I had no idea what to expect when I landed in Belize. The only reason I chose this country was because they were the cheapest international destination for the dates I wanted.
Planning roughly, I sketched out an itinerary a few days after buying tickets, put down some deposits for the hostels I would stay at, and thought no more of it until the time came. All I knew was that the big attractions were the Great Blue Hole, the 2nd largest barrier reef system, and Maya ruins. What I didn’t expect was how much I would fall in love with the place.
Guys, Belize is AMAZING.
For us Americans, it’s close enough to head to for quick little vacations. From Texas or Florida, the flight is only about 3 hours! From Chicago, the total travel time including a 1-hour layover was a mere 8 hours to get all the way to paradise.
Out of all the countries I’ve been to, I met by far the most Americans in Belize. It was a pleasant change, knowing that some of us do travel from time to time. I loved all the people I met on this trip and had such a great time with all of them.
Though I was there for about 8 days, I believe 4-day weekend getaways here–provided you stay in one place–would still be a good time. And since their national language is English, so there’s no language barrier to worry about. I always say this, I know, but I hope it’s going to become one of my regular spots (although I’ve yet to become a regular anywhere…).
When the time came to leave, I regretted that I only had a week in this beautiful country.
Another reason why Belize is so accessible is because they use USD throughout the entire country. I was worried at first since I didn’t have time to do any money exchanges before leaving the airport, but on the bus to San Ignacio, they accepted my USD happily.
Be prepared to received BZD in return. Since BZD is only used in Belize, it would be wise to use all your Belizean dollars before leaving the country. If you’re like me, you’ll use that as an excuse to buy anything and everything on your last day.
There were countless times when I didn’t have enough USD, so I used a mixture of USD and BZD, which also worked. Strangely, the exchange rate is ALWAYS 2BZD = 1USD no matter when you go. This is convenient, but confusing if you think too much about how that impacts the economy.
The people of this country are so friendly and helpful that it put me at ease almost immediately. Locals in general, I found, were quite eager to help and interact with tourists. When I left Caye Caulker, I felt like I left behind a big family.
As a solo female traveler, I get a little apprehensive touching down. I have to be on guard, cautious, yet open to the experience; it’s a fine line to tread! But once I’d been safely deposited at the bus station, with detailed information on how the bus system works from my taxi driver, I was more at ease. Another taxi driver dropping me off at the water taxi even told me, “Be careful out there, baby, stay safe. If anything happens or if there’s anything you need, this is my number.” But some friends say that he was just trying to hit on me.
I worried about the safety of the San Ignacio streets at 4:30AM, when I needed to catch a bus back into Belize City. Though the streets were pretty empty, once I reached the bus station, many of the locals reached out to help, asking me where I wanted to go and which bus I should catch.
Solo Female Travel
I’ve read a lot of blogs that mention the street harassment. Yes, that definitely happened a lot in San Ignacio and a bit in Caye Caulker, but it wasn’t notable enough to affect my time there. I’ve been to countries where street harassment felt aggressive and threatening, but in Caye Caulker, it was more of a way to start a conversation. It was more lighthearted and friendly, geared towards getting some laughs. (Not that it makes street harassment acceptable by any means)
To me, Belize is definitely a great place for solo female travelers. There are a lot of solo travelers in general, at least during the shoulder season, and the country felt very safe even at 4AM in the morning while catching a commuter bus.
However, like in any other place–even in your home country–you should exercise awareness of your surroundings/situations and limit your risk-taking.
The Tourist Industry
Most notable to me was their tourist industry. Belize boasts a strong eco-tourism presence that is also highly regulated by the government. A few people I talked to said that in order to qualify as a tour guide in Belize, they have to go through rigorous training and then additional specialization. Tourism is second-largest industry in their economy.
In some countries, when talking to people in the tourist industry, it feels like you’re always waiting for the pitch to drop. Walking near a store, you have to feign disinterest so that they don’t try to lure you in. You get in a taxi, ask to be dropped off at a bus terminal, and they try to work in that taxis often take you there quicker and in more comfort.
Here, in Belize, that didn’t happen and it surprised the heck out of me. They were respectful when you said no, and at no point did you feel like you were being conned out of something.
Once, I was trying to catch a local bus to Xunantunich when a taxi driver asked me if I wanted a taxi ride. I refused, saying that I just wanted to catch the local bus. He asked me where I wanted to go. Suspicious and ready for his pitch, I told him Xunantunich.
“Oh, if you’re trying to visit Xunantunich, they’re about to close. I’m sorry, I don’t think you’ll make it. Maybe try again tomorrow?” And then he gave me the times that would be best to visit the ruins!
You can rent a car, order a private shuttle, or bus it the way locals do!
Although you’d be hard-pressed to find an updated bus schedule online, the old information is still relevant. I used this site, this site, and this site. If you’re a paranoid person like me, it doesn’t hurt to ask the locals or the people working at the hostels. If all else fails, be flexible with your schedule and a bus should come around every hour or so. You should be pretty flexible anyways because these buses are very rarely on time, but not by more than 30 minutes I’d say.
Belize also has a comprehensive system of local airports if you’re short on time. The two most popular airlines are Tropic Air and Maya Island Air. These flights can cost upwards of $100 for a one-way ticket, so for those on a budget, it might not be the best idea. Transfers are usually done in Belize City, but the flights are pretty quick compared to the buses.
Where I Visited
- San Ignacio for 2 nights/1 day
- Caye Caulker for 5 nights/5 days
What I Did
Actun Tunichil Muknal tour. Located near San Ignacio in the Cayo district, Actun Tunichil Muknal, or ATM, is a cave system where ancient Mayans used for sacrificial ceremonies and to commune with their gods.
Dove the Great Blue Hole.
I can’t wait.
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