This post is also available in: Dutch

Latest update: 9 March 2023

Belize is not a typical Central American country. It feels Caribbean. The mishmash of cultures makes the country surprising. It is also small enough to explore in two or three weeks.

Don’t skip Belize!

Many backpackers ignore Belize because of the price level. It is a lot more expensive than in the surrounding countries. So people quickly visit Caye Caulker and San Ignacio and then continue their journey to Guatemala or Mexico. In Belize, there are much fewer hostels than in neighboring countries. That means that you have to be an adventurous traveler. Solo travel in Belize is really easy to do, but you have to make some effort for your social contacts. But I guarantee you: Belize is worth it. Dive into the water, and the history of the Mayans, and especially get a feel of the Belizean way of life, the culture. There is so much to do! Check all these tours.

Mixture of cultures

Belize is a culturally diverse country. The population is very mixed. Mestizos (people with European and Indian ancestors), Mayans, Creoles, Garifunas, Mexicans, Chinese, and Mennonites have all found a home here. As well as many retirees from the United States and Canada. The Mennonites mainly live around Orange Walk, with their suspenders, long skirts, and traditional hats. The Garifuna community lives on the coast, and the Chinese live everywhere. Because the menu often consists of rice, beans, and chicken, you will eat Chinese during your Belize journey as a welcome change.

Travel by bus by Belize

How beautiful Belize is, I realize all too well when I take a bus from Dangriga to Belize City. The bus companies have names such as James and Ritchie’s. The bus runs, crackling and squeaking, over the hills. The green mountain landscape is infinite. We overcome narrow, rickety bridges and avoid chickens, oncoming traffic, and holes in the road. I can’t believe my eyes and sometimes hold on for dear life.

Red and green colored bus in Belize.

I absorb it all. The dilapidated wooden houses that hurricanes raged over. The electricity wires knotted together. Abandoned car wrecks. A small living room restaurant with a skewed door can only be recognized by a Belikin sign and paint residues on the wall. Once, those paint residues made up the words Burrito and Fry Jack.

Chickens that cluck around a muddy field. A beautiful dog bound by a piece of rope. A middle-aged lady sweeps the sweat from her forehead with a dirty cloth. A seller tries to sell his meat patries. Garbage around every building. A group of smiling children in school uniform, each with a bottle of coke. Someone scrubbing the street.

Dog bound by a rope in a doghouse in Belize.

Life in Belize

When I walk past a laundry, I get caught by the scent of clean wash. That scent strongly contrasts my continuously dirty feet, caused by the combination of sand, dust, and rain that form muddy puddles on the street. In the meantime, the sun burns brightly on my head.

The people in Belize are friendly: they wish me and each other a good day. They are also curious and helpful. If I look around desperately at the bus station, someone shows me the way within a few seconds. If I don’t understand the menu, I immediately get a few recommendations. If local sandwiches are sold on the bus, my neighbor also buys one for me to try.

Two boys change a bicycle tire along the road in Dangriga in Belize.

Tradition and progress in Belize

The buses run on time, surprisingly. With shops and restaurants opening hours, the Belizans are taking it less closely. Let’s call it flexible. The people like to laugh and speak loudly in English or in Creole. Belize was not declared independent until 1981. King Charles is still the official head of state. Changes go slowly. Too slow, according to some. Politics is corrupt, they whisper. People don’t want (or dare) to say much more. It also does not help that many people vote based on tradition and place of residence and that the male-female roles are very traditional.

Yet the country does modernize. Or maybe a better word is westernizing. In addition to the small stalls where local Johnny Cake and Fry Jacks are sold, you can find yoga schools and juice bars. The favorite beer is a Belikin. Have your beer while listening to reggae versions of Western songs, such as the mix of Pure Love. Especially on the islands, a joint is likely to be lit at the same time.

Experience Belize

Of course, you visit Belize for the Belize Barrier Reef, the jungle, and the Maya ruins. But also make sure you look around you when there’s no sight near you. That’s when you experience the real Belize. The Belize that is very different from its neighbors. The Belize of the Belizans: the vibe of an urge to survive, helpfulness, and diversity.

More Belize travel inspiration?

  • Accommodation. All-time favorite is Booking.com. Book hostels via Hostelworld.
  • Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator.
  • Bus. Book buses in Belize through Busbud, Omio, or 12Go.
  • Car rental. My go-to car rental companies are EasyTerra and Sunny Cars as they have all-inclusive / worry-free offers. You could also use Discover Cars to compare prices.
  • Flights. Compare all your options! For sure check Momondo, Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
  • Money. Your debit and credit cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel. 
  • Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? Not many Dutch travel companies offer trips to Belize: try Sawadee or Shoestring.
  • SIM card. Beware of unexpectedly high calling and internet costs. Buy a local SIM card when you arrive, or arrange one online via Airalo.
  • Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
  • Travel guides. I love the practical guidebooks by Lonely Planet. You can buy them at Bol.com and Amazon.
  • Yoga retreat. Or, book a lovely yoga retreat in Belize!

Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, I might receive a small commission.

First published: November 2018. The article has been updated since.

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