Diving in Belize
Belize is one of the world's top spots for scuba diving and snorkeling with
the second largest barrier reef (second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef),
as well as three spectacular mid-ocean atolls.
Spanning Belize's coastline for 185 miles is the Belize Barrier Reef with dive
sites inside and outside of the reef. This reef has been named a UNESCO World
Heritage Site. The underwater terrain is spur and grove formations - narrow
canyons of corals are great for spotting grouper, stingrays, and moray eels.
Inside the reef, patch reefs are covered with hundreds of brightly colored fish
and coral species.
Diving and snorkeling are superb all along the barrier reef; the following
are just a few of the truly standout sites and dives:
Shark-Ray Alley & Hol Chan Marine Reserve (reachable from Ambergris Caye).
Shark-Ray Alley guarantees a very close encounter with schools of large stingrays
and nurse sharks. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is an excellent snorkeling destination
comprised of a narrow channel cutting through a rich and well-maintained shallow
Turneffe Island & Lighthouse Reef Atolls (Northern Cayes and Atolls). For
many divers coming to Belize, these spots are the Holy Grail, and justifiably
so. Both of these mid-ocean atoll formations feature nearly endless opportunities
for world-class wall, drift, and coral garden diving. This is also where you'll
find the world-famous Blue Hole. Most dive operators offer day trips to dive
these sites, although these usually involve a 2- to 3-hour boat ride each way.
Alternatively, you can stay at one of the very few lodges out on the atolls,
or take a vacation on a live-aboard dive boat.
Water visibility commonly reaches 100+ feet; water temperature hovers around
80°F; and the barrier reef makes for calm water most of the year.
Belize is great destination for the active and adventurous traveler. Whether
your interests are scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, sailing, spelunking, mountain
biking, horseback riding, or bird-watching, Belize has some fabulous terrain
and opportunities that are perfect for you.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
A current passport, valid through your departure date, is required for entry
into Belize. In some cases you may be asked to show an onward or return plane
Check the entry/exit requirements here.
There are no serious epidemic diseases in Belize. No inoculations are required
for entry, but anti-malaria tablets are recommended for extended stays in the
Check with the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for
Culture and Customs
Belize is a country of various cultures, languages, and ethnic groups. Approximately
292,000 people in Belize consist of Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo, Spanish, Maya,
English, Mennonite, Lebanese, Chinese, and East Indian. Due to racial harmony
and religious tolerance, all of these different elements have mixed and blended
successfully, and Belize has gained a widespread reputation for its friendly
There are no overarching etiquette or customs concerns for visitors to Belize.
This is a hot, humid tropical country, and dress is uniformly light and casual.
For all intents and purposes, Belize is also a very Western country. A simple
handshake is the most common form of greeting. Read more about Belize here.
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electricity in Belize is provided by Diesel/Generator Sets, and the power
is stable at 110 Volts A/C, which is the same voltage as in the United States.
Most outlets are either two- or three-prong U.S. style outlets.
Belize has a standardized seven-digit phone numbering system. Country code information is here.
Cybercafes can be found at most major tourist destinations around Belize. WIFI
is also increasingly more common, and many hotels are offering it for free.
BTL (tel. 0800/112-4636; www.btl.net), the state Internet monopoly, sells prepaid
cards for connecting
your laptop to the Web via a local phone call.
The water in most major cities and tourist destinations in Belize is safe
to drink. However, many travelers react adversely to water in foreign countries,
and it is probably best to drink bottled water throughout your visit to Belize.
Language & Currency
English is the official language, but Spanish is widely spoken. Other languages
spoken are Mayan, Garifuna, and Creole.
The Belize dollar is pegged to the US dollar at 2:1 - always verify whether
you are paying US or Belize dollars. It's easy to change US dollars just about
anywhere, and travelers checks can be changed at any bank.
Belize Bank ATMs accept foreign cards (international Visa, MasterCard, Plus
and Cirrus) in Belize City, Belmopan, Corozal, Dangriga, Orange Walk, Punta
Gorda, San Ignacio and San Pedro. ATMs give only Belizean dollars and the exchange
rate is usually a cent or two under the rate used to exchange cash or travelers
checks. Check the current exchange rate here.
Most businesses will accept US cash without question. They usually give change
in Belizean dollars, though they may return US change if you ask.
Belize is on Central Standard Time, 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Belize
does not observe daylight saving time.
History, Art, and Culture
Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the
end of the first millennium A.D.
The first British settlement came in 1638, and the British and Spanish disputed
the region in the 17th and 18th centuries. It formally became the colony of
British Honduras in 1854. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala
delayed the independence of Belize until 1981.
Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992.
Peace and plentiful land attract refugees from troubled neighboring countries.
Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Visitors flock to see Maya ruins
like Altun Ha, Xunantunich and Lamanai; wildlife such as jaguars, howler monkeys,
and toucans; and the Western Hemisphere's longest coral reef.
Location and Size
Belize lies along the Caribbean coast of Central America. It's captial city
Belize is bounded on the North by Mexico, South and West by Guatemala, and
the beautiful Caribbean Sea washes its 174 mile coastline to the East.
Belize has an area of 8,866 sq. miles including 266 sq. miles of islands.