I moved to Belize just over 11 years ago. And still, when I visit the states, I will get quizzical looks when people ask me things like “how’d you get so tan” or just “where do you live”?
Answer: I live in Belize.
Even if they have heard of it, most people are vague on the specifics.
It’s in Central America. Yup. Between Guatemala and Mexico. But Belize is a small country – less than 400,000 people with one of the lowest population densities in the world. And most visitors have never met a Belizean before. There are only a handful of Belizean restaurants in the US (and isn’t food the way we learn about lots of cultures?)
So most people don’t know that Belize isn’t just a beach vacation in the Caribbean or another crowded, dangerous spot in Central America. Here are some of the misconceptions about Belize.
- Belize is an island – No. Belize, her capital and the bulk of her population are on the Central American mainland. But we are probably best known for the 2nd longest barrier reef in the world and the hundreds of cayes, beaches and diving sites scattered up and down the coast. Belize, her food and traditions, are heavily influenced by the Caribbean.
- The very title of this post – It’s impossible to generalize about Belize – a crazy special country that I recommend EVERYONE visit. The pictures that you see most often show impossibly blue waters, white coral sands and probably a fly-over of the famous Blue Hole but Belize is many many things. It’s jaguars and scarlet macaws in the wild. African influenced drums and foods. Maya temples and carvings. It’s rolling farmlands with Mennonite buggies. Limestone caves…luxe jungle lodges….I could go on and on and on.
- Belize is cheap – Wait…you get TWO Belize dollars for only ONE US dollar? That’s CHEAP! Sorry folks…that’s not exactly how it works. If you have visited much of Mexico or Guatemala or Honduras, stayed at $5 hostels and consumed 75 cent beers, you will find Belize EXPENSIVE – more like visiting a Caribbean island. If you are moving down here, thinking that your cost of living will be a fraction of what it is in the US, you might be mistaken. But you CAN do Belize “on-the-cheap” or at least cheaper. Ambergris Caye is priciest spot in the country but we do have hostels and AirBNB, you can shop and eat local and plus…Belize is totally worth it. (Read: Cheap Eats On Ambergris Caye)
- Belize is far away – This certainly depends on where you are – if it is Mauritius, then yes, it is very far away. But Belize is actually closer to Houston and to New Orleans than New York is. New York City to San Francisco is over 2,500 miles. NYC to Belize City is just about 1,800. There are direct flights from Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Chicago, Newark, Houston (2 airports), Dallas, Atlanta and more.
- The Food is Pretty Much Mexican – Example: I get asked all the time where people can get “real tacos”. Belize is a mash-up of cultures and has a food all her own. (My Take on Belizean Food) It varies as you visit different parts of the country – the “more Mexican” food is mostly Yucatan cuisine rather than Tex-Mex. Ask for tacos and many think of a favorite breakfast – 3 for $1bzd chicken tacos.The crispy shelled “classic taco” is Mexican either! It was invented in the US. You can read all about it here.
- The weather report from your favorite local site has the accurate forecast for Belize also – It’s the #1 email that I get: “The weather says RAIN every single day, we are thinking about cancelling our trip” OH WEATHER.COM!!!!!!!!!!! I’m not exactly sure why these websites say “Scattered Thunderstorms” every. single. day. But it’s not correct. The weather here is tropical – it is changing (especially during the rainier season) but for the most part, it’s warm and sunny. Here are websites that are much more accurate.
- You can’t eat the street food in Belize – Not true. In fact, you are missing some of the very best eats if you avoid “street food” in Belize. And this is not my iron clad stomach speaking – I’ve gotten sick in Guatemala (oh so sick) and in Mexico – but never in Belize. Avoid any spot that you don’t like the look of…but if it looks good, EAT IT.
- Because we speak English, visiting Belize is just going on vacation in the US or moving to the US will be just like moving to Florida – Wrong. Belize is a different country. You are moving to a different country with different culture, politics, food….everything. If you are going to get impatient waiting on a line at the bank or mad because the local bar doesn’t have Heinz Ketchup or testy every time you pay lots of money for softer imported toilet paper…it’s gonna be tough. (Here are 15 Things No One Told Me About Living in Belize)
- You’ll probably get Zika in Belize – You are probably going to get a few mosquito bites – though not many during the dry season. But when things warm up and we get some rain, we also get bugs that bite. You can do a lot to stymie them – it’s best to be prepared. But while we do have a handful cases of dengue reported, usually during the summer months…disease from bugs is not the norm – far from it. Resorts often spray for bugs, the village and town councils do too.
- If you book a trip during hurricane season, your vacation will most likely be ruined –Hurricane season runs from June 1st until November 30th, but Belize generally doesn’t see storms head our way until August, September or October. And even then, they are by no means a certainty. (Over 11 years, I’ve seen two that caused noteworthy damage – Hurricane Dean in 2007 and Hurricane Earl in 2016. No injuries but docks destroyed and significant clean up needed) While the weather tends to be hot and humid in the late summer and fall, full days of rain are fairly rare – especially in the northern parts of the country. Most comes in early morning or late afternoon and night time bursts. So take advantage of the deals and enjoy the festivals – it’s a great time to visit Belize.
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