in Belize? My husband would like to retire there and I need to work.
Kimberly Brenner


A: There is a need for most skills in Belize. However, that doesn't mean you can work there. The Belize government tries to keep most jobs for Belizeans. Work permits are difficult to get. Those living in Belize under the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Program cannot work at all in Belize. Residents under the regular residency program -- to apply for residency you have to live in Belize for one year -- can work for pay.

Jobs are scarce in paradise!

--Lan

 

REAL ESTATE IN BELIZE

Q: Hello and thanks so much for this forum. I have a brief question that maybe you can help me with. I was recently in Belize and looked at a piece of property for sale in the Riverwalk "development" about 8 miles east of San Ignacio. Right across from Ceasars. It was a absolutely beautiful lot of around 5 acres on top of a mountain with an incredible 200 degree view of the surrounding country side. The owner will provide electricity but there is no water. It's one of the most beautiful properties and view I have ever seen. There are 8 lots for sale, all between 3 and 5 acres, costing between US$40,000 to 70,000. The lot I'm considering is US60,000. The owner will finance at 10% down for 10 years at 10%. My question is do you think that this price range is considered extravagant in Belize for this type of property? Or is that about right for this area? I'd really appreciate your opinion.

Greg


A: I'm not an expert on real estate values and in fact have lost several hundred thousand U.S. on various property purchases over the years. I would think, though, that the prices being asked for the property you are considering are many times more than the average in Cayo, even for prime property. US$1,000 an acre is considered fairly pricey for accessible land in small tracts in Cayo, and the tracts you are talking about are in the range of US$10,000 an acre -- ten times that much. Those are US-style prices, not Belize prices. I own several mountain tops in the mountains of Western North Carolina, which is a highly desirable area for retirees and relocatees, and none of them is worth even close to US$10,000 an acre.

I know of people who have bought land on the Western Highway for a few hundred dollars an acre. In large tracts, land around Cayo has sold in the past few years for under US$100 an acre -- an example is the Slate Creek Preserve tracts.

It is unlikely you could sell the land for anything like the price you are paying. Or you might sell it but it could take 30 years. It's one thing to buy land in Belize. It's another to sell it.

Having said that, assuming you are not interested in the property for an investment, each piece of land is a unique thing. It has nothing to do with value and everything with life. If you like it enough, and can afford it, why not buy it? Be sure, though, to have a qualified Belize lawyer look carefully at the title. Just don't think you are going to be able to ever sell it, except possibly to another American who falls in love with that particular piece of real estate.

Life is not a dress rehearsal!

--Lan

Q: We have purchased two lots ... in Placencia. We have not yet started to build our winter home, but would like to send our property taxes to the correct agency/person. We have not yet received any tax assessment bills, and understand from our neighbors down there that they are not sent out, you just pay them whenever, and there is a small monthly delinquent charge. We bought the property from Capt. David Rabren, but he has moved from his previous address and his phone & fax #'s have been changed. We cannot seem to get anyone to send us the address and person that we should correspond with to find out the correct amount of property tax we owe to date. Can you help us with this?

John Zink


A: Property taxes in Belize are normally due on April 1. If not paid by the end of April there is a 1% per month late charge. You can pay property taxes at one of about eight Department of Lands and Surveys offices. The nearest one to Placencia would be Dangriga. There is usually also a local "Lands man" you can pay, but I don't know if there is one in Placencia. You might call the office in Belmopan -- tel. 501-8-22598. They should be able to tell you how much your taxes are, if they have been paid up to date, etc. You will probably need your lot and plat numbers, though if you have the property description they may be able to look it up. Most of the tax records in Belize are now on computer.

--Lan

Q: We bought a piece of property in Basil Jones. We are about to pay off the lot. When we take the deed, as US citizens what type of taxes are we expected to pay other than the normal annual property tax? Is there some type of fee that non-residents pay after taking title. We were told that there were "fees" that amounted to 11 -12 %. Perhaps our agent, is refering to some sort of fee for closing on the property?

David Stevens


A. Normally there are none, except property taxes, unless you have income in Belize. There is a 5% property transfer tax and a 5% alien transfer tax, plus typically 1 to 3% for title search and/or title insurance. However, I would have thought you would have paid that when you purchased the property.

--Lan

Q: I am looking for a lawyer to help me through the process of obtaining another original copy of a lost Transfer Certificate of Title. The title was in my grandparents' names. My grandmother is since deceased and my grandfather wants to give the land to my husband and me. What is the process and what is the cost - lawyer fees and title fees? Thanks for your help!

Hannah Stone


A: We are not competent or licensed to provide information on Belize legal matters. I can only suggest you contact an attorney in Belize for information on procedures and charges. Attached is a list of attorneys in Belize.

For this kind of work, you might consider an independent practitioner such as Antoinette Moore.

There are three different types of real property registration systems in effect in Belize, and which one would apply depends on where the property is located. While costs and charges vary from attorney to attorney, as a rule of thumb ordinary title searches might cost 2% of the value of the property, and title insurance if available might be 1% of the property value. But these are only rules of thumb and may not even be close to accurate in your case. There is also a property transfer fee, 5% for everyone and 5% additional if the purchaser is not a citizen of Belize.

--Lan Sluder

Attorneys in Belize:
(If calling from the U.S., dial 011-501 and then the number shown.)

Anderson, Kirk (Brian) of ANDERSON’S LAW FIRM, 57 Albert Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born April 20, 1967, Kingston, Jamaica.  Graduated from U.W.I.; LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to the Belize Bar in 1991.  Corresponds in English. General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-72434.  Fax: 2-73535.  Cell Phone: (014) 8730. 
Arana Rodolfo, Michelle of 91 North Front Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born July 22, 1969, Belize City, Belize.  Graduated from U.W.I., C.L.E.  Former Crown Counsel to Belize Government 1992-1994.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1996.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice.  Office Phone: 2-33784.  Home Phone: 2-35125.
Arguelles, Emil of GLENN D. GODFREY & CO., 35 Barrack Road, Suite 301, Belize City, Belize.  Born July 4, 1972, Belize.  Graduated from Marquette University, B.A.  U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1998.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice and Criminal Matters. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-33530.  Fax: 2-33501.  Home Phone: (014) 6006 or 2-33989.  E-mail: cititrust@btl.net  Web site: www.belizeoffshore.com
Barrow, Dean O. of BARROW & WILLIAMS, 99 Albert Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born March 2, 1951, Belize.  Graduated from University of Miami, M.A. and LL.M.  U.W.I., LL.B.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1976.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-75280.  Fax: 2-75287.  Home Phone: 2-31036.  Web site: www.belizeweb.com/~barwil
Barrow, Denys Arthur of BARROW & COMPANY, 23 Regent Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born July 8, 1952, Belize.  Graduated from U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1977.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice and criminal matters. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-77410.  Fax: 2-78460.  E-mail: Barrowco@BTL.net 
Barrow, Dylan of the LAW OFFICES OF RAYMOND H. BARROW, 121 Albert Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born January 24, 1950, Belize.  Graduated from U.W.I.  C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1985.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice and Criminal Matters. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Office Phone: 2-72912.  Fax: 2-71270.
Barrow, Raymond H. of the LAW OFFICES OF RAYMOND H. BARROW, 121 Albert Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born May 1, 1920, Belize.  Graduated from the University of Cambridge, England, Middle Temple Inn, Certificate, London, England.  Admitted to practice as an attorney and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Belize in 1977.  Former Crown Counsel to Belize Government.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Office Phone: 2-72912. Fax: 2- 71270.
Bradley, Jr., Leo of YOUNG’S LAW FIRM, 28 Regent Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born December 31, 1967, Belize.  Graduated St. Thomas University, B.A.  U.W.I., LLB.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1998.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Office Phone: 2-72408.  Fax: (2-75157.  Home Phone: 2-32726. 
Dujon, Nicolas V.  of DUJON & DUJON, 4 Eve Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born October 27, 1951, London, England.  Graduated Michigan State University, B.A. (Hons.) Barrister at Law Gray’s Inn, London.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1978.  Former Crown Counsel to Belize Government.  Former Clerk of Courts to Jamaica Government.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Office Phone: 2-45926.  Fax: 2-35869.  Email: dujondujon@btl.net
Lindo, Dean R.  of LINDO’S LAW FIRM, 7 Church Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born September 4, 1932, Belize.  Graduated from Wesley College.  NYU, BSc and LL.M.  University of Durham, England, LL.B. (Hons.).  Gray’s Inn.  Admitted to the Belize Bar in 1964.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-77388. Fax: 2-75168.  Home Phone: 2-44217.  E-mail: linarn@btl.net
Lumor, Fred of MUSA & BALDERAMOS, 91 North Front Street, P.O. Box 571, Belize City, Belize.  Born November 17, 1952, Ghana.  Graduated from Rivers State in Nigeria, LL. B. (Hons.)  Ministry of Justice 4.5 years.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-32940. Fax: 2-31149.  E-mail: manb@btl.net
Marin, Magali G. of BARROW & WILLIAMS, 99 Albert Street, P.O. Box 617, Belize City, Belize.  Born November 18, 1971, Belize City.  Graduated from University of Oklahoma, B.A.  U.W.I., LL.B.   Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to the Belize Bar in 1997.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-75280  Fax: 2- 75278.  E-mail: barwil@btl.net.
Marshalleck, Andrew E.  of BARROW & COMPANY, 23 Regent Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born July 23, 1969, Kingston, Jamaica.  Graduated from Regis College, Bs.  U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1996.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-77410  Fax: 2-78460.  E-mail: Barrowco@btl.net
Marshalleck, Jacqueline A.  of YOUNG’S LAW FIRM, 28 Regent Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born November 8, 1970, Nassau, Bahamas.  Graduated from St. Elphin’s School, England.  U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1999.  Corresponds in English and French.  General Practice.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-77406.  Fax: 2- 75157.  E-mail: younglaw@btl.net
Moore, Antoinette  of the LAW OFFICES OF ANTOINETTE MOORE,83 Commerce Street, Dangriga Town, Stann Creek District.  Born June 3, 1955, Brooklyn, New York.  Graduated from Lawrence University, B.A.  Loyola University of Chicago, J.D.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1996.  Corresponds in English and some Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 5-22457  Fax: 5-22457.  E-mail: moorelaw@btl.net
Musa-Pott, Samira  of 120A New Road, Belize City, Belize.  Born April 29, 1971, Belize City, Belize.  Graduated from Florida Int’l University, B.A.  U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1996.  Corresponds in English and some Spanish.  General Practice.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-35924  Fax: 2-31123.  E-mail: loisyblaw@btl.net
Perez, Alberta of THE GOVERNMENT OF BELIZE.  Born April 8, 1963, Toledo District, Belize.  Graduated from U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1998.  Corresponds in English, Garifuna, and some Spanish.  Family Law and Criminal Matters.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-74114/ 74107  Fax: 2-34320.
Ramirez, Cecil M.  of RAMIREZ & ASSOCIATES, 20 Macaw Avenue, Belmopan and Church Street, San Ignacio Town, Cayo District.  Born April 22, 1954, Belize.  Graduated from the U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1987.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide notary.  Will take cases outside of Belize City.  Office Phone: 8-22478.  Fax: 8-22065.
Sabido, Oscar A.  of OSCAR A. SABIDO & CO., #5 New Road, Belize City, Belize.  Born January 7, 1949, San Ignacio Town.  Graduated from U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1979.  Corresponds in English and fluent Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-35803.  Fax: 2-35839.  Home Phone: 2-72901.  E-mail: oasabido@btl.net
Shoman, Lisa M.  of SHOMAN, CHEBAT, & ASSOC., 62 Cleghorn Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born January 27, 1964, Belize City, Belize.  Graduated from U.W.I., C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1988.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice with specialty in commercial/ corporate/ offshore.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-34160.  Fax: 2-34222.  E-mail: attorney@btl.net
Sooknandan, Lutchman  of SOOKNANDAN’S LAW FIRM, 7 Barrack Road, Belize City, Belize.  Born March 21, 1948, Guyana.  Graduated from U.W.I., LL.B., C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1986.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice and Criminal Matters. Office Phone: 2-32469.  Home Phone: 2-32625.  Fax: 2-35164.
Twist, Oswald H.  of the BELIZE LEGAL AID CENTER, 1 Treasury Lane, Belize City, Belize.  Born June 9, 1959, Belize.  Graduated from U.W.I., LL.B. Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1996.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Office Phone: 2-72113  Fax: (2) 70085  Home Phone: 8-20149.
Waithe, Dons Richard  of DONS WAITHE LAW FIRM, 3A Queen Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born January 14, 1963, Trinidad and Tobago.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1992.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-35827  Fax: 2-35828.  Home Phone: 2-34313.  E-mail: dwaithe@btl.net
Williams, Marilyn L.  of the LAW OFFICES OF MARILYN L. WILLIAMS, 76 Dean Street, Belize City, Belize; and 5 Park Street, Orange Walk Town, O/W District.  Born June 9, 1955, Belize City, Belize.  Graduated from Brooklyn College, B.A.  Cardozo School of Law, J.D.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1995.  Corresponds in English and limited Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-78436.  Fax: 2-77381.  Home Phone: 2-31178.  E-mail: mwilliams@btl.net
Williams, Rodwell  of BARROW & WILLIAMS, 99 Albert Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born September 29, 1956, Belize City, Belize.  Graduated with B.A., LL.B., C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1985.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-75280.  Fax: 2- 75278.  E-mail: barwil@btl.net
Young, Michael Clarence Edward  of YOUNG’S LAW FIRM, 28 Regent Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born January 7, 1955, Southampton, England.  Graduated from U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, (Hons.) C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1977.  Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Belize.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice.  Office Phone: 2-77406.  Fax: 2-75157.  Home Phone: 2-32519.  E-mail: younglaw@btl.net  



SPORTS/ADVENTURE

Q: I’m thinking about renting a bareboat and sailing from San Pedro south. I hear stories about pirates. But I can’t tell if there is any truth to them. Are there?

Greg Bertrand


A: Well, Matey, if you are talking about the kind of pirates that plague shipping lanes around Thailand, Indonesia and elsewhere in much of Asia, no, Belize has no pirates.

But, of course, in a developing country there is always the potential for thefts and robberies, especially when docked.

In addition, as in the coastal waters of the United States, there is some drug-related activity in Belize waters. Belize is a minor transhipment point for cocaine from South America going to Mexico and the U.S.

The main events that have taken place in or near Belize waters in recent years were: the hijacking by a group of Guatemalans of a Belize-owned water taxi from Guatemala last year between Punta Gorda and Puerto Barrios, Guatemala -- several people were killed and the water taxi was stolen. The crime was not solved but some people believe it was related to a business or possibly drug dispute.

Earlier there was a mass killing near English Caye, connected with a drug ring.

Several times in recent years the Belize authorities have stopped boats carrying cocaine and other drugs.

I know of no yacht charters that have been affected by these activities, however. Dive boats and other tourist boats are constantly operating in Belize waters, both inside and outside the reef. I have never heard of one being involved with "pirates." The main problem associated with yacht charters is that Belize waters, due to the barrier reef, shallow coastal waters with coral heads and choppy, windy conditions, is not ideal for chartering by those not familiar with the waters.

You could contact the charterers in Belize and ask them. TMM in San Pedro is the only major charter operation. Windsong in Punta Gorda charters some boats in southern Belize.

--Lan


Q. Thanks for your great website! My husband and I only have one week in Belize (end of
April, beginning of May). We want to do 3-4 days of
diving and then some caving.

What do you think of Ambergris vs the outer atolls?
We can do a partial week at Turneffe. What do you
think of Turneffe Flats vs Blackbird Caye Resort? Is
there anywhere else on the outer atolls we can do a
partial week (Sat-Wed)? If we stay at Ambergris,
we're interested in something that's moderately priced
on the edge of town (still like to be able to bike to
town) that's quiet. We looked at Carribean Villas but
they only have a suite left. Any recommendations?

For caving, what do you think of Caves Branch vs Actun
Tunichil? Can you recommend tour operators for Actun
Tunichil - I've heard about Pacz but can't find a
website for them


Daphne Li
San Francisco


A. The diving around Ambergris Caye is decent recreational diving, but the diving around the atolls is world-class. You can do day trips to Turneffe and Lighthouse atolls from Ambergris Caye, but they are expensive and often tiring. I usually recommend Ambergris Caye for those who are mostly interested in a relaxed Caribbean resort island with a good deal of choices in restaurants, hotels and things to do and who want to do just some recreational diving; for serious divers, I'd say go to one of the atolls but understand that there is nothing there except water activities -- no shops, restaurants, etc. except at the lodge.

If you decide to stay on Ambergris Caye, my first choice south of town for value, service and nice accommodations would be the condotel Banana Beach. Xanadu, another small condotel, is also a good choice, as is Coconuts, which is a small hotel which offers some real deals off-season. Just north of town a good value is Seven Seas, and in town you can't beat Mayan Princess.

It would be a toss-up between Blackbird Caye and Turneffe Flats.

You can't beat Actun Tunichil Muknal. Mayawalk Adventures in San Ignacio does a popular trip to this cave, but several other operators do also. The cave is fairly close to Pook's Hill Lodge.

--Lan
Q. Hello! My sister and I are planning on visiting Belize this summer. I was wondering if you could give me some information on shelling? Such as where the best shelling spots are and are there any specific laws we need to know about.......Thanks!

Cindy Jameson
Rogersville, Tennessee


A. I'm afraid you will not find very good shelling on most beaches in Belize, especially those on the mainland and on islands inside the reef. One reason is that the barrier reef, which runs along the coast of Belize for most of its length, aborbs the wave energy which normally would bring whole shells to the shore and up on the beach.

However, in many areas inside the reef if you go snorkeling you can find many large mollusk or snail shells, along with other shells. There are various types of conch, which have beautiful shells (live conchs cannot be harvested July through September).

If you get out to the atolls and cayes that are outside the main barrier reef, you will find more shells on beaches.

I have been told that on and near several of the small islands on the back side of Ambergris Caye, such as Cayo Pajaro, there is some pretty good shelling.

There are no laws that I am aware of regarding shelling, except regarding not taking or damaging coral or the shells of protected species such as sea turtles.

--Lan


Q: Are there any golf courses in Belize?

James Bragg


A: There is an 18-hole golf course on Caye Chapel, between Belize City and Ambergris Caye. It is part of a corporate retreat complex but is open to the public. It is a beautiful seaside course though controversial because of where it was built.

On the old Northern Highway about 35 miles north of Belize City is a fairly new 9-hole course, called Altun-Ha Club. I’m not a golfer, but this little doesn’t exactly remind me of Pebble Beach.

Near Hopkins, Jaguar Reef Lodge is planning to build a 9-hole course using synthetic turf. The owner says it will open late spring of 2002.

Don’t ruin your walk!

--Lan






Q. My husband and I are planning trip to Belize in March or April. We would like to do some fishing but not enough to justify Turneffe Island Lodge prices. Can you recommend a place to stay where excellent fishing can be arranged for 2-3 days, has a nice beach, we like the idea of a cabana and some privacy. We are not opposed to moving locations if needed to have good fishing 1st part of stay followed by a few days of relaxation. Also, is it better to do all-inclusive or not?

Some places that have looked interesting to us are:

Turneffe Island Lodge - too much fishing at too high a price?
El Pescador - seems fishing might be good and we could move elsewhere after a few days
Mata Chica - looks neat and secluded. Is it overpriced? Are the bugs too bad in North this time of year?
Tom Jones House - looks nice and private. Is it too secluded?

I've talked to actionbelize. Their stay is at Biltmore for fishing and then Sunbreeze for a few days. But I'm not really impressed with either property and didn't want to stay in Belize City. The rep. said the best fishing was out of Belize City which is not what I understand from reading I've done

Carol Kilby



A. Certainly, if you have the budget for it, Turneffe Lodge or Turneffe Flats or one of the other fishing-oriented remote lodges offer some of Belize's best fishing. Placencia also has some excellent fishing guides and some really nice places to stay, including my favorite, Inn at Robert's Grove. While Placencia is still recovering from Hurricane Iris, many places north of Placencia village have reopened and fishing guides are working again. Sittee Point/Hopkins also has a couple of fishing lodges, plus some top resorts such as Hamansi, and when it recovers from Iris, the Punta Negra area in southern Belize will see some new fishing lodges.

Staying on Ambergris Caye is a good option for those who want some fishing but some other activities as well, along with excellent hotels and good restaurants. El Pescador, which has upgraded some and added deluxe villas, is still the # 1 place to stay if fishing is your main interest, but you can stay anywhere on the island and hook up with a good guide.

I personally think the island's condotels offer the best value in accommodations -- much more space and as many amenities as the regular resorts. Among the ones I think are the best are Villas at Banyan Bay, Banana Beach, and The Palms, but there are about a dozen more, mostly good to very good accommodations.

Below is some information on fishing around Ambergris Caye.

--Lan


>>FISHING
Southern Belize and several of the remote cayes or atolls including Turneffe are better known centers for serious gamefishing, but the waters around Ambergris Caye also offer a great variety of saltwater fishing. The lagoons and flats on the back side of Ambergris hold bonefish, permit and barracuda. The river mouths and estuaries are home to snook, jacks and tarpon. Grouper, jacks, snapper and other fish hang out around the barrier reef. The deep blue waters beyond the reef contain marlin, sailfish and other big fish. Many fish, including bone fish and tarpon, can be caught year-round. Within 15 minutes of leaving the dock, you can be fishing in tidal flats or in blue water hundreds of feet deep, and you can even catch fish from the beach or a dock. Like Placencia, Ambergris Caye has many experienced fishing guides.
Size of fish: Typical sizes caught around Ambergris Caye: tarpon, up to 100 pounds in the lagoon but larger elsewhere; bonefish, 2 to 8 pounds; permit, 3 to 30 pounds; barracuda, 3 to 25 pounds; snook, mostly 5 to 10 pounds.
Licenses: You do not need a license for salt-water fishing in Belize.
Shore, beach and dock fishing: Not many people, locals or visitors, fish from shore on Ambergris, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It’s certainly cheap entertainment, and you can catch all types of fish, from barracuda to snapper, jacks and grouper. Ultra-light tackle with small spinners and grubs can be used for any type of fish. For the best shore fishing, you’ll want to get away from the developed areas and head north or south. One easily accessible fishing area begins about one-fourth mile north of the hand-pulled ferry, on the back (west) side. Here you have a good shot at red snapper and cuda, among other fish. You can also catch bonefish here or anywhere in the shallow flats on the back side. Watch out for the occasional croc. Late in the afternoon is a good time to fish from the docks, especially south of town.
Bait and tackle: For fly fishing, a stiff 8 or 9 weight rod will work for most situations. For spin fishing, a long medium-action rod for bonefish and permit and a stiff heavy-action rod for tarpon and large reef species are all you need. Bait can be bought at a small bait shop near the airstrip, or ask locally. El Pescador has a first-rate fly shop.
What to do with your fish: If you catch eating fish and aren’t staying in condo or house with kitchen, many restaurants in San Pedro will clean and cook them for you for around US$5 per person. It helps if you’ll give the restaurant a little extra fish that they can serve to regular customers.
Spearfishing: Spearfishing is legal only if you are doing it with mask, fins and snorkel. While it is technical legal, visitors are strongly discouraged from doing it, as it depletes the fisheries; this is one of those things that is okay for Belizeans to do but frowned upon when visitors do it. It is illegal to spearfish with scuba equipment. You also cannot spearfish in a marine reserve or national park.
When fish are biting:
Tarpon -- They are around all year,but the best tarpon fishing is April through August.
Bonefish: Again, they are present all year but peak from April throuhgh October.
Permit: The best fishing is April through August.
King Mackeral: April through June
Marlin and Sailfish: Anytime, but best months are March through June
Snapper: Anytime
Grouper: December through February
Grouper: December - February
Barracuda: All months
Marlin: All months
Wahoo: Winter usually best
Snapper: All months
Cost: Cost for charters depends on the type of fishing (reef, deep sea, or bone and tarpon), the size of the boat, number of anglers, time of year and current bank balance of the captain, but expect to pay around US$150 to $200 for a full day's fishing trip, including guide, bait and tackle, and ice. You may find a guide for less but you get what you pay for.
Tipping: US$20 a day per boat (one or two anglers) is common.
Guides: Fishing guides: Ask locally for current information on fishing guides. Rubie's Hotel is a good place to start. El Pescador on North Ambergris is a small hotel that specializes in fishing packages. Among local fishing guides recommended by knowledgeable anglers are:
Omar Arceo, 501-26-2410
Luz Guerrero -- docks at Holiday Hotel
George and Roberto Bradley -- work out of Victoria House
Gil Gonzalez, 501-26-2118
Carlos Marin and Nesto Gomez at Pescador
Luis Caliz, 501-26-5025

Q: Is there a golf course in Belize? I do not care about quality, just is there one there? I may come in late November to look around. What is a good cheap hotel in Belize City. Where should I stay to visit the majority of the American community?
Lew Slaughter


A: The only real golf course in Belize is on Caye Chapel, about a half hour by boat from either Belize City or San Pedro. A small 9-hole course is open near Altun Ha on the Northern Highway. A 9-hole sand links course may open near Hopkins in the middle of 2002.

There are no good, cheap hotels in Belize City. Safe, cheap hotels include Seaside Guest House and Downtown Guest House. Good, moderately priced hotels include Colton House, The Great House and Belize Biltmore Plaza.

The majority of American expats resident in Belize are in San Pedro. Some are also in Cayo, Belize City, Corozal Town and Placencia.

--Lan


Q: 1) How good is the cell phone coverage in Belize? 2) What are the yearly wind speeds in various parts of Belize? e.g. Where are wind generators feasible?

Jimmy Scott, Ph.D.
Hastings, ON Canada


A: Cell phone coverage in Belize is pretty good around Belize City, all the major towns, and on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. It is spotty in rural areas, especially in western and southern Belize. Belize Telecommunications, Ltd., until December 2002 the only legal telecommunications company in Belize, can provide you with a cell phone coverage map. In remote areas, fixed cellular is used, although recently I'm told it has been hard to get installations.

On wind speeds, it is really beyond the scope of our question-and-answer service to offer detailed wind velocity studies. You might try contacting the Belize Metereological Service. In general, except in late summer, virtually all of the mainland coast and the cayes enjoy prevailing 10 to 20 knot winds from the water. Inland, it is generally not consistently windy. There are some wind generated power systems, however. One lodge that uses wind as part of its energy generating mix is Mama Noots Back-a-Bush Lodge (mamanoots@btl.net, www.mamanoots.com) near the Mayflower Maya site just south of Dangriga. The co-owner, Kevin Denny, an American married to a Belizean, is very interested in alternative energy systems.

--Lan

Q: My wife and I are planning to go to Belize and one of the things I want to do is windsurfing. I cannot seem to find information on wind conditions by month, except that Nov-April or so seems good for WS and hurricanes are most likely in Aug-Sept. For ideal WS, winds should be brisk, say 15-20MPH, water temp should be warm enough to not need to wear a suit. Any recommendations?

Barry


A: Easterly winds on the cayes and coast in Belize blow consistently 15 mph + for most of the year. Usually the best conditions are January through March or April. The worst conditions are usually August and September, when sometimes the winds drop off to nothing for some time. Caye Caulker is Belize’s windsurfing center, but you can do it off beaches in Placencia and Hopkins as well as off other cayes. Expect to pay around US$10 an hour for board rental.

May the wind always be at your back!

--Lan

Q: We are thinking about climbing and surfing over New Years. Does Belize
offer those sports plus maybe somewhere fun to dance on New Year's Eve?

Trish McGinity
Evergreen, Colo.


A: There is no surfing at all in Belize -- due to the barrier reef offshore the wave energy is quite low. There is good windsurfing, however.

As the tallest mountain in Belize is just around 3,700 feet, climbing is not a major sport. However, there is good hiking in fairly steep topography in the Mountain Pine Ridge and in the Maya Mountains, especially in the Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve.

San Pedro is the place for punta dancing on New Year's Eve.

Happy New Years 2002!

--Lan

Q: What are some of the marinas in Belize?

A: There are quite a few "marinas" in Belize, but for the most part they may not live up to your expectations. Most are hardly more than a pier or dock.

The biggest are probably the marinas at the Radisson Fort George in Belize City, the Princess Hotel & Casino in Belize City, and the Belize Yacht Club in San Pedro. The Belize City marinas take draft of up to about 10 feet, and San Pedro about 6 feet.

There also are small marinas at Tony's Inn, Corozal Town; Sittee Point near Hopkins; Orange Point Marina, Punta Gorda; on the lagoon side of Placencia. And there are a few others.

If you haven't sailed in Belize, keep in mind that the very shallow water inside the reef, the many coral heads, and the choppy water and windy conditions make for some fairly tricky boating.

Happy sailing!

--Lan

Q: My husband and I are interested in traveling to Belize in Jan or Feb. We would like to travel on our own to Belize and then find some local fishing and birding tours. Is that a possiblity or should we tour Belize with a package tour group? Thanks in advance.

Stacy

A: Belize is a very easy country in which to travel independently, as most everyone speaks English and most hotels and even tour guides have e-mail and/or Web sites. Most of the better jungle lodges, including particularly Chan Chich, Lamanai Outpost, duPlooy's, Ek 'Tun, Pook's Hill and Chaa Creek, have guides who do a lot of birding tours. Another great birding area is Crooked Tree. I was just there and saw both a jabiru stork. Chan Chich Lodge is a especially set up for birders, and about 40% of the guests there are birders. As to fishing, there are guides in several areas. Placencia is the hub of sports fishing, but Sittee River/Hopkins, Ambergris Caye, Punta Gorda, Turneffe and Caye Caulker also have guides. South of Placencia in the Punta Negra area is the newest place for fishing, and several fishing lodges are being built there.

Keep those binoculars ready!

--Lan

Q: First of all, I really appreciate all of the information you have made available on the internet. Your comments have been invaluable. I recently read that next week is the best time to be in belize, with
independence day coming soon and Saint George's Caye Day.

Two of us were tossing around the idea of flying into Belize City, renting sea kayaks for the week (probably from Caye Caulker), cruising around and camping where we can. we're thinking next week . . . we're pretty spartan, like to snorkel, and it sounds fun. We're in our mid 20's and also thought that there might be some good parties on caye caulker. If the kayak/camping idea is not the best, then we'd appreciate any advice regarding places to stay.

q 1. do we need any sort of permit for camping?
q 2. any recommendations as to kayak rental?
q 3. should we launch from caye caulker or the mainland?

Geronimo Williams


A: Nothing wrong with your planned approach. The waters off Belize can be surprisingly rough and choppy, but if you're in good condition and don't mind the sun and salt water, it can be a great experience.

As to camping, many cayes are privately owned, and you should seek permission from the caretaker, if there is one, to camp. At reserves or parks, you'll need to pay a small fee. For example, at Half Moon Caye, way out on Lighthouse Reef, you have to register with the ranger and pay US$5. Keep in mind that a lot of cayes in Belize are just mangrove swamps, where there's no place to camp.

On Caye Caulker, I'm told Daisy's hotel and Gallery Hicaco do some rentals. Several places in Placencia rent kayaks. As to where to launch, depends on where you can get a kayak rental and also what kind of trip you want. Again, understand that this is not easy kayaking. There's a lot of sea, islands are spaced far apart, the water can be extremely rough. You might want to consider basing in a place like Placencia or Hopkins and doing day trips at first until you get the hang of the special conditions in Belize. You could also go out (by boat) to Glovers Reef and kayak from there.

For a good first-hand report on a kayaking trip in Belize, see http://www.caske2000.org/ngo/caske2000/belizeluke.htm

Good luck!

--Lan

Q: A few questions here if you would be so kind as to provide answers. Where is the best location to do spelunking? How far is San Ignacio from Belize City? What is the average temperature in late November on the coast and in the San Ignacio region?

Suzanne Woodard


A: There are many caves in Cayo, Stann Creek and Toledo districts. The area with the most caves is Cayo District. Some of the caves of note in the San Ignacio area are Actun Tunichal Muknal and Barton Creek. Che Chem Ha is noteworthy for the amount of Maya artifacts in it. There also are extensive cave systems in the Chiquibul Wilderness southwest of San Ignacio. National Geographic explored part of a 60-mile system in the April 2000 edition. Off the Hummingbird Highway is a very accessible cave, St. Herman’s.

San Ignacio is about 1 3/4 hours by car from Belize City, or two to three hours by bus depending on which type of bus, regular or express.

Temperatures in San Ignacio in November would typically be in the high 80s for a high, and low to mid 60s for a low. Coastal highs would be about the same but lows will be a few degrees warmer. Occasionally beginning in the late fall cold fronts due come down from the north and make things cooler for a few days.

Say hello to the bats !

--Lan

 

MISCELLANEOUS


Q. Could you please answer this question. Was Belize once called British Honduras?
Does Honduras still exist today or is Honduras and British Honduras the same
as Belize?
Thanks
Brian

A. Yes, Belize was formerly British Honduras. It was known as British Honduras from 1862 to 1973.

Honduras is another country in Central America, to the south of Belize.

--Lan


Q. I am a big bird hunter and have hunted several places in South America.
It's always a little bit of a hassle bringing in your firearms. If you
were going to move to Belize, and retire to fish and hunt, what would
the problems be with your firearms?

Carroll Swafford


A. Tourists and other non-citizens are not permitted to bring firearms into Belize, and hunting is not allowed by visitors to Belize and is limited in general, as much of Belize land is protected as nature reserve. If you retired in Belize and got official residency, you could apply for a permit to own a gun or guns. If you could show a need for a gun, such as being a farmer or for self-protection, you likely would get a license, for which there is a small fee depending on the type of gun.

--Lan


Q. I am a 3rd year medical student at the University of Michigan in Ann
Arbor, Mi, USA, and am currently planning my schedule for next year, when
I have some freedom to do foreign rotations. I know you are an expert in
the in's and out's of Belize, so I was hoping you could recommend some
good contacts in terms of hospitals, private doctors, etc., in Belize,
that wouldn't mind having a medical student helping out for a month.

Miguel P. Wolbert
Ann Arbor, Michigan

A: I'm afraid I don't know much about medical rotations in Belize. You might contact Alvaro Rosado, CEO of Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City. He seems like a nice, sharp guy and probably can send you in the right direction. KHMH is the largest hospital in Belize.

His contact info: khmhceo@moh.org.bz, tel. 501-2-31548, fax 501-2-33081

There are small offshore med schools in Belize, St. Matthews, Medical University of the Americas, and Belize Medical School. A fourth school is located in Belmopan. I believe they all do their rotations outside of Belize. St. Matthews is moving to the Cayman Islands in April/May

--Lan

Q. hello there! my girlfriend and i will be leaving our beautiful state of
alaska for a month-long backpacking trip through belize in march 2002. we
plan on doing quite a bit of camping, and want to be able to use our
campstove. i have a liquid fuel backpacking stove that uses white
gas(Coleman fuel) and another that uses screw-on fuel canisters. my question
is this: how available is white gas in belize, and how abundant are fuel
canisters, such as Primus, Camping Gaz or MSR brands? flying with full fuel
canisters or stoves is out of the question, so i am relying on your
expertise in this matter, so we may have some hot meals sometime.

tyler bounds

A. You should be able to find some kind of fuel for your stove -- probably "white gas" which I told is actually different from Coleman fuel, though the two terms are often used interchangeably. I would not count on finding the kinds of canisters your second stove needs, though you can check with hardware stores in Belize City and possibly in Dangriga and San Ignacio. If all else fails, you can probably use unleaded gas (premium gas at the pump), though that will cause problems for your stove after a while.

In Belize, butane (rather than propane) and kerosene are the fuels of choice. These are widely available. Everything else you may have to scrounge for.

The traditional way of cooking in bush areas of Belize is to use a simple stove fired by cohune nuts.

Ideally if you are carrying a stove you should have a multi-fuel stove that can, with adjustments, run on any of several fuels, such as kerosene, butane or white gas.

I personally would not lug two stoves around Belize. In most cases where you camp will have some kind of access to cooking. For example, in Cockscomb Preserve there is a common kitchen which you can use for a small fee. Since there are few campgrounds in Belize, camping is often done adjoining a lodge or hotel, where you can get food usually at moderate cost.

--Lan





Q. I am interested in knowing more about the Garifuna people of Belize. I understand that a 45 minute video exist on the topic. How much is the video and how can I obtain one?

Val

A. There are several videos on the Garifuna available. Probably the best is "The Garifuna Journey." It was shot entirely in Belize and runs 46 minutes. It sells for US$99 and can be obtained from

NEW DAY FILMS
22-D Hollywood Avenue
Ho-ho-kus, NJ 07423
Tel.: 201.652.6590
Fax: 201.652.1973
http://www.newday.com/films/GarifunaJourney.html

Another is "Spirit of My Mother," in Spanish with English subtitles, which tells of a woman's travels from Los Angeles to Honduras in search of her Garifuna identity. This 57-minute video is available from:

Los Gatos Productions
P.O. Box 2238
Santa Clara, CA 95055
(408) 999-8207
losgatos@flamefilms.com

--Lan



Q: From all that I've read in the chat rooms of Fodor's, you are the man who
knows all about Belize. I wonder if you would answer a few questions for
me? A friend of mine suggested that I leave my wedding and engagement rings at home because of the crime in Belize. Do you think this is good advice? Second, everything I've read said not to walk at night. We will be staying at the Radisson Fort George in Belize City, are there restaurants and other such entertainment near by so that we don't have to walk far from our hotel
and still be safe? Finally, in your seasoned opinion, what sites/activities
are on your top list for first timers and what tips can you suggest for a
safe yet enjoyable honeymoon?

Thank you in advance for your valued input!

Babs Belar

A: Belize City does have a crime problem (whereas most of the rest of Belize does not). However, tourists rarely are affected by crime in the city, as they mostly occur (as in the U.S.) in marginal neighborhoods where visitors wouldn't go.

The Fort George area, one of the nicest in the city, is patrolled by tourist police, who have been very successful in reducing crime. The Radisson Fort George is in a lovely area, and there are several restaurants within walking distance. Right across the street is one of the best restaurants in the city, the Smoky Mermaid at The Great House.

I would not bring flashy jewelry, but there is no problem in wearing wedding rings and such.

--Lan

 

Q: 1) How good is the cell phone coverage in Belize? 2) What are the yearly wind speeds in various parts of Belize? e.g. Where are wind generators feasible?

Jimmy Scott, Ph.D.
Hastings, Ontario, Canada

A: Cell phone coverage in Belize is pretty good around Belize City, all the major towns, and on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. It is spotty in rural areas, especially in western and southern Belize. Belize Telecommunications, Ltd., until December 2002 the only legal telecommunications company in Belize, can provide you with a cell phone coverage map. In remote areas, fixed cellular is used, although recently I'm told it has been hard to get installations.

On wind speeds, it is really beyond the scope of our question-and-answer service to offer detailed wind velocity studies. You might try contacting the Belize Metereological Service. In general, except in late summer, virtually all of the mainland coast and the cayes enjoy prevailing 10 to 20 knot winds from the water. Inland, it is generally not consistently windy. There are some wind generated power systems, however. One lodge that uses wind as part of its energy generating mix is Mama Noots Back-a-Bush Lodge (mamanoots@btl.net, www.mamanoots.com) near the Mayflower Maya site just south of Dangriga. The co-owner, Kevin Denny, an American married to a Belizean, is very interested in alternative energy systems.

--Lan

 

Q. Greetings. This is Henry Fernandez [Presbyterian ministry from Los Alamos, New Mexico -- that's actually in the USA, more or less]. Really enjoy your web site --- because I love Belize. Also, just purchased you Adapter Kit book. Good stuff. Thanks for your work on it. Hope it is a real success.

Just got back from a month long stay with my family [wife and three kids, 18, 16, 15]. We stayed in San Narciso, Corozal District [worked with a church there and also a congregation in Patchakan]. This is my second trip to Belize -- visited there in February, and worked with thee Presbyterian Medical Clinic in Patchakan with a physician from my congregation here in Los Alamos.

Ok, enough introductions. I have a question which you may be able to help me find an answer. While reading one of the on-line histories of Belize, I found a statement that I cannot corroborate regarding some of the first European settlers in Belize. The site [I just don't remember which one, but it could it have been one of the Belize by Natural Light sites] stated that the first English speaking settlers in Belize were English Puritan merchants. I thought that was fascinating, especially since Presbyterianism has its roots in Puritanism. Our confessional standard, the Westminster Confession of Faith, was written under the direction of a Puritan Parliament [Oliver Cromwell] and the divines gathered were all Puritan members of various denominations: Episcopalians, Congregationalist, and Presbyterians.

Could you help me find an answer to this historical question?

Thanks again for your work, your good writing, and your kind offer to attempt to answer your readers questions.


Henry Fernandez
[West Tampa Cuban living in New Mexico and looking for another excuse to go back to Belize]

A. According to Emory King's history of Belize, the first European settler in what is now Belize was a Spaniard, Gonzalo Gerrero, who was shipwrecked at Cozumel, Mexico, in 1511. The Maya killed most of his shipmates but spared him; he was sent to what is now Corozal Town, married a Maya woman and went native. Guerrero helped fight the Spanish in northern Belize and the Yucatan; in the 1630s the Spanish lost several battles to the Maya and were for the most part prevented from occupying Belize.

King and others say it is unclear exactly when the first English settlers arrived in Belize. A popular story is that a Captain Peter Wallace (or Wallis), a buccaneer who was probably a Scot, discovered the mouth of the Belize River in 1827, and perhaps with some of his crew settled near what is now Belize City, but this is poorly documented. Most historians agree that by 1650 there were a number of British "logwood cutters" in Belize, mostly former buccaneers or pirates. Perhaps some of them had been Puritans, but if so they had changed a bit, as while generally hard-working they were known also for hard drinking.

--Lan



Q: I'm a college student at Cal Poly Pomona. I need to do a cultural research
on Belize and present it on November 29,2001.

Firstly, I need to do market research on readers who purchases the Harlequin
Romance Books. Is there a web-site or can you provide the following
informations:

1) Whom is the target market(demographically)?
2) What type of products, the price, the promotion, and distribution?
3) What percentages of people read romance novels in your city?
4) Is the language in English?

Thank you for your kind assistance. If possible, please respond as soon as
possible via e-mail.

Angie Yu
Cal Poly Student

A: I'm afraid we are having a communications problem.

What do Harlequin Romance books have to do with Belize? If there is any research on Belizeans and their Harlequin Romance reading habits, I think you would have to ask the Harlequin publishers.

--Lan

Q: I am interested in studying at the University College of Belize for the semseter startingfrom January 2002. I need to make up a calculus requirement for graduate school which I plan on entering in September. Could you send me some information about entrance requirements and tuition, I tried the University College of Belize hompage but it unfortunately is not working. Also could you give me an idea of rent for student accomodation is in Belopan. Any assistance you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Mike Stewart

A. First of all, what was formerly called the University College of Belize has been known for more than a year as University of Belize. It has seven campuses -- including ones at Belmopan, Central Farm, Belize City and Punta Gorda.

Belizean citizens and permanent residents can attend UB for a tuition of US$10 per credit hour, with student fees of not more than US$112.50 per semester.

Rents in the Belmopan area vary widely, from under US$100 a month to more than US$1000. It is a small town, and most students live in their parents' homes or with relatives.

Perhaps you can do some homework and contact the university directly for information on entrance requirements and other specifics about your academic status.

--Lan


Q: What are or what caused the long lines under water that extend out from Belize City? I saw them flying from Belize City to Ambergris Caye.

Mike Traub


A: It's difficult to be sure which lines you are talking about, but there are two or three explanations. I checked with some sailors in Belize to confirm what I have been told earlier, and they tell me:

If the lines look "natural" (like ripples in sand dunes) they are lines of sand or mud on the sea bottom created by currents and wave action, probably accentuated by shadows and light refracted through the water. The water inside the reef is usually quite clear -- you are seeing the seafloor through a few feet of water.

The straight lines that look a little like jet con trails in the sky are usually caused by barges and boats moving through seagrass or in some cases sand/mud bottom. The water on the inside of the reef is quite shallow, mostly under 8 feet and in some cases just a foot or two, so that props and keels of boats can sometimes leave "trails" on the seafloor.

There also are underwater power and telephone cables running to San Pedro from the mainland, but this is probably not what you are referring to. Also, after storms boats, mangrove trees and other items can be drug by the wind along the seafloor, causing ditches that may remain for some time after the storm.

Q: We are fine with a day of sailing, maybe some fishing, bike riding, and the Black Hole rappel sounds fun. I'm also a pilot and the thought of renting a plane (and pilot) to fly the Cayes is outstanding. I realize this may be completely impossible.

George Jenson


A: I do not believe it will be possible to rent a plane to fly yourself. You can of course charter a private plane to take you anywhere, but the cost will be high. If I remember correctly, the only cayes with airstrips are Ambergris, Caulker, Chapel and the caye that Lighthouse Reef Resort is on.

Keep’em flyin!

--Lan

Q: I'm about to go to Belize and hope I will get some good
diving! I'm from Sweden and am curious if I need visa?

Johan H. Hafström

A: Nationals of the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the EU do NOT need a visa to enter Belize. Since Sweden is an EU member, you will not need a visa. You will of course need a valid passport. Upon arrival, entry is usually granted for 30 days, at no charge, after which period the entry stamp can be renewed for US$12.50 a month for up to six months. On departure, there are international exit taxes and fees totaling US$20.

--Lan

Q: Was just wondering if you had any info or insight into getting married in Belize? Thanks.

R. Koch


A: Marriages in Belize are conducted in the tradition of British common law and are recognized world-wide. You must be in Belize for three days before you can apply for a license. Marriage licenses can be obtained in Belize City at the General Registry office or Belmopan at the Solicitor General’s office, during normal working hours. Cost is US$100. No blood test is needed; parental consent not needed if over 18.

You need proof of citizenship. A valid passport will do, or a certified copy of birth certificate, which includes father’s name, signed by a notary public. Proof of divorce needed if applicable – bring original or certified copy of divorce decree. If widowed, you’ll need a copy of the partner’s death decree.

A Justice of the Peace, of which there are many in Belize, can conduct the ceremony at a magistrate’s office; in Belize City, the Registrar General can conduct the ceremony at the Registry office. If you prefer a religious ceremony, most ministers in Belize can perform the ceremony at a church or at a hotel or private home.

Hotels on Ambergris Caye, in Placencia, Cayo and elsewhere can assist with wedding details, including help with obtaining a minister or JP and getting the license, if you are staying at the hotel. Some Belize tour operators also provide wedding assistance.

Congratulations!

--Lan

Q: Do you know if I can get Belikin back here in Texas? Thanks for your help!

Jim Ogden


A: To my knowledge Belikin is not available anywhere in the U.S. Bowen & Bowen has said it is expanding its brewery so that it can eventually begin exporting.

Cheers!

--Lan

Q: Do you know of any book that has a list or dictionary of Belize colloquial
terms?

Robert Tewes


A: The only thing that I'm aware of that comes close would be Creole Proverbs of Belize by Sir Colville Young. I don't believe this is available in U.S. bookstores, but you can probably order it from the Angelus Press Web site.

Al a we mek Belize!

--Lan

Q: First, this is a serious question. I am a student working on an international business plan for my final paper. I am putting together a plan on exporting canned vegetables to Belize. Research has indicated canned green beans and peas could be desired there. Can you tell me the average price of a 14 1/2 oz can of green beans and a 14 1/2 oz can of peas? Is the amount in Belize$ or US$? Do you consider these products to be an import candidate for Belize. I have searched the internet without success and do not know anyone in Belize.

Dale Hughes, Luling, Louisiana


A: I'm not in Belize right now and I'm afraid I don't know off-hand the price of 14 1/2 oz. canned beans or peas. As in the U.S., it would vary considerably from store to store, generally being less in Belize City supermarkets, of which there are just two "large" ones, and highest on the cayes and in Punta Gorda. In general, for imported items like that you could figure the average U.S. price and then add 50%. If you want an exact figure, you might ask on the Belize Culture mailing list. Someone there in Belize might have the time to check at a grocery and give you some exact prices. To subscribe/unsubscribe send to bz-culture-request@psg.com the message:
subscribe or unsubscribe. Send comments to bz-culture-owner@psg.com.

For your business plan, keep in mind that the entire country of Belize has only about 240,000 people, the population of Lafayette, and of these about two-thirds are under age 21, and as average GDP is about one-tenth that in the U.S. the buying power of the country as a whole is probably not more than that of Luling. As a practical matter, exporting into a tiny market like Belize is not a very profitable business, even if there is an indicated demand for a product.

Hope you get an “A”!

--Lan


Q: Why do the Mennonites in Orange Walk seem to be so prosperous compared to
others farming the same land? One local resident suggested that they farmed
land grant property given them by the government. Another person suggested
they had sufficient money to purchase the best land cheaply and the
knowledge to farm it properly. Can't their success be a model for improving
the living standard for others in the country?

Charles Oelsner
Syracuse, New York

A: The Mennonites have generally been successful in Belize. They contribute a great deal to Belize. That's all true.

They do have a special agreement with the Belize government which allows them to function almost autonomously. Their original move into Belize in the 1950s and 1960s, from Canada and Mexico, was under special circumstances.

Cultural differences are involved, too. Mennonites have strong family ties, a traditional Northern European work ethic and a powerful religious organizing principle. Many follow a North American model of capitalism and personal or family entrepreneurism. These cultural beliefs may not be completely appropriate for Belize's multicultural society which is based on indigenous Mayan, African and other heritages.

The Mennonite farming model, which includes in some areas the use of large amounts of non -organic fertilizers and other chemicals in their farming operations, may not be appropriate for other groups in Belize, nor, some argue, is it necessarily in the best long-term interests of Belize, which for several thousand years was farmed using the organic milpa model.

--Lan

Q: Is there anything of value that people of Belize would like to buy from the states that I could bring?

Greg Bertra


A: Not really. Belizeans have access to just about anything sold in the U.S. or elsewhere. The only problem is that due to high import taxes most items cost more in Belize than in the U.S. There are some items that are hard to get in Belize -- books, magazines, good-quality bed linens, high-quality mattresses, quality cooking utensils, for example, but these would be impractical for a tourist to bring in. Of course, if you are bringing in items for sale rather than personal use, you would have to declare them and pay the import duties.

--Lan

Q. How many students are enrolled at St. Matthew's University School of Medicine including the satellite campus at St. Joseph's College in Maine, U.S.A.?

Niel Kropp

A. This is from Dr. Thornton of SMU: On Ambergris Caye there are approximately 185 students in full time residence. In Maine there are currently 50. Other students are in clinical rotations throughout England and the U.S. Overall, St. Matthew's has an enrollment of approximately 485 students.

--Lan


Q: We are leaving for Placencia tomorrow. Your articles have been very helpful! Can you tell me if my cell phone will work there? Is it worth bringing? If not, how would I call the US from there. I use MCI for my
long distance carrier.


A: Whether your cell phone will work in Belize or not depends on what kind of cell phone it is. Many do work. However, you'll have to have it programmed by Belize Telecommunications Ltd. to work in Belize. That costs around US$50, plus the cost of calls that you make (incoming calls to your cell are free.) You can have that done at the BTL office at the airport -- it's just across the parking lot and rental car area. Sometimes there’s quite a wait. If your cell phone can't be programmed, you can rent a BTL phone for US$5 per day plus the cost of outgoing calls.

You can call the US from Belize -- rates are about US$1.35 per MINUTE if you use BTL. If you have calling card you can dial an operator who will give you a better rate. For MCI, dial 815 from pay phones or 557 from hotels. Check with MCI before you go to find out if there’s a special number for your cell phone.

Note that most pay phones in Belize have now been converted to work only with phone cards -- prepaid calling time. Coins no longer work. You can buy phone cards from BTL offices and many shops, in amounts of US$2.50 to US$25.

Reach out and touch ... Belize!

--Lan

Q: Some family members and myself are contemplating a visit to Belize, and were wondering exactly what is required to get there? Such as inocculations of any kind? We have never left the States and were just curious. Thanks for any information you can supply.

Diedra


A: No inocculations are REQUIRED, except Yellow Fever if coming from an infected area such as part of Africa or South America.

For visits to popular resort areas such as Ambergris Caye, most visitors take no special precautions. Ambergris Caye is about like Florida in terms of health risk. However, for visits to inland areas, especially remote areas in the far south or west, it is a good idea to take malaria prophylaxsis (chloroquine). Most veterans travelers also like to have their basic sticks up to date -- Hep A, Hep B, tetanus, etc. -- just in case.

The CDC has specific recommendations on what you might need. Their recommendations tend to be ultraconservative, however.

Stay well!

--Lan


POST-SEPTEMBER 11 ISSUES




Q: Due to the grounding of U.S. flights, I am stuck in Houston. Do you know the best bus companies in Mexico?

Mike


A: There are a number of bus lines along the east coast of Mexico -- ADO being one of the largest, Grupo Senda, Autobuses Americanos, Autobuses Amigos and others. Lots of bus service, and the first class and deluxe buses are comfortable, with reserved seats, videos, snacks, A/C, bathrooms, attendents, etc. but the schedules are complex and unreliable, and connections can be a pain. You can’t just jump on a bus in Nuevo Laredo and get off in Chetumal. It’s about 1400 miles through Mexico to the Belize border, plus the distance from Houston to the border, with lots of stops and connections along the way.

A couple of excellent sources of information on buses in Mexico and elsewhere in the region are http://www.magic-bus.com/ and http://www.busstation.net/

Another thought is that if you can get from Houston to the border via bus, rental car or whatever, and into Mexico you can fly from there to Chetumal. Air service outside of the U.S. is more or less business as usual, and there are inexpensive internal flights in Mexico to Cancun, Merida, Coz or Chetumal that will save you several long days on buses.

Take the bus and leave the driving to us!

--Lan


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This page, and all contents, are Copyright © 2001 Belize First Magazine. All rights reserved.

ze Resident?

Shimunek

A: Belize Bank is happy to take your money. (Ditto Atlantic Bank and Alliance Bank). There is some paperwork involved, and they will probably ask for a reference from your previous or current bank, and you may get the run-around from some employees who don't want to fool with it, but eventually you will be able to open an account. The question is WHY would you want to do so? Why put your money in a tiny little bank in a currency that is basically not accepted outside of Belize and is subject to currency devaluation. Most expats and business owners in Belize maintain their primary account in a U.S. bank.

My new book, Adapter Kit: Belize, available on-line from Amazon.com, Borders and Barnes & Noble, as well as from regular bookstores, gives detailed information on all the residency options in Beize. As an American you don't need a visa per se. You can be in the country under one of four options: tourist card, official residency, qualified retired person incentive act residency, or as economic citizen. If you live in the country long enough you also can become a citizen.

No, you can't buy shares in the Central Bank of Belize (or of any central bank that I know of). Central banks are owned by the government or by the banking institutions of the country.

Don’t sweat the small change!

--Lan


Q: I hope you can point me in the right direction. I have been searching for information about banks in Belize and the services they offer, but it seems like the banks are not maintaining a Web presence. I understand they are small, when compared with the banks in the US. More specifically, I am interested in the kinds of services they offer to people who stay in Belize for extended periods (renewing their visas every six months), or who decide to become permanent residents, and need to deposit more than a few hundred dollars (the typical amount of money someone spends on a short vacation in Belize). Ideally, they (the banks) would offer savings accounts (perhaps time deposits) with no mandatory conversion of funds from USD to local currency. I am not interested in the solution of keeping the funds in a US bank and arranging for periodic transfers to a Belize bank (as suggested in the book from Bill and Claire Gray). Perhaps this topic is addressed in your upcoming book, and I shall certainly read it (looking for answers to additional questions I have about living in Belize), once it is published, but I am hoping you can address my specific questions about banking via email.

Alex Kohler


A: The Belize Banks (Belize Bank, Atlantic Bank, Alliance Bank and the two international banks with branches in Belize, ScotiaBank and Barclays) offer the same kinds of services most banks in the U.S., UK, Canada, and elsewhere offer -- checking, CDs, savings, mortgages, loans, etc. U.S. dollar accounts are available, but for the average person it is somewhat difficult to get a U.S. dollar account at a Belize bank -- you likely will either have to accept a Belize dollar account, and the risk associated with that, or do your banking in the U.S., which is what 98% of expats and foreign business owners do. Can't really imagine why you'd want to deposit money in a Belize bank beyond your immediate needs, but it's your money.

--Lan

Q: In connection with the Qualified Retiree Program it is required to deposit $24,000 per year in Belize dollars in a Belize bank. If for instance due to short stays in Belize one is accumulating Belize dollars what is the situation with regards to the following:
(a) Is it possible to convert back to US$?
(b) What is the real estate market like if you pay in Belize dollars?
(c) What is the rate of inflation of the local currency?
(d) What sort of interest rate is possible from local banks?

G. Parry-Jones, Saudi Arabia


A: Just to clarify, if you have a pension or social security the total required for deposit is US$12,000; it is only $24,000 if you are getting that amount from investment income.

Normally the U.S. and Belize dollars are used interchangeably in commerce within Belize, at a nominal rate of US$1 to 2 BZE$. You can pay in U.S. or Belize dollars, and get change in either currency.

Once your money is in the banking system, it is possible to reconvert to U.S. dollars, but it is not easy. Right now, the government is cracking down on U.S. dollar holders in Belize, especially private money changers. Technically, only banks in Belize can exchange money.

Inflation in recent years has been low, under 3% and there was actually a small deflation in 1999. Bank CD rates are in the range of 4 to 12%, depending on term, amount, etc.

As of now, there is little if any difference between real estate prices in U.S. and Belize dollars. This could change in the future, especially if there is increased demand for U.S. dollars.

Watch out for the sharks!

-- Lan

Q: Wondered if you had any information on St James' National Building Society or St John's Credit Union?

Stella Matthews


A: I'm afraid I don't have much information on these. St. James is fairly new, a couple of years old I think, though St. John's Credit Union has been around in one form or another for many years. Both are set up mainly to serve Belizeans, although non-citizens may in some cases apply for loans and non-residents can make deposits, etc.

I do not know of any expat who has built or financed property through St. James, which is somewhat like an S&L in the U.S. or a building society in the U.K. There may be some, however. I am asking around to see if I can find out more.

In general, one should be cautious when dealing with financial institutions in Belize. They do not operate under the same rules or principles as U.S. institutions. I know of many instances where borrowers learned to their dismay that, say, a loan at 12% actually cost them much more than that, when fees, insurance, and all kinds of other charges were added on. Sometimes the real interest rate is close to double the stated rate.

I know of one case going on right now where an American citizen, a lawyer, borrowed from Belize Bank money to purchase a condo on Ambergris Caye, over a period of 10 years. When the 10-year period was over, the bank claimed that not all payments had been made, and that the American owner actually owed an additional $29,000!

I also recommend that if possible when building or buying in Belize you borrow from a U.S. bank, even if you have to borrow against personal assets in the U.S., or from the seller directly (but be sure your lawyer makes the paperwork ironclad.) That is not to say that you can't successfully do business with a Belize financial institution, but keep your eyes wide open and double check everything. Keep meticulous records of every cent you borrow or pay.

Again, the consumer protections available in the U.S. are often not available in Belize, and especially not to non-Belizeans.

--Lan


LIVING IN BELIZE


Q. I am an American Sign Language interpreter and I would like to know if there is a deaf populace in Belize and if there is any employment for a skill such as mine. I appreciate your time and any information you may be able to provide.

Marianne Oteiza


A. I would imagine the incidence of deafness in Belize is about the same as elsewhere in the developing world. I have seen an estimate that there are about 13,000 deaf persons in Belize out of a population of 240,000. I do not know how accurate that estimate may be.

There is a small Mennonite-run institute for the deaf in Cayo District in Western Belize. You might get in touch with them. Their contact information is: Cayo Deaf Institute, Baking Pot, Central Farm, P.O. Box 427, Belize City, Belize, Central America, tel. 501-8-38078, fax 501-9-12101.

You could also contact the Belize National Association of the Deaf, P. O. Box 1212,
BELIZE CITY, Belize, Central America. Tel. 501-2 72768, fax 501-2-78470.

--Lan


Q. Recently, I saw an advertisement in a magazine offering Belize passports.
Is this real or a scam of some kind? I am a Canadian with a valid Canadian
passport, presently living and working at Nigeria in the offshore
exploration business.
My friend and I are interested in a trip to Belize in September / October.
On our return from Rio we will stop at Miami. As far as I know it will be
very easy to book a return from Miami, We use Navigant travel at Houston
for our travel arrangements. Do you have a suggestion for an agent well
connected to Belize and possibly good rates. Hotel suggestions would also
be appreciated.

Ross Casey


A. The Belize Economic Citizenship ("buy-a-passport") program was controversial and has been discontinued as of January of this year, though applications in process are being completed. Other programs, including the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive program, continue as before.

A good travel agent who knows Belize is Barb's Belize (www.barbsbelize.com, 1-888-321-2272). For an agent in Belize, it's Katie Valk at Belize Trips in Belize City, info@belize-trips.com.

It's not possible to suggest hotels without knowing where in the country you are going, your budget, etc. We have extensive hotel recommendations, including star ratings of most Belize hotels, on our Web edition of Belize First at www.belizefirst.com.
Q. I have just finished reading your Adapter Kit Belize. I ordered it
through Hastings Book Store -- they had it in for me in 5 days. My wife and I
have made the decision to move to Corozal Town area. I do have a
couple of questions that I am having a hard time getting a distinctive
answer to. The first question is how do my wife and I enter the country as
tourists and bring in our personal belongings (we intend to apply for a
self-employment work permit after we are in the country). The second
question is how do we get government departments to return emails about
these inquiries. Thanks for your help with our questions and congratulations
on a job well done with your book.

Bob Harper


A. Thank you for buying Adapter Kit: Belize. I appreciate it!

As to your questions, the letter of the law is, I believe, is that you will not be able to bring in your household goods and such without paying import duties and taxes on them. Of course as a visitor you can bring in items for personal use and can bring in a vehicle for temporary use (it will be entered on your passport).

The reason, as I understand it, is that customs officials cannot assume that you will get an exemption sometime in the future.

As to government officials not answering your questions, welcome to Belize! You will find that as a non-voter, non-Belizean you will often run into this problem, especially if you are working via e-mail or even by phone. In person, things may work a little more smoothly. One of the points I make in Adapter Kit is that expats are not so much at the bottom of the social ladder as beside it -- government officials (there are exceptions, of course) are much more responsive to their political constituencies. In Belize, I am afraid, you are a "nobody" at least until you become an official resident or a citizen.

In the meantime, I'd suggest you telephone government offices, or better yet, visit in person. It's easier to ignore e-mail than a persistent, but polite, voice on the phone or in person.

If you are investing in Belize, you may get a more attentive hearing, but that depends in part on how much you are investing and how you "work" with the government officials.

Those who decide to enter Belize under the Retired Persons Incentive Program generally find that the Belize Tourist Board, which administers that program, is much more responsive. Of course, retired persons under this program cannot work.

--Lan

Q. We were just wondering if there was a market for satellite TV and/or high speed Internet access in Belize? Are there companies already offering those services? If so, do you know how much they offer the services for and what features they have? For example, which stations and what is the internet bandwith that is offered.

Were aren't looking for a huge market - just enough to pay for a few trips down there :-).

Mike & Brian
mhennage@pacbell.net

A. At the present time, by law the only (with a few special exceptions) legal ISP in Belize is Belize Telecommunications Ltd., the local telecommunications monopoly. It is illegal to use satellite for Internet access or even (at least in theory) to use the Internet to make telephone calls.

This supposedly is set to change at the end of 2002, when BTL's monopoly officially ends.

--Lan


Q. I read recently the Belize government announced last May that it
intends to end its economic citizenship program at the beginning of
the next fiscal year--that is, March 2002. Is that true that Belize
will no longer offer a legitimate and reasonably priced passports.

I would qualify under the QRPIA, does the above have anything to do
with that status, or affect it in any way?

Will any change to the economic citizenship program affect how
Belize's IBC (International Business Corporation) rules and any
related Belize offshore banking/tax benefits?

ackermansf@sprintmail.com

A. The planned discontinuation of the controversial Economic Citizenship program (buy-a-passport) has no effect at all on the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Program or on any offshore or IBC program.

--Lan

Q: I have been researching Belize with the intent of relocating there. I have been interested by properties having some type of fruit or nut plantations. I would like to know if I owned one of these properties could I benefit from the sale of the fruit? Can one make enough money to live without having to get a job? What about raising geese or chikens? Could they be sold to a market? Is this line of thinking feesable or am I wasting my time?
Gerry


A: Of course there are many sides to the issue, but there's no reason why one couldn't make a living from small farming operations, truck gardening, fruit and such. Certainly there are Mennonites and others who do. You have to keep in mind that the Belize market is small and spread out, so export operations, for cacao, citrus or for high-value niche products such as herbs or organic produce, are often more feasible than selling to domestic markets. However, it may also be possible to generate good income from well-run truck farming, raising fowl or livestock, especially if you can serve a speciality market such as local tourist hotels and restaurants.

I recommend that you spend as much time in Belize as possible, talking to other farm and ranch owners to see the special problems faced in Belize.

--Lan

Q: I have a few questions about some "logistics" of living in Belize: What is veterinary availability like in Belize? (Based on government website, it appears it is possible to bring small domestic pets.) I gather there are not alot of bookstores and/or newsstands in Belize. How's the library?
I hesitate to ask this for fear of sounding snooty, but might as well:
what does Belize offer in the way of the arts? How easy/difficult is it to get things to Belize.... like mail order items, etc. on an occasional basis (I'm not talking about huge stuff that requires a container.)

-Caroline


A: There are vets in Belize City, Corozal Town and elsewhere. Expats with dogs or cats don't seem to have trouble getting care for their animals. Some pets don't adapt well to the hot, humid Belize climate, however, and may suffer from diseases they pick up from stray animals. But it seems to me that most expats in Belize do have a dog and generally they report no big problems. Yes, it's simple to bring pets into Belize. There's information on whom to contact in Adapter Kit: Belize.

Right, there are not a lot of bookstores in Belize. There are small bookshops in Belize City, San Pedro and San Ignacio, but the inventory is limited at best. There are public libraries in all towns. Don't expect the New York Public Library but at least you can find some reading matter.

If fine arts -- opera, dance, symphony, theater, galleries -- are a priority, Belize is not for you. I mean, there's only one movie theater in the entire country, and it just opened about a year ago. There are some talented artists working and several galleries in Belize City and San Pedro have some interesting work. There are a couple of dance troups. Belize is a lot like a small town in the U.S. There aren't a lot of public venues for the arts, but artists, writers and musicians find each other and there are small groups that support the arts and hold meetings and such.

As to ordering items from abroad, yes you can do that. You will have to pay import duty on a lot of items, which can be substantial. And international mailing costs are high. For example, the U.S. recently eliminated lower postal rates for books sent overseas -- it now costs almost US$12 to ship one of my Adapter Kit: Belize books from the U.S. to Belize. This is one reason why there are so few bookstores in Belize.

There are small companies -- Express Lane in San Pedro is one -- that sort of specialize in handling catalog shipments from outside of Belize. They handle the customs and duty for you for a small fee.

--Lan

Q: We are moving to Belize and want to buy a car when we get there. I'm 55 yrs old and qualify as a retired person. Are there used cars for sale in Belize? What are the price ranges for say a ten year old car or truck? Could one buy a Volkswagon in Mexico say in Chetumal or Cancun and drive it into Belize? Or would it be better to buy it in Miami, Florida and ship it to Belize.

--- David Holmes


A: Yes, there are used cars for sale in Belize. It's possible you could find a good deal, but in general the relatively small market for used cars and lack of competition mean that prices are usually higher, 10 to 20% higher, than in the highly competitive U.S. market, and the selection is much smaller. Also, many used cars in Belize have had a hard life, due to the bad roads. There are no laws to protect consumers if you get a lemon.

Under the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Act, any car you bring into Belize (including one you buy from Mexico) is supposed to be three years old or less. If it is older, in theory (and probably in practice) you will have to pay duty on it. Duty varies by number of cylinders and the value of the car, but figure 65 to 75% of book value. Pick-up trucks (not SUVs) are taxed at at a lower rate, around 10%.

It could be worth seeking an exception to the three-year rule from the Belize Tourist Board. I've not heard of them granting it, but I guess it's possible.

Overall, if you are going to be in Belize long-term under the QRPIA I think you would be better off bringing in an almost new vehicle from the U.S., even with the cost of shipping from Miami or wherever, you'll likely come out ahead. There's a glut of quality used cars now in the U.S., prices are low and selection is huge. As a Qualifed Retired Person, you vehicle would be entered duty-free.

--Lan

Q: My wife (65)and I (68), Canadian Citizens,want to
retire in Belize. I have a government pension of
US$800/month, my wife's US$400/month. Our investments
with a major investment firm (in both names) yearly
bring in more than US$ 20,000/YEAR.

We are interestd in a residency (yearly or permanent)
but not a citizenship. Would you please let me know
where I can find a web page (in case you cannot answer
this) that explains the conditions for each of the
above alternatives? I could not get it on the
government site where they just say $24K per year for
the yearly one.

Berman

A: The first thing you have to understand about Belize is that you cannot always depend on what you read or are told,

Despite what the Belize Tourist Board Web site says, the requirement is still that you must have US$24,000 annually in investment income OR $12,000 annually in either a pension (government, large company, etc.) and/or annuities.

Whether the BTB will permit you to pool your pension income and your wife's, I'm not sure (technically you are not allowed to, but this is Belize) but you should be able to pool your pension and your investment income to qualify.

If you would like the straight facts on retiring in Belize, I would suggestly, without false modesty, that you buy my new book, Adapter Kit: Belize. It is the ONLY comprehensive guide to living, retiring and investing in Belize. It is US$17.95 and is available on-line from Amazon.com, where it is a best-seller, and also from Barnes & Noble.

This book will give you facts that you can depend on, based on interviews with dozens of retirees in Belize.

I would recommend that, if you haven't already, you spend at least a few months in Belize before you commit to the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive scheme, as Belize is not for everyone.

--Lan


Q: I am a builder in Arizona with many years in commercial and residential development and interested in relocating to Belize. What is the demand for a person with my expertise in Belize?

Jim Sparling


A: There is certainly demand for qualified builders in Belize. Until Hurricane Iris, there was more demand for construction, mainly from expats, in places like Placencia than local builders could meet. After Iris, there is a lot of demand for rebuilding and repair of local homes and businesses.

That said, whether you can successfully enter the market or not is another matter. As in many places, well-established local firms dominate the market. Mennonite builders in particular are well established and in demand. You may also face a number of obstacles in terms of getting residency and work permits. Working, and specifically building, in Belize is quite different from the U.S. The materials are different, the way people do things are different, there are shortages of many materials and of skilled or semi-skilled workers in some cases. Theft and shrinkage is a problem, and many expat business people have problems dealing with local politicians and ways of doing things.

Keep hammering away!

--Lan

Q: Are there ophthalmologists (medical eye doctors) or optometrists (nonmedical practioners) in Belize? How many of each and where are they located? How many people are thought to be retired in Belize?

Jonathan Christenbury


A: There are opthamalogists and optometrists in Belize, mostly located in Belize City but some have offices elsewhere including San Pedro. I do not know the exact number, but there are at least five opthamalogists in practice in Belize City alone, and several opticians and optometrists. The opthamalogists offer the usual range of services including cataract surgery, intraocular lens implant, radial keratomy, etc. There also are a number of eye surgeons and other eye specialists just across the border in Chetumal, Mexico.

I am not sure if you are asking about how many expats are retired in Belize, but if so the answer is, no one knows for certain. My estimate is in the range of only 2,500, but many Americans, Canadians and others have bought property in Belize but do not live there year-round.

Keep your eyes open!

--Lan


Q: I have e-mailed several other people with no reply so I am hoping you can help. I live in Texas and am thinking of relocating to Belize. I have had a kidney transplant with no problems
as of yet but to be on the safe side I would like to know if there is a dialysis program in Belize and if
so where the centers are located or if you could get me in touch with some one who would know would be
greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Seth Freeman

A: Sorry to give you this news, but from what I have learned at present there is no kidney dialysis available in Belize. I was told that it is possible that a private medical group may set up a program, primarily for tourists who require dialysis while on vacation, but I have no further information on this.

I also was told that, unless things have changed recently, there is no dialysis available in Chetumal, Mexico, the capital of Quintana Roo state just across the border from Corozal Town. The closest dialysis is in Merida, Mexico, or Guatemala City.

Here is what I was told by Alvaro Rosado, Ph. D., CEO of Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City, the largest public hospital in Belize:

>>No, KHMH does not [have dialysis]. There has been a lot of interest expressed in this area recently. From companies wanting to "lease" KHMH equipment to groups wanting to donate equipment. The private sector might be considering a "tourist" attraction package involving dialysis service. KHMH does not have this
service high on its priority list at this time. As soon as we can provide the other basic services we consider more urgent we will be ready to consider this.<<

--Lan


Q: I have a few questions about living in Belize. I am coming to vist for 20 days to scout out property. My questions are:
1) What is the bank interest rate currently on CD's?
2) Do we need to bring our daily medications?
3) Do we need a prescription at the drug store to get medications such as blood pressure medication?
4) What can we expect to pay for rent on a two bedroom living quarters?

James H. Humphreys


A: CD and savings rates in Belize (Belize currency accounts) range from around 4 to 12 percent depending on the amount and term and the bank. Keep in mind that most expats and retirees keep most of their funds in a U.S. or other hard-currency bank and only deposit in Belize what is necessary for routine transactions (or in the case of people in Belize under the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Act the minimum required by that Act.) The Belize dollar is not a currency that can be easily exhanged outside Belize.

I would bring your regular medications. They probably are available in Belize, but they might not be, or not be in the same size or strength as what you are used to. Outside of Belize City, they might not be available at all.

Many medications are available in Belize without a prescription (you may need to show an empty bottle) but this is less the case in Belize than in Mexico. Doctors often own pharmacies in Belize. Costs for medications are generally considerably less in Belize than in the U.S.

As in the U.S. or anywhere rent varies tremendously based on location. In a less expensive area such as Corozal Town or in a remote village you might pay less than US$100. On Ambergris Caye or in Belize City you would pay US$600 to $1000 a month, or more. The more time you spend in Belize, the less you will pay.

Enjoy Belize!

--Lan

 

Q. I have a few questions. Can you get AOL in Belize or other Internet services? If so how much are they for unlimited monthly use. I have a business where I use the Internet many hours a day. Do they have high speed cable or DSL or T1 service there? If you live on Ambergris Caye is there a ferry that can take your car back and forth to the mainland or do you have to fly there? Are there any malls? (Fiance asked me to ask that one.)

Kelley


A. I suspect that Belize is not going to be for you.

1. There are no malls in Belize. There is not even a McDonald's or a K-Mart.

2. The only ISP in Belize, at least until 2003, is Belize Telecommunications, Ltd. BTL'S exclusive license expires in December 2002, and the government has said it will not renew its license. At present, however, other ISPs are illegal. There is no such thing as unlimited monthly use in Belize. There are no affordable broadband connections at this time, although a few businesses, such as Internet casinos, who can afford -- at least until they go broke -- the high cost do have high speed connections. A few people use satellite connections, though they are against current Belize law.

3. To get a car to Ambergris Caye you have to have it brought over on a barge. Cars are discouraged on the island, though if you have local connections and money you can bring another vehicle to add to the already overcrowded streets. You can fly or take a watertaxi back and forth to the mainland.

--Lan



Q: I'm originally from Germany and have been living in Mexico for the last 3 years. Due to the nature of my job (being an independent technical consultant worldwide) I can choose to live in any place of the world. I was in Belize once and heard now of the posibility to pay no tax for income which is earned in foreign countries if I'm resident in Belize. Now, my questions are:
1. Is it right that there is no income tax for self-employed if the money is earned outside Belize?
2. Do I have to be resident to make the tax declaration in Belize?
3. What are the requirements to be a resident?

Saludos,
Edwin Reichel


A: While we are not in the business of giving tax advice (please check with your tax advisor, accountant or lawyer) in general it is true that official residents of Belize are not taxed in Belize on income generated outside of Belize. There of course may be tax liability in the country in which the income is earned.

Attached is a chapter from my upcoming book, Adapter Kit: Belize on the options available for residency in Belize. The attachment is in Adobe Acrobat pdf format.

Never max the tax!

--Lan

Q: My wife and I are going to work for a resort in Belize (yes our work papers
are already in process) and a car will be a real help. Where can I find the exact import requirements and duties if you don't have that available yourself? We realize they are high but we've heard for instance a 4 cylinder vehicle is much cheaper to import than a V-8.

Kent Krepps


A: Here is the basic info on duties when importing vehicles into Belize:

Automobiles New or Used:
(Customs used U.S. Blue Book value as basis, plus evaluation by customs officer)
4 Cylinder 45% duty + 8% sales tax

6 Cylinder 45% duty + 15% replacement tax + 8% sales tax
based on evaluation of vehicle by customs

8 Cylinder 45% duty + 15% replacement tax + 8% sales tax based
on evaluation of vehicle by customs

Golf cart 25% duty + 8% sales tax

The replacement tax is complex. Here's a worksheet example using a hypothetical six-cylinder vehicle:

6 Cylinder 45% duty + 15% replacement tax + 8% sales tax

First get NADA Blue Book Value. To estimate this, go to http://www2.nadaguides.com/.
Checking the price of this vehicle, it says that the Average Trade-In for this vehicle is:
$6,975, and the Average Retail: $8,700. ( US dollars)

Average these two prices = $15,675 = Value (Belize Dollars)

The actual value at the import point will be determined by the customs inspector who takes into account mileage, condition of vehicle, etc.

Find 45% for this price = $7,053 = Import duty.

Add this price to value = $22,728
Find 15% of this price = $3,409 = Replacement tax.

Add these two together again = $26,137
Find 8% of this price = $2,090= Sales tax.

Now, add the Import duty, plus the Replacement tax, plus the Sales tax =
$12,552 (Belize dollars)

You might also want to consider buying a vehicle in Belize, or taking the bus!

--Lan

Q: I am retired, tired of the Spokane winters and thinking about moving to Belize. First, I would like to set up an IBC and trust in Belize. Can you recommend a reliable, honest source to do this? Also, do you know what it would cost for me to bring my 93' Ford Explorer to Belize?

Jim Bryan


A: We are unable to make recommendations on specific companies for IBCs. However, I recommend you talk to a reputable international firm such as the accounting firm KPMG, which has a small office in Belize (Web site at http://www.kpmgbelize.com/bz_ibc.htm). Note that IBC are not for residents or citizens of Belize.

If you are retiring to Belize under the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Act, you will pay nothing to import your vehicle if it is 3 years old or newer. For a '93 Explorer, or if you are importing a vehicle not under the Retired Persons Incentive Act, it will depend on the specific Blue Book Value, number of cylinders and the condition of the vehicle, but as a rule of thumb you might figure around 65% of the retail value.

Good luck!

--Lan

Q: Pardon me kind sir, I am a citizen of Houston, Texas and I'm thinking of
possibly moving to Belieze in the future because I'm afraid that the laws on
indentification are going to start to chafe me pretty soon because of the
so-called "war on terrorism" heating up here. I'm as hurt by the attack on
us as much as anybody but there's a limit to what I'm going to be able to
take in the name of increased national security.

My concerns about Belieze may seem unreasonable, but I believe you'll see
that they are also typically Texan.

First on my mind are the regulations on firearms. Here in Texas we're free
to own guns and we don't even have to put up with those stupid 3 Day waiting
periods for handguns as I hear they do in Florida. Or at least that's how
it's been up til now. We're also allowed to carry concealed handguns
provided we take tests and get a license from the state of Texas. Businesses
can prohibit them on their premises by posting a sign.

So I'm curious about whether it's legal to own a gun in Belieze, whether
they have registration or licences or whether you can just own one. What
sort of hunting if any, is legal in belieze, whether you may carry a gun in
any part of that country either concealed or openly and under what terms.
And if the situation is so bad that people aren't allowed to protect
themselves, even in rural areas what the penalty might be for illegally
posessing firearms. Might it be possible to gain the right to keep and bear
arms by serving a term in their army, national guard, police force or
militia? Contrariwise, what might be the easiest way to bring my gun or guns
with me to Belieze.

I have been reading and will continue to research Belieze before coming if I
so choose, so I really don't need very specific information right now. An "I
don't know" would be fine, I'd simply appreciate any information at all.

A second area of concern is the possibility of homeschooling my children
when and if I have any. I have read that Belieze has compulsory education
and I'm hoping that reasonable exceptions can be made for knowledgeable
people to instruct their own children at home. What if any are the
allowances for home-schooling if you know? Are you hounded if you don't put
children in school, are there special exemptions? And if you can teach your
children at home do you have to prove yourself by providing credentials? Or
give grades and reports on your children's progress to a school board or
government official?

And my third question is whether there are any regulations or prohibitions
on keeping gold or other precious metals privately. If I were to choose, for
instance to keep some of my savings in the form of gold in a safe in my
house are there any special restrictions, taxes etc? Well, I suppose this is
special information that I ought to ask an expert on banking.

I guess that the only other thing I'm worried about is whether your
situation with the internet is getting better yet.

So what do you like best about Belieze? What drew you to it in the first
place?

Greg


A. Gun laws in Belize are much more restrictive than in Texas. Tourists and non-residents may not possess guns at all. Citizens and residents may own guns legally if they obtain a license from the government and pay a fee.

While primary education is compulsory in Belize as it is in the U.S., home schooling is generally accepted as an alternative. Some expats with children home school.

To my knowledge, there are no regulations in Belize against keeping gold or other precious metals.

--Lan




Q: I enjoyed your web site very much and have ordered a couple of your books. You indicated
you were open to answering questions.

First, I spent a month in Belize last year NOT as a tourist! I received permission from the Fisheries department to sail on a small commercial fishing boat with friends I knew from Belize City to the Turneffe
Islands area. We were at sea for a couple weeks. Objective: learn the waters, channels, etc. Admittedly, I had some fun too! I have a sailboat on the West Coast of the US. I'm planning to sail through the 'Canal' and settle in Belize. Any information you might have regarding transiting the 'canal' and passage up the Caribbean to Belizean water would be gratefully appreciated.

Further, it's not my intention to 'play tourist' in Belize (or elsewhere!). I'm 55, and a retired college mathematics teacher (22+ years - statistics, calculus, etc.). My desire is to settle in some
coastal port (other than Belize City) and offer my mathematics (and computer) skills to some school(s) (either P/T or F/T). Even working with an orphanage would be fine. I'm not fanatical, but I do have
irrevocable Christian ethics and values. I've sailed much of the world, and Belize is where I'd like to productively live out the remainder of my days.

I've already attended to much 'red tape', corporate concerns, etc. in Belize, and have many local fisherman friends there. I've scoured every web site I could find on Belize ...... most all were way to 'tourist oriented' for my desires. Any advice/information/"insider" web sites) you might have regarding my plans would be deeply appreciated.

Ralph Harris, Salem, Ore.


A: I'm glad to answer questions, but I don't know that I'll be able to help you much. It sounds like you've already gotten a good start on local knowledge about Belize. I'm not much of a sailor myself and am certainly not an expert on Belize waters. Your Belizean fishermen friends likely will be the most help to you.

Nearly all of the Web sites on Belize, including mine, are oriented to the visitor to Belize or to the individual interested in living/retiring in Belize.

The site www.belizeans.com is one that is run by a Belizean and focuses more than most on issues of interest to Belizeans. You might also want to subscribe to the Belize Culture mailing list. There are some crazies on the board, just like in Belize, but some good folks and good information, too. To subscribe/unsubscribe send to bz-culture-request@psg.com the message:
subscribe or unsubscribe. Send comments to bz-culture-owner@psg.com.

The Belizean Web Ring links to some sites by Belizeans, mostly those living outside of Belize.

Good luck!

--Lan

Q: We are making plans that we might move to Belize, but we don't know yet if Belize has very good schools. If Belize has a few very good schools then it would be interesting to know where. We of course would like to move near a big town which is near the beach, where we could quickly relax, but be also quickly between many friendly people, and tourists, where we could quickly make shopping, where there are better possibilities to find a job etc., e.g. San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. But our daughter has the higher priority according to the school. Most important is that our daughter gets to a very good school, e.g. private school where the school hours are daily longer and the child learns more daily, where she could develop her talents quicker and more successfully. Our daughter is almost 7 years old and some of her talents are: speaks 3 languages fluently English, German and Polish; musical talents and plays already beautifully violin, art and handicraft, mathematics etc. So the school for our daughter has the highest priority. There where our daughter would have the most advantages we would adjust ourselves. Which school, and in which part of Belize, do you think, would fit our situation the best ?

Kopszewski


A: Your daughter sounds very talented. Unfortunately, I don't believe you will find a school in Belize that will be entirely satisfactory to you. The best schools are in Belize City, but the crime rate in Belize City is high and few expats want to live there, unless they have to because of business. There is one fairly good private elementary school in San Pedro, but by international standards it is not an exceptional school. You have to understand that Belize is a very small, poor country, with only 240,000 people and a GDP of a small town of 25,000 in the U.S. or Canada. It does not have the resources nor does it have sufficient affluent population to support a truly top-flight international primary school. However, for what it is worth, my own personal belief is that talented children can do well in many different educational environments.

Go Crimson!

--Lan

Q: I am a lawyer in Canada and am from the US originally. I believe that once one is outside of either of those jurisdictions for a certain number of months, one is no longer liable to pay income tax within Canada or the US (for instance, I have not paid income tax in the US since I became a resident of Canada). I believe the period of time one must be out of the US to be exempted from paying income tax there is 18 months. Also, We will be visiting Belize in January, spending a few days at DuPlooy's outside of San Ignacio and a couple of days on Ambergris Caye. Would we be able to buy a copy of your book in one of those two areas?

Johanne


A: To my knowledge Adapter Kit: Belize is not yet available in Belize. It is available now from Amazon.com, where it is a best-seller, and Borders.com. It will soon be available in regular bookstores in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere. The publisher may also have distribution at hotels and gift shops in Belize.

On taxes, I do not claim any expertise in the U.S. tax system, but it is my understanding that in general U.S. citizens, unless they renounce their citizenship, in which case special rules apply, may be subject to U.S. taxes on their worldwide income regardless of their place or length of residence. There are, however, exclusions for income up to a certain limit for those who meet residency tests for living outside the U.S. while maintaining U.S. citizenship or alien residency. Special tax treaties between the U.S. and Canada may also apply. Here are excerpts from some FAQs on expat taxation from Joseph Solomon Financial Group (http://www.reducemytaxes.com/uscitiz3.htm):

--Lan

>>
(2) My entire income  qualifies for the foreign earned income exclusion. Must I file a tax return?
Maybe. Every U.S. citizen or resident must file a U.S. income tax return if certain income levels are reached. Income for filing requirement purposes is figured without regard to the foreign earned income exclusion.
(3) I am a U.S. citizen and have no taxable income from the United States, but I have substantial income from a foreign source. Am I required to file a U.S. income tax return ?
Yes. All U.S. citizens and resident aliens, depending on the amount of the foreign source income, are subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income.
(4) I am a U.S. citizen who has retired, and I except to remain in a foreign country. Do I have any further U.S. tax obligations ?
Your U.S. tax obligation on your income is the same as that of a retired person living in the United States.
(5) I am a U.S. citizen. I have lived abroad for a number of years and have only recently realized that I should have been filing U.S. income tax returns. How do I correct this oversight in not having filed returns for these years ?
You must file the late returns as soon as possible, stating your reason for filing late.
(6) My U.S. employer pays my salary into my U.S. bank account. Is this considered U.S. income or foreign income ?
If you performed the services to earn this salary outside the United States, your salary is considered earned abroad. It does not matter that you are paid by a U.S. employer or that your salary is deposited in a U.S. bank account in the United States.
(7) How do I qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion?
To be eligible, you must have a tax home in a foreign country and you must be a U.S. citizens or a resident alien who is a citizen or a resident alien who is a citizen or national of a country with which the United States has an income tax treaty in effect. You must be a bone fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year, or you must be a U.S. citizen or resident and be physically present in a foreign country or countries for at least 330 full days during period of 12 consecutive months.
18) I am a retired U.S. citizen living in Europe. My only income is from U.S. sources on which I pay U.S. taxes. I am taxed the same income in the foreign country where I reside. How do I avoid double taxation ?  

If you reside in a country that has an income tax treaty with the United States, that country may allow a credit against the tax you owe them for the U.S. tax paid on U.S. source income. Nontreaty countries, depending on their laws, may give the same type of credit against the tax you owe them for the U.S. tax paid on U.S. source income.
If double taxation exists and you cannot resolve the problem with the tax authorities of the foreign country, you can contact the
- Internal Revenue Service
- Assistant Commissioner (International)
- Attn: CP: IN: D: CS
- 950 L'Enfant Plaza South, S.W.
- Washington, DC 20024
<<


Q: I, will, of course, be buying your books, as well as those of others, written to inform and educate outsiders about Belize. Still, I must question the disparity between what I've read thus far of your illuminations on Belize and those of Bill and Claire Gray. Would you mind giving me a bit of insight in that regard? I've also made contact with a fellow by the name of Raymond Stevens, who lived there and had a computer graphics business in Belize City (he closed it down after experiencing overly-confiscatory governmental interference....it was called The Unity Shoppe). He seems to know Belize well and seems to still hold
Belize dear, and thus far has offered very specific recommendations on tracking down affordable housing. I know we haven't met, but I'm 55 years old and have "been around" a bit. I must admit to having become very wary of "experts".....I've found that for every "expert" on about any given subject, there's another "expert" who holds a completely different view. Please take no offense, but are you truly interested in helping folks who are interested in re-locating to Belize, or are you just "in business"? Thank you for your
time and attention!

James E. Torpey


A: No offense taken, but I suggest you make your own decision about who is right and who is wrong on Belize. I'm in the business of writing and selling books and magazines. I'm not in the business of being a PR flak for Belize, nor do I offer tours or sell real estate.

I have met the Grays (not their real name) and sell their book, which is very popular. They seem like nice folks and know a good deal about Belize, too, especially about northern Belize. I don't agree with all their opinions, and I think they underestimate the cost of living in Belize, at least in some cases. Different people have different views.

You can talk to all the people you want, but until you actually spend some time in Belize you will not know as much as you think you do or even know what questions to ask. As I say, Belize is not for everyone.

Good luck!

--Lan


Q: I would like to information on moving to and living in Belize. I am
American. I would like to move my family for at least a year maybe more.
We are a working family of four, two of which are small children under the
ages of ten. We own a home in Florida which is our current residence. We
do not plan on selling our home, but our savings are less then 10k. What in
your opinion would be a good resource for me to look into? Do you have any
information off hand that you can provide me with? Thank you for your time.

George A. Wells


A: I hestitate to hype my own book, but, heck, it’s the only thing available that is comprehensive and up to date on living, retiring and working in Belize, so I will:

Adapter Kit: Belize by Lan Sluder, ISBN 1-56691-350-0, Avalon Travel Publishing, 262 pages, many maps and photos, $17.95. It's the first and only comprehensive guide to living, retiring, working and investing in Belize. Adapter Kit: Belize is available now from Amazon.com, Borders.com and other on-line bookstores, and it is also now in most large bookstores such as Border's and Barnes & Noble. It should be in distribution in bookstores worldwide within a few weeks. If you want to order it directly from me, for delivery in the U.S. it is $17.95 plus $4 shipping/handling. Send check to Equator, 287 Beaverdam Road, Candler, NC 28715.

One problem you will have is finding a job. Work permits are hard to come by, and jobs in Belize pay only a fraction of what a similar position in the U.S. would pay (even though groceries, electricity, gasoline and some other items of everyday life cost more in Belize than in the U.S.) Another problem you will have is finding a good school for your kids. Belize schools vary, from quite good (some schools in Belize City and in larger towns) to awful (schools in remote areas especially in the far south.) Teachers do their best, and many students are highly motivated, but with text books and equipment in short supply, things are difficult. Some expats solve the problem by home schooling.

Good luck!

--Lan

 

WORKING/INVESTING IN BELIZE

Q: Great site... My wife and I were in Belize last year and enjoyed it thoroughly... we went to Caye Caulker and Placencia and got to know many local people... we manage a fishing lodge in Canada and have been in that business for almost 30 years... I am wondering if you can tell me how to find out if there are opportunities for managing or opening fishing lodges down there... we did some fishing and had a great time, but have no idea how to find out if there are people looking for experienced management people... I realize Belizeans come first for most jobs, but may not be qualified for a lot of management positions... I don't mean that in a demeaning way, it's just that its a small country with what appears to be a somewhat crude educational system... we really liked the people we met and found them personable and intelligent... however: we did have some close calls in Belize city even though we knew better.... but the trip was most enjoyable and a wonderful experience... thanks for your time and I am bookmarking your site.

Bob Tinkess


A: Your best bet would be to contact directly some of the resorts and lodges that specialize in fishing and ask them about their needs:

El Pescador Fishing and Beach Resort, North Ambergris Caye
Manta Reef Resort, Southwest Caye
Lilpatt Sittee River Resort, Sittee River
Ranguana Lodge, Placencia
Turneffe Island Lodge, Turneffe Atoll
Turneffe Flats Lodge, Turneffe Atoll
Bob's Paradise, Monkey River
Blue Marlin Lodge, Southwater Caye
Belize River Lodge, Belize City

You might also talk with Mary Toy (associated with Kevin Modera Fishing Guides) in Placencia.

All of the above have Web sites for contact information. Keep in mind that none of these places is large, and at least one of them is for sale.

There is always opportunity in Belize for investors who can hire Belizeans and provide jobs and revenue for the Belize economy. Of course, you have to be willing to lose your investment.

Good luck!

--Lan

 

Q: Are there any chiropractors in Belize? In your opinion is there a need for more?

Herb Golden

A. Yes, there are chiropractors in Belize City, San Pedro and Placencia and perhaps elsewhere. As to demand for their services, I have no idea. Belize, is a country with just 240,000 people and with per-capita GDP only about one-tenth that of the U.S. Thus, total demand for chiropractic services in all of Belize is probably no more than in an American town of 25,000 to 50,000 people.

--Lan

Q: I am Cuban graduated family practitioner medical doctor. I am living in USA.  I will like information on how would I be able to practice medicine in Belize. I am bilingual, 7 years of experience as family doctor, also massage therapist graduated in USA. Please any information will be appreciated.

Felipe Alfonso


A: I have been told by U.S. physicians that they have found it difficult if not impossible to become licensed in Belize. However, most of these physicians did not plan on becoming official residents or citizens of Belize. If you become a resident (generally you have to live in Belize for one year before applying for residency) in theory you would have the right to work in Belize.

Certainly Belize needs doctors, but those in private practice appear to try to limit the number of physicians admitted to practice in Belize, just as U.S. medical associations appear to make it difficult for foreign doctors to practice in the U.S.

As you no doubt know, most physicians in Belize are employed by the government, and the pay is low -- under US$20,000 a year to start. There are a couple of small private hospitals and a number of doctors, mainly in Belize City, have private practices.

There are quite a few Cuban physicians (and nurses) in Belize now as part of a Cuban government program.

I would suggest that you begin by contacting the Ministry of Health in Belmopan. Good luck.

--Lan

Q. If I have $5,000 in my pocket, a college degree, scuba diving certification, how hard would it be for me to come to Belize and get a job.
Thanks for any information,
Frank Vandy



A. Fairly difficult. The unemployment rate in Belize is 11%, twice that in the U.S. Pay scales vary, but in general are one-fourth that in the U.S. To work in Belize you have to have a work permit, which is not easy to get and costs US$750 a year for most positions. Since April 1, it has been illegal for an employer to hire or employ a worker without a Belize Social Security card.

It's not impossible to find work in Belize, and quite a number of expats have done it successfully, but it won't be easy, and you probably won't make much money.

--Lan



Q. You mentioned the Mennonite builders and their pre-fab homes. Can you tell me a little more about them and their work.?How would one get more information about them or how to contact them. I don't think surfing to www.mennonite.com/belize will do it. Thanks, Brian

A. The Mennonite pre-fabs are usually small wood cabins, though some are larger. Basically they are just wood planks, sawn by Mennonites in Spanish Lookout or elsewhere, and then put together in sections. They are not fancy, but in a sub-tropical climate they seem to do the job. You can see them around the country. For example, several of the small hotels in Placencia use them -- Green Parrot and Ocean's Edge, for two.

Various Mennonite builders in Spanish Lookout (Cayo) and elsewhere do them. One is Linda Vista Lumber Yard in Spanish Lookout, tel. 501-8-38052, and another is Midwest Lumber Mill, also in Spanish Lookout, tel. 501-8-30308.

Best thing would be to go there in person and look at the kind of things that are available.

--Lan

Q: I am writing to inquire about a business venture I am considering in San Pedro. I spent some time in San Pedro recently and saw an opportunity to start a business that would not compete with the locals, at least it appeared so to me, and would like to get your input. I will be taking a huge risk to leave my current job and start new at 41, but I feel it could be the opportunity of a life time, as well as assist some Belizeans in fulfilling their dreams as well. I am considering opening a tattoo shop in San Pedro and know that I could employ Belizeans to work there as well. What do you think of this idea? Am I way off track? I have investigated the business side and am aware of all the licensing, etc, that I will need. I don't want to overload you with information on my research. So, can you share your thoughts on this idea with me? I would really appreciate it.

Diane F.


A: You would just as well ask the Man in the Moon his opinion on a tattoo parlor in San Pedro, as I know absolutely nothing about the tattoo business and in general don't understand the appeal of tattoos to the "younger generations." I have no idea whether it would work in San Pedro. I would only be able to make two comments:

One, over the years I have noticed that expats opening a business in Belize have a tougher time than they think they will. Almost everything takes longer and is more expensive and more difficult to execute than they had anticipated. My advice is always to take the revenue figures in your pro forma and cut them by half and then double your expense figures, and you may have a good idea of what your business in Belize will actually do.

Two, if you are going to open a business in Belize, I think San Pedro is the place to do it, at least for the next five years or ten years. Tourism is healthy in San Pedro, it is more or less year-round rather than being highly seasonal as in some other areas, and there is enough money running through the economy that a well-run business can get a piece of it.

Sorry I couldn't help any more!

--Lan

Q: I am a female with a young daughter. I am contemplating relocating to
Belize and finding employment there. It seems so perfect to read about.
My question is: are there employment agencies and is it as "safe" as the
States?

Ashley


A: Unfortunately, there are few jobs in Belize, and the jobs that are available are primarily reserved for Belize citizens. Even if you could get a job, the pay is very low -- about one-fifth to one-fourth the pay for a comparable job in the U.S.

There are no employment agencies in Belize.

Keep in mind that the entire Belize economy is only about the size of the economy of a town of 25,000 people in the U.S.

Not to discourage you, but the reality is that Belize does not seek and does not want people coming to Belize to find jobs; Belize needs investment from those who can provide jobs in Belize.

Make your fortune in the U.S. and THEN come to Belize!

--Lan

Q: Is it possible to purchase land from the government? I would like to restart my life and a friend suggested Belize, growing teek trees. I am I superintendent of a golf course and would to know if land is availible.

John


A: Ordinarily the Belize government does not sell land. There is a program under which Belize citizens or residents of long-standing can lease land for a nominal amount, clear it and build on it and eventually buy it, but that is not practical for most people, as it requires official residency or citizenship and a lengthy period of time in Belize.

There is however plenty of land available on the private market. All it takes is money. There are few restrictions on ownership by non-citizens.

Teek? You mean teak? Costa Rica is the cradle of teak plantation schemes.

--Lan

Q: What job opportunities are there in Belize in the hospitality industry?

Anthony Spiteri


A: Most hotels in Belize are small and owner-operated. The largest property in the country has only about 120 rooms, and most have under 20, so opportunities for management level work are somewhat limited. In the restaurant and bar field, it is almost impossible for a non-Belizean to get a work permit, unless you are investing in business and operating it. Having said that, there are always opportunities for hard-working people who have a variety of skills and experience in operating in developing countries. If you are interested in working in Belize, I’d suggest you e-mail your resume to the larger properties.

--Lan

Q. Wil Nelson here, currently planted in Washingtom state
- across the sound from Seattle. Hopefully I'll be the
last to wish you a Happy New Year! Got a quick request
for you - ready to sell it all and move to what seems
like home to me, and would appreciate your potential
of making a (simple) living in Belize. I'm 46, a
skilled media producer with back ups in the spa and
pool industry (both sales and service), but lack deep
pockets. Have your book reserved for me at book store,
and picking up same tomorrow - but would appreciate
your take on the subject. Current marriage is coming
to a close, and to be honest I'm a bit sick of state
side. Any potential in Belize? Will make the trip with
25-30 grand in cash, and my video editing studio in
tow but would appreciate your opinion on making a
living in the area. Also if you would, your advise on
driving in from Mexico - think I can make it there
alive? Looking forward to getting a chance to meet you
for a drink some day. Thanx in advance for your
response!

Wil Nelson

A. I hope that my Adapter Kit: Belize will answer most of your questions.

The problem is that the Belize economy is tiny, about the size of a town of 25,000 or 30,000 people in Washington state, and currently suffering from the economic crunch and travel slowdown in the U.S.

If I were you, I'd head first to San Pedro (Ambergris Caye) as that's where the money and tourism action still is, and it's really the only place that offers any real business opportunity right now (other than Belize City, but few expats want to live there). Keep a tight watch on your cash, as there are a lot of sharks in Belize, and not just in the water.

There's also the problem of a work permit, which are increasingly difficult and expensive to get. But if you start your own business or develop good contacts in Belize who want to hire you, you can probably work around that.

You should have no problem driving to Belize. The trip through Mexico is safe enough, just a very long haul.

Good luck.

--Lan


Q: My wife and I are just over 50 years old, and we are looking to retire in Belize. We are wondering what kind of job opportunities there are in Belize. I am a pilot and my wife is in computer technology. Can your country use our skills? Who would we contact?

Les Nunemaker



A: While your skills are in demand in Belize, whether you can find work there or not depends on a variety of factors -- your willingness to work for a fraction of U.S. salaries, whether you can get a work permit, and whether you are willing to spend some time in the country to explore opportunities, among others. It is highly unlikely that you can find work without being in the country.

There are two small airlines in Belize -- Maya Island Air and Tropic Air, plus several charter operators. Computer work is limited, but a few larger companies such as Belize Telecommunications Ltd. do have a need for those with computer skills.

Since you are over 45, you likely qualify for the incentives available under the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Act. However, residents under that program cannot work for pay in Belize; you would need to get regular residency, which requires a one-year period in the country before you can apply for residency.

I'd suggest that you get a copy of my new book, Adapter Kit: Belize. It's shipping now from Amazon.com and is available at major bookstores. It should be in libraries soon. This book (262 pp., many photos and maps, US$17.95) covers the latest information on living, retiring and working in Belize.

Belize welcomes baby boomers!

--Lan


Q: Is there a need for therapists in Belize? My husband would like to retire there and I need to work.
Kimberly Brenner


A: There is a need for most skills in Belize. However, that doesn't mean you can work there. The Belize government tries to keep most jobs for Belizeans. Work permits are difficult to get. Those living in Belize under the Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Program cannot work at all in Belize. Residents under the regular residency program -- to apply for residency you have to live in Belize for one year -- can work for pay.

Jobs are scarce in paradise!

--Lan

 

REAL ESTATE IN BELIZE

Q: Hello and thanks so much for this forum. I have a brief question that maybe you can help me with. I was recently in Belize and looked at a piece of property for sale in the Riverwalk "development" about 8 miles east of San Ignacio. Right across from Ceasars. It was a absolutely beautiful lot of around 5 acres on top of a mountain with an incredible 200 degree view of the surrounding country side. The owner will provide electricity but there is no water. It's one of the most beautiful properties and view I have ever seen. There are 8 lots for sale, all between 3 and 5 acres, costing between US$40,000 to 70,000. The lot I'm considering is US60,000. The owner will finance at 10% down for 10 years at 10%. My question is do you think that this price range is considered extravagant in Belize for this type of property? Or is that about right for this area? I'd really appreciate your opinion.

Greg


A: I'm not an expert on real estate values and in fact have lost several hundred thousand U.S. on various property purchases over the years. I would think, though, that the prices being asked for the property you are considering are many times more than the average in Cayo, even for prime property. US$1,000 an acre is considered fairly pricey for accessible land in small tracts in Cayo, and the tracts you are talking about are in the range of US$10,000 an acre -- ten times that much. Those are US-style prices, not Belize prices. I own several mountain tops in the mountains of Western North Carolina, which is a highly desirable area for retirees and relocatees, and none of them is worth even close to US$10,000 an acre.

I know of people who have bought land on the Western Highway for a few hundred dollars an acre. In large tracts, land around Cayo has sold in the past few years for under US$100 an acre -- an example is the Slate Creek Preserve tracts.

It is unlikely you could sell the land for anything like the price you are paying. Or you might sell it but it could take 30 years. It's one thing to buy land in Belize. It's another to sell it.

Having said that, assuming you are not interested in the property for an investment, each piece of land is a unique thing. It has nothing to do with value and everything with life. If you like it enough, and can afford it, why not buy it? Be sure, though, to have a qualified Belize lawyer look carefully at the title. Just don't think you are going to be able to ever sell it, except possibly to another American who falls in love with that particular piece of real estate.

Life is not a dress rehearsal!

--Lan

Q: We have purchased two lots ... in Placencia. We have not yet started to build our winter home, but would like to send our property taxes to the correct agency/person. We have not yet received any tax assessment bills, and understand from our neighbors down there that they are not sent out, you just pay them whenever, and there is a small monthly delinquent charge. We bought the property from Capt. David Rabren, but he has moved from his previous address and his phone & fax #'s have been changed. We cannot seem to get anyone to send us the address and person that we should correspond with to find out the correct amount of property tax we owe to date. Can you help us with this?

John Zink


A: Property taxes in Belize are normally due on April 1. If not paid by the end of April there is a 1% per month late charge. You can pay property taxes at one of about eight Department of Lands and Surveys offices. The nearest one to Placencia would be Dangriga. There is usually also a local "Lands man" you can pay, but I don't know if there is one in Placencia. You might call the office in Belmopan -- tel. 501-8-22598. They should be able to tell you how much your taxes are, if they have been paid up to date, etc. You will probably need your lot and plat numbers, though if you have the property description they may be able to look it up. Most of the tax records in Belize are now on computer.

--Lan

Q: We bought a piece of property in Basil Jones. We are about to pay off the lot. When we take the deed, as US citizens what type of taxes are we expected to pay other than the normal annual property tax? Is there some type of fee that non-residents pay after taking title. We were told that there were "fees" that amounted to 11 -12 %. Perhaps our agent, is refering to some sort of fee for closing on the property?

David Stevens


A. Normally there are none, except property taxes, unless you have income in Belize. There is a 5% property transfer tax and a 5% alien transfer tax, plus typically 1 to 3% for title search and/or title insurance. However, I would have thought you would have paid that when you purchased the property.

--Lan

Q: I am looking for a lawyer to help me through the process of obtaining another original copy of a lost Transfer Certificate of Title. The title was in my grandparents' names. My grandmother is since deceased and my grandfather wants to give the land to my husband and me. What is the process and what is the cost - lawyer fees and title fees? Thanks for your help!

Hannah Stone


A: We are not competent or licensed to provide information on Belize legal matters. I can only suggest you contact an attorney in Belize for information on procedures and charges. Attached is a list of attorneys in Belize.

For this kind of work, you might consider an independent practitioner such as Antoinette Moore.

There are three different types of real property registration systems in effect in Belize, and which one would apply depends on where the property is located. While costs and charges vary from attorney to attorney, as a rule of thumb ordinary title searches might cost 2% of the value of the property, and title insurance if available might be 1% of the property value. But these are only rules of thumb and may not even be close to accurate in your case. There is also a property transfer fee, 5% for everyone and 5% additional if the purchaser is not a citizen of Belize.

--Lan Sluder

Attorneys in Belize:
(If calling from the U.S., dial 011-501 and then the number shown.)

Anderson, Kirk (Brian) of ANDERSON’S LAW FIRM, 57 Albert Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born April 20, 1967, Kingston, Jamaica.  Graduated from U.W.I.; LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to the Belize Bar in 1991.  Corresponds in English. General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-72434.  Fax: 2-73535.  Cell Phone: (014) 8730. 
Arana Rodolfo, Michelle of 91 North Front Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born July 22, 1969, Belize City, Belize.  Graduated from U.W.I., C.L.E.  Former Crown Counsel to Belize Government 1992-1994.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1996.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice.  Office Phone: 2-33784.  Home Phone: 2-35125.
Arguelles, Emil of GLENN D. GODFREY & CO., 35 Barrack Road, Suite 301, Belize City, Belize.  Born July 4, 1972, Belize.  Graduated from Marquette University, B.A.  U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1998.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice and Criminal Matters. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-33530.  Fax: 2-33501.  Home Phone: (014) 6006 or 2-33989.  E-mail: cititrust@btl.net  Web site: www.belizeoffshore.com
Barrow, Dean O. of BARROW & WILLIAMS, 99 Albert Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born March 2, 1951, Belize.  Graduated from University of Miami, M.A. and LL.M.  U.W.I., LL.B.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1976.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-75280.  Fax: 2-75287.  Home Phone: 2-31036.  Web site: www.belizeweb.com/~barwil
Barrow, Denys Arthur of BARROW & COMPANY, 23 Regent Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born July 8, 1952, Belize.  Graduated from U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1977.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice and criminal matters. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-77410.  Fax: 2-78460.  E-mail: Barrowco@BTL.net 
Barrow, Dylan of the LAW OFFICES OF RAYMOND H. BARROW, 121 Albert Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born January 24, 1950, Belize.  Graduated from U.W.I.  C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1985.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice and Criminal Matters. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Office Phone: 2-72912.  Fax: 2-71270.
Barrow, Raymond H. of the LAW OFFICES OF RAYMOND H. BARROW, 121 Albert Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born May 1, 1920, Belize.  Graduated from the University of Cambridge, England, Middle Temple Inn, Certificate, London, England.  Admitted to practice as an attorney and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Belize in 1977.  Former Crown Counsel to Belize Government.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Office Phone: 2-72912. Fax: 2- 71270.
Bradley, Jr., Leo of YOUNG’S LAW FIRM, 28 Regent Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born December 31, 1967, Belize.  Graduated St. Thomas University, B.A.  U.W.I., LLB.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1998.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Office Phone: 2-72408.  Fax: (2-75157.  Home Phone: 2-32726. 
Dujon, Nicolas V.  of DUJON & DUJON, 4 Eve Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born October 27, 1951, London, England.  Graduated Michigan State University, B.A. (Hons.) Barrister at Law Gray’s Inn, London.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1978.  Former Crown Counsel to Belize Government.  Former Clerk of Courts to Jamaica Government.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Office Phone: 2-45926.  Fax: 2-35869.  Email: dujondujon@btl.net
Lindo, Dean R.  of LINDO’S LAW FIRM, 7 Church Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born September 4, 1932, Belize.  Graduated from Wesley College.  NYU, BSc and LL.M.  University of Durham, England, LL.B. (Hons.).  Gray’s Inn.  Admitted to the Belize Bar in 1964.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-77388. Fax: 2-75168.  Home Phone: 2-44217.  E-mail: linarn@btl.net
Lumor, Fred of MUSA & BALDERAMOS, 91 North Front Street, P.O. Box 571, Belize City, Belize.  Born November 17, 1952, Ghana.  Graduated from Rivers State in Nigeria, LL. B. (Hons.)  Ministry of Justice 4.5 years.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-32940. Fax: 2-31149.  E-mail: manb@btl.net
Marin, Magali G. of BARROW & WILLIAMS, 99 Albert Street, P.O. Box 617, Belize City, Belize.  Born November 18, 1971, Belize City.  Graduated from University of Oklahoma, B.A.  U.W.I., LL.B.   Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to the Belize Bar in 1997.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice. Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-75280  Fax: 2- 75278.  E-mail: barwil@btl.net.
Marshalleck, Andrew E.  of BARROW & COMPANY, 23 Regent Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born July 23, 1969, Kingston, Jamaica.  Graduated from Regis College, Bs.  U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1996.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-77410  Fax: 2-78460.  E-mail: Barrowco@btl.net
Marshalleck, Jacqueline A.  of YOUNG’S LAW FIRM, 28 Regent Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born November 8, 1970, Nassau, Bahamas.  Graduated from St. Elphin’s School, England.  U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1999.  Corresponds in English and French.  General Practice.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-77406.  Fax: 2- 75157.  E-mail: younglaw@btl.net
Moore, Antoinette  of the LAW OFFICES OF ANTOINETTE MOORE,83 Commerce Street, Dangriga Town, Stann Creek District.  Born June 3, 1955, Brooklyn, New York.  Graduated from Lawrence University, B.A.  Loyola University of Chicago, J.D.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1996.  Corresponds in English and some Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 5-22457  Fax: 5-22457.  E-mail: moorelaw@btl.net
Musa-Pott, Samira  of 120A New Road, Belize City, Belize.  Born April 29, 1971, Belize City, Belize.  Graduated from Florida Int’l University, B.A.  U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1996.  Corresponds in English and some Spanish.  General Practice.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-35924  Fax: 2-31123.  E-mail: loisyblaw@btl.net
Perez, Alberta of THE GOVERNMENT OF BELIZE.  Born April 8, 1963, Toledo District, Belize.  Graduated from U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1998.  Corresponds in English, Garifuna, and some Spanish.  Family Law and Criminal Matters.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-74114/ 74107  Fax: 2-34320.
Ramirez, Cecil M.  of RAMIREZ & ASSOCIATES, 20 Macaw Avenue, Belmopan and Church Street, San Ignacio Town, Cayo District.  Born April 22, 1954, Belize.  Graduated from the U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1987.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide notary.  Will take cases outside of Belize City.  Office Phone: 8-22478.  Fax: 8-22065.
Sabido, Oscar A.  of OSCAR A. SABIDO & CO., #5 New Road, Belize City, Belize.  Born January 7, 1949, San Ignacio Town.  Graduated from U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1979.  Corresponds in English and fluent Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-35803.  Fax: 2-35839.  Home Phone: 2-72901.  E-mail: oasabido@btl.net
Shoman, Lisa M.  of SHOMAN, CHEBAT, & ASSOC., 62 Cleghorn Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born January 27, 1964, Belize City, Belize.  Graduated from U.W.I., C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1988.  Corresponds in English and Spanish.  General Practice with specialty in commercial/ corporate/ offshore.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-34160.  Fax: 2-34222.  E-mail: attorney@btl.net
Sooknandan, Lutchman  of SOOKNANDAN’S LAW FIRM, 7 Barrack Road, Belize City, Belize.  Born March 21, 1948, Guyana.  Graduated from U.W.I., LL.B., C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1986.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice and Criminal Matters. Office Phone: 2-32469.  Home Phone: 2-32625.  Fax: 2-35164.
Twist, Oswald H.  of the BELIZE LEGAL AID CENTER, 1 Treasury Lane, Belize City, Belize.  Born June 9, 1959, Belize.  Graduated from U.W.I., LL.B. Norman Manley Law School, C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1996.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Office Phone: 2-72113  Fax: (2) 70085  Home Phone: 8-20149.
Waithe, Dons Richard  of DONS WAITHE LAW FIRM, 3A Queen Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born January 14, 1963, Trinidad and Tobago.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1992.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-35827  Fax: 2-35828.  Home Phone: 2-34313.  E-mail: dwaithe@btl.net
Williams, Marilyn L.  of the LAW OFFICES OF MARILYN L. WILLIAMS, 76 Dean Street, Belize City, Belize; and 5 Park Street, Orange Walk Town, O/W District.  Born June 9, 1955, Belize City, Belize.  Graduated from Brooklyn College, B.A.  Cardozo School of Law, J.D.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1995.  Corresponds in English and limited Spanish.  General Practice and Criminal Matters.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-78436.  Fax: 2-77381.  Home Phone: 2-31178.  E-mail: mwilliams@btl.net
Williams, Rodwell  of BARROW & WILLIAMS, 99 Albert Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born September 29, 1956, Belize City, Belize.  Graduated with B.A., LL.B., C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1985.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice.  Can provide translator/ reporter/ stenographer/ notary.  Will take cases outside Belize City.  Office Phone: 2-75280.  Fax: 2- 75278.  E-mail: barwil@btl.net
Young, Michael Clarence Edward  of YOUNG’S LAW FIRM, 28 Regent Street, Belize City, Belize.  Born January 7, 1955, Southampton, England.  Graduated from U.W.I., LL.B.  Norman Manley Law School, (Hons.) C.L.E.  Admitted to Belize Bar in 1977.  Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Belize.  Corresponds in English.  General Practice.  Office Phone: 2-77406.  Fax: 2-75157.  Home Phone: 2-32519.  E-mail: younglaw@btl.net  



SPORTS/ADVENTURE

Q: I’m thinking about renting a bareboat and sailing from San Pedro south. I hear stories about pirates. But I can’t tell if there is any truth to them. Are there?

Greg Bertrand


A: Well, Matey, if you are talking about the kind of pirates that plague shipping lanes around Thailand, Indonesia and elsewhere in much of Asia, no, Belize has no pirates.

But, of course, in a developing country there is always the potential for thefts and robberies, especially when docked.

In addition, as in the coastal waters of the United States, there is some drug-related activity in Belize waters. Belize is a minor transhipment point for cocaine from South America going to Mexico and the U.S.

The main events that have taken place in or near Belize waters in recent years were: the hijacking by a group of Guatemalans of a Belize-owned water taxi from Guatemala last year between Punta Gorda and Puerto Barrios, Guatemala -- several people were killed and the water taxi was stolen. The crime was not solved but some people believe it was related to a business or possibly drug dispute.

Earlier there was a mass killing near English Caye, connected with a drug ring.

Several times in recent years the Belize authorities have stopped boats carrying cocaine and other drugs.

I know of no yacht charters that have been affected by these activities, however. Dive boats and other tourist boats are constantly operating in Belize waters, both inside and outside the reef. I have never heard of one being involved with "pirates." The main problem associated with yacht charters is that Belize waters, due to the barrier reef, shallow coastal waters with coral heads and choppy, windy conditions, is not ideal for chartering by those not familiar with the waters.

You could contact the charterers in Belize and ask them. TMM in San Pedro is the only major charter operation. Windsong in Punta Gorda charters some boats in southern Belize.

--Lan


Q. Thanks for your great website! My husband and I only have one week in Belize (end of
April, beginning of May). We want to do 3-4 days of
diving and then some caving.

What do you think of Ambergris vs the outer atolls?
We can do a partial week at Turneffe. What do you
think of Turneffe Flats vs Blackbird Caye Resort? Is
there anywhere else on the outer atolls we can do a
partial week (Sat-Wed)? If we stay at Ambergris,
we're interested in something that's moderately priced
on the edge of town (still like to be able to bike to
town) that's quiet. We looked at Carribean Villas but
they only have a suite left. Any recommendations?

For caving, what do you think of Caves Branch vs Actun
Tunichil? Can you recommend tour operators for Actun
Tunichil - I've heard about Pacz but can't find a
website for them


Daphne Li
San Francisco


A. The diving around Ambergris Caye is decent recreational diving, but the diving around the atolls is world-class. You can do day trips to Turneffe and Lighthouse atolls from Ambergris Caye, but they are expensive and often tiring. I usually recommend Ambergris Caye for those who are mostly interested in a relaxed Caribbean resort island with a good deal of choices in restaurants, hotels and things to do and who want to do just some recreational diving; for serious divers, I'd say go to one of the atolls but understand that there is nothing there except water activities -- no shops, restaurants, etc. except at the lodge.

If you decide to stay on Ambergris Caye, my first choice south of town for value, service and nice accommodations would be the condotel Banana Beach. Xanadu, another small condotel, is also a good choice, as is Coconuts, which is a small hotel which offers some real deals off-season. Just north of town a good value is Seven Seas, and in town you can't beat Mayan Princess.

It would be a toss-up between Blackbird Caye and Turneffe Flats.

You can't beat Actun Tunichil Muknal. Mayawalk Adventures in San Ignacio does a popular trip to this cave, but several other operators do also. The cave is fairly close to Pook's Hill Lodge.

--Lan
Q. Hello! My sister and I are planning on visiting Belize this summer. I was wondering if you could give me some information on shelling? Such as where the best shelling spots are and are there any specific laws we need to know about.......Thanks!

Cindy Jameson
Rogersville, Tennessee


A. I'm afraid you will not find very good shelling on most beaches in Belize, especially those on the mainland and on islands inside the reef. One reason is that the barrier reef, which runs along the coast of Belize for most of its length, aborbs the wave energy which normally would bring whole shells to the shore and up on the beach.

However, in many areas inside the reef if you go snorkeling you can find many large mollusk or snail shells, along with other shells. There are various types of conch, which have beautiful shells (live conchs cannot be harvested July through September).

If you get out to the atolls and cayes that are outside the main barrier reef, you will find more shells on beaches.

I have been told that on and near several of the small islands on the back side of Ambergris Caye, such as Cayo Pajaro, there is some pretty good shelling.

There are no laws that I am aware of regarding shelling, except regarding not taking or damaging coral or the shells of protected species such as sea turtles.

--Lan


Q: Are there any golf courses in Belize?

James Bragg


A: There is an 18-hole golf course on Caye Chapel, between Belize City and Ambergris Caye. It is part of a corporate retreat complex but is open to the public. It is a beautiful seaside course though controversial because of where it was built.

On the old Northern Highway about 35 miles north of Belize City is a fairly new 9-hole course, called Altun-Ha Club. I’m not a golfer, but this little doesn’t exactly remind me of Pebble Beach.

Near Hopkins, Jaguar Reef Lodge is planning to build a 9-hole course using synthetic turf. The owner says it will open late spring of 2002.

Don’t ruin your walk!

--Lan






Q. My husband and I are planning trip to Belize in March or April. We would like to do some fishing but not enough to justify Turneffe Island Lodge prices. Can you recommend a place to stay where excellent fishing can be arranged for 2-3 days, has a nice beach, we like the idea of a cabana and some privacy. We are not opposed to moving locations if needed to have good fishing 1st part of stay followed by a few days of relaxation. Also, is it better to do all-inclusive or not?

Some places that have looked interesting to us are:

Turneffe Island Lodge - too much fishing at too high a price?
El Pescador - seems fishing might be good and we could move elsewhere after a few days
Mata Chica - looks neat and secluded. Is it overpriced? Are the bugs too bad in North this time of year?
Tom Jones House - looks nice and private. Is it too secluded?

I've talked to actionbelize. Their stay is at Biltmore for fishing and then Sunbreeze for a few days. But I'm not really impressed with either property and didn't want to stay in Belize City. The rep. said the best fishing was out of Belize City which is not what I understand from reading I've done

Carol Kilby



A. Certainly, if you have the budget for it, Turneffe Lodge or Turneffe Flats or one of the other fishing-oriented remote lodges offer some of Belize's best fishing. Placencia also has some excellent fishing guides and some really nice places to stay, including my favorite, Inn at Robert's Grove. While Placencia is still recovering from Hurricane Iris, many places north of Placencia village have reopened and fishing guides are working again. Sittee Point/Hopkins also has a couple of fishing lodges, plus some top resorts such as Hamansi, and when it recovers from Iris, the Punta Negra area in southern Belize will see some new fishing lodges.

Staying on Ambergris Caye is a good option for those who want some fishing but some other activities as well, along with excellent hotels and good restaurants. El Pescador, which has upgraded some and added deluxe villas, is still the # 1 place to stay if fishing is your main interest, but you can stay anywhere on the island and hook up with a good guide.

I personally think the island's condotels offer the best value in accommodations -- much more space and as many amenities as the regular resorts. Among the ones I think are the best are Villas at Banyan Bay, Banana Beach, and The Palms, but there are about a dozen more, mostly good to very good accommodations.

Below is some information on fishing around Ambergris Caye.

--Lan


>>FISHING
Southern Belize and several of the remote cayes or atolls including Turneffe are better known centers for serious gamefishing, but the waters around Ambergris Caye also offer a great variety of saltwater fishing. The lagoons and flats on the back side of Ambergris hold bonefish, permit and barracuda. The river mouths and estuaries are home to snook, jacks and tarpon. Grouper, jacks, snapper and other fish hang out around the barrier reef. The deep blue waters beyond the reef contain marlin, sailfish and other big fish. Many fish, including bone fish and tarpon, can be caught year-round. Within 15 minutes of leaving the dock, you can be fishing in tidal flats or in blue water hundreds of feet deep, and you can even catch fish from the beach or a dock. Like Placencia, Ambergris Caye has many experienced fishing guides.
Size of fish: Typical sizes caught around Ambergris Caye: tarpon, up to 100 pounds in the lagoon but larger elsewhere; bonefish, 2 to 8 pounds; permit, 3 to 30 pounds; barracuda, 3 to 25 pounds; snook, mostly 5 to 10 pounds.
Licenses: You do not need a license for salt-water fishing in Belize.
Shore, beach and dock fishing: Not many people, locals or visitors, fish from shore on Ambergris, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It’s certainly cheap entertainment, and you can catch all types of fish, from barracuda to snapper, jacks and grouper. Ultra-light tackle with small spinners and grubs can be used for any type of fish. For the best shore fishing, you’ll want to get away from the developed areas and head north or south. One easily accessible fishing area begins about one-fourth mile north of the hand-pulled ferry, on the back (west) side. Here you have a good shot at red snapper and cuda, among other fish. You can also catch bonefish here or anywhere in the shallow flats on the back side. Watch out for the occasional croc. Late in the afternoon is a good time to fish from the docks, especially south of town.
Bait and tackle: For fly fishing, a stiff 8 or 9 weight rod will work for most situations. For spin fishing, a long medium-action rod for bonefish and permit and a stiff heavy-action rod for tarpon and large reef species are all you need. Bait can be bought at a small bait shop near the airstrip, or ask locally. El Pescador has a first-rate fly shop.
What to do with your fish: If you catch eating fish and aren’t staying in condo or house with kitchen, many restaurants in San Pedro will clean and cook them for you for around US$5 per person. It helps if you’ll give the restaurant a little extra fish that they can serve to regular customers.
Spearfishing: Spearfishing is legal only if you are doing it with mask, fins and snorkel. While it is technical legal, visitors are strongly discouraged from doing it, as it depletes the fisheries; this is one of those things that is okay for Belizeans to do but frowned upon when visitors do it. It is illegal to spearfish with scuba equipment. You also cannot spearfish in a marine reserve or national park.
When fish are biting:
Tarpon -- They are around all year,but the best tarpon fishing is April through August.
Bonefish: Again, they are present all year but peak from April throuhgh October.
Permit: The best fishing is April through August.
King Mackeral: April through June
Marlin and Sailfish: Anytime, but best months are March through June
Snapper: Anytime
Grouper: December through February
Grouper: December - February
Barracuda: All months
Marlin: All months
Wahoo: Winter usually best
Snapper: All months
Cost: Cost for charters depends on the type of fishing (reef, deep sea, or bone and tarpon), the size of the boat, number of anglers, time of year and current bank balance of the captain, but expect to pay around US$150 to $200 for a full day's fishing trip, including guide, bait and tackle, and ice. You may find a guide for less but you get what you pay for.
Tipping: US$20 a day per boat (one or two anglers) is common.
Guides: Fishing guides: Ask locally for current information on fishing guides. Rubie's Hotel is a good place to start. El Pescador on North Ambergris is a small hotel that specializes in fishing packages. Among local fishing guides recommended by knowledgeable anglers are:
Omar Arceo, 501-26-2410
Luz Guerrero -- docks at Holiday Hotel
George and Roberto Bradley -- work out of Victoria House
Gil Gonzalez, 501-26-2118
Carlos Marin and Nesto Gomez at Pescador
Luis Caliz, 501-26-5025

Q: Is there a golf course in Belize? I do not care about quality, just is there one there? I may come in late November to look around. What is a good cheap hotel in Belize City. Where should I stay to visit the majority of the American community?
Lew Slaughter


A: The only real golf course in Belize is on Caye Chapel, about a half hour by boat from either Belize City or San Pedro. A small 9-hole course is open near Altun Ha on the Northern Highway. A 9-hole sand links course may open near Hopkins in the middle of 2002.

There are no good, cheap hotels in Belize City. Safe, cheap hotels include Seaside Guest House and Downtown Guest House. Good, moderately priced hotels include Colton House, The Great House and Belize Biltmore Plaza.

The majority of American expats resident in Belize are in San Pedro. Some are also in Cayo, Belize City, Corozal Town and Placencia.

--Lan


Q: 1) How good is the cell phone coverage in Belize? 2) What are the yearly wind speeds in various parts of Belize? e.g. Where are wind generators feasible?

Jimmy Scott, Ph.D.
Hastings, ON Canada


A: Cell phone coverage in Belize is pretty good around Belize City, all the major towns, and on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. It is spotty in rural areas, especially in western and southern Belize. Belize Telecommunications, Ltd., until December 2002 the only legal telecommunications company in Belize, can provide you with a cell phone coverage map. In remote areas, fixed cellular is used, although recently I'm told it has been hard to get installations.

On wind speeds, it is really beyond the scope of our question-and-answer service to offer detailed wind velocity studies. You might try contacting the Belize Metereological Service. In general, except in late summer, virtually all of the mainland coast and the cayes enjoy prevailing 10 to 20 knot winds from the water. Inland, it is generally not consistently windy. There are some wind generated power systems, however. One lodge that uses wind as part of its energy generating mix is Mama Noots Back-a-Bush Lodge (mamanoots@btl.net, www.mamanoots.com) near the Mayflower Maya site just south of Dangriga. The co-owner, Kevin Denny, an American married to a Belizean, is very interested in alternative energy systems.

--Lan

Q: My wife and I are planning to go to Belize and one of the things I want to do is windsurfing. I cannot seem to find information on wind conditions by month, except that Nov-April or so seems good for WS and hurricanes are most likely in Aug-Sept. For ideal WS, winds should be brisk, say 15-20MPH, water temp should be warm enough to not need to wear a suit. Any recommendations?

Barry


A: Easterly winds on the cayes and coast in Belize blow consistently 15 mph + for most of the year. Usually the best conditions are January through March or April. The worst conditions are usually August and September, when sometimes the winds drop off to nothing for some time. Caye Caulker is Belize’s windsurfing center, but you can do it off beaches in Placencia and Hopkins as well as off other cayes. Expect to pay around US$10 an hour for board rental.

May the wind always be at your back!

--Lan

Q: We are thinking about climbing and surfing over New Years. Does Belize
offer those sports plus maybe somewhere fun to dance on New Year's Eve?

Trish McGinity
Evergreen, Colo.


A: There is no surfing at all in Belize -- due to the barrier reef offshore the wave energy is quite low. There is good windsurfing, however.

As the tallest mountain in Belize is just around 3,700 feet, climbing is not a major sport. However, there is good hiking in fairly steep topography in the Mountain Pine Ridge and in the Maya Mountains, especially in the Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve.

San Pedro is the place for punta dancing on New Year's Eve.

Happy New Years 2002!

--Lan

Q: What are some of the marinas in Belize?

A: There are quite a few "marinas" in Belize, but for the most part they may not live up to your expectations. Most are hardly more than a pier or dock.

The biggest are probably the marinas at the Radisson Fort George in Belize City, the Princess Hotel & Casino in Belize City, and the Belize Yacht Club in San Pedro. The Belize City marinas take draft of up to about 10 feet, and San Pedro about 6 feet.

There also are small marinas at Tony's Inn, Corozal Town; Sittee Point near Hopkins; Orange Point Marina, Punta Gorda; on the lagoon side of Placencia. And there are a few others.

If you haven't sailed in Belize, keep in mind that the very shallow water inside the reef, the many coral heads, and the choppy water and windy conditions make for some fairly tricky boating.

Happy sailing!

--Lan

Q: My husband and I are interested in traveling to Belize in Jan or Feb. We would like to travel on our own to Belize and then find some local fishing and birding tours. Is that a possiblity or should we tour Belize with a package tour group? Thanks in advance.

Stacy

A: Belize is a very easy country in which to travel independently, as most everyone speaks English and most hotels and even tour guides have e-mail and/or Web sites. Most of the better jungle lodges, including particularly Chan Chich, Lamanai Outpost, duPlooy's, Ek 'Tun, Pook's Hill and Chaa Creek, have guides who do a lot of birding tours. Another great birding area is Crooked Tree. I was just there and saw both a jabiru stork. Chan Chich Lodge is a especially set up for birders, and about 40% of the guests there are birders. As to fishing, there are guides in several areas. Placencia is the hub of sports fishing, but Sittee River/Hopkins, Ambergris Caye, Punta Gorda, Turneffe and Caye Caulker also have guides. South of Placencia in the Punta Negra area is the newest place for fishing, and several fishing lodges are being built there.

Keep those binoculars ready!

--Lan

Q: First of all, I really appreciate all of the information you have made available on the internet. Your comments have been invaluable. I recently read that next week is the best time to be in belize, with
independence day coming soon and Saint George's Caye Day.

Two of us were tossing around the idea of flying into Belize City, renting sea kayaks for the week (probably from Caye Caulker), cruising around and camping where we can. we're thinking next week . . . we're pretty spartan, like to snorkel, and it sounds fun. We're in our mid 20's and also thought that there might be some good parties on caye caulker. If the kayak/camping idea is not the best, then we'd appreciate any advice regarding places to stay.

q 1. do we need any sort of permit for camping?
q 2. any recommendations as to kayak rental?
q 3. should we launch from caye caulker or the mainland?

Geronimo Williams


A: Nothing wrong with your planned approach. The waters off Belize can be surprisingly rough and choppy, but if you're in good condition and don't mind the sun and salt water, it can be a great experience.

As to camping, many cayes are privately owned, and you should seek permission from the caretaker, if there is one, to camp. At reserves or parks, you'll need to pay a small fee. For example, at Half Moon Caye, way out on Lighthouse Reef, you have to register with the ranger and pay US$5. Keep in mind that a lot of cayes in Belize are just mangrove swamps, where there's no place to camp.

On Caye Caulker, I'm told Daisy's hotel and Gallery Hicaco do some rentals. Several places in Placencia rent kayaks. As to where to launch, depends on where you can get a kayak rental and also what kind of trip you want. Again, understand that this is not easy kayaking. There's a lot of sea, islands are spaced far apart, the water can be extremely rough. You might want to consider basing in a place like Placencia or Hopkins and doing day trips at first until you get the hang of the special conditions in Belize. You could also go out (by boat) to Glovers Reef and kayak from there.

For a good first-hand report on a kayaking trip in Belize, see http://www.caske2000.org/ngo/caske2000/belizeluke.htm

Good luck!

--Lan

Q: A few questions here if you would be so kind as to provide answers. Where is the best location to do spelunking? How far is San Ignacio from Belize City? What is the average temperature in late November on the coast and in the San Ignacio region?

Suzanne Woodard


A: There are many caves in Cayo, Stann Creek and Toledo districts. The area with the most caves is Cayo District. Some of the caves of note in the San Ignacio area are Actun Tunichal Muknal and Barton Creek. Che Chem Ha is noteworthy for the amount of Maya artifacts in it. There also are extensive cave systems in the Chiquibul Wilderness southwest of San Ignacio. National Geographic explored part of a 60-mile system in the April 2000 edition. Off the Hummingbird Highway is a very accessible cave, St. Herman’s.

San Ignacio is about 1 3/4 hours by car from Belize City, or two to three hours by bus depending on which type of bus, regular or express.

Temperatures in San Ignacio in November would typically be in the high 80s for a high, and low to mid 60s for a low. Coastal highs would be about the same but lows will be a few degrees warmer. Occasionally beginning in the late fall cold fronts due come down from the north and make things cooler for a few days.

Say hello to the bats !

--Lan

MISCELLANEOUS


Q. I am trying to find information on my Great Grandfather Ernest Hofius and I was wondering whether you might have some suggestions on how I might go about it. He born in Belize in 1887 and lived most of his life there. I understand that had a farm and that he owned Hofius Hardware. In the early 1960s he retired and left Belize. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Colin Riley

A. I know very little about geneology, but here are a couple of suggestions I've picked up:

1. The Belize Archives in Belmopan may be helpful to you. Here you will find records of wills, land records, etc. The index of wills can be quite helpful. Tel. 501- 822-2247 or try e-mailing archives@btl.net

2. Visit the Belize Geneology Forum -- http://genforum.genealogy.com/belize/

3. The Mormon Church has some Belize records on microfilm. Check the LDS Web site or a local church for information.

As you may know, Hofius Hardware still exists in Belize City -- it's an Ace Hardware on Albert Street and has several other divisions.

--Lan


Q. Could you please answer this question. Was Belize once called British Honduras?
Does Honduras still exist today or is Honduras and British Honduras the same
as Belize?
Thanks
Brian

A. Yes, Belize was formerly British Honduras. It was known as British Honduras from 1862 to 1973.

Honduras is another country in Central America, to the south of Belize.

--Lan


Q. I am a big bird hunter and have hunted several places in South America.
It's always a little bit of a hassle bringing in your firearms. If you
were going to move to Belize, and retire to fish and hunt, what would
the problems be with your firearms?

Carroll Swafford


A. Tourists and other non-citizens are not permitted to bring firearms into Belize, and hunting is not allowed by visitors to Belize and is limited in general, as much of Belize land is protected as nature reserve. If you retired in Belize and got official residency, you could apply for a permit to own a gun or guns. If you could show a need for a gun, such as being a farmer or for self-protection, you likely would get a license, for which there is a small fee depending on the type of gun.

--Lan


Q. I am a 3rd year medical student at the University of Michigan in Ann
Arbor, Mi, USA, and am currently planning my schedule for next year, when
I have some freedom to do foreign rotations. I know you are an expert in
the in's and out's of Belize, so I was hoping you could recommend some
good contacts in terms of hospitals, private doctors, etc., in Belize,
that wouldn't mind having a medical student helping out for a month.

Miguel P. Wolbert
Ann Arbor, Michigan

A: I'm afraid I don't know much about medical rotations in Belize. You might contact Alvaro Rosado, CEO of Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City. He seems like a nice, sharp guy and probably can send you in the right direction. KHMH is the largest hospital in Belize.

His contact info: khmhceo@moh.org.bz, tel. 501-2-31548, fax 501-2-33081

There are small offshore med schools in Belize, St. Matthews, Medical University of the Americas, and Belize Medical School. A fourth school is located in Belmopan. I believe they all do their rotations outside of Belize. St. Matthews is moving to the Cayman Islands in April/May

--Lan

Q. hello there! my girlfriend and i will be leaving our beautiful state of
alaska for a month-long backpacking trip through belize in march 2002. we
plan on doing quite a bit of camping, and want to be able to use our
campstove. i have a liquid fuel backpacking stove that uses white
gas(Coleman fuel) and another that uses screw-on fuel canisters. my question
is this: how available is white gas in belize, and how abundant are fuel
canisters, such as Primus, Camping Gaz or MSR brands? flying with full fuel
canisters or stoves is out of the question, so i am relying on your
expertise in this matter, so we may have some hot meals sometime.

tyler bounds

A. You should be able to find some kind of fuel for your stove -- probably "white gas" which I told is actually different from Coleman fuel, though the two terms are often used interchangeably. I would not count on finding the kinds of canisters your second stove needs, though you can check with hardware stores in Belize City and possibly in Dangriga and San Ignacio. If all else fails, you can probably use unleaded gas (premium gas at the pump), though that will cause problems for your stove after a while.

In Belize, butane (rather than propane) and kerosene are the fuels of choice. These are widely available. Everything else you may have to scrounge for.

The traditional way of cooking in bush areas of Belize is to use a simple stove fired by cohune nuts.

Ideally if you are carrying a stove you should have a multi-fuel stove that can, with adjustments, run on any of several fuels, such as kerosene, butane or white gas.

I personally would not lug two stoves around Belize. In most cases where you camp will have some kind of access to cooking. For example, in Cockscomb Preserve there is a common kitchen which you can use for a small fee. Since there are few campgrounds in Belize, camping is often done adjoining a lodge or hotel, where you can get food usually at moderate cost.

--Lan





Q. I am interested in knowing more about the Garifuna people of Belize. I understand that a 45 minute video exist on the topic. How much is the video and how can I obtain one?

Val

A. There are several videos on the Garifuna available. Probably the best is "The Garifuna Journey." It was shot entirely in Belize and runs 46 minutes. It sells for US$99 and can be obtained from

NEW DAY FILMS
22-D Hollywood Avenue
Ho-ho-kus, NJ 07423
Tel.: 201.652.6590
Fax: 201.652.1973
http://www.newday.com/films/GarifunaJourney.html

Another is "Spirit of My Mother," in Spanish with English subtitles, which tells of a woman's travels from Los Angeles to Honduras in search of her Garifuna identity. This 57-minute video is available from:

Los Gatos Productions
P.O. Box 2238
Santa Clara, CA 95055
(408) 999-8207
losgatos@flamefilms.com

--Lan



Q: From all that I've read in the chat rooms of Fodor's, you are the man who
knows all about Belize. I wonder if you would answer a few questions for
me? A friend of mine suggested that I leave my wedding and engagement rings at home because of the crime in Belize. Do you think this is good advice? Second, everything I've read said not to walk at night. We will be staying at the Radisson Fort George in Belize City, are there restaurants and other such entertainment near by so that we don't have to walk far from our hotel
and still be safe? Finally, in your seasoned opinion, what sites/activities
are on your top list for first timers and what tips can you suggest for a
safe yet enjoyable honeymoon?

Thank you in advance for your valued input!

Babs Belar

A: Belize City does have a crime problem (whereas most of the rest of Belize does not). However, tourists rarely are affected by crime in the city, as they mostly occur (as in the U.S.) in marginal neighborhoods where visitors wouldn't go.

The Fort George area, one of the nicest in the city, is patrolled by tourist police, who have been very successful in reducing crime. The Radisson Fort George is in a lovely area, and there are several restaurants within walking distance. Right across the street is one of the best restaurants in the city, the Smoky Mermaid at The Great House.

I would not bring flashy jewelry, but there is no problem in wearing wedding rings and such.

--Lan

 

Q: 1) How good is the cell phone coverage in Belize? 2) What are the yearly wind speeds in various parts of Belize? e.g. Where are wind generators feasible?

Jimmy Scott, Ph.D.
Hastings, Ontario, Canada

A: Cell phone coverage in Belize is pretty good around Belize City, all the major towns, and on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. It is spotty in rural areas, especially in western and southern Belize. Belize Telecommunications, Ltd., until December 2002 the only legal telecommunications company in Belize, can provide you with a cell phone coverage map. In remote areas, fixed cellular is used, although recently I'm told it has been hard to get installations.

On wind speeds, it is really beyond the scope of our question-and-answer service to offer detailed wind velocity studies. You might try contacting the Belize Metereological Service. In general, except in late summer, virtually all of the mainland coast and the cayes enjoy prevailing 10 to 20 knot winds from the water. Inland, it is generally not consistently windy. There are some wind generated power systems, however. One lodge that uses wind as part of its energy generating mix is Mama Noots Back-a-Bush Lodge (mamanoots@btl.net, www.mamanoots.com) near the Mayflower Maya site just south of Dangriga. The co-owner, Kevin Denny, an American married to a Belizean, is very interested in alternative energy systems.

--Lan

 

Q. Greetings. This is Henry Fernandez [Presbyterian ministry from Los Alamos, New Mexico -- that's actually in the USA, more or less]. Really enjoy your web site --- because I love Belize. Also, just purchased you Adapter Kit book. Good stuff. Thanks for your work on it. Hope it is a real success.

Just got back from a month long stay with my family [wife and three kids, 18, 16, 15]. We stayed in San Narciso, Corozal District [worked with a church there and also a congregation in Patchakan]. This is my second trip to Belize -- visited there in February, and worked with thee Presbyterian Medical Clinic in Patchakan with a physician from my congregation here in Los Alamos.

Ok, enough introductions. I have a question which you may be able to help me find an answer. While reading one of the on-line histories of Belize, I found a statement that I cannot corroborate regarding some of the first European settlers in Belize. The site [I just don't remember which one, but it could it have been one of the Belize by Natural Light sites] stated that the first English speaking settlers in Belize were English Puritan merchants. I thought that was fascinating, especially since Presbyterianism has its roots in Puritanism. Our confessional standard, the Westminster Confession of Faith, was written under the direction of a Puritan Parliament [Oliver Cromwell] and the divines gathered were all Puritan members of various denominations: Episcopalians, Congregationalist, and Presbyterians.

Could you help me find an answer to this historical question?

Thanks again for your work, your good writing, and your kind offer to attempt to answer your readers questions.


Henry Fernandez
[West Tampa Cuban living in New Mexico and looking for another excuse to go back to Belize]

A. According to Emory King's history of Belize, the first European settler in what is now Belize was a Spaniard, Gonzalo Gerrero, who was shipwrecked at Cozumel, Mexico, in 1511. The Maya killed most of his shipmates but spared him; he was sent to what is now Corozal Town, married a Maya woman and went native. Guerrero helped fight the Spanish in northern Belize and the Yucatan; in the 1630s the Spanish lost several battles to the Maya and were for the most part prevented from occupying Belize.

King and others say it is unclear exactly when the first English settlers arrived in Belize. A popular story is that a Captain Peter Wallace (or Wallis), a buccaneer who was probably a Scot, discovered the mouth of the Belize River in 1827, and perhaps with some of his crew settled near what is now Belize City, but this is poorly documented. Most historians agree that by 1650 there were a number of British "logwood cutters" in Belize, mostly former buccaneers or pirates. Perhaps some of them had been Puritans, but if so they had changed a bit, as while generally hard-working they were known also for hard drinking.

--Lan



Q: I'm a college student at Cal Poly Pomona. I need to do a cultural research
on Belize and present it on November 29,2001.

Firstly, I need to do market research on readers who purchases the Harlequin
Romance Books. Is there a web-site or can you provide the following
informations:

1) Whom is the target market(demographically)?
2) What type of products, the price, the promotion, and distribution?
3) What percentages of people read romance novels in your city?
4) Is the language in English?

Thank you for your kind assistance. If possible, please respond as soon as
possible via e-mail.

Angie Yu
Cal Poly Student

A: I'm afraid we are having a communications problem.

What do Harlequin Romance books have to do with Belize? If there is any research on Belizeans and their Harlequin Romance reading habits, I think you would have to ask the Harlequin publishers.

--Lan

Q: I am interested in studying at the University College of Belize for the semseter startingfrom January 2002. I need to make up a calculus requirement for graduate school which I plan on entering in September. Could you send me some information about entrance requirements and tuition, I tried the University College of Belize hompage but it unfortunately is not working. Also could you give me an idea of rent for student accomodation is in Belopan. Any assistance you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Mike Stewart

A. First of all, what was formerly called the University College of Belize has been known for more than a year as University of Belize. It has seven campuses -- including ones at Belmopan, Central Farm, Belize City and Punta Gorda.

Belizean citizens and permanent residents can attend UB for a tuition of US$10 per credit hour, with student fees of not more than US$112.50 per semester.

Rents in the Belmopan area vary widely, from under US$100 a month to more than US$1000. It is a small town, and most students live in their parents' homes or with relatives.

Perhaps you can do some homework and contact the university directly for information on entrance requirements and other specifics about your academic status.

--Lan


Q: What are or what caused the long lines under water that extend out from Belize City? I saw them flying from Belize City to Ambergris Caye.

Mike Traub


A: It's difficult to be sure which lines you are talking about, but there are two or three explanations. I checked with some sailors in Belize to confirm what I have been told earlier, and they tell me:

If the lines look "natural" (like ripples in sand dunes) they are lines of sand or mud on the sea bottom created by currents and wave action, probably accentuated by shadows and light refracted through the water. The water inside the reef is usually quite clear -- you are seeing the seafloor through a few feet of water.

The straight lines that look a little like jet con trails in the sky are usually caused by barges and boats moving through seagrass or in some cases sand/mud bottom. The water on the inside of the reef is quite shallow, mostly under 8 feet and in some cases just a foot or two, so that props and keels of boats can sometimes leave "trails" on the seafloor.

There also are underwater power and telephone cables running to San Pedro from the mainland, but this is probably not what you are referring to. Also, after storms boats, mangrove trees and other items can be drug by the wind along the seafloor, causing ditches that may remain for some time after the storm.

Q: We are fine with a day of sailing, maybe some fishing, bike riding, and the Black Hole rappel sounds fun. I'm also a pilot and the thought of renting a plane (and pilot) to fly the Cayes is outstanding. I realize this may be completely impossible.

George Jenson


A: I do not believe it will be possible to rent a plane to fly yourself. You can of course charter a private plane to take you anywhere, but the cost will be high. If I remember correctly, the only cayes with airstrips are Ambergris, Caulker, Chapel and the caye that Lighthouse Reef Resort is on.

Keep’em flyin!

--Lan

Q: I'm about to go to Belize and hope I will get some good
diving! I'm from Sweden and am curious if I need visa?

Johan H. Hafström

A: Nationals of the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the EU do NOT need a visa to enter Belize. Since Sweden is an EU member, you will not need a visa. You will of course need a valid passport. Upon arrival, entry is usually granted for 30 days, at no charge, after which period the entry stamp can be renewed for US$12.50 a month for up to six months. On departure, there are international exit taxes and fees totaling US$20.

--Lan

Q: Was just wondering if you had any info or insight into getting married in Belize? Thanks.

R. Koch


A: Marriages in Belize are conducted in the tradition of British common law and are recognized world-wide. You must be in Belize for three days before you can apply for a license. Marriage licenses can be obtained in Belize City at the General Registry office or Belmopan at the Solicitor General’s office, during normal working hours. Cost is US$100. No blood test is needed; parental consent not needed if over 18.

You need proof of citizenship. A valid passport will do, or a certified copy of birth certificate, which includes father’s name, signed by a notary public. Proof of divorce needed if applicable – bring original or certified copy of divorce decree. If widowed, you’ll need a copy of the partner’s death decree.

A Justice of the Peace, of which there are many in Belize, can conduct the ceremony at a magistrate’s office; in Belize City, the Registrar General can conduct the ceremony at the Registry office. If you prefer a religious ceremony, most ministers in Belize can perform the ceremony at a church or at a hotel or private home.

Hotels on Ambergris Caye, in Placencia, Cayo and elsewhere can assist with wedding details, including help with obtaining a minister or JP and getting the license, if you are staying at the hotel. Some Belize tour operators also provide wedding assistance.

Congratulations!

--Lan

Q: Do you know if I can get Belikin back here in Texas? Thanks for your help!

Jim Ogden


A: To my knowledge Belikin is not available anywhere in the U.S. Bowen & Bowen has said it is expanding its brewery so that it can eventually begin exporting.

Cheers!

--Lan

Q: Do you know of any book that has a list or dictionary of Belize colloquial
terms?

Robert Tewes


A: The only thing that I'm aware of that comes close would be Creole Proverbs of Belize by Sir Colville Young. I don't believe this is available in U.S. bookstores, but you can probably order it from the Angelus Press Web site.

Al a we mek Belize!

--Lan

Q: First, this is a serious question. I am a student working on an international business plan for my final paper. I am putting together a plan on exporting canned vegetables to Belize. Research has indicated canned green beans and peas could be desired there. Can you tell me the average price of a 14 1/2 oz can of green beans and a 14 1/2 oz can of peas? Is the amount in Belize$ or US$? Do you consider these products to be an import candidate for Belize. I have searched the internet without success and do not know anyone in Belize.

Dale Hughes, Luling, Louisiana


A: I'm not in Belize right now and I'm afraid I don't know off-hand the price of 14 1/2 oz. canned beans or peas. As in the U.S., it would vary considerably from store to store, generally being less in Belize City supermarkets, of which there are just two "large" ones, and highest on the cayes and in Punta Gorda. In general, for imported items like that you could figure the average U.S. price and then add 50%. If you want an exact figure, you might ask on the Belize Culture mailing list. Someone there in Belize might have the time to check at a grocery and give you some exact prices. To subscribe/unsubscribe send to bz-culture-request@psg.com the message:
subscribe or unsubscribe. Send comments to bz-culture-owner@psg.com.

For your business plan, keep in mind that the entire country of Belize has only about 240,000 people, the population of Lafayette, and of these about two-thirds are under age 21, and as average GDP is about one-tenth that in the U.S. the buying power of the country as a whole is probably not more than that of Luling. As a practical matter, exporting into a tiny market like Belize is not a very profitable business, even if there is an indicated demand for a product.

Hope you get an “A”!

--Lan


Q: Why do the Mennonites in Orange Walk seem to be so prosperous compared to
others farming the same land? One local resident suggested that they farmed
land grant property given them by the government. Another person suggested
they had sufficient money to purchase the best land cheaply and the
knowledge to farm it properly. Can't their success be a model for improving
the living standard for others in the country?

Charles Oelsner
Syracuse, New York

A: The Mennonites have generally been successful in Belize. They contribute a great deal to Belize. That's all true.

They do have a special agreement with the Belize government which allows them to function almost autonomously. Their original move into Belize in the 1950s and 1960s, from Canada and Mexico, was under special circumstances.

Cultural differences are involved, too. Mennonites have strong family ties, a traditional Northern European work ethic and a powerful religious organizing principle. Many follow a North American model of capitalism and personal or family entrepreneurism. These cultural beliefs may not be completely appropriate for Belize's multicultural society which is based on indigenous Mayan, African and other heritages.

The Mennonite farming model, which includes in some areas the use of large amounts of non -organic fertilizers and other chemicals in their farming operations, may not be appropriate for other groups in Belize, nor, some argue, is it necessarily in the best long-term interests of Belize, which for several thousand years was farmed using the organic milpa model.

--Lan

Q: Is there anything of value that people of Belize would like to buy from the states that I could bring?

Greg Bertra


A: Not really. Belizeans have access to just about anything sold in the U.S. or elsewhere. The only problem is that due to high import taxes most items cost more in Belize than in the U.S. There are some items that are hard to get in Belize -- books, magazines, good-quality bed linens, high-quality mattresses, quality cooking utensils, for example, but these would be impractical for a tourist to bring in. Of course, if you are bringing in items for sale rather than personal use, you would have to declare them and pay the import duties.

--Lan

Q. How many students are enrolled at St. Matthew's University School of Medicine including the satellite campus at St. Joseph's College in Maine, U.S.A.?

Niel Kropp

A. This is from Dr. Thornton of SMU: On Ambergris Caye there are approximately 185 students in full time residence. In Maine there are currently 50. Other students are in clinical rotations throughout England and the U.S. Overall, St. Matthew's has an enrollment of approximately 485 students.

--Lan


Q: We are leaving for Placencia tomorrow. Your articles have been very helpful! Can you tell me if my cell phone will work there? Is it worth bringing? If not, how would I call the US from there. I use MCI for my
long distance carrier.


A: Whether your cell phone will work in Belize or not depends on what kind of cell phone it is. Many do work. However, you'll have to have it programmed by Belize Telecommunications Ltd. to work in Belize. That costs around US$50, plus the cost of calls that you make (incoming calls to your cell are free.) You can have that done at the BTL office at the airport -- it's just across the parking lot and rental car area. Sometimes there’s quite a wait. If your cell phone can't be programmed, you can rent a BTL phone for US$5 per day plus the cost of outgoing calls.

You can call the US from Belize -- rates are about US$1.35 per MINUTE if you use BTL. If you have calling card you can dial an operator who will give you a better rate. For MCI, dial 815 from pay phones or 557 from hotels. Check with MCI before you go to find out if there’s a special number for your cell phone.

Note that most pay phones in Belize have now been converted to work only with phone cards -- prepaid calling time. Coins no longer work. You can buy phone cards from BTL offices and many shops, in amounts of US$2.50 to US$25.

Reach out and touch ... Belize!

--Lan

Q: Some family members and myself are contemplating a visit to Belize, and were wondering exactly what is required to get there? Such as inocculations of any kind? We have never left the States and were just curious. Thanks for any information you can supply.

Diedra


A: No inocculations are REQUIRED, except Yellow Fever if coming from an infected area such as part of Africa or South America.

For visits to popular resort areas such as Ambergris Caye, most visitors take no special precautions. Ambergris Caye is about like Florida in terms of health risk. However, for visits to inland areas, especially remote areas in the far south or west, it is a good idea to take malaria prophylaxsis (chloroquine). Most veterans travelers also like to have their basic sticks up to date -- Hep A, Hep B, tetanus, etc. -- just in case.

The CDC has specific recommendations on what you might need. Their recommendations tend to be ultraconservative, however.

Stay well!

--Lan




Q: Due to the grounding of U.S. flights, I am stuck in Houston. Do you know the best bus companies in Mexico?

Mike


A: There are a number of bus lines along the east coast of Mexico -- ADO being one of the largest, Grupo Senda, Autobuses Americanos, Autobuses Amigos and others. Lots of bus service, and the first class and deluxe buses are comfortable, with reserved seats, videos, snacks, A/C, bathrooms, attendents, etc. but the schedules are complex and unreliable, and connections can be a pain. You can’t just jump on a bus in Nuevo Laredo and get off in Chetumal. It’s about 1400 miles through Mexico to the Belize border, plus the distance from Houston to the border, with lots of stops and connections along the way.

A couple of excellent sources of information on buses in Mexico and elsewhere in the region are http://www.magic-bus.com/ and http://www.busstation.net/

Another thought is that if you can get from Houston to the border via bus, rental car or whatever, and into Mexico you can fly from there to Chetumal. Air service outside of the U.S. is more or less business as usual, and there are inexpensive internal flights in Mexico to Cancun, Merida, Coz or Chetumal that will save you several long days on buses.

Take the bus and leave the driving to us!

--Lan


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