Daily flights arrive into Belize’s Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE). Large hubs like Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, and Miami offer the most convenient routes on American, Delta, and United. Delta recently launched the first West Coast service to Belize from Los Angeles, while United Airlines launched East Coast service from Newark. Many mainland resorts can arrange for airport shuttle service (for a fee) to pick up guests. From outside the United States, look for inbound flights from San Salvador through Taca Airlines. Belize’s national airline, Tropic Air, has convenient flights from Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras. Land arrivals from Guatemala and water and land arrivals from Mexico are cheaper options, especially with budget travelers exploring Central America. Belize charges a departure tax, but flights booked through major U.S. carriers have the fees included. Currently, the fee for non-residents departing Belize is about US$35 per person.
Buses, water taxis, and even intra-state flights traverse Belize. There are two airports in Belize City—International (BZE) and Municipal Belize City (TZA)—approximately a 20-minute drive apart. Tropic Air and Maya Island Air offer flights to the most-visited destinations, including the Cayes. There are rental car agencies at the airports, and scheduled bus service runs on the mainland between larger villages. The water taxi dock is closer to Municipal, and a ride will cost you up to $40.
Belize’s tumultuous history is the basis for the numerous cultural influences that define the country today. English is the official language, but expect to hear a variety of unfamiliar words as you travel the country. The most common languages include Spanish, Mayan, Kriol, and Garifuna. Look for important cultural holidays and festivities throughout the year. Events like Carnaval, Costa Maya Festival, and Garifuna Settlement Day pay homage to key aspects of Belizean culture. Important cultural holidays of note include what most refer to as September Celebrations—the Battle of St. George’s Caye (or National Day) on September 10, and Independence Day on September 21.
The Cayes are hot spots for festivals and parties, including global holidays like New Year’s Eve, Easter, and Halloween. Many of Belize’s festivals are centered around important cultural holidays like Ambergris Caye’s Carnaval, akin to a Mardi Gras celebration. The September Celebrations recognize important historic battles and Belize’s independence. And Costa Maya Festival celebrates the region’s Maya roots. You won’t find big-name music artists holding concerts here, but that’s OK. Belize has a thriving local musical scene—musicians like Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective have played a historic role in Belizean culture. Culinary celebrations are also an important part of the scene, with everything from rum and chocolate events to countrywide lobster festivals.
Erin De Santiago is a freelance travel and food writer who splits her time between Belize and the Netherlands. She travels the globe in search of the best food and wine and recently obtained her Certified Specialist in Wine (CSW). Erin was the primary author for Belize’s official visitor magazine, Destination Belize, in 2013 and spoke at the country’s first tourism and marketing conference on creating web content and utilizing social media. Follow Erin’s culinary adventures at Our Tasty Travels and look for her new Belize site, Caye To Belize, to launch later this year.