Planning Ahead For Time in Belize
Registered students will receive an extensive C.E.L.A. Orientation Handbook prior to their arrival in Belize.
- Your passport must be good for up to 6 months past the date of your visit; you must also provide proof of a return plane ticket. No VISA is required for U.S, Canadian & Western European citizens, but international students should inquire regarding regulations for their country.
- Be sure to bring your:
- Student ID
- Driver’s License
- Airline tickets
- Purchase medical and travel insurance as noted on the Proof of Insurance form; it must cover medical insurance, Air Evacuation coverage and Repatriation of Remains.
- If you plan to use a credit card or ATM card in Belize, it is a good idea to let your credit card company and bank know when you will be here.
- Belize has its own currency, the Belizean dollar (BZ). The exchange rate is set at BZ $2 for US 1$. Most shops accept U.S. currency and will give BZ in return. The ATMs disperse BZ dollars.
Luggage and Travel
- Check with your the airline for information on baggage restrictions and fees. Each passenger is allowed one checked bag and two carry-on bags (one of which is a small “personal item” such as a purse or daypack). If your checked bag exceeds 50 pounds and 62 inches (H + L + W), you will be charged extra.
- Use a baggage tag that ONLY shows your name. Put identification inside each piece of luggage, like a copy of your passport bio page. Place a copy of your itinerary in your suitcase so you can be located if your luggage is misplaced by the airline.
- Do not pack valuables in your suitcase; avoid taking very valuable jewelry or other valuable items other than a camera, phone or laptop.
- All medications should be in their original bottles with your name and prescription on the bottle. If your medication is essential, take a copy of your prescription with you in case you have to have it filled. If your medications are necessary to your health, pack a few extra days’ supply in your carry-on luggage.
- Do not take knives, scissors, alcohol or illegal drugs.
- If you wear glasses or contact lenses, take an extra pair.
- Consider taking a change of clothing in your carry-on bag in case your luggage is doesn't arrive with you.
- Bear in mind that a wheeled suitcase (a “roller”) may not be convenient on islands, as the roads may be sand! As long as you can lift your bag you can probably manage. Remember travelling light is always best.
- If you are a BIG souvenir shopper, you may want to pack an extra bag, like a duffel bag, to transport your goodies home. You may have to pay extra to check an extra bag. Call the airline ahead of time if you have any questions.
- Liquids (e.g. shampoo, other toilet articles) are limited to 3 oz. and must all be in a single, clear, quart-sized zip-lock bag, if packed in carry-on luggage.
- Airport security is very cautious. Do not ever joke about having a weapon (gun, bomb, or knife) or about terrorism or hijacking.
- For the most current guidelines about travel/security regulations, see the website of the Transportation Safety Authority (TSA): www.tsa.gov
What to Pack
You may be undertaking a variety of outdoor activities (hiking, canoeing, swimming, sightseeing, snorkeling) in a subtropical country (Latitude 17º N), so develop your packing list accordingly. The dry season in Belize is December to May. The rainy season begins in June and lasts through November, running with the hurricane season. Prepare for heat and/or rain as most of course activities are outdoors.
Average daily highs and lows for May - August are as follows:
Belize City 87º / 79º
San Ignacio: 90º / 71º
See this website for more details by the month, http://www.belizenet.com/weather/climate.html
Here are some suggestions of things to pack:
- Light-weight pants and long-sleeve shirts are good protection from the insects (mosquitoes inland, sand flies at the beach in the evening)
- Convertible pants (with zip-off legs) double as shorts
- Rain jacket or poncho
- Swim Suit
- Hat, sunscreen, sunglasses
- Flip-flops or walking sandals for the beach; comfortable, sturdy, closed toed shoes for the jungle
- Binoculars, field guides
- Small flashlight or headlamp
- Notebook or journal, pens and pencils
- Travel sized tissues or wipes, or small towel
- Water bottle, if carried on the plane it must be empty
- Alarm clock
- Insect repellent (no aerosols)
- To keep important documents secure, purchase a neck pouch or money belt in which you can keep your passport, ID, credit card, and larger amounts of cash. Keep only one day’s spending money in your purse/wallet.
- Visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) web site (www.cdc.gov/travel/) regarding immunizations and other health concerns for visitors to Belize. The CDC recommends updating your “routine” vaccinations (flu, MMR, DPT) but ALWAYS consult with your physician first.
- Long sleeves and long pants made of light-weight fabric are recommended for after dark and for the jungle. Sand flies come out at the beach in the evening. Pack insect repellent (with DEET). Remember, biting insects may carry diseases such as malaria and Dengue fever.
- You will be in the subtropics (17º N latitude): pack sunscreen and chap stick with SPF!
- Bring medication if you are prone to sea or travel sickness.
- Water from the tap is considered safe to drink in Belize in the towns, but visitors should drink bottled water, juices or carbonated beverages to be on the safe side. Bottle water is readily available
- Tourists are not targeted specifically by criminals in Belize, but may be victims of “crimes of opportunity.” Visit the U.S. State Department web site for the latest travel advisories for Belize (www.travel.state.gov/travel)
- Do not go anywhere alone; always travel in groups of at least two. Be aware of your surroundings and practice the same safety precautions as on a university campus.
- Let someone know your intended destination and return time if you are traveling during free time.
- When traveling, you should wear your purse/bag across your body (not over your shoulder) with valuables held close to you. Beware of pickpockets. Do not put your purse, camera pack, or backpack on the floor or hang it on the back of your chair when you eat. Never leave valuables unattended.
- Do not call attention to your room number while in public areas. Do not leave valuables in your room. Most hotels will place them in the hotel safe.
- Make three copies of your passport and other important documents. You may want to e-mail them to yourself so that you will always be able to access a copy should something happen to your original passport.
Chances are that you will be sharing room while in Belize. You may be in dormitory style rooms (maximum 4 people) and using composting toilets. Although C.E.L.A. endeavors to find you the best accommodation for the budget; don’t expect luxury or sometimes even hot showers! The power and water will go off periodically so plan daily activities accordingly.
- Electricity is 110-volt AC, with U.S.-style outlets (2- or 3-pronged)
- English is the official language of Belize, but Spanish, Creole, and Garifuna are also spoken in this multi-cultural nation.
- English units are the norm in Belize (e.g. miles, gallons, pounds, etc.)
- The time zone in Belize is GMT -6:00, we do not have daylight savings time. So we are either on US Central or Mountain time depending on the time of year.
- The drinking age in Belize is 18.
- There are ATMs in most of the banks. Banking hours are typically 8 – 2:00 Monday – Friday, and some Saturdays until noon.
- Internet cafes are available (charging by the hour or half hour), and more hotels and resorts have WIFI. Expect the internet connections to be much slower than North America.
- If you purchase more than $800 in merchandise, you will be required to pay additional fees when you go through customs upon returning home. It’s a good idea to keep a running tab of what you have spent on items you’ll bring home, and bring a list or the receipts on the airplane when you leave.
- Your cell phone probably won't work in Belize, even with an international plan. VOIP is now available but general slow internet speeds may making using VOIP services frustrating.
- Most accommodations do NOT have phones in the rooms. Calling home while in Belize can be very expensive. Email and internet services are a better option.